Cap Juluca and the Malliouhana Hotel – Anguilla, Lesser Antilles (British West Indies)

Swank Luxury Oases and an 18th-Century Great House

Maybe it is the special clarity of the light that heightens the mirage effect of Cap Juluca’s Moorish turrets, arches, and domes. Like a sensual Saharan casbah nestled within 179 flowering acres near Anguilla’s southernmost point, and braced by a magical, mile-long curve of sugary white sand—one of the island’s most beautiful—the ultraromantic hotel Cap Juluca employs an artist’s palette of intense primary colors: green gardens, white­washed villas draped in brilliant bougainvillea, and everywhere the deep azure sea and sky.

It can be almost too much for the winter-weary eyes of newly arrived guests. The oversized rooms are minimally but exotically appointed; many have enormous bathrooms with tubs for two and adjoining private sunning patios. Be sure to head out for dinner at the hotel’s acclaimed Pimm’s Restaurant, the only time and place guests wear anything more elaborate than a swimsuit and a suntan. At sunset Cap Juluca is the most glamorous vision west of Fez.

Not far to the north, the bluff-top Malliouhana Hotel boasts exquisite decor; a two-to- one staff-to-guest ratio; attentive, hands-on involvement by the gracious father and son British owners; and, perhaps most signifi­cantly, one of the most extensive wine lists in the western hemisphere, with 25,000 bottles and 1,500 selections, including more than 60 varieties of Champagne.

The dining pavilion sits above the gorgeous sweep of Meads Bay and faces west for unequaled sunset viewing. The kitchen and menu are supervised and designed by the acclaimed Paris-based chef Michel Rostang. The classic French cuisine with an island accent is a marvel, particu­larly when one considers it is created on an unspoiled island where traffic lights are still a fairly new concept.

Farther north, in the area known as the Valley, Koal Keel is a romantic alternative to Anguilla’s beachfront eateries. The open-air restaurant can be found in what used to be the garden of a sultry, sensual, and breezy 1780 plantation house, now beautifully restored. It’s one of the oldest and prettiest West Indian homes on the island, with cool, heavy stone walls providing the theatrical backdrop to your meal, aglow with candlelight and the pal­pable aura of centuries past.

This hillside charmer has created its own interpretation of delicious Euro-Caribbean cuisine. Try ginger- barbecued lamb, scrumptious lobster crepes, or delicate callaloo soup made with chard, coconut milk, and crab. Even if you drop in just for tea, you’ll be hooked.

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