Anguilla With Kids

DSC_0485
My husband and I had an incredible experience at the Viceroy Anguilla back in 2013 and recently decided to return with the kids.  Based on our first visit,  we went with the highest of expectations. Fortunately, this time around was just as special as our previous visit.  This post will supplement my 2013 post so take a look at both for a more comprehensive review of Anguilla.
IMG_6576
Where to stay – Top pick is the Viceroy (http://www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/anguilla), located in the northwest of the island on a gorgeous, long stretch of beach called Meads Bay.   It is a stunning, chic property with a modern, laid-back vibe.  The layout of the hotel works well for couples looking for a romantic getaway as well as for families.   The rooms (166 of them) are spacious and have great terraces, many with plunge pools/hot tubs.  Families have the option of a 2+ bedroom residence, which has a full kitchen and living area, or two smaller rooms that are side by side (not connecting though, so not ideal if your kids are really young).     If you’re traveling with toddlers, the expansiveness of the property may be a challenge for their little legs.  I did notice a few strollers during our stay, but you may need to navigate some steps around the property.
IMG_6879
IMG_6499
DSC_0457
 The hotel’s setting is breathtaking – part of it is perched on a dramatic, rocky coastline, while the rest sits on an idyllic, powdery white sand beach that invites long strolls any time of day or evening (the undertoe can be a bit of a challenge if you’re not a strong swimmer).  There are several restaurants along the beach (see “Where to Eat” below) within walking distance that are worth checking out. 
IMG_6394

 

You can tell that management has given a lot of thought to creating a relaxed mood at the hotel with plenty of conveniences at guests’ fingertips – soft background music plays throughout the property and huge bottles of SPF and fruit-infused pitchers of water are located at the pools, to mention just a few.  There are plenty of activities for kids (and adults!) on site without ever sacrificing the look or vibe of a sophisticated property.  Sprinkled throughout the property are a ping pong table, a small cricket field and a mini golf nook.  Bikes are available for guest use and there are multiple tennis courts and basketball courts (I hear a bunch of NBA players come down every summer to run a hoops camp at the hotel) on property as well.  At the time of our stay, the hotel offered complimentary tennis workshops Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3-3:30pm. They provide racquets.

 

 

DSC_0473

 

For kids who need a break from the sun and sea, there is always the kids club, called Generation V. It seems geared more toward younger kids but certainly has a few options for children through the tween years.    Generation V is conveniently located near the spa, which is worth checking out, not just for its treatments, but also for its transporting relaxation areas and cute boutique, which sells skincare, cosmetics and workout wear.

 

The main hotel boutique, called Nook, is well curated, if pricey.   They carry clothing, jewelry and a whole variety of accessories for adults and kids.  On our last day there, there was a jewelry trunk show featuring some amazing pieces from Lera Jewels (lerajewels.com).

