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Trip Report "The Weather is Here, I Wish It Were Beautiful" - An Anguilla Trip Report

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Ahhh Anguilla. We fell in love with this small island almost 10 years ago…with its friendly people, laid back vibe, pristine beaches, and amazing restaurants. I have to say that I was just a bit nervous that it wouldn’t live up to my recollections, but that wasn’t the case at all. The island was just as idyllic as I remembered it. I am very happy to report that very little has changed in the last 10 years…a few more restaurants, big new grocery store and a couple of stop lights but that’s about it.

The weather on the other hand was another story. Anguilla is historically one of the driest islands in the Caribbean, and we visited during a relatively dry month (Dec 5-9). But the weather gods were not smiling down on us this trip. It was the worst weather we have ever had on vacation. Note to self…only week long trips from now on! A low pressure system (or Antiguan Clipper as I heard it referred to) parked itself on top of us and the surrounding Leeward islands for several days. We did see the sun for a collective 5 hours during our stay. The morning of our first day and the morning of our departure day. But we took advantage of it and even just a few bright hours on those lovely beaches is worth it. For the most part, we were treated to lots of clouds, rain and wind. And for a good portion of the time that it was raining on us, I could see blue skies off to the West…seemingly mocking us. I am not one of those people who subscribe to the notion that "it's better to be on vacation with bad weather than to be at home at work/in the cold." If it's going to be raining, I would rather be at home than wasting valuable vacation time and funds. But that's just me.

Enough about the weather…we were on Anguilla! And if you can’t be on the beach, you may as well take advantage of all of the fine food offerings the island has to offer. And eat and drink we did!

Dec 5 – Arrival day: It was raining when we arrived then cleared up a bit. Customs was a breeze. We hopped a cab to Marigot, and as we twisted through the windy roads of St. Martin (the drivers on SXM are truly reminiscent of stereotypical New York drivers), flanked with fast food chains and adult entertainment venues, I was thankful that we would soon be out of that zoo and onto the tranquil isle across the way. We had a fabulous time on St. Martin a few years ago when we stayed in a villa with friends, but that island overall just isn’t our cup of tea. We missed the 3 PM ferry by a couple of minutes so we had 45 minutes to wait for the next. We parked ourselves in the little lounge area and had a couple of Joe’s rum punches. Very tasty. I noted the ingredients he used so I can try to replicate it at home. Easy 25 minute ferry ride, though I will never understand why most of the ferries have no outdoor seating. Once we arrived, Andy of Andy’s car rentals (who we used 9.5 years ago and who was donned in a T-shirt that said “Hi, I’m Andy” ) was waiting with our rental. I highly recommend him and he has the least expensive rates on the island. He walks us over to our car – a station wagon (I was expecting a small compact like a Terios). It’s just the two of us and all we have are 2 carry-ons, yet we get a family truckster! Off we go to Turtle’s Nest on Mead’s Bay. Smooth check in, very large studio, great view. And 2 complimentary bottles of wine! We dumped our stuff and headed to the beach to check it out. Meads truly is a magnificent beach (reminds me a little of Grace Bay, just less crowded) and the sand is to die for. Very soft, “fluffy” and white.

After snapping a few pics we decided to hit the new Best Buy grocery store just up the road for a few snacks, some tonic water and a lime to go with Mark’s gin that he had bought duty free on the plane. Anguilla is the only island on which I refuse to cook because the restaurants are just too darn good. Best Buy is a very nice, large grocery store (probably bigger than where I shop at home). Unfortunately they were out of tonic (we settled on Sierra Mist as a mixer) and apparently didn’t sell limes, oddly enough. We perused the wine and spirits aisle and were glad we had bought the gin on the plane after seeing the prices. A 2 liter of soda was $7.50 for goodness sakes. We grabbed a bag of Doritos (no price) and proceeded to check out. When I saw the Doritos ring up at $21, the frugal fanny in me immediately blurted out “$21 for Doritos?? Put those back!" The cashier informed us the prices were in EC and that our total bill of $28 would actually cost $10 US. Ignorant Americans! I guess we didn’t buy anything at the grocery store last visit! This also meant that the gin we thought was a bargain on the plane was in fact 40% more expensive. Aside from rum in the Virgin Islands, alcohol is usually much more expensive on island. Lesson learned!

