So why do the likes of Beyonce, Jay-Z, LeBron James and Justin Bieber pick Anguilla over the other islands to get away from it all?
is one of the few Caribbean islands that doesn’t play home to all-inclusive resorts, and so isn’t overrun with visitors on deals and flights from the UK aren’t direct. You can get away from being shepherded around in groups, and being ferried around the island on a stuffy coach while having to listen to orders and instructions.
To some, who like everything straightforward, Anguilla might be a bit of a stretch as you need to organise connecting flights from St Martin or Antigua or even, the short ferry ride from St Martin.
When you think of a long-haul flight, the last thing most people want to do is then have to get on another flight, let alone organise it. But, who wants to be most people?
It’s less than an hour’s ride – whether by boat or by air, and gives Anguilla an exclusive feel. It’s a natural filter, but for the extra effort – you get to basque in the luxury that this island has to offer. While locals are used to mingling with celebrities during the high season, there is no stampede for selfies.
There is an unspoken rule to let visitors enjoy the island as the islanders do, and go about your business. So much of the locals work in the hospitality industry that it’s just part of everyday life, so celebrities can relax as they sip rum punch or tuck into freshly-caught snapper at the beach shacks.
Without the all-inclusive tags, hotel guests and visitors to the island are encouraged to explore. This means you can cater, quite literally, for your own budget. This means you can get a Hollywood-style holiday, but without crippling your bank account. There are 5 star dining options, many of which with ocean views, for example at The Reef at Cuisinart which is a great lunch spot looking out to St Martin or, relax at Zemi Beach House.
One of the main differences you’ll notice about Anguilla is that it’s not overrun with tourists, and you can stop to pick up a Johnny Cake for breakfast or slide into Tasty’s, where you can grab a bush tea with a breakfast you won’t be able to forget. I had salt fish with their renowned Johnny Cakes for breakfast and I’m ready to book a flight back just to get that taste back.
LA Lakers star LeBron James put the island on the map when he jumped off the rock, and stayed at The Beach House, where Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin also spent their holidays for a cool $75,000 a week. But if you don’t have that kind of change, fear not, because you can stay on the same beach for a fraction of the cost.
Just a few yards up on Mead’s Bay is Carimar Beach Club. A top three-star resort, Carimar offers a full kitchen, where you can prep some of your meals to keep your spending down but still enjoying one of the best beaches in the world. Paradise Cove is another hotel where self-catering is an option and is one of the only hotels to remain open throughout the year.
The rest close down to take care of renovations and prepare for hurricane season. You can still see the damage that Irma caused on the island, with battered buildings and sheets of metal wrapped around trees after horrifying wind and rain pummelled the island at 180mph. A lot of the businesses hadn’t re-opened a year on because of the cost of damage.
But, as a holiday destination, you can lay back and listening to your tunes or podcasts, whatever you fancy, and be safe in the knowledge that your soundtrack will not be punctuated by the irritating sounds of jetskis buzzing around. That’s one of the greatest rules on the island as they’re not encouraged, so you’re not fenced in but are able to literally lap up the bays. You can however enjoy a boat trip around the island, and live the day like a celebrity as you take to the ocean and explore the island’s best beaches and go snorkelling.
Funtime Charters offers a number of different vessels, all of which are looked after to a high standard, where you can play your own tunes, get taken to the best spots as well as visit nearby destinations like Prickly Pear Island. You won’t want it to end. Or, if you’re a little more adventurous, you can even try kayaking by night. This, I assure you, is not for the faint-hearted if you’re not into fish touching you. The lights around the boat that allow you to see through the floor of the boat attract energetic ballyhoo fish.
You can end up fishing them out of your shorts, but it pales in comparison to watching turtles in their natural habitat without disturbing them, or even spotting blowfish and sting rays while paddling near to Scilly Cay. Anguilla was battered by Hurricane Irma in 2019, with the damage still very much in line of sight. Locals historically build their properties in stages and so it can seem like parts of the island are abandoned, or unfinished, making it appear a little rougher than what visitors might be used to on more commercial islands with palm tree-lined streets and ‘fresh paint jobs on front-facing stores’.
Instead, what you get outside of the hotels, is a more gritty Caribbean island, especially in The Valley, the island’s capital. If you’re looking to get your tastebuds popping and are bored of bland buffet meals from chow-time on an all-inclusive, then you don’t have to look more further than The Strip, where you can get local food from Sharpy’s or even try a bit of curry from Good Korma. Without a tablecloth in sight, this is a spot where locals come and chill out, so you already know it’s going to be good. With real flavour, you can grab a quick bite and even take it back to your hotel or enjoy it with the sand between your toes. Being a Caribbean island, it’s always fun to enjoy a festival as no one can throw a festival like West Indians, with Moonsplash (21-24 March) and Festival del Mar (20-21 April) coming up. In Anguilla, the choice is really yours.