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Anguilla is one of the premier vacation spots in the Caribbean. A British overseas territory east of Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the island encompasses a total of 35 square miles and has a population of just over 14,000. The average temperature in Anguilla is 80 degrees and northeastern trade winds keep the island cool and dry. September and October tend to be rainier than other months while February and March are generally drier.
Anguilla offers travelers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of the island. It has 33 immaculate white-sand beaches that are free and open to the public. Shoal Beach is one of Anguilla’s best-known beaches. It has lively beach bars, white sand, turquoise water and plenty of activities. There are also many places to snorkel, scuba dive, sail and windsurf. To catch a breathtaking sunset, travelers are encouraged to go to Anguilla’s highest point, Crocus Hill, which is 213 feet above sea level.
Boat racing is very popular in Anguilla. In fact, it’s the country’s national sport and it hosts many regattas starting in the spring and summer and coming to a dramatic end in late August with the Champion of Champion race. After a race, there are usually parties with barbecues, music and dancing, making attending a boat race a must-do for anyone traveling to Anguilla to experience this exciting island tradition.
Travelers seeking nightlife should head to Sandy Ground, considered the entertainment capital of Anguilla. During the day it’s a quiet little village but comes alive at night with fun beach bars and restaurants that fill with music and dancing.
Valid passport needed for entry as well as return tickets
Eastern Caribbean dollar (American dollars are widely accepted)
Anguilla sits in first class and has a first-class price tag. There are certainly more affordable ways to enjoy the sun and the sea, but for those desiring impeccable service and an exclusive atmosphere, this island is one of the premier vacation spots in the Caribbean.
Before you plunk down your money to vacation on Anguilla (and it will likely be a big plunk), know the ground rules: The rich and famous who go there do so because it is one of few places where they can be assured of a carefree, hassle-free holiday. If you happen to see, say, Janet Jackson sitting at the next table, you will not get her autograph nor ask about her next album. It just is not done.
There are no restrictions about fawning over the island's immaculate white-sand beaches, however. There are 33 to choose from, and many offer excellent snorkeling around coral reefs. Other watersports are in abundance: scuba diving, sailing and windsurfing. When visitors have had their fill of beach and ocean, there's a wide range of fine restaurants to round out the evening.
Don't expect an island that is lush, full of activity and replete with charming architecture, however. Anguilla is very dry, and until recently, life was hardscrabble there for centuries. The benefits of this are almost-constant sun, enduring simplicity and a cohesive populace whose confident self-reliance is the basis for an attitude you might want to bottle and take home.
Although a number of day-trippers arrive from St. Martin/St. Maarten, which lies only 4 mi/7 km to the south, Anguilla (pronounced ahn-GWIL-lah) remains relatively uncrowded compared with other islands in the area. Those who have sampled its relaxed and refined atmosphere seem to like what they've found: They tend to adopt the island as if it were their own private hideaway, returning year after year.
Sights—The historic district of The Valley, home to some of Anguilla's oldest and most architecturally interesting dwellings and public buildings; scuba diving the reefs and wrecks along Anguilla's north (Atlantic) coast; any of Anguilla's 33 beaches, all free and open to the public.
Museums—Colville Petty's quirky and fascinating collection of artifacts from the Anguillan Revolution at the Heritage Collection; discovering the island's architectural heritage at Wallblake House.
Memorable Meals—Grilled lobster washed down with rum punch on the beach at Scilly Cay Restaurant; off-the-boat fresh seafood and cold drinks on the picnic tables at Johnno's Beach Stop; upscale dining and great views in an eye-catching seaside dining room at Hibernia; grooving to the music at the Dune Preserve's late Sunday lunch.
Late Night—Johnno's Beach Stop for reggae, calypso, soca and zouk music till the wee hours; drinks at the beach bars of Shoal Bay.
Walks—Bird-watching hikes in the salt marshes of Sandy Ground; following the interpretive nature trail at the Cap Juluca resort; strolling along the sandy beaches of Maunday's Bay or Rendezvous Bay.
Especially for Kids—Snorkeling the coral reefs at Junks Hole; collecting shells at Maunday's Bay; swimming the calm waters at Shoal Bay West.
The island was inhabited as early as 1500 BC by Arawaks, who called it Malliouhana. The Carib Indians later drove out the Arawaks, but they were no match for the British, who arrived in 1650. Slavery and disease eliminated the Caribs, but the British needed their navy to hold on to Anguilla during several attacks by the French in the 1600s and 1700s. France quickly lost interest in Anguilla, however, and the island became another quiet outpost of the British Empire.
In 1967, the British attempted to join Anguilla with the neighboring islands of St. Kitts and Nevis to form a State in Association with the United Kingdom. Anguillans rebelled against the plan, fearing they would be overwhelmed by St. Kitts. After a two-year standoff, they were able to arrange a separate relationship with Great Britain, which took until 1980 to implement.
Today, Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory with an elected House of Assembly and a governor who is appointed by the Crown. The governor chooses a chief minister to lead the cabinet, someone who appears to have the support of a majority of Assembly lawmakers. Anguilla Day is celebrated as a national holiday on 30 May. It was on that date in 1967 that the St. Kitts police were removed from Anguilla.
In an effort to diversify the economy, which is heavily geared toward tourism, the British and Anguillan governments have launched aggressive programs to establish the island as a reputable and well-regulated center for offshore banking. These measures have begun to attract new revenues and diversify the economy, though tourism remains important for many islanders. The Anguilla Commercial Online Registration Network (ACORN), which originated in 1988, allows instant electronic incorporation and registration of companies and limited partnerships. Fishing also remains important.
Anguilla's main attractions are uncrowded white-sand beaches, scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, fishing, fine restaurants and very friendly people. Spas and art galleries add variety.
Go to Anguilla if you want to get away from everything, enjoy the beach and watersports and be pampered in quiet luxury at an elegant hotel. Those who want to leave crowded streets and sprawling shopping malls behind will enjoy the quaint shops scattered amidst the picturesque island setting. Anguilla is close to St. Martin/St. Maarten in size and location but is nearly 90% less populated.
Four of the seven endangered species of sea turtles can be found in Anguillan waters. A ban on turtle hunting has been imposed, and anecdotal evidence suggests that turtle populations are increasing. If you want to help protect the turtles, don't order dishes with turtle meat and give restaurants that serve them a pass. Fortunately, very few still serve it.
Depending on how you look at it, Anguilla has two or three Shoal Bays. Shoal Bay West is at the far west of the island. Shoal Bay East is near the other end and is divided by a point into upper and lower Shoal Bay.
There is no citizenship of Anguilla—the island's natives are British citizens. "Belonger" is the official term for natives and people holding the hard-earned right to live there.
Anguilla's serpentine shape seems to have inspired its names, both past and present: The island's original settlers called it Malliouhana, which means "sea serpent." Anguilla is the Spanish word for eel.
If you ask for directions, remember that "above" means to the east and "below" means to the west.
Small cruise ships call at Anguilla, anchoring in Road Bay. Passengers are then taken via smaller craft to a jetty at Sandy Ground, the main port and yacht harbor. Restaurants, watersports and hotels are within walking distance.
There is no official tourist information booth in Sandy Ground, but the staff of the Customs and Immigration Office (in the police station) is happy to help.
The main tourist office is on Coronation Avenue in The Valley. Open Monday-Friday 8 am-5 pm. Phone 497-2759. http://ivisitanguilla.com.
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