With Hurricane Irma Behind Them, Anguilla’s Resorts are Ready to Thrive

The 2017 storm did unthinkable damage to this small Caribbean paradise, but resilience always wins.

Shoal Bay Beach
Anguilla’s Shoal Bay Beach should be on every Caribbean traveler’s wish list.Shutterstock

Living in paradise certainly has its benefits. Sand, surf and sun are typically in abundance—that is, until a hurricane strikes. In September 2017, Hurricane Irma ripped through the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla leaving a wake of destruction in her path. Trees were uprooted, electricity lost, roads were rendered impassable, and homes, businesses and harbors were decimated. This archipelago was left in ruin to the tune of about $190 million in damages.

But nature is resilient, and so are the islanders. These Anguilla resorts have been busy rebuilding, revamping and renewing, and are now open and better than ever.

Set upon a bluff amidst 25 acres of lush vegetation, Malliouhana, Auberge Resorts Collection's panoramic views of Meads Bay and Turtle Cove, coupled with breathtaking sunsets are reason enough to warrant a stay. It's hard to imagine this jet setting hideaway could make any improvements to their already stunning property and world-class service, but they have.

The guest rooms and terraces have been fully reimagined over an 18-month period. The décor is bright and airy mixed with tropical ephemera, and paintings by Haitian artist Jasmin Joseph that were part of the original design. A new two-bedroom beachfront suite on Turtle cove, three new suites above the spa, eight beachfront rooms and four garden rooms have been added, and the spa has been enhanced with six treatment rooms and an infinity pool to complement an existing one which garnered new cabanas. For food and drink, Malliouhana just opened Leon’s at Meads Bay, serving traditional cuisine like jerk chicken and Johnnycakes that go down easy with their specialty rum punch.

After having your electrical lines obliterated by a hurricane, it makes good sense to go solar especially when sunlight is so plentiful. The Frangipani Beach Resort, also on Mead Bay, has done just that. This 19-room, intimate, family-run resort has installed a large-scale sustainable solar energy system expected to provide 70 percent of its power while cutting costs and decreasing their environmental footprint. Also new to this chic boutique hotel is a four-bedroom villa, and at the Straw Hat, their seaside restaurant, both the menu and furnishings have received a complete overhaul.

frangipani beach resort
The intimate Frangipani Beach Resort offers 19 rooms, including a four-bedroom villa.Frangipani Beach Resort

For those staying at either resort seeking an authentic island experience, head due south to the Dune Preserve at Rendezvous Bay. It is owned and operated by musical legend Bankie Banx whose voice is reminiscent of Bob Dylan. The ramshackle, multi-tiered, tree house has classic Caribbean eats, live music, and a repurposed bar that enjoyed a former life as a boat with Bankie’s own variety of homemade rums. Every March, Bankie hosts his annual Moonsplash Music Festival now in its 29th year.

The SunShine Shack also on Rendezvous Bay, is a colorful, rustic structure right on the beach so no shoes are required. They have live music on Sundays and serve up BBQ chicken, ribs and Creole style whole snapper that can be washed down with a pina colada, margarita, mojito or daiquiri. Their motto, “Every hour is happy hour”, and it certainly is.

Also near Malliouhana is the family run B&D’s Barbecue. It’s open on weekends only and guests are seated under a tent in the family’s front yard. But to enjoy a true Anguillan institution, head down to The Strip in The Valley where an assortment of food stands and trucks like Ken's BBQ, Hunter's Food Van, Natural Mystique, Wendy's Jazzy's, Domino Cafe and DaDa's Soups cook up everything from pork and oxtail stews to conch soup, to charcoal-grilled garlic bread and of course mouthwatering BBQ chicken and ribs. It’s a lively scene and a real slice of life.

Zemi Beach House Hotel & Spa on Shoal Bay East is now part of LXR Hotels & Resorts, Hilton's luxury collection brand, as of November 2019, but it still retains it's Caribbean charm. Since Irma, this 6-acre, family friendly, beachfront retreat has spruced up it's landscaping with manicured plantings, added sand to the beach, upgraded the soft goods in all 65 guests rooms, suites and villas, and refurbished the pool areas to their original glory.

zemi beach spa
Guests at Zemi Beach House Hotel and Spa can find peace and relaxation with a blissful beachside spa treatment.Zemi Beach House Hotel and Spa

The Thai House Spa, originally built 300 years ago as a rice barn, and brought to the island piece by piece, has also been restored. This is a very decadent 15,000 square foot compound with a meditation garden, an outdoor mud deck, rainfall showers, a vitality pool and luxurious treatments, some borrowed from the healing customs of the Taino people, Anguilla’s indigenous culture. There is a juice bar with a selection of wholesome beverages made using fresh ingredients from the garden. But for those seeking something stronger, try one of the 100 small batch estate rums in the Rhum Room, or a handcrafted cocktail in the Stone Bar, before having a formal meal at the Stone Restaurant, or causal fare at 20 Knots with its new menu and Wednesday evening barbecue.

The Belmond Cap Juluca on Maundays Bay is a secluded sanctuary offering anonymity to the rich and famous. A planned renovation was already scheduled when Belmond acquired Cap Juluca, a mere week before Irma hit. After Irma, the Los Angeles architecture and interior design firm, Rottet Studio, executed a $121 million redesign. The 179-acre resort has been transformed but still retains its Moorish inspired architecture. There are 108 newly appointed guest rooms, suites and private villas, a sea view infinity pool surrounded by verdant foliage, and a 'disappearing spa' that's absorbed by landscape. It includes a private pool, beauty salon, relaxation terraces and fitness center. An updated Main House aptly furnished with mementos paying homage to island life, beckons guests to wander through its library, game room and lounges. The look and feel resembles a private home rather than a grand hotel.

So, as we head into the dark depths of winter and find ourselves in need of rejuvenation, consider this Caribbean gem with its 33 sugar sand beaches, infused turquoise waters, luxury accommodations, upscale eateries, BBQ joints and aquatic activities. (Heck, I want to go and it’s not even cold out yet!)