It’s been nearly six months since hurricanes Irma and Maria barreled through the Caribbean, and for most of the affected destinations a lot has changed. Storm-swept beaches have been cleared, utilities have been restored and rebuilding is well under way. This is especially apparent on Anguilla, which has bounced back remarkably well.
We traveled there in December 2017 and, depending on which area of the island you were visiting, you might never have known a hurricane passed through because recovery efforts were already so advanced. So if you’re rethinking your Anguilla getaway this year, don’t! As the island’s parliamentary secretary for tourism, Cardigan Connor, told us: “Come! Anguilla is waiting for you.” Here’s what you need to know before you go.
1. It’s still relatively easy to get there.
Typically, most visitors fly into St. Maarten and take the 30-minute ferry ride to Anguilla’s Blowing Point terminal. Although badly damaged, Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) has been open since last October, and you can still connect through this hub.
The regular ferry terminal was destroyed, so boats now leave from the police station in Simpson Bay on the Dutch side, or from Marigot on the French side. Now when you arrive in Anguilla you’ll pass through Immigration at Blowing Point police station rather than at the adjacent ferry terminal (which was demolished to make way for a new building).
You can also fly into Anguilla’s Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport from St. Maarten (it’s just an eight-minute flight) or via San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Seaborne Airlines and Air Sunshine.
2. The beaches are still beautiful.
At just 35 square-miles, this posh but unpretentious island is known as must-visit for sand seekers, with 33 pristine and uncrowded beaches to suit every bum. And that hasn’t changed — the sand is still powdery white and the sea still that only-in-Anguilla blue. Bonus: Shoal Bay East is even better and broader than before, now that sand churned up by the storms has been deposited on its eastern end.
As far as Anguilla’s offshore islands go, you’ll have to wait a few more months for the idyllic spit known as Sandy Island to return to its former size. But Johnno’s restaurant on Prickly Pear is open, and Scilly Cay, famous for its gargantuan crayfish platters and $5 rum punches, is open by appointment.
3. There are plenty of places to stay.
Of Anguilla’s 1,600 total rooms, there are now more than 700 small hotels, guesthouses and villas across the island ready to receive guests. In December, we had a comfortable stay at Fountain Resort & Residences on the East End and Carimar Beach Club on Meads Bay. Both had full power and Wi-Fi.
Hotels including Frangipani Beach Resort, CeBlue Resort, Shoal Bay Villas, Paradise Cove, Allamanda Beach Club and Manoah Boutique Hotel are also back in business. And in January, the island’s newest villa resort, Quintessence Hotel, debuted with nine plush rooms on tranquil Long Bay.
4. But you’ll have to wait for the big resorts.
Tourism officials expect an additional 500 rooms to come back on stream by April, many of them Anguilla’s marquee resorts. Zemi Beach House was the first of the “big six” to reopen on February 15.
Zemi will be followed by Four Seasons Anguilla on March 23; The Reef by CuisinArt on April 1; CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa on November 1; and Belmond Cap Juluca on November 15. The island’s oldest resort, Malliouhana, an Auberge Resort, is scheduled to reopen some time in November.
5. You definitely won’t go hungry.
Many of your favorite restaurants and bars are operating, including Hibernia Restaurant, Andy’s, E’s Oven, Ocean Echo, Roy’s Bayside Grill, a rebuilt Garvey’s Sunshine Shack and Dolce Vita.
On Meads Bay, longtime beachfront favorite Straw Hat rebuilt and reopened in record time and now looks as good as new, straw-hat lamp shades and all. Sandy Ground staple, Elvis’, is still serving up those rum punches on the beach, and Da’Vida continues its reign over the sands of Crocus Bay.
6. The vibe is great.
How have Anguilla residents bounced back from the storms? We’re happy to report that the islanders we met back in December were unanimous in their positive outlook and enthusiasm about the year ahead. The island’s physical recovery has been remarkably swift, but not only because of locals’ hard work, the assistance of the United Kingdom (Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory) and donations from around the world. It’s also because of Anguillians’ indomitable spirit and “can-do” attitude. The moment you touch down on the island you feel a joyous, welcoming vibe that makes you happy you came.