IMG_6982

In the evenings, there are a few dinner options if you don’t feel like venturing out, and live music is scheduled just about every night as well.
Other hotel options:  
There are a number of hotels,  as well as villas for rent, on the island.  A few top choices are below.
Malliouhana – At the other end of the beach (Meads Bay) from Viceroy is the Auberge Malliouhana Resort (https://malliouhana.aubergeresorts.com/?NCK=navis1333&gclid=CNK3xtGPjMsCFYMehgod-vUL7g), another five star hotel that boasts a more traditional decor than the Viceroy.
DSC_0590
Zemi Beach –  If you’re looking for a more intimate, boutique hotel, check out the brand new Zemi Beach (http://www.zemibeach.com/?gclid=CNHgqruPjMsCFddahgod2ocOPQ), located on the northeastern part of the island, on a beach called Shoal Bay East.
DSC_0627
Zemi is a much smaller property than the Viceroy, with only 64 rooms at its opening.  The rooms we saw are very pretty (modern as well), as was their restaurant, which has indoor tables as well as tables set up outdoors on the sand.  They have what looks like the beginnings of a great little kids club with plenty of creative activities planned, and a spectacular spa, which is housed in gorgeous, old Thai rice houses that were brought to Anguilla by the prior owners of the property where Zemi Beach is located.
How to get there – Best route is JFK to St. Maarten, followed by a 25 minute ferry ride (waters can be rough) or an eight minute flight via Anguilla Air Services (http://www.anguillaairservices.com/).  If you opt for the ferry, there are a number of options, including the public ferry and private ferry companies at varying price points (http://ivisitanguilla.com/by-sea/).  Keep in mind that the ferry ride can be rough, depending on the day you travel.  Once you arrive in Anguilla, you can take a taxi to your destination or pre-arrange a private car.  The Viceroy recommends a “limousine service”, which seemed insanely expensive at $85 for a 10 minute ride from the airport to the hotel.  However, our driver Hendrick was a real sweetheart. He took us everywhere we wanted to go during our stay.  The name of the company he works for is Vancoy’s Limousine and Chauffeuring Services (vancoyslimo.com). They are easily accessible, kind, prompt and always arrived in clean, spacious, air-conditioned vehicles.     At the end of the week, the total cost for all of our transport was much more reasonable than the initial price tag for airport transfers would have suggested.
What to do – Anguilla is a slow-paced island that just makes you want to chill out!  With its amazing beaches and the alluring pools at the Viceroy,  it would be easy to while away the days on a lounge chair with a drink and a good book. That said, there are plenty of activities for people who like to keep busy.
You can visit one of the nearby islands for lunch and the afternoon.  We opted for Scilly Cay (http://www.scillycayanguilla.com/). Read on below for details about the restaurant. Other options are Sandy Island (http://www.mysandyisland.com/) and Prickly Pear (http://www.pricklypearanguilla.com/main.htm), both of which are a bit larger islands and involve longer boat rides (closer to 20 minutes).
DSC_0585
IMG_6981
Swimming with the dolphins (http://www.dolphindiscovery.com/anguilla/anguilla-location-overview.asp) is super fun, but keep in mind that you’re in the sea and if you hit a day when the waters are rough, it can be a challenge for little ones and anyone not comfortable with some waves.  Also, if you plan to buy the pictures documenting your time with the dolphins, the price of the “adventure” increases exponentially.  Of course, they make it very difficult for you to take your own pictures.
Horseback riding is an option on island that I’d like to try next time (http://seasidestablesanguilla.com/#).
Water sports such as kayaking, paddle boarding, sunset cruises and snorkeling can be arranged through your hotel or on Crocus Bay, right behind da’Vida restaurant (see “Where to Eat”).
DSC_0405
Bike riding – Viceroy offers morning bike tours on a first-come, first-serve basis but they don’t have toddler seats so this is limited to adults and kids who are able to ride two-wheel bicycles.
Live music – The Viceroy offers live or DJ music most nights. Also, if you want to hear some local tunes off the property, check out Omari Banks or his dad, Bankie Banx, both Anguillan-born singer/songwriters. Omari plays at different restaurants around the island.   Check his web site (omaribanks.com) or ask your hotel’s concierge about his schedule.  Omari’s dad, Bankie Banx, is a reggae performer and owns the Dune Preserve restaurant, a popular destination on the island (http://www.anguilla-beaches.com/bankie-banx.html).
DSC_0732
Where to eat – There is no dearth of restaurants in Anguilla.  During our week there, we managed to eat at a different restaurant every night and for most lunches and even still, we left with a list of places we want to try next time.  One item to note – the food is expensive in Anguilla!  If your kids are fussy, most restaurants have kids menus.  Even the “fanciest” restaurants on island are welcoming to children.
Da’Vida (http://davidaanguilla.com/) – Open for lunch and dinner.  Open air dining steps from the sand on the calm waters of Crocus Bay.  Sunday lunch usually features live music with Omari Banks and his band.  The food was decent (skip the pizza, even for the kids) but certainly worthwhile given the setting and Omari’s tunes.   After lunch, enjoy some time on the beach behind the restaurant, where you can  rent kayaks for $10-$15 per hour.
