There sure are a lot of people talking about Anguilla on the T & C forum! Anyway, so many changes on Anguilla since we were here last in 2008, some things that disappeared were the Pyrat Rum Factory (loved the Savage rum), the solitude of Shoal Bay East around the Ku Hotel and dinner at Oliver's. There were more restaurants, more hotels and better grocery stores this time around.
On our first trip my favorite beach by far was Shoal Bay East. Quiet, serene and drop dead gorgeous, I remember hoping they didn't start building big hotels there as the Viceroy was under construction on Mead's at the the time. One funny memory back then was when two women speaking only French decided to set their things down by our family and then go topless walking up and down the beach. Especially humorous when they were trying to negotiate the price of two chairs and an umbrella.They probably got a good deal.
We stayed in a villa just behind Carimar called Twin Palms Villa via Catherine Orchard at Anguilla Villa Company. Be sure to book with a trusted villa company when securing lodging on the island. I ended up in a credit card dispute with the first company I booked with and it's no fun fighting to get your money back. We loved being within walking distance from Mead's Bay, this ended up being our favorite beach because it was calm, quiet (when we were there anyway) and loaded with restaurant options. There are lots of differing views on which beach is the best/calmest etc and typically we gravitate toward the rustic beaches (think Eleuthera). This island is a bit different for us though. I have to say that I was also really impressed with Malliouhana even though we didn't stay there. I spent a lot of time walking the many steps, taking photos and there are so many impressive views plus the staff is always friendly and welcoming.
We went in early July and our villa had A/C in the bedrooms only. I know people say there's a breeze, you'll cool off in the ocean etc, but nope, we were hot!! I swear there was not a good breeze in our villa nor around Mead's. We were out and about during the day and okay, but after dinner we were desperate for any glimmer of a breeze and frequently retreated to the bedrooms to cool off. Other than that, the villa itself was perfect and had a wonderful pool and beautiful gardens. The ladies that took care of the villa were also charming.
On our way to Rendevous beach, we first stopped by the Reef resort to go to Breezes restaurant on Merrywing Bay. The resort itself was deserted when we were there, including the pool area. The beach in front isn't good for swimming, but a better spot to snorkel. It's actually a very photogenic beach with it's skinny palm trees. My kids noted that when we arrived at Breezes they were playing reggae music and when we sat down they switched it to Miley Cyrus. We only ordered two things, a garden salad that was overpriced at $23 and the mezze platter of dips with pita crisps. We left after lunch and went straight to Garvey's and parked just along the road up to the Sunshine Shack. We should have eaten here, but got drinks instead and then went a little further down the beach away from the crowd. The beach was gorgeous, but much windier and choppier than Mead's. We didn't bother renting chairs here and just put our stuff in the sand. Rendevous is very pretty, with more spots for solitude than Mead's and SBE.
We didn't have a bad meal the entire trip and our favorite lunch spot was Straw Hat. Their fish sandwich was outstanding along with everything else, and the Miami Vice drink at $9 was one of the strongest of our trip. Two other standouts for dinner were Tokyo Bay at the Cuisinart and the restaurant at Malliouhana. I don't think Tokyo Bay gets much attention on the forum, but our experience was top notch. The grounds of the Cuisinart are really impressive, more so than the Four Seasons. Mallihouana offers amazing views and phenomenal food. Strange though that even perched up on that cliff, there was still no breeze. I wasn't sure whether to drink my martini, or put my feet in it I was so hot.
Another night, on a whim we decided to go to the Bamboo Bar and Grill at the Four Seasons. Some of my dining choices got vetoed by other family members. We ended up getting seated right in front of Omalie 360 who was singing that night. My husband kept commenting that the gal waiting on us was super slow. Ummm yeah, because she was mesmerized by Omalie like every other woman in the place, including me. Some lady claimed it was her birthday and Omalie sat at her table and sang to her. Sounds like I need to return in January. All my food photos turned out blurry that night, not sure if it was my Islandtini or the proximity to Omalie. Food quality was about the same as Madeariman's, but who cares if there's a free concert?
We picked up a lot of breakfast goodies at Geraud's which we had loved back in 2008. We attempted to eat at Cafe de Paris, but after looking at menus and deciding on food, the server told us all they had was eggs and nothing else. We ended up leaving and they closed down shortly after. Also tried to go to Village Bakehouse and they were closed on that day so didn't try that nor Le Bon Pain which was a little too far away.
Shoal Bay East probably had the biggest changes with the addition of two large hotels. We paid $5 to park in the lot in back of Madeariman's. Ray promptly tried to get us to rent his chairs, but we declined and got both lunch and the chairs/umbrellas from Madeariman's. They reimburse the parking fee if you eat there. The beach was definitely busy, tons of chairs and umbrellas in front of the area by Manoah, Gwen's was also packed and then by Zemi it was quiet again, but the beach area isn't quite as nice as right in front of the hotel. SBE is as gorgeous as ever, but definitely a different, busier vibe than years ago. Madeariman's had a band playing when we were there and lunch was good.
Maundy's Bay was another planned stop and we had hoped to spend part of the day at the beach there. We decided to have lunch at Blue at Cap Jaluca first. Nobody else was around and it was extremely quiet at that resort. Unfortunately, after we sat down to lunch, we saw that the entire beach area had a ton of seaweed. I was really disappointed as it was picture perfect last time we were there. All along the beach and in the water there was a thick layer of seaweed except for right next to Pimm's. Other people told us it wasn't uncommon for the beaches on the south side to collect seaweed. I think we just hit this one on the wrong day.
My son downloaded a map of Anguilla on his phone before we left, so we used that offline for navigation to get around. The only time we felt uneasy was at night leaving the Sandbar restaurant because parking lots in back of that area in Sandy Ground are really dark. Also, lots of people walking along the road at night that are really hard to see so be careful driving. The people on the island are all super friendly, everybody waving as you drive by. Half finished buildings and homes are common around the island, but the charm and hospitality outweigh the empty structures. While everything is spread out amongst the western and eastern sections, there's enough lodging and restaurant options whether you are by Mead's, Rendevous or SBE in my opinion. We didn't find restaurant prices, nor grocery store prices much different than Turks and Caicos for the type of places we eat and the things we buy. We found renting a villa more expensive here than on other islands, but there are tons of other options available. Getting there is a bit more challenging and expensive, but then the beaches and food make up for it. We rented a car from Ronnie Bryan and the process was super easy and the car worked great. Also took the public ferry with ease and enjoyed the taxi ride to the St. Maarten airport. Overall, another super amazing trip! Link to photos: