Tours and Sightseeing
Whether it’s exploring the island’s heritage or hanging with the birds, in Anguilla your clients can step into history or look up to the treetops on an array of interesting tours.
◆ Anguilla Access offers 3-hour Culture Tours in an air-conditioned van that include an orientation to the island, history and a heritage site stop, a visit with a boat-maker, and a stop at reggae star Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve beach bar. Its Nightlife Tours, which begin at 9 p.m., guide visitors to the best bars and dance scenes (and eliminate that always-awkward designated driver problem). (264) 772-9827; anguillaaccess.com
◆ The Anguilla National Trust’s heritage tours include a Heritage Tour, an Amerindian Settlement Site Tour and a Tour of the Historical Lower Valley, which includes stops at historic sites, including the Wallblake House. The Anguilla National Trust also offers birding and, from April through November, turtle-nesting tours. (264) 497-5297; email@example.com
◆ The Wallblake House, Anguilla’s only surviving plantation house, was built in 1787 and is one of the few such places in the Caribbean where the entire complex, including the kitchen, stable, and workers’ quarters, remains intact. Open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. ivisitanguilla.com/sightseeing
◆ The Heritage Collection is a private museum that archives photographs, written documents, and artifacts spanning Anguilla’s history from the Arawak Indians to today. Contact curator Colville Petty, OB.E.; (264) 497-4092; firstname.lastname@example.org
◆ Thursdays at 10 a.m. Sir Emile Gumbs offers tours of the Old Salt Factory and Pumphouse at Sandy Ground, the ruin of a plant that once drove the biggest industry on Anguilla. Sir Emile’s Sandy Ground Village Tour includes the Old Salt Factory, the Manse, and some birding. (264) 497-2711; email@example.com
◆ Professional guides from Conchshell Environmental Tours lead historical, birding, garden and gallery tours. (264) 582-7700; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sevens are wild: Anguilla has seven marine parks—Dog Island, Prickly Pear, Seal Island Reef System, Little Bay, Sandy Island, Shoal Bay Harbour Reef System, and Stoney Bay Marine Park—and of the nine wrecks that lie just off its beaches, seven were deliberately sunk there to create habitats for fish. The most famous of Anguilla’s wrecks, El Buen Consejo, was a Spanish galleon that sank in 1772. For years, only archaeologists had access to this wreck, but now a limited number of amateur divers may visit it and see the cannons, anchors and devotional medals now embedded in the surrounding coral.
There are two dive shops on Anguilla:
◆ Special “D” Diving & Charters, in operation since 2000, is owned by Douglas “Dougie” Carty, who has been diving these waters for more than 25 years. Based in Sandy Ground, he takes small groups in his 30-ft. monohull powered by twin 150s to nine reef and six wreck sites, depending upon conditions, divers’ preferences and skill levels; Carty also offers private charters. (264) 235-8438; specialddiving.com
◆ Shoal Bay Scuba is a PADI dive center that teaches all levels, from children to advanced divers. This operation has two boats and a large repertoire of dive sites (again, depending upon conditions, etc.); Shoal Bay also offers snorkeling trips, sunset cruises and fishing charters.
(264) 235-1482; shoalbayscuba.com
Still More Watersports
A number of hotels on Anguilla include almost every non-motorized watersport equipment imaginable: stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, sport sailboats (hobie cats, sunfish, etc.), snorkeling gear, etc. All hotels and villa concierges can easily arrange snorkeling and diving boat trips, too. Following are some independent operators:
◆ In addition to its scuba and snorkeling trips, Shoal Bay Scuba rents out windsurfers (4.7 and 5.5 sails), sunfish daysailers, kayaks and paddleboards. (264) 235-1482; shoalbayscuba.com
◆ Da’Vida, a high-end restaurant/beach bar/spa complex on Crocus Bay, rents out kayaks.
(264) 498-5433; davidaanguilla.com
◆ Tropical Paradise offers windsurfing lessons at Cove Bay; maximum class size is three students. Lessons begin at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m., so participants are urged to bring a lunch and bottled water. Tropical Paradise also offers kiteboarding lessons. tropical-paradise.net
◆ Gotcha! Garfield’s Sea Tours operates two sleek 36-ft. powerboats (Gotcha Too and Gotcha Again) and two race-worthy Sunseeker Superhawk 48s. Garfield offers VIP airport transfers, charters to St. Barts and St. Maarten/Martin, and snorkeling, sightseeing, sunset cruising, and deep-sea fishing charters. Twice a week, Garfield’s also runs scheduled day trips to Prickly Pear Cay, an unpopulated islet with white beaches, great snorkeling, and Johnno’s at Prickly Pear, a stellar beach bar. (264) 235-7902; gotcha-garfields-sea-tours-anguilla.com
◆ Tradition Sailing Charters: The 50-ft., gaff-rigged yacht Tradition, one of the few large, hand-built boats still sailing in the Caribbean, operates a Tropical Cay Lunch Cruise and a Champagne Cocktail Sunset Sail four times a week, a Little Bay Half-Day Sail twice a week, and private cruises for couples. (264) 476-7245; email@example.com
◆ Luxury Lifestyle Professionals (LLP), best known as a management and concierge service, offers snorkeling cruises to Sandy Island and Prickly Pear Island, with gear and open bar included, Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons. Friday evenings it operates a sunset cruise featuring cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Both cruises are available as a shared excursion or a private charter. luxurylifestyleprofessionals.com
◆ Dolphin Discovery Anguilla-St. Maarten is quite unusual for Anguilla because it’s an attraction overseen by a company that operates on two other islands as well as in Mexico. Located at Blowing Hole, it offers three levels of interaction with dolphins: the Dolphin Encounter (appropriate for children as well as adults), and the Dolphin Swim and the Dolphin Royal Swim, both of which include free time as well as choreographed activities with the dolphins. (866) 393-5158; dolphindiscovery.com/anguilla/anguilla-location-overview.asp
◆ Junior’s Glass Bottom Boat: Located on Shoal Bay, Junior’s takes passengers on a guided cruise over living coral that’s teeming with fish. For those who want to keep the fish wet but themselves dry, this is the way to go.