We decided on Picante for dinner that evening since we wanted something more than the Beach Shack yet still casual. Sangria and margaritas were as good as we remembered. I had the chile-seasoned prawn burrito with mango salsa and hubby had the seafood enchiladas. Food was great. The only surprising thing about the evening was the rude owner. I mentioned to Mark that I thought the blond woman walking around was the owner and when she passed by, he asked her. We got a quick over the shoulder ”yes” as she walked away. I found that a bit rude since I would have thought she might have at least stopped and said hello since we flagged her down. Not once that night did she even glance at our table except when she came to take one of our chairs without so much as a word. Still love the restaurant but her demeanor was off-putting. And because there are so many fine restaurants on the island, I may think twice about going there next visit. On our drive back, I glanced at the dashboard and noticed a huge spider..think tarantula with longer legs and no hair. This thing was the size of a saucer. Normally bugs don’t bother me…but the thought of this huge thing crawling up my dress was enough to skeeve me out. Mark pulls over as I am batting at this creature. He dropped to the floor and I whipped the door open and flung him out on a map that he conveniently landed on. After that bit of fun, we walked on the beach, checked out the rooftop deck, then hit the sack.

Dec 6 – Happy 10th Anniversary to us! Woke to sunny skies outside of our window so we changed into our suits, packed a beach bag and headed out. Our plan was to spend the morning at Rendezvous after stopping for a light breakfast at Geraud’s. On our way, we went down to the pool deck to grab a couple of towels from the bin. I had just told Mark to grab a 3rd towel in case we wanted to use it to lay our heads on when I heard a voice from behind me…”You must be Kristen and Mark.” I whipped around, expecting to be chastised for taking 3 towels, and saw a gentleman at his patio table standing up to greet us. The only person it could be was Howard C from TripAdvisor. And it was! Even though he had been giving me recommendations not too long before the trip (restaurants, live music etc), I had no idea he was going to be there at the same time we were...what a nice surprise. Howard was the one who steered us to the island 10 years ago when I couldn’t get a flight to Turk & Caicos using our Dividend Miles. We talked for a bit and met his wife Greta before heading out. We would stop and chat daily.

What a great little Patisserie Geraud’s is! We typically don’t eat big breakfasts on vacation so this was perfect. Mark got a Bailey’s coffee and a breakfast burrito. I just got a latte to start. The burrito was huge so I had some of it. Very tasty with guacamole and black beans. Then we were off to the beach! We set up camp in from of a grove of palm trees, just down from the Sunshine Shack. Since it was early, nothing was open yet. And we were the only ones on the beach. It was a beautiful morning, though I could see the clouds off in the not too distant distance. We had a very enjoyable morning of swimming, walking and just soaking up the sun and the island. Going on my list of possible places to stay in the future is Anguilla Great House. This is an older, non-luxurious resort but it is situated on a prime piece of real estate with tons of swaying palms. Looked ideal to me! A bit later as I was taking Mark’s picture, a man offered to take one of us of both and then we starting chatting. Mark loves talking it up on vacation...meeting new people, finding out where they are from, discussing travel experiences etc. It just happened that this man was from Baltimore and had a house in Ocean City. Very small world. During the course of the trip, we also met and talked to folks from Virginia (Suelivesinva and husband were also staying at Turtle’s Nest), West Chester, Pittsburgh and California.

My original plan was to eat lunch at The Sunshine Shack or The Place but by late morning we decided to head back to our beach and make use of the lounge chairs. We did a little reading (though I can’t concentrate on reading on beach most of the time…I prefer to stare at the turquoise water and people watch) then played with the super friendly beach dogs/Potcakes. At lunchtime we walked down to Blanchard’s Beach Shack. Very cute set up they have, and yummy mango coladas. Prices are good too. Of course as soon as our food was ready and Mark went up to get it, it started raining. I huddled under the table umbrella as best I could. That was the beginning of the end as far as the weather. The rain did stop though and it was just cloudy until that evening, when the rain started again. Before leaving we went back up to order Mark another Carib and I asked if there was any way we could buy a lime from them. The gentleman looked at me for a moment but then produced 2 limes, gratis. Such nice people, these Anguillans. After lunch we wandered down to Mallihouana. The beach there is eroded. Nothing like the wide stretch in front of where we stayed. We wanted to hang out for a bit on the “private” beach/cove area in from of Mali, but there was already a group having a private party it seemed. So we walked back and checked out the boutique at Frangipani. That is still my favorite resort but the steep price increase since last we visited knocked it off my list of places to stay. We talked to Howard and Greta again for a bit then decided to drive toward Sandy Ground to go to Irie Life and Sea Spray to look for T-shirts and trinkets. Then it was time to shower for dinner. And speaking of showers, Mark took the first and when I went in for mine, the water was cold. Lovely. Nothing I hate more than a cold shower. We soon discovered the reason for the short-lived hot water was the fact that the hot water was the size of a home depot bucket. It held enough hot water for one very short shower. From then on, my darling husband let me take my showers first. That is my one Turtle’s Nest gripe.

