Christopher Columbus had a rather unfortunate way with names. Known in Spain as Cristobal Colon, he went and landed on a Caribbean island while trying to find India and named it “Anguilla” “Eel” in Spanish. Little could he have imagined that 500 years later, “Eel Island” would take its place in the pantheon of finest Caribbean destinations. The island remains one of my all-time favourite places in the world, to the extent I’ve been seriously torn over letting the secret out. You’re welcome.
Anguilla’s marine life and passion for sailing on a snorkeling trip aboard the beautiful Tradition. After a swim in the Bay (turtle sightings possible), deliciously warm waters of Little enjoy an equally divine lobster roll and rum punch lunch before sailing back.
Explore Anguilla’s 33 fabulous beaches. Best are: the two miles of fine white sand and hip beach bars at Shoal Bay; the gently curving sands full of pelicans at Meads Bay between the Four Seasons and Malliouhana; and the wilder Junk’s Hole on the (even) less busy east coast.
Albert’s Supermarket might be the least glamorous shop ever featured in these pages, but it’s one of the few places selling the top notch Pyrat XO rum. Blended from nine barrel-aged Caribbean rums, it used to be
bottled on the island but now comes in from Guyana* Snaffle a bottle to take home and sample on the rocks. Look for the Buddha icon on its neck. pyratrum.com
There are over 100 restaurants on the island but inevitably there are standouts. Wander along the beach at Rendezvous Bay and try the fishermen’s catch at Garvey’s Sunshine Shack (and it is the dictionary definition of “beach shack”). Alternatively, stick to the speciality broiled snapper with copious Carib beers while, if you’re lucky, Garvey jams with some musical mates.
There are several excellent places to stay but our vote’s for Malliouhana, a chic boutique bolthole on a dramatic bluff overlooking two beaches that has just been radically, and extremely tastefully, refurbished by the excellent US brand Auberge. Expect a slick, retro feel with glamorous, pastel art deco design, just 44 immaculate rooms and suites, and one of the Caribbean’s finest restaurants, overlooking the ocean, malliouhanaaubergeresorts.com
Hibernia Restaurant and Art Gallery gets the nod for its Franco/Carib/Asian fusion (try Laotian seasoned seafood tart with Japanese pickles). In hurricane season, the owners close up and head to Asia for ingredients such as Japanese shirasu anchovies, and eastern artworks to sell in the gallery. hiberniarestaurant.com
At Dune Preserve, another ridiculously atmospheric driftwood beach bar, this one owned by Anguilla’s star reggae singer Bankie Banx. Friday nights come to a fun, fuzzy rum and music-fuelled end with Bankie or son Omari playing .See also: The Pumphouse in Sandy Ground, which has live local music on Thursdays. bankiebanx.net
Started in1991, Bankie Banx’s famous reggae jam the Moonsplash Festival runs 9-12 March* Festival del Mar is celebrated over Easter weekend (14-17 April)- it’s a (healthily competitive) feast of things Anguillans love — music, food, rum, the sea, with some religion thrown in
The former Viceroy Hotel has reopened as a Four Seasons but its open-air Sunset Lounge remains the luxurious spot for a sundowner. While the shabby chic beach shacks have huge appeal, sometimes you want more sophistication. Order up lethal West Indian rums, fat Cuban cigars and watch the sunset as the DJ mixes reggae.