Photo Credit: Shellecia Brooks-Johnson, My Anguilla Experience
How To Experience Anguilla Like A Local
Travelers seeking an unforgettable tropical getaway should consider the Caribbean island of Anguilla. The country has much to see and do, and perhaps no one is more familiar with its many offerings than Shellecia Brooks-Johnson. Born and raised in Anguilla, she is the writer and content creator behind My Anguilla Experience, a blog all about life in Anguilla. Today, Shellecia is going to help us learn how we too can experience Anguilla like a local.
With a degree in hospitality and tourism management, a master’s in international management, and experience working in the tourism sector, including for the Anguilla Tourist Board and Ministry of Tourism, Shellecia is well aware what makes for a great tourist experience. She has studied abroad in Canada and the UK, but couldn’t help but return to the island that holds her heart.
Similarly, Anguilla easily captures the heart of Black travelers from all over who visit the warm and friendly island. To many, it feels more like a second home rather than a vacation destination. A nation with a majority Black population, there is a sense of familiarity and commonality. Anguilla has an elected government with much Black leadership, and its people have a recognizable and relatable strength and resilience.
“In the last five years, we have survived and thrived after a category five Hurricane which destroyed large parts of our infrastructure and our tourism industry,” Shellecia says.
“We are proud of our culture, freedom, and heritage. Most of Anguilla (land) is owned by Anguillans. We are proud of our forefathers and the Anguilla revolution in 1967. We would love to welcome more Black visitors from around the world, because we love seeing Black people live their best lives and embrace luxury and slow living.”
Anguilla is a safe and tranquil country known for its ideal weather and natural beauty. It is home to 33 gorgeous beaches, all of which are public, and a variety of dining options.
“Whether you are eating at a roadside bistro or a five-star restaurant, it is always delicious. We have a big local live entertainment scene (singing) and if you are dining you are most likely also being entertained by a local artist. While some hotels do have restaurants on property, most visitors travel all over the island freely to dine at both local and non-local establishments.”
To dine like a local, Shellecia says eating BBQ from a roadside grill is a must-do. Unfussy and unpretentious, these local spots offer a delicious, filling meal of chicken or pork. Depending on the grill, fish or lobster may also be available.
“Ken’s BBQ on the Strip in The Valley is what most will hear about, but other great and tasty options are Valley’s Roadside BBQ in South Hill, B&D’s BBQ in Long Bay, and one of my recent favorites, Jay’s Tamarind Tree BBQ in The Valley. Jay is only there on Fridays and Saturdays, but I recommend making this stop for some delicious and succulent BBQ wings, yummy pork kebabs, and delicious Johnny cakes with and without a cheese mix, which will have you eating more than you should.”
Although these kinds of local small businesses are everywhere on the island, you won’t find vendors on beaches pushing you to purchase items, or markets where you feel pressured to buy. This type of laid back vibe is one of the many reasons people continue to return to Anguilla time and time again.
Restaurants and bars popular among locals include long-time favorite Tasty’s Restaurant, beachside Ocean Echo, and Da’Vida Restaurant, which offers great packages like pizza and drinks and a pedal boat or kayak which can be taken out on Little Bay. Locals also love Lit Lounge and Ethnik Cuisine.
“Lit Lounge is a great beach bar on Sandy Ground, open and under the stars. Ethnik Cuisine provides the most delicious tapas to complete a casual and perfect Caribbean night out under the stars. DJs provide live music, and it also has a late-night club scene on the weekends.”
Anguilla’s hottest clubbing spot, IWAS AT THE BAR, is the go-to for lit Anguillan night life. For a more chill experience, locals visit Leon’s on Meads Bay on Sundays to enjoy the music of Vere Musiq, one of Anguilla’s most popular performers.
“Leon’s is situated on gorgeous Meads Bay, and the barefoot dancing in the sand experience while watching a sunset or under the stars just feels magical.”
Another great way to get a feel for local life and experience authentic Anguillan culture is to participate in one of the country’s amazing festivals.
“Festival Del Mar is one of my faves, as it is a seafood fest. It is held on the beach at Island Harbour. Island Harbour is a beautiful and picturesque fishing village. During the festival, there are loads of vendors selling a variety of cooked seafood, including lobster, crayfish conch, fresh fish caught that day, and so much other food at great prices. There are live performances, music, games, boat racing, and more during this weekend festival.”
In August, Anguilla has its Summer Festival. The Anguilla Poker Run is the most anticipated nautical event of the summer (think speeding boats, poker, drinking, swimsuit competitions, DJs, and parties on the sea.) You’ll also not want to miss J’ouvert, and be sure to catch a boat race. After all, it is the country’s national sport.
“Another big fete over the summer is Eyes Wide Shut – a daybreak party with the best local and regional entertainers and headliners (11 hours of feting!)”