Tonight’s dinner was at Veya and I was really looking forward to it. However earlier that day we had talked to two people who didn’t have great experiences there so that made me a bit nervous despite the stellar reviews it gets. I needn’t have worried…it was fabulous. As we were driving to the restaurant, Mark noticed something on the car door where he was resting his arm. He went to touch it and what do you know, it was another “tarantula.” He yelped, swerved and flicked that thing out the window. At this point we were pretty certain there was a spiders nest under one of our seats. We were very vigilant from then on out. But we never saw another.

The setting, décor and ambience at Veya is wonderful…like dining in an upscale tree house amidst lush tropical trees and flowers. The service and food were outstanding. We ordered wine, then they served us some samples from the kitchen…lobster and bacon fritters (delish) and then some homemade rolls, banana and pumpkin bread. For our appetizer we chose the calamari. Now this wasn’t your ordinary calamari and I fear it has spoiled me from ordering it elsewhere. It just melts in your mouth and the unique flavor of the dipping sauce was divine. We watched the rain showers from the comfort of our covered tree house deck. For our entrées, I ordered the jerk rubbed tuna with coffee-rum glaze, grilled pineapple and fried plantains. Mark got the lamb special. Both were amazing. And for dessert, the crème-brulee trio...vanilla bean, ginger and coconut. During our meal we were entertained by the sounds of the band, British Dependency. As we were leaving we stopped to say hello to the man we thought was the owner. Now he did talk to us but it was kind of awkward speaking to him. No matter, we had a wonderful experience at Veya and I can see what the hype is all about! Our after dinner plan was to head to The famous Dune Preserve to see Bankie Banx and his son Omari play. When we arrived, halfway through the performance, it was again raining. And there about 8 people there. Mark had just ordered a beer when Bankie himself came up and informed us that for the two us, the cover charge was $40. Ummm…the show was now past its halfway point, all the seats were soaked and the place was dead. Sorry Bankie, but the cover charge is a little steep for that so we made our way back to the “Roadkill” (aka what our rental car became known as) and headed to the Nest. I didn’t feel so bad when at the dinner the next night, we saw a couple we had met at Veya who had the same after dinner plans. He said they walked in, checked it out and left when they asked them to cough up $40.

Quick aside – our wagon was a Nissan “Wingroad.” Never heard of it and neither one of us could remember the name..only the fact that it had the word “road” in it. So earlier that day, the closest name Mark could recall was “Roadkill” and it stuck.

Dec 7 – We woke early as usual, but one look at the gray clouds outside and I promptly went back to sleep. We took our time getting ready that morning but in the spirit of being optimistic, I threw on my suit under my shorts and tank and, after visiting with Howard, we headed to Geraud’s. Their homemade bagels are fabulous. Then we decided to try to find Little Bay so we could climb down the cliff on the rope and spend some time on the lovely secluded beach there. We had no problem finding it last trip, but this time was another story. In addition to getting lost, it started torrentially raining and the gas tank was on empty. Throw in a little arguing and we had all the makings of a fun-filled morning! We made it to a gas station where we asked directions and everyone said they had heard of the rope down to Little Bay but no one knew where it was (most people get there by boat). So we gave up and decided to try to find AARF (Anguilla Animal Rescue Foundation) and visit the puppies. We ended up in the industrial section of the island near the airport and got directions. As were nearing where we thought it should be, we asked a random guy on the side of the road who Mark promptly offered a ride to. Now I know this is a safe island, but I am not the type to pick up hitch-hikers so I was throwing Mark The Look, but by that time it was too late. Friendly man who we could barely understand was settled in the back seat of our wagon with all our stuff. We just hoped he understood where we wanted to go. Thankfully, we were close so the ride was short. I was impressed with AARF…wasn’t anything fancy but definitely nice by island standards. We signed up to transport a puppy home next time we visit. Then we drove over to Shoal bay where I had wanted to spend some time and either eat lunch at Tropical Sunset or get $5 crayfish at On Da Rocks in Island Harbor, but it was supremely windy and rough with steady rain at this point so we decided to bag that plan and head to Corner Bar pizza for a seafood pie to take back to the room and eat on our balcony along with our bottle of red. Corner bar has the best pizza in the world in my opinion, especially when topped with lobster and shrimp etc. Mark insisted we get the large so we did. That pizza must have weighed 5 pounds. We got one breakfast and another lunch out of it. I was happy to finally have some leftovers (crusts) to feed the dogs. Then we decided to check out Smokey’s on the Cove for live music. Due to the rain, everyone was crammed in the covered portion so there wasn't much room, and we felt bad taking up a table since we weren’t going to have lunch there. So back to Sandy Ground to find another beach bar. Neither the Pumphouse nor the Sandbar were open yet and Johnno’s wasn’t what I was looking for so we headed up a little further to Roy’s Bayside Grille. Perfect. We ordered rum punches and watched it rain! I can’t comment on the food there, but we liked the setting and would definitely go back.