(264) 235-1008; firstname.lastname@example.org
Golf and Tennis
◆ CuisinArt Golf Club is the only real course on the island, but what a course it is: Offering views of the sea and St. Maarten/Martin to the south and natural as well as landscaped environments, this 7,063-ft. championship layout is a Greg Norman original. Visitors who are not staying at CuisinArt Resort can arrange tee times online or through their hotels’ or villas’ concierges. (264) 498-5602; cuisinartresort.com
◆ Not only do most resorts on Anguilla have tennis courts, but so do many of the villas. Still, here’s one other option: The Anguilla Tennis Academy, a much-praised nonprofit that teaches tennis to local children, also offers lessons, clinics, hitting partners and court time to visitors. (264) 476-3234; anguillatennis.com
Shopping the Galleries
Clients eager to scoop up some duty-free Bulgari or Nikon or Chanel No. 5 can take a ferry to St. Martin and shop ‘till they drop, but it might be more enjoyable (and certainly more authentic) to visit artists’ studios right on Anguilla. Here’s a guide to four beauties:
Barbados-born Courtney Devonish, who majored in art during his university years in England and moved to Anguilla in the 1980s, is a sculptor and potter whose works often have exquisitely rounded and polished surfaces. His work has been collected and displayed internationally, and his studio also features artfully colorful beadwork by Carolle Devonish, his wife. The gallery is at the West End of Anguilla, across from the gas station. (264) 497-2949; devonishart.com
The woodcarvings of Anguilla’s own Cheddie Richardson have been acclaimed everywhere from major magazines to CNN, and they’re part of the Royal Art Collection in London. When you realize that Richardson’s raw materials are driftwood, the realism of his birds and other creatures seem even more astonishing. His gallery is also at the West End of Anguilla, on the same side as the gas station. anguilla-art.anguilla-beaches.com/wood-sculptures.html
Stone Cellar Gallery
Located in one of the few stone cellars in Anguilla, this gallery features works by Sir Roland Richardson, an internationally collected painter of Impressionist landscapes whose family hails from St. Martin. Stone Cellar Gallery also offers rotating exhibitions of other artists. The gallery is downstairs in the Old Factory, an 1868 cotton gin in The Valley. oldfactory-anguilla.ai/cellar.htm
Uhuru Art Gallery
The newest of the galleries mentioned here (it opened in 2012), Uhuru showcases a wide variety of Afro-Caribbean art. This includes traditional African masks and sculpture, modern African works, portraits, sculpture (wood, stone, metal, etc.) by Caribbean artists, and applied arts pieces such as jewelry, vases, baskets and more. Located in Bedney’s Plaza in West End; (264) 772-4100; facebook.com/uhuruartgallery
Pick the best beaches in Anguilla? Might as well try to count grains of sand, because virtually all of the island’s 33 beaches, not to mention all-sand outposts like Scilly Cay and Prickly Pear, offer soft, deep, white sand and peaceful, protected, calm, clear water. What follows, therefore, is the main island’s greatest hits among several dozen exquisite strands of shoreline.
Shoal Bay East
This northwest-facing beach is the one that’s most often named the best beach in the Caribbean, and some critics have rated it as the best in the world. How could such a soft-sand strand also have such nice snorkeling just a few yards offshore? In addition, it probably doesn’t hurt that it’s also home to Uncle Ernie’s.
Many of Anguilla’s boat races, festivals, and other celebrations take place at Sandy Ground. What’s more, even when there are no special events on the calendar, Johnno’s Beach Bar is here, and Johnno’s is a nonstop celebration in itself.
It’s so pretty that the people who were there at the beginning of the tourism boom, the creators of Malliouhana, chose to put their property here. Mead’s Bay, about three miles from West End Point, has since inspired Carminar Beach Club, Anacaona Boutique Hotel, Frangipani Resort, the Mead’s Bay Villas, the Viceroy Anguilla, and a few other lovely places to hang out their shingles, yet there’s still plenty of open space and pristine beach.
When you step out onto the beach at Cap Juluca and your feet feel as if they’re walking on talcum powder, that’s Maunday’s Bay, which lies just eat of West End Point and faces south.
East of Maunday’s Bay and facing directly south, this is the picturesque stretch of blindingly white sand that’s home to the Moonsplash Music Festival, and which has attracted the builders of CuisinArt Resort, the Anguilla Great House, and some Architectural Digest villas.
Sailing, it’s the Anguilla Way
Among Caribbean populations, Anguilla’s is unique in its passion for sailing (aka boatracing). It is boatracing, not cricket or soccer, that is the national sport on this island whose residents turned to the sea because there wasn’t enough fertile land. It figures, then, that the best spectator sport in Anguilla is watching sailboat races. Starting each year around Easter, the locals compete in Class A, B, and C hand-built boats. The racing season builds in excitement during the 3-day Anguilla Regatta in May, and it continues into August, when it climaxes at the conclusion of the Anguilla Summer Festival (aka Boat Racing Week, aka Carnival; see “Events”) and a Champion of Champions race. These and other boat races in Anguilla are accompanied by BBQs, music and dancing, and they attract such enthusiastic spectators—both locals and visitors—that the onlookers have taken on the moniker, “landracers.”