Located on the northern tip of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, Anguilla is a tropical paradise that beckons to travelers looking for a tranquil escape. Once there, you'll discover soft, sandy beaches surrounded by warm azure waters, plenty of great restaurants and seaside bars, and an active nightlife that will keep you hopping until the wee hours of the morning. But if you think that this is just another island destination that lacks its own distinct culture and personality, think again. Beautiful, friendly, and incredibly charming, this is a place that will surprise you with its wide array of activities and attractions, while still providing the perfect location to relax, unwind, and recharge.
These are the 10 very best things to do while visiting Anguilla.
Go to the Beach
This probably seems like a no brainer considering you are in the Caribbean—but Anguilla has some of the best beaches in the entire region and far too many good ones to choose from. Despite the fact that the island is only 35 miles in length—and just 3 miles wide at its broadest point—there are 33 incredible beaches to explore, each with their own unique features and characteristics. The best of those is arguably Shoal Bay East, which features soft white sand, crystal clear waters, and some of the best swimming and snorkeling around. Alternatively, you could travel to Meads Bay, where the scenery is no less spectacular, but you'll also have access to some fantastic restaurants. Either way, you can't go wrong. And when you're done there, there will still be plenty of other beaches to visit.
Stay in a Scenic Villa
As you would expect, there are plenty of hotels and resorts to stay in while visiting Anguilla, but to get the most out of your visit, book a villa instead. There are outstanding houses available to rent in just about every corner of the island, ranging in price from budget all the way up to luxuriously extravagant. These villas afford travelers extra privacy, and usually provide more scenic views of the beaches, too. Some of the best rental properties can be found on cliff faces overlooking the ocean or one of several bays that are found along the shores. Having your own private escape will be much appreciated after a busy day of sightseeing and enjoying the beach.
Reggae music legend Bankie Banx hails from Anguilla, so naturally he is a favorite son among the locals. He helps produce the Moonsplash Music Festival each year, which often has world-renowned performers on hand. But if you're on the island and are looking for an amazing place to hang out and catch some music for yourself, drop by Banx's Dune Preserve beach bar. The place serves up cold drinks and hot music, with local talent playing most nights. If you're lucky, you might even get to see Bankie himself perform. Regardless, the unique setting will definitely enchant and entertain.
Snorkel Little Bay
There are numerous bays and reefs to explore on Anguilla, but some of the best snorkeling on the entire island can be found in Little Bay. Reaching this spot requires a bit of extra effort on your part, as there are no roads or sidewalks that connect to this secluded area. You can get there by renting a kayak or scrambling down a dirt path, but your efforts will be rewarded when you discover a quiet, almost-always empty beach that you're likely to have all to yourself. From there, you can simply wander out into the water, where you'll spot dozens of species of tropical fish in the stunningly clear water. On occasion, the sea life will even include a sea turtle, manta ray, or a barracuda, all of which are fun to spot and follow as they make their way along the shore. Once you've spent some time at Little Bay, chances are you'll be reluctant to go anywhere else. This quiet spot is just too charming and relaxing to give up for one of the more frequented beaches, even if it is harder to get to.
If you've ever wanted to find out what it feels like to be on a deserted island, then add "visiting the Prickly Pear Cays" to your list of things to do. A short boat ride shuttles you from Anguilla to the cay, where you'll discover a tiny tropical getaway, complete with a private beach, a bar, and a delicious restaurant. During your stay, you can swim in the Caribbean, go stand-up paddling or kayaking, or just soak up the sun. You can also snorkel just off shore or stretch your legs on a bird-watching nature hike before sampling the local rum in an idyllic island setting.
Mingle with Locals on The Strip
One of the best parts of travel is leaving the more touristy spots behind and getting the chance to hang out in the places that the locals frequent. In Anguilla, that means dropping by the Strip on the weekend to enjoy some great food, conversation, and music. The Strip is a collection of food trucks, restaurants, and shops located in The Valley, the island's capital city. Throughout most of the week, the area can feel a bit subdued and quiet, but come Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening, it is jumping with people. Many of them come to enjoy Ken's Pork, a local staple that offers some of the best BBQ on the entire island. There are plenty of other good foods to sample there as well, so allow yourself plenty of time to indulge in this authentic locale.
Take a Tour of the Island by ATV
Anguilla isn't a very big island, so it doesn't take long to see most of it by car. But if you're looking to get off the beaten path and explore some of the more hidden locales, consider joining an ATV tour. After a brief get-acquainted session with the all-terrain vehicle, you'll be riding like a pro. Your guide will take you to visit scenic vistas, stunning beaches, and hidden destinations known only to the locals. Fun, informative, and completely safe, these tours blend history, culture, and adventure into a single ride that will help you feel more connected with the island and its people. Better yet, you'll come away having experienced some out-of-the-way locations that most visitors never get to see.
Pilot Your Own Personal Watercraft on Anguilla's Bays
When you've finished wandering across Anguilla on land, why not take to the seas to explore the island from a different perspective? Renting a personal watercraft—such as a jet ski—is always fun and opens up some interesting possibilities, but the local mini-boat of choice is the Tiger Rider. These small, highly maneuverable, and fun inflatable rafts are easy to learn how to operate and provide access to hidden coves and beaches along the Anguilla coast. That includes the aforementioned Little Bay, where you'll enjoy excellent swimming and snorkeling. These trusty little boats can get you up close and personal with Anguilla's sea caves or give more-adventurous travelers the chance to go cliff jumping. Whether you're a complete beginner or an experienced boat person, you'll enjoy your outing on a Tiger Rider.
Indulge on Some of the Finest Food in the Caribbean
Anguilla has a surprising number of great restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some will provide you with beachside views, while others sit atop high cliffs for a more panoramic look at the island. No matter which setting you prefer, you won't lack for great things to eat. Some of the best include Sun Shine Shack, which lives up to its name, delivering outstanding food and drinks right on the beach. For a similar experience, Blanchard's Beach Shack can't be beat either, and everyone who visits Anguilla should try Ken's Pork on The Strip. Da Vida offers a bit more upscale fare, but still provides a lovely setting right along the water. For tasty Italian, hit up Dolce Vita—a mainstay with the locals—and the Tokyo Bay Restaurant, located at the Cuisinart Resort (yes, that Cuisinart), offers an array of Asian delicacies.
These are just a few of the options to choose from, but you can rest assured that you will not go hungry on your visit.
While the Caribbean isn't exactly known as a destination for cavers, there are a few that are worth visiting. Anguilla is home to the Fountain Cavern National Park, which is both a geological and historical wonder. Inside this subterranean chamber you'll find remnants left behind by the Indigenous Taino people who once inhabited the island. These include ancient petroglyphs and a stalagmite that had been carved to represent the deity Jocahu, who plays a central role in the Taino mythology. To view these archaeological finds for yourself, you'll need to descend nearly 50 feet underground, but for history and culture buffs, a visit to the park will change the way you view the island.