Dinner tonight was at Blanchard’s, our favorite restaurant years ago. We got a great seat with views of the gardens and the beach (had it not been dark!). Service was impeccable. In Bob and Melinda’s absence, Lowell represented very well. Those of you who have read A Trip to the Beach know who Lowell is. I, of course, had to have my photo taken with him and he of course obliged. Remember the nice lime fellow? Lowell. As soon as we were seated, the waitress brought us 2 glasses of Prosecco in honor of our anniversary. Very nice touch. Then they started us out with homemade bread and hummus. I ordered the Prixe Fixe meal of lobster & shrimp cakes, sesame-crusted mahi mahi and key lime pie in a glass. Mark had the grilled crayfish (smaller version of the Caribbean spiny lobster) with honey-lemon rum glaze. Everything was outstanding. But as is the recurring theme, heavy rain started coming down and the wind was whipping it into the restaurant. We dealt with it for a bit, then scooted our table back a foot or so. Everyone else in the front row fled for the safety of the inside but we stuck it out. Finally we just closed the shutters. When Samaro brought my dessert, he presented it on a plate onto which they had written “Happy Anniversary” with chocolate. Another nice touch. He then instructed us to tilt the plate slightly so he could take our photo and the words would be visible. We lifted and grinned for the camera and all of sudden...thud. We had angled the plate too much and off slid our dessert. Oops. Samaro didn’t bat an eye, just hurried off to get a new dessert so we could have a re-do. Dining out in Anguilla ain’t cheap by anyone’s standards but Blanchard’s was the most expensive. Not complaining, just informing. All of our meals were worth every penny. Back home to chill in the room and enjoy another night’s sleep with no dogs or kids in bed with us!

Dec 8 – Again we woke to cloudy skies, but we did see pockets of blue trying to poke through so we were hopeful. It definitely didn’t rain as much this day but we only saw the obscured sun about 4 times, in 2 minute increments. But hey, it was an improvement so far! That morning we decided to check out the Viceroy....the mega-resort on the West end of Meads Bay. That place is huge and over the top. It’s very luxurious but also too modern looking, in my opinion, to fit in with most of the architecture on the island. We wandered back to the hotel to grab our books and do some beach reading as long as the rain held off. It was a comfortable and familiar sight to see Howard at his patio table reading his magazines each morning and enjoying his vodka tonic in the evenings. We stopped for one of our daily chats then spent some time on the beach. One of the boys from Straw Hat, next door at Frangipani, came and gave us a menu and and a flag on a pole. Whenever we wanted something delivered to our beach chairs, all we had to do was stake our flag. Mark wanted a beer so he signaled and the boy promptly came over. Marks said “I will take a Carib (Car-eeb) please. The boy politely informed us that it is pronounced Carib (like Carrot). All of these years we have been saying it wrong. To anyone reading who was misguided like us, the “i” is short, not long. Sometimes I wants to correct all those who pronounce Anguilla incorrectly (Ang-eela), but I never do. In the words of EJCrowe, Anguilla rhymes with Vanilla! When we got hungry, we simply walked 10 yards right over to Straw Hat. They have the best setting, right ON the beach with wide open views of the water. After lunch, we decided to head over to Shoal bay West in hopes of less wind and calmer water. I had never been to that beach so it was nice to try something new. We accessed the beach via Trattoria Tramanto. Wish we had thought to go there yesterday after Smokey’s or today for lunch because we really liked the looks of this place. Next time! We found a spot on the beach and laid out our towels. The sky was looking menacing again but not raining. Mark fell asleep while I stared at the water. I watching the waves creep closer to us but we were in no danger, or so I thought. A big one suddenly came and crested the hill of sand and drenched our towels. Thankfully my camera was in my hand and not my beach bag! That ended that excursion. Back to the room to room to relax and clean up. Mark caught parts of the football games, and at that point we wished we had gone to Gwen’s to watch football with the Pittsburgh couple we met.