DSC_0437
Mango’s (http://www.mangosseasidegrill.com/) – Local food, right on the water. Gets great ratings but our meal was just so-so.  We must have been there on an off night, although the service was terrific. We went for dinner but might be better for lunch when you can enjoy the views of the sea from your table.
Picante (http://www.picante-restaurant-anguilla.com/) – Mexican, a two minute walk from the Viceroy.  Ask the bellman to take you to the edge of the property with a golf cart and you can practically see the restaurant from there.  Yummy and super casual dinner.  Great margaritas!
Blanchard’s Beach Shack (http://www.blanchardsrestaurant.com/beach-shack.html) – 15 minute walk from the Viceroy and just a stone’s throw from the Malliouhana.  Super casual, barefoot in the sand kind of lunch. Yummy tacos, rice bowls, decent salads and perfect smoothies and desserts for a hot day! Open til 8:30pm so could be a great option for early dinner with the kids one evening too.
Blanchard’s Restaurant (http://www.blanchardsrestaurant.com/) – Ethnic-infused local cuisine. Same owner at the Beach Shack (above).   This is a”fancy” restaurant as far as Anguilla goes, but still quite casual.  We brought the kids and the hostess happily played with them for much of the meal in the bar/lounge area. They are well-equipped with games, puzzles and entertaining stories to share with the kids.   I thought it was great but my husband felt it was a bit overrated.
Straw Hat (http://www.strawhat.com/) – Local cuisine. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, right on the beach at Mead’s Bay, about a 10 minute walk from the Viceroy.  Live music some evenings (Wednesday night during our stay). Food was yummy and staff was so kind.
Veya (http://veya-axa.com/) – Asian fusion cuisine served in an elevated, open-air setting that feels like a treehouse.  Food was delicious and we could hear the sweet sounds of Omari Banks, who was performing solo just downstairs at Veya’s newer outpost, Meze (http://meze-axa.com/). Meze serves Morrocan-style tapas in a super cool, lounge with live music nightly.  Servers were so friendly and the kids enjoyed running downstairs to feed fish in an in-ground aquarium and listen to the music.
Bamboo (http://www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/anguilla/dining_and_nightlife/restaurants/bamboo_bar_and_grill) – Eclectic menu. At the Viceroy, casual lunch is served poolside or beach side and is yummy!  Fish tacos, salads, sandwiches, quesadillas and pizzas are all well executed, and they have fun cocktails (and mocktails for the kids).
Scilly Cay (http://www.scillycayanguilla.com/) – Generally only open Wednesdays and Sundays, Scilly Cay is a teeny island practically a stone’s throw away from Anguilla. You need to arrange for transportation from your hotel to the northeast end of the island  where a little motor boat will pick you up and transport you a world away in about three minutes.  Not knowing what to expect, and since Scilly Cay has such limited hours, we reserved in advance for a Wednesday afternoon.  We also pre-ordered our meals because we were told it could take a while if we wait til we get there to order.  Once on the island, the hermit crabs, lizards and incredible setting were more than enough to keep the family happy for hours.  They sometimes have live music as well.  One awesome little detail is the little wall that runs the perimeter of the island – it’s largely made of conch shells! The menu selection is very limited – a huge barbequed chicken (would have been enough for our three kids to share), lobster with an incredibly delicious and addictive Caribbean curry sauce, as well as crayfish and catch of the day, when available. All items come with a generous serving of pasta salad, a small serving of fruit and a basket of garlic bread. They were flexible enough to accommodate our kids’ request for plain pasta instead of pasta salad and to bring extra sauce from the lobster so we could drench the bread and pasta in it!  The rum punch is refreshing and deceivingly strong.  Heads-up – this barefoot in the sand, deserted island kinda place is super expensive, so you may want to inquire about pricing before you go.
DSC_0541
Sunset Lounge  (http://www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/anguilla/dining_and_nightlife/sunsetlounge) – Japanese/Asian inspired menu, at the Viceroy.  Loungy setting with a focus on Asian cuisine and a few more generic options to appeal to those in the mood for a less ethnic meal.  Open for lunch and dinner.
IMG_6899
Half Shell (http://www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/anguilla/dining_and_nightlife/restaurants/the_half_shell) – At the Viceroy. Lunch and happy hour (1/2 price drinks!) only on certain days of the week.  This miniscule treasure is hidden between the villas on the “other” side of the hotel where few people seem to ever go.  The Mediterranean menu is a refreshing change from the other options at the hotel and the setting is idyllic.   Just down the steps from the restaurant is a small beach along Barnes Bay with lounge chairs set up for those who want to linger.  The kids can run down to the beach and play (as mine did – see below!) if they get antsy waiting for lunch to arrive.
IMG_6516
DSC_0532
Bamboo Beer Box  – Tiny shack right next to the Viceroy on the beach, serving a small menu of fish and meat barbequed right before your eyes, as well as coconut rice and peas, an Anguillan staple.
DSC_0675
Until next time, we will remember this beautiful sunset!
IMG_6433
Advertisements

