Top Anguilla Attractions: Hit the Beach!
Anguilla's 30-plus beaches include some of the most celebrated strands of sand in the world, including Mead's Bay and Shoal Bay, each of which has been named the world's best beach at one time or another. Soft sand is a hallmark of Anguilla's beaches, as is diversity: if you want solitude you can find it at places like Little Bay Beach, while Sandy Ground or Rendezvous Bay (the latter home to the Dune Preserve) have the beach bars and party atmosphere.
Visit Offshore Islands and Quiet Beaches
You can't properly visit Anguilla without spending some time in a boat, and a trip to Anguilla's offshore islands for a day of snorkeling, picnicking, and lounging on deserted beaches is the best way to spend some fun time on the water. Popular destinations include Prickly Pear Cay and Sandy Island. Or, have your captain drop you off at Little Bay: sure, you can get to this small beach by land, but that requires scaling a steep cliff by rope, so the boat is definitely the better option! Calvin is a popular captain who makes runs to the beach from Crocus Bay; ask around.
Swim with Dolphins
Dolphin Discovery at Blowing Point Beach affords you the opportunity to swim with dolphins or an "encounter" session where you'll get a hug, handshake, and a kiss from some of these friendly marine mammals. Adult prices run from about $100 and up (discounts for kids) and can include such "royal treatment" experiences as being towed across a lagoon by the dolphin's dorsal fin or pushed by their nose against your feet -- the dolphins' power is startling!
Explore Island Harbour
Not so long ago Anguilla was a sleepy backwater, and while high-end tourism development has raised the island's international profile, it's still possible to find the old Anguilla in places like Island Harbour, a traditional fishing village on the island's west end. Soak up the local culture by walking the village beaches and watching the fishermen bringing in the day's catch, or book a villa or a room at the Arawak Beach Inn if you really want your Anguilla vacation with some local flavor (and reasonable prices). For a casual meal, try the pizza at the inn's Arawak Cafe or take the free boat launch to Scilly Cay, an offshore island with an restaurant famous for its fresh lobster and crayfish (open Wednesdays and Sundays only). Island Harbour also is home to Anguilla's annual Easter Festival del Mar, a celebration of the island's boating and fishing culture.
Hike the Pelican Trail
Tiny Pelican Bay used to be virtually inaccessible to Anguilla visitors, but a local entrepreneur has solved that problem -- and created a new tourist attraction -- by building a 400-step stairway that descends 200 feet from Roache's Hill Road to sea level. The views are fabulous and when you reach bottom you can rent kayaks to explore Pelican Bay and neighboring Little Bay, saying hello to some of the namesake pelicans along the way. Snorkel equipment and gazebos are also available to rent, and there's a water trampoline to play on. The hike back up is a bit strenuous, but you can pause to catch your breath at a covered deck.
Tour the Old Salt Factory and Pump House
Anguilla was never an especially fertile place, so to make money the early colonists had to get creative, and one of the businesses that flourished here was salt production. Tours of the old salt factory in Sandy Ground are given at 10 a.m. on Thursdays and demonstrate how the salt was pumped from a nearby pond and processed. For a less-formal look around, simply show up at the Pumphouse any day or evening -- the historic building now operates as a restaurant and bar.
Tour Wallblake House
Built in 1787, Wallblake House survives as a testament to Anguilla's early history thanks to its rugged, cut-stone construction. Details on the original owners of the house have been lost over the centuries, but it's likely that it was built by an early English sugar planter; what is known is that it survived being put to the torch by French invaders in 1796 and is in fact the oldest remaining building on Anguilla. The restored plantation house is available for tours Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 264-497-6613. The house also serves as the base for the Anguilla Heritage Tours.
Take an Island Tour
Anguilla can easily be toured by car in a couple of hours -- simply hire a local taxi driver to take you around or book through Anguilla Access to get an informative overview of Anguilla's history and natural wonders. The Anguilla National Trust also runs heritage tours that focus on history, including the 10 stops along the Anguilla Heritage Trail, such as the Wallblake House and the Old Salt Factory.
Visit an Art Gallery
The Savannah Gallery and the Loblolly Gallery are two great examples of Anguilla's thriving arts scene. The Savannah Gallery is located in two old houses in the lower Valley and features works from native Anguillans as well as contemporary artists from elsewhere in the Caribbean -- more than a dozen in all. The Loblolly Gallery has a collection of Haitian art plus the works of local artists Paula Walden, Marge Morani, and Iris Lewis, housed in the historic Rose Cottage. Painter Lynne Bernbaum opens her own studio and gallery to visitors to The Valley, while Cheddie's Carving Studio showcases the work of sculptor Cheddie Richardson.