After we were cleaned up, we went down to the beach in hopes of catching a sunset. No such luck - the clouds were in control. We drank our wine then walked back up to the pool deck to talk with Howard and Greta before dinner, and snap a pic of he and I. You didn’t think I would leave with a photo, did you? This man is a wealth of knowledge and all too soon it was time to walk down the beach to Jacala for dinner.

What a wonderful dining experience this was. Love the ambience of this restaurant. And we got the best seat in the house. The beach was a stone’s throw away. As soon as we were seated, here comes Jacques..owner and chef. What a delightful and funny man! He must have stopped by our table 4 times to talk to us and check up on us. This was what Mark was looking for! He told us the specials - not a waitress, he was the one who asked what types of grapes we prefer for our wine - not a waitress, and he was the one who fixed Mark’s meal, tableside. I did not recognize any of the French wines on the extensive list so I just picked, and I picked well. He would have gladly suggested one but it was more fun this way! We both knew what we wanted before we arrived so ordering was easy. Howard had told Mark a couple of days prior that the only place he will eat steak tartar is at Jacala and only if Jacques makes it. Mark was sold. And I had yet to have my own crayfish dinner so that was my choice. To start, we had miniature crusty French bread and then they brought us a sample of asparagus soup in a shot glass. I think the little chefs samples were my favorite part of all meals. Then out came Jacques to prepare Mark’s steak…to his specific spiciness level. As he as he placed it on the table, a waitress swooped in with my crayfish. Both meals were amazing. My fork kept finding its way to Mark’s plate for a bite of steak. Then after dinner we were offered a complimentary shot of either a spiced vanilla vodka concoction or homemade limoncello. Yum!! For dessert, we ordered the homemade mango and raspberry sorbets. So fresh and delicious. Dessert seemed to take a while and we were eyeing up the shot cart that was parked by our table. Just then Jacques walked by and offered us another while we waited. Another perfect meal!

On our walk back, we decided to poke around the mansion for sale next to the restaurant. Oh if we were only multi-millionaires! After that we packed up for the most part so we could spend as much time as possible on the beach the next day before we had to catch the ferry back to SXM.

Dec 9 - The day dawned bright and clear so we immediately suited up and headed out. Since it was still very windy we decided on Maundays Bay since we thought it would be more protected. It was a little, but not much. On our way, the road was covered with foam that had blown off the salt pond, so it appeared as though it had snowed. We took a walk and watched as the Cap Juluca staff set up for the day. We tried to relax on our towels but were getting sandblasted so figured being elevated on lounge chairs would be preferable. Back to Meads Bay. We spent some time just soaking up the warm sun. Then we walked, played in the surf and spent time with the pups. Everyone advised us to take the Noon ferry to make it in time for our 3:30 flight. But the prospect of a little extra time on the beach won out and we opted to take our chances with the 12:45 boat. That turned out to be more than enough time. We spent our last hour sharing our leftover lunch on the beach with the dogs. Then we walked down to the Beach Shack for one last frozen concoction and so I could buy a shirt.

Since Mark's reading material had been a book called "Leap of Faith - Quit Your Job and Live on a Boat," many of our dinner discussions entailed talk of how we would could make this happen. Then as were packing up, he says to me -

"When we get our boat and stop here, you can get your poundcake and he can be our boat dog."

"Um honey, do you mean POTcake?"

"Yeah, close enough"

Ferry ride back was rougher but we got a boat with seats up top so enjoyed a little more outside time even though we got a little wet. Too soon our time was up on what is still our favorite island. Until next time...

Here is the link to my photos...enjoy!

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