I recently returned from Anguilla, a stunning island that remains unspoiled and relatively undiscovered compared to many of its Caribbean neighbors. Just a 20-minute ferry ride from the island of St. Martin, Anguilla is known as an escape haven for the elite, catering to discerning travelers who seek a pristine tropical paradise without sacrificing 5-star luxury accommodations, stellar beaches, and world-class cuisine. The good news is that Anguilla can be done on a budget and with very little sacrifice.
Here are my tips for getting the most bang for your buck on the lovely island of Anguilla, a definite must for your island bucket list.
Where To Stay in Anguilla
I investigated various hotels on Anguilla and was pleasantly surprised to find there were several options I could afford for a little over $200 per room per night and they were all set on spectacular beaches.
Shoal Bay Villas
I ultimately chose Shoal Bay Villas due to its overwhelmingly positive reviews, sweet location on one of the island’s best beaches, Shoal Bay East, and the fact that it had a pool. We never ended up using the pool, though, as the ocean was very cool and refreshing. Shoal Bay Villas consisted of only 24 villas, from studio to two bedroom units, so it was very private and quiet. We opted for the one bedroom pool unit but were very generously upgraded to a beachfront villa halfway through our trip. Everyone from the manager to the housekeeping staff was warm and friendly and really made our stay special. The photo above was the view from our room – sublime…
Carimar Beach Club
Another fabulous small hotel in Anguilla, Carimar offers spacious one and two bedroom villas directly on the sands of gorgeous Mead’s Bay. We had a chance to view the hotel on one of our day trips around the island and it was lovely. I spent my birthday lounging on the beach in front of Carimar, swimming in the crystal clear water, and sipping rum punch at a fantastic restaurant down the beach.
With either of the properties above you simply can’t go wrong. They have many repeat guests that return year after year and the atmosphere of both is one of casual luxury. Also keep in mind that the best deals are during the shoulder and off-seasons, which start in May and end in the the fall. I almost always go to the Caribbean at the end of May or first week in June before hurricane season is a real threat.
Where To Eat in Anguilla
Anguilla is a foodie’s paradise, although it can be pricey. We wanted to take full advantage of the cuisine the island was famous for without blowing our budget, so we chose to splurge on one meal a day and buy groceries for the rest. Our unit came with a fully stocked, gorgeous kitchen so it really was a no-brainer. Be sure to bring an ample supply of cash for dining. Some of the restaurants were not accepting credit cards while we were there. Here is a sampling of my favorite dining spots on Anguilla.
Blanchard’s has a special place in my heart, as the owners are from VT, very close to where I grew up. I bought their cookbook, At Blanchard’s Table, probably 20 years ago as I loved the couple’s story of moving from rural New England to the remote island of Anguilla to open a restaurant. Visiting the island and their restaurant has been a dream of mine ever since. The photo above is from their beach shack, a scaled-down, more wallet-friendly version of their main restaurant, which is right next door. I dined at the main restaurant on our last night and it was the highlight of our trip. They rebuilt after Hurricane Irma and it is just magical. The island artwork, whitewashed walls, turquoise accents, and incredible outdoor gardens adorned with string lights is a feast for the senses. The menu is tapas-style, the craft cocktails refreshing, and the vibe sort of “the Hamptons meets the tropics”. If you visit Anguilla you must dine here. And try the cracked coconut dessert – insane!
The view alone is enough to bring you to this beachfront restaurant set directly on the beach at Shoal Bay East. Madeariman was just a short stroll from Shoal Bay Villas and the food was fantastic so we ate there often during out stay. The lobster pizza was my favorite but everything from the unique salads to the fresh fish dishes were top notch. I was in heaven here. Directly next door on the beach, and owned by the same folks, Uncle Ernie’s was a great casual spot for outstanding burgers and lighter fare.
I celebrated my birthday over a delicious lunch of fish salad, chocolate cake, and rum punches at Jacala, a French bistro set on sparkling Mead’s Bay. We stumbled upon this lively place accidentally while walking the beach on a Sunday afternoon, when most of the restaurants were closed. I love finding hidden gems this way and the place was so full of personality. I highly recommend it.
What To Do in Anguilla
While the beaches are the obvious draw to Anguilla, there are some beautiful sights and day trips that shouldn’t be missed. I highly recommend renting a car during your stay, as taxis are very expensive and things are a bit spread out. We paid $45 a day for a car and it was well worth it. Just remember Anguilla is a British island, so cars drive on the left side of the road.
A visit to Anguilla wouldn’t be complete without a trip to this natural wonder carved out of the island’s limestone cliffs on the far western coast. We got lost trying to find it and it was definitely off the beaten path but wow was it incredible! Talk about a photo op…crystal clear water as far as the eye can see with not a soul around. I could have stayed up there all day.
St. Gerard’s Catholic Church
We were lucky enough to visit this beautiful church on a Sunday during a service. We didn’t go in but the doors were open and we enjoyed watching the ceremony and listening to the music just as much. Afterwards, a little boy saw my friend and I taking pictures of the stone chapel next door and he invited us in to his Sunday school class. These are the memories that make Anguilla such a special place.
A day trip to Sandy Island is a true Robinson Crusoe experience. A small cay off Sandy Ground beach in Anguilla and only a $10 ferry ride, Sandy island was wiped out during Hurricane Irma but nature brought it back. The water was so clear here I just wanted to float in it all day.
The restaurant was a simple wooden structure with picnic tables and a bar adorned with seashell wind chimes and covered with a rooftop deck for gazing at the beautiful blue sea. The menu consisted of a variety of delicious grilled fish and meat platters and was a bit pricey so I opted for the more reasonable grilled shrimp dish rather than going all- out on the lobster. Later in the day the bartender offered free rum punches so all in all it was a great deal.
Bring your own floats! At Shoal Bay Villas many of the guests spent their days socializing and sipping cocktails while lounging in the ocean on their floats. A friend who had been to Anguilla many times gave me this tip. She hooked me up with some net floats from Amazon that fit easily into my suitcase – they were a steal at $27 for two!
I scored an incredible flight deal to St. Martin from Miami for $250 round trip using the Hopper app. Just plugged in my trip dates and the app told me exactly when to purchase the lowest rate on the flight.
Anguilla was truly a dream come true for me. I couldn’t believe it was possible to find an affordable island paradise with deserted beaches in the Caribbean so close to the U.S. Just go!