There’s something about the Caribbean that’s just so inviting as soon as the plane touches down on whatever locale you decide to temporarily call home. Warm breezes, friendly locals, luxe resorts and idyllic beaches all combine to create a welcoming paradise you’ll never want to leave.
Islands like the Bahamas, Jamaica, and even Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic get most of the attention for Caribbean destinations thanks to their vibrant nightlife and attractions. But not everyone wants to visit a party town or deal with over-traveled destinations filled with rowdy college kids or wannabes flexing for social media.
Sometimes, people just want to unwind, recharge and immerse themselves in a calmer beachside Caribbean town that isn’t overrun with tourists. If this sounds appealing, then Anguilla is the Caribbean island you didn’t know that you needed to visit. An untouched charm, gorgeous hidden gem beaches and a slower pace are the perfect solution to recharge and return to real life feeling refreshed.
What To Know About Anguilla
Anguilla is an island located in the eastern Caribbean Sea. It is the most northern Leeward Island which makes it also part of the Lesser Antilles. The island is located directly 12 miles north of Saint Martin (also spelled as Sint Maarten since this island nation is split between French and Dutch rule) and 60 miles northwest of Saint Kitts. However, it sits east of Puerto Rico.
The island is part of the British Overseas Territories. So, passports are required for non-British citizens to legally enter and exit the country. Being located in the Caribbean, Anguilla enjoys warm weather year-round. Like other islands in the region, it can be impacted by hurricanes and tropical storms during hurricane season. The official language is English, making it an easy vacation destination for English speakers from other countries. While East Caribbean Dollars (XCD) are the official currency, visitors can use US Dollars and international bank and credit cards to make purchases on the island.
Arriving in Anguilla
While Anguilla isn’t as heavily visited as other locales in the Caribbean, it’s still fairly easy to reach either by plane or ferry. If traveling from the US, direct commercial routes exist between Anguilla’s AXA airport and Miami (MIA), San Juan (SJU) in Puerto Rico, or Sint Maarten (SXM) — on the Dutch side. Alternatively, posh travelers can book private charters between AXA airport and SXM. For better flight times and flexibility, many travelers prefer to fly into Saint Martin/Sint Maarten and book tickets on the public ferries from the French or Dutch side respectively to reach Anguilla.
The Best Beaches in Anguilla
One of the biggest draws for Anguilla is that the island isn’t overdeveloped by hotel chains and businesses capitalizing on tourism like many of its other Caribbean neighbors. While there are very posh resorts and tourist activities throughout the island, travelers tend to gravitate to the island because of its slower pace, less populated beaches, and untouched natural beauty.
When the island beckons, there are roughly 35 beaches to choose from. Here are some of the top beaches to add to a must-visit list.
Travelers that intend to stay on Anguilla and want to have direct access to the beach from luxe accommodations should consider Meads Bay. This is also where many well-to-do travelers choose to park their yachts during the high season.
Shoal Bay East
Hands down, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, and in the world, is Shoal Bay East. The two-mile stretch of white sand and turquoise waters is one of Anguilla’s crown jewels. It’s so popular that it’s a top destination for day trippers from Saint Martin. Shoal Bay East sits on the island’s north shore and is open to the public. Still, there are plenty of beachside resorts that offer direct private access to this coveted stretch of sand. Along with lounging by the shore, visitors can enjoy water sports or visit any of the nearby bars and restaurants.
Rendezvous Bay is another fabulous choice that’s topped many “best beaches” lists over the years. This beach is best known for its spectacular views since visitors can see St. Martin’s mountains in the distance. While there, be sure to visit Sunshine Shack, a popular restaurant known for its tasty eats.
Feel like hitting an off-the-beaten-path stretch of beach? Long Bay is the perfect opinion. The area is far less developed than nearby neighbor Meads Bay. Travelers longing for that “unspoiled” nature experience are sure to find it here. Along with beautiful beaches, there are plenty of coves to explore, making this place a must-see for anyone who wants to get fully off the grid. Note that the waters in this area are fairly calm making it an ideal spot for snorkeling or lazy swims.
Picturesque is the best way to describe Maundays Bay which is a semi-circle beachfront community complete with white sand and jewel-toned waters. If budgets allow, stay at the LVHM Belmond’s Cap Juluca, one of the most high-end five-star resorts throughout the entire Caribbean. Tourists can also spot St. Martin’s majestic mountains from this spot.
Hoping to spot a celebrity? Head to Barnes Bay where famous names like Robert DeNiro have been spotted. This region is known for villas— namely those where the rich and famous like to relax. Alternatively, the Four Seasons is also located here, so tourists will be in good company.
Prefer to avoid crowds? While Anguilla is far from crowded, people who want to go off the beaten path should head to Little Bay. It’s known as one of the more remote stretches of beach on the island and does take a bit more effort to reach. However, the gorgeous natural limestone formations that bound the sands make it well worth it.
Those seeking calm waters for a soothing dip in the ocean should head to Cove Bay. Because of its location on the southwestern side of the island, clear views of St. Martin are still possible. There’s only one wharf and one restaurant in the entire area, and that wharf is used recreationally and by local fishermen. This region is known for a truly slow pace, making it ideal for anyone desperate to unplug and relax. It’s also ideal for water sports, horseback riding, and soothing strolls down the beach.
For those that prefer a little bit more interaction, Island Harbor is the perfect stop. This is a popular fishing village with plenty of authentic restaurants for travelers that want to immerse themselves in the local culture. Island Harbor is located on the northeast side of Anguilla. When tourists tire of the beach, they can enjoy hiking along the rocky terrain which is common on this side of the island.
With a name like this, walking barefoot is a must. Sandy Ground is a bustling area that’s known as the nightlife capital of Anguilla and is part of a more built up portion of the island. Along with a working port, and a wharf to catch ferries, the bulk of restaurants and shops are also situated here.
Which Beach is Best in Anguilla?
With over 30 beaches to explore across the island, awarding just one as the “best beach” is a tall order. The better question is to decide what travelers prefer. Do they want access to more nightlife or dining options? If so, then Sandy Ground is at the top of the list. If they’re trying to check off bragging rights for having visited award-winning beaches then Shoal Bay and Rendezvous Bay are both essential rites of passage. And if an off-the-beaten-path destination that’s not brimming with tourists is the goal, then remote options like Cove Bay and Long Bay can’t be missed.