The moment we stepped off the boat in Anguilla we knew we were in for a beach vacation. The people are truly so friendly and helpful; the food, well we will go into that in full detail. The most outstanding part of this 17-mile-long and 3-mile-wide island is the color of the water, a thousand shades of blues, like nothing we have ever seen.
The way to Anguilla is through St. Marteen. We took a ferry to the island. We stayed at Zemi Beach Club, a 30-minute cab ride from the dock. Zemi is located on the north western part of the island in an area called the East End…I know, but that’s what the map says. It’s more north then the other properties, as they are pushing the development up the island. This is not a bad thing. The resort is quiet (not empty!) on miles of white sand beach. The kind of beach that you can walk for hours!
Zemi Beach House is located, as I said, on the northern part of the island which makes it a bit of a drive of most of the restaurants – 30 minutes at the most. We rented a car and found driving around easy (Waze works there…I know, crazy!) except that Anguilla is a British Island so the driving is on the left. Thankfully our rental was an American car, so the mantra was “stay left, stay left” but I didn’t have to worry where my windshield wipers were.
As I said, the water is the color of a thousand different blues. The kind of blue that you take a million pictures of and only two come out – that kind of blue. We were lucky enough to be on Shoal Bay, known for the island’s best sunset. Every night Zemi would have a special cocktail for sunset, and when the sun fully set, they rang a gong…truly a magical place.
The first night we ate at a place that is on the beach and one of the few “shacks” that serves dinner. Madeariman is an upscale Caribbean restaurant where we ate our first conch fritters. We had mussels (amazing) and a mahi mahi dish and walked along the beach back to our hotel.
We explored the island and were told one of the best things to do (other than lay on a beach) is to hike Windward Point. Being at the most northern tip of the island, it overlooks Scrub Island. The landscape is lunar-like with all the petrified sand bars. Cactus grow in cracks and the rocks are sharp and thrown around. The point is – it feels like the most desolate place on the island. It is also beautiful.
The next restaurant we ate at was Sharky’s. Located on the southeast part of the island. It is a little restaurant located in the owners’ house. Literally, in the owners’ house. All the tables are on his front porch and the bathroom is off the master bedroom. The owner was the general manager of Blanchard’s (a wonderful place to eat – I’ll cover that in a minute) and has decided to breakout and open his own place. Well, what a place it is! The food was fresh and delicious. Unlike the bigger restaurant, if he runs out of something, he has truly run out of it! I had the highly recommended lobster stir-fry…. I had no idea what I was in for- it was simply delicious. We asked for rice and peas (a local favorite) and he informed us that he had run out. He disappeared and came back with a small portion, having asked the chef to scrape the pot clean just so we could have a taste!
We wanted to snorkel – which by the way, you can do right off the beach in Shoal bay. Everyone told us about a place called Little Bay, a protected bay with great snorkeling and sea turtle viewing. The bay is not accessible by car so you can either rent a kayak and paddle over or take a 5-minute boat ride with Calvin both are at Crocus Bay. We opted for Calvin. $30 and 10 minutes later, we were splashing around looking at little fish and sea turtles. Oh and don’t worry, Calvin does eventually come back and pick you up!
We then headed further down to Meads Bay. This is a beautiful stretch of beach that has some of the island’s high-end restaurants, hotels and “shacks”. The beach has Malliouhana (an Auberge Resort) on one end and the Four Seasons on the other. In between are 3 great little restaurants. Blanchard’s (a mainstay on the island) has a beach shack and a full-service restaurant. We couldn’t get a reservation at the full-service restaurant, so we waited on line and ate at the beach shack. What a great time! The line moved quickly and we had our food and drinks in 10 minutes. We ordered the vegetarian grain bowl of the day which was cauliflower and sofrito chicken tacos. Rum punch to round it out with sand on our feet and all was good in the world.
For dinner that day we went to Mango’s – one of the most recommended restaurants on the island. Located at west end bay, like so many of the restaurants, it sits right on the beach. Mangos is a more upscale restaurant with prices to match! When we arrived, the place was packed so we waited with our obligatory rum punch. When we finally sat, we scoured the huge menu for something different. We had a seafood combination with snapper and shrimp and a shrimp Provençal. Both dishes where not worth the price (ouch, I just gave my first bad review). I won’t bother you with the lobster cake that cost as if it was a 2-pound lobster but was actually a single thin pancake of lobster. The meal was a disappointment.
I mentioned the food “shacks” were usually only open for lunch. We had heard about this shack, a five-minute walk down the beach from Zemi. Gwen’s Reggae Grill is exactly what it’s called – a reggae shack bursting with energy and amazing food! You can hear the music down the beach on the weekend. The food makes the same impact. Ribs, jerk chicken, burgers – the menu is short but covers all the basic groups. We ate the ribs…every time we went. The owner and chef, Gwen, makes a hot sauce that is, by far, the best sauce I ever had. I tried to pry the recipe out of her, but even her daughter has been begging for the recipe, but Gwen isn’t budging! I told her to bottle it and to sell it only to the people that order the ribs!
So, there is our trip to Anguilla. The food was delicious, the beaches where long and beautiful and we left this little slice of heaven, relaxed, fat and happy!