Mile-long beaches and midnight blue skies are the norm in Anguilla. The laid-back lifestyle and quiet charm on this tiny island at the top of the Leeward chain seem a world away from the busier, neighboring islands in the Caribbean.
While March was trying to make up its mind across the Northeast (Winter? Spring? Winter?), we hopped a plane from New York to St. Martin in search of our own answers. Our quest was to decide this: was Anguilla the ideal place for an intimate romantic getaway, or was it the perfect place for a family seeking sunshine and lots of time together?
After a taxi ride across the flat, dry island, we arrived at the first stop on our quest – The Cuisinart Resort and Spa. The hotel is one of the most visually striking sights on Anguilla. The grounds of the hotel appear, when you first approach from the dusty road, like an oasis in the desert. Brilliant blue and deep purple bougainvillea shimmer against the backdrop of stark white buildings, while a sparkling fountain splashes from the center of a thick green lawn, and a soft periwinkle blanket of flowers coats the surrounding gardens. We were met by wonderful, smiling staff members who immediately offered us cool, fresh-squeezed juice and whisked us away to our suites overlooking the mile-long beach. The service is outstanding and the entire resort has an air of elegance. The three-story resort, divided into three areas, is designed with dramatic yet pleasingly aesthetic Greco-Mediterranean architecture and each room has its own balcony or private terrace. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, but the real scene-stealers are the bathrooms. These spotless marble and glass tiled rooms are accented with potted orchids and thick, white towels rolled with fresh flowers are stacked next to over-sized Jacuzzi bathtubs. Each bathroom has a separate toilet room and each comes stocked with personal bathrobes and slippers. Sitting on our balcony with a cool drink in hand and a view of the beach below, we entered a state of deep relaxation for the first time that day. Watching the sea gently spilling onto the sugar white beach, Glenn sighed and said this was the difference between “getting there” and really arriving.
The Spa and Spanish Wine
As if complete relaxation wasn’t enough, cocktail hour found us in the spa watching the light dancing around the blues of the sea, bouncing off the waves onto the distant mountains of St. Martin. “This is like our own personal movie,” I said as a beautiful young woman massaged her feet in preparation for a pedicure and Glenn gave in to the expert manipulations of the manicurist. Soft music filled the spa, which encompasses the top floor of a modern round building with 360-degree window views all around. The attention to detail was magnificent and the menu of treatments — manicures, pedicures, facials, body wraps, full-body massage — was decadent. For those who desire physical repose, the building includes a fitness center and a steam room. The hotel maintains a hydroponic garden on the grounds and grows its own tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables, which it serves in the adjacent Hydroponics Café. One selection on the menu even allows you to pick your own produce from the garden for fresh salad, a real treat on such a dry island. The hotel has a grill, Le Mediterraneo, next to its enormous swimming pool where one can get pizza, sandwiches or barbecue, and a beach bar with sandwiches and light fare. The main restaurant, Santorini, is designed around groups of outdoor tables, some of which are thoughtfully placed out of the breeze for the rare chilly nights in the tropics. After selecting an incredible Spanish wine, Glenn went with grouper with a pesto crust, while I chose the fresh grilled mahi mahi. When we retired for the evening, we noticed that although each suite is air-conditioned, one can choose, like Glenn did, to sleep with the doors thrown open; when open, the air conditioning automatically clicks off, only to restart when you close the doors. After watching the twinkling lights of St. Martin from the open windows, Glenn nodded off to sleep to the gentle sound of trade winds and the surf. A pot of strong, black coffee and fresh juice served on our own terrace greeted us the next morning at sunrise. The tables are covered with bright yellow tablecloths and staff brought us a selection of breads, jams and fruit.
Family time on the island: The villa experience
Having determined that Cuisinart was the perfect getaway for couples seeking solitude, romance and beauty, we planned our day around seeing some of Anguilla’s many villas. Would the villas, with their multiple rooms and adjacent beaches, be an ideal place for a family vacation? First stop: the north coast and the elegant villa, LHE IND, with its own private pool, and its own cove and beach. It is a five-bedroom villa designed with startlingly white, traditional architecture, anchored by a second-story living room/dining room large enough for a family to spread out. The room opens up to a patio with views of the pool and a private beach lined with sea grapes and palms. Next, we visited Temenos, an estate with three villas named after the Greek word for sacred space. These villas are ultra-modern with a Zen-like beauty. Looking at the stark white structures flowing down to the white beach and the azure sea beyond, Glenn couldn’t help it: “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” she said. The four-bedroom villas each have a living room, a state-of-the-art kitchen with granite countertops and a large dining area. The villas have both indoor and outdoor dining areas, and indoor/outdoor showers. That’s when you know you are truly in the tropics: when you can take your shower under an open sky. Beyond the swimming pool, the beach area has a barbecue grill and plenty of room for beach umbrellas or kayaks, depending on the day’s activities. Chefs can be hired to prepare all the meals at the villa and the main house has a dining area where guests can dine. We managed to see eight villas in all and were impressed again by the elegant, yet family-oriented potential of each one. Back at the hotel, we dropped into comfortable chairs under beach umbrellas along the shore, taking advantage of the ice cold water placed in coolers every 20 feet on the beautiful beach. Young staff members dressed in white shorts and jerseys made their way discreetly up and down the stretch, seeing if anyone needed anything. We couldn’t figure out how they could look so fresh and pleasant, walking in the sand under the tropical sun. Just when we thought we couldn’t ask for more, a dazzling young woman approached and offered us a mango sorbet in a frosted glass. OK, so we were wrong. We did need just this one more thing.
However, we had figured out the answer to our question. Cuisinart was perfect for couples and for those who want the range of choices ranging from total privacy to tennis courts, or a day trip to St. Barts. The elegant villas offered plenty of room for families and private beaches for ample family time together. The answer was easy: Anguilla is for everyone.