Oh Anguilla, AngWilla, what took yer so long to call my name. I was more than Willa! to check ya out Anguilla, oh yeah! Ok, I don’t know what it means about my musical writing abilities but whenever I try to write something, I sound like sir Justin Bieber….who visited Anguilla a week ago or so btw. I’m jealous of Justin I must say. The dude is 21, and goes to Anguila on a whim, just like that. While I needed about 21 years to get convinced. “The beaches are not better than TCI”, “you need a full day of suffering to get there”, “you need to take a high speed ferry where even the seagulls throw up”. Turns out all the motivation I needed is United Airlines making it much tougher to get to TCI these days.
Anywho, let me tell you about Anguilla. But instead of boring you with a bunch restaurant reviews this time, I will bore you with a giant post about everything and anything Anguilla. Its the Everything Bagel of trip reports! Or something like that…
I think the notion that one gets over time about the complexities of travelling to this island makes it seem more complicated than it actually is. Getting off the plane in St. Martin you are faced with a bunny ranch like lineup of high speed semi-private ferry representatives trying to lure you into their service… a $65 ride straight from the airport (a 5 minute ride to the docks) with the caveat that you need to reserve in advance (giving CC info online) or risk a full boat. The most popular and cheaper option however is a $20 public ferry ride which leaves at the same frequency as the privates, but requires a $20 taxi ride to Marigot that could take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on traffic (I always thought this ride is much longer). We opted for the public ferry there and back, and will do so again next time. Hard for me to justify the costs and efforts of the other options, especially considering we got to Anguilla before everyone else. If this would have been Amazing Race, we would have kicked some serious tuches. There’s also the air travel option between the islands which we briefly considered.
You need a car here. Sure you can manage without one, but in order to take advantage of what the island has to offer, a car is necessary. Although many people happily do so, this is not the place to linger at the same place for a week like in Provo. Ronnie Bryan, a local celebrity, makes the entire rental process as smooth as can be through Bryan Car Rental. Pay from home securely via email, pick up car at the ferry terminal, drop the car at the ferry terminal. Other than driving to the great Hibernia for lunch, a map was not needed for us. Fairly easy to get around!
Since Turks spoiled us big time with one of the best beaches in the world, this was not the time to settle. But we sort of did, but in a good way. Shoal Bay East is arguably Anguilla’s best beach. But besides a few shacks and some dining options there’s not a whole lot going on there dining wise, which is not necessarily a bad thing for many. Meads Bay was the perfect match for us. Although one of the busiest beaches (relatively speaking), flanked by two behemoth resorts (Viceroy, Malliouhana) we found it quite serene and underdeveloped enough, with the water spectacular at times. Not to mention close to many dining options. Then you have the option of Maundays Bay, aka Cap Juluca-ville where the serenity level takes on another meaning. You can request a tour of Cap Juluca while you there, and enjoy the beach by its main building. Or you can Rendezvous at Rendezvous Bay with a visit to the world famous Garvey’s Sunshine Shack. The shack alone is worth going. The most underrated beach however is perhaps Shoal Bay West. Tranquil, green, with some interesting wildlife around to boot on arrival. There are some more beaches, but I believe I covered the best ones. This is why you need to rent a car here.
With one hotel stay under my belt, I’m not going to pretend I’m an expert. I dont quite get the bloggers who write about a destination like a travel concierge, even though they’ve just been there for four days. But here’s what I know. Shoal Bay Villas is the popular option on the east end as far affordable accommodations go, while on Meads you have Turtle’s Nest (with actual turtles acting as security) and Carimar showing exceptional value. The latter is the better looking building, but the former has a slightly better beach front. The newly refurbished Rendezvous Bay Hotel on Rendezvous Bay is gaining a lot of traction on the boards as of late. Then you have the Viceroy and Malliouhana, the behemoths flanking Meads Bay where I would personally not consider staying, but visit for a drink instead (Viceroy owns the best sunsets). For more intimate feel, there’s the world famous Cap Juluca, and to a lesser degree CuisinArt. Frangipani was a good match for us. Small, personable, attractive, even sexy (which is why we felt at home!) boutique hotel smack in the middle of Meads.
This is where things get interesting. We knew Anguilla has good food, but research elevated expectations even more (“Some of the best in the Caribbean”). I’ve already discussed some here, and here, and listed my favorite dishes here. While the end result was a successful one, the trip needed a proper finish in order to call it as such. There were some misses early on, but for the purpose of this post and the possibilities of the often off days, I will only touch on the highlights.
Sarjai’s – This turned out to be the best of the “Local” spots we tried. Not much of an atmosphere but the food more than makes up for it. Try the Creole Snapper with the addictive coconut sweet potato dumplings, or the scrumptious stewed goat. The crayfish here were the best of the trip. And while I didnt have it, the steak is an award winner.
Blanchard Beach Shack – One of many beach shacks on the island. Order, pick a picnic table and enjoy the marvelous views with your pager. Although they have various items on the menu, this is a nice choice for a healthier “fast food” type lunch. Try the Rice bowl with shrimp or Mahi.
Dolce Vita – Possibly the best Italian on the island, though it helps if owner Abbi is there to guide you with your order. The Gnocchi Gorgonzola and the Lasagna are the specialties. The latter is actually the reason for opening a restaurant in the first place.
Johnno’s – One of the coolest things about Anguilla is its music scene, especially on Sunday (“Funday”) afternoon. And deciding where to go on each Funday is not easy. But beating this venue with this musical lineup and the steamed snapper with Fungi combination at Johnno’s I imagine is not so easy. Note we only had one item here to eat, and it was that good.
Sunshine shack – The definition of a beach shack. You got the reggae, the beach (Rendezvous Bay), the man (Garvey), the grill, what else do you need. An absolute must!
Jacala’s – One of the biggest gems of the trip. Two Frenchmen, one in the kitchen, one on the floor, making all sorts of magic right on the beach. Its open for lunch, but I wouldn’t miss dinner. Great soups, heavenly Tuna Tartare, Risotto like no other (nice middle course to share). Table side prepared Steak tartare is oddly a main course but very popular. Not to mention the chicken of dreams, and the Panna Cotta. Go!
B&D’s BBQ – Essentially a popup on the side of the road. Very solid BBQ.. chicken, ribs, lobster, snapper, all served with Johnny cakes and sides. The slaw in particular was noteworthy. Very popular with the locals, and even restaurant owners (Tasty’s below) which is a big endorsement
Straw Hat – Great drinks, beautiful setting overlooking Meads. Nice Lobster Mac & Cheese, fish sandwich, tuna flatbread (in that order). Since we stayed next door, we spent most of our breakfasts here. And after cheating on a few other places, we concluded there’s no point to go anywhere else really.
Tasty’s – Quite a Tasty local spot by one of the islands best ambassadors, Dale Carty who is sent on critical missions oversees to promote island food from time to time. The signature item is the magnificent seafood salad. Other than a rather robbery lobster, everything was quite good here
Mango’s – I normally like to keep one night open and let the island sort of guide me to the right place. Based on conversations with locals, Trips Advisor forumites, and even local cooks, it became clear that Mango’s got the freshest fish on the island. You approach this one like you approach a Trattoria in Italy. Go with whats’s fresh, and what’s on special. Best snapper of the trip
Stay hungry my friends!