Amazing Anguilla


I could probably sum up my recent long weekend in Anguilla with one word – paradise – but I realize that would not accomplish my goal of sharing my travel experiences to inspire readers on the prowl for their next vacation destination.   So…..see the brief round-up immediately below and details following that.

DSC_0046

Travel – Jet Blue from JFK to Saint Martin, approximately 4 hours.  We then took a ferry with a company called “Fun Time” from the airport to Anguilla, which was about 20 minutes long and $65 per person (http://www.funtime-charters.com/anguilla-ferry.html).  There is also a public ferry that costs $15 per person but leaves from the Dutch side of the island, so you would need to take a 20 minute (approx. $25) taxi ride to take that ferry.

Accommodations – Viceroy Hotel (http://www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/anguilla)

Restaurants where we ate – Coba (at the Viceroy), Sunset Lounge (at the Viceroy), Veya (http://www.veya-axa.com/), Blanchard’s Beach Shack (http://www.blanchardsrestaurant.com/beach-shack.html), Blue (at Cap Juluca) (http://www.capjuluca.com/blue.php)

Restaurants we would have liked to try – Blanchard’s Restaurant (more upscale than the beach shack – opened for dinner only) (http://www.blanchardsrestaurant.com/restaurant.html), Jacala, Smokey’s, Dolce Vita, Pimm’s, Spice, da’Vida, Mango’s, Picante, Straw Hat

Activities we did – bike riding tour around the west coast of the island, lots of relaxing by the pool, beach and hotel lounge

Activities we want to do next time – swim with dolphins, cooking class at Cuisinart, paddleboarding, tennis at the hotel, boat ride to and lunch at Scilly Cay, boat ride to and lunch at Sandy Beach Island, ATV tour, visit the east side of the island, sunset cruise (offered by Viceroy)

Surprise Perk – The people in Anguilla are absolutely lovely. They are incredibly warm and friendly and in the short time we were there we got a sense that the island is one big community of friends.  We met a bunch of other tourists, all of whom were so friendly as well!

To note – the Caribbean Sea was much cooler than I had thought it would be.  I’m not sure if the temperature of the water was chilled by the “weather” passing through the area when we were there, but nonetheless I did expect a warmer dip in the sea.  Also the beach at the Viceroy was not as calm as I would have liked, especially for kids.

The uncut version –


DSC_0055

My husband and I did not know what to expect out of our trip to Anguilla, other than that we were excited to get away for a few days and have some down time.  After a great flight on Jet Blue, we arrived in St. Martin assuming we would take the public ferry to Anguilla. We had tried to book a flight from St. Martin to Anguilla (about a 10 minute flight) but the local flight schedule did not coordinate well with our international flights.  As we were walking toward the airport exit we saw a woman holding up a sign that read “Ferry to Anguilla – Fun Time”.  We approached her and she told us that the Fun Time ferry (http://www.funtime-charters.com/anguilla-ferry.html) would be leaving very shortly and from a dock one minute from the airport. Although the price was $130 for the two of us as opposed to the $30 public ferry, this seemed easy and convenient so we went with it.  Had we taken the public ferry, which leaves every 45 minutes, we would would have had to take a taxi to the other side of St. Martin and then we would have some wait time before the next public ferry departure.  As it turned out, we had to wait 30 minutes for that ferry to leave, but since we were sitting comfortably by the water, enjoying the breeze and the views of the marina, we were quite relaxed and already felt like we had “arrived” on our vacation.   After a 20 minute ferry ride with too many “swells” for my liking, we docked at Anguilla took a short taxi ride to our hotel, the Viceroy.   It was at that moment that I realized we had really “arrived”.  From the time our taxi made the turn into the Viceroy’s long, beautifully manicured driveway to the time we would leave four days later, we were blown away by our experience in Anguilla.  The Viceroy fit our aesthetic to a tee – modern yet warm and inviting.  The property sits directly on the Caribbean Sea.  It is beautifully situated along the coastline – part of the property is separated from the sea by huge limestone rocks, and another part of the property sits directly on a long beach with the powder-soft sand.

DSC_0049

The hotel has three gorgeous pools – so perfect that I thought they might simply be reflecting pools until I saw people swimming in them – and each has breathtaking views of the sea.  Also, each pool is conveniently located next to a restaurant, lounge or bar.

DSC_0012

DSC_0006

DSC_0008 DSC_0014

Our room was truly incredible.  We had booked a one bedroom “residence” and were upgraded to a three-bedroom residence.   The residences have full kitchens and are available for purchase.   Ours was beautifully done in neutral tones and had a massive ocean view terrace.  On the terrace was a couch, lounge chairs, a dining table and a jacuzzi.

DSC_0003

We ate at each restaurant at least once and we were impressed with all of them. Breakfast at Aleta was absolutely perfect.  It had everything from a spread of fresh pastries and breads, juicy fruits, an omelet station, hot and cold cereals and breakfast meats.  Lunch is served at Aleta as well, although we did not get a chance to sample it as we ventured outside the hotel midday most days.

DSC_0069

DSC_0070

We had dinner at Coba one evening and we were blown away by the beautiful dining room and setting.  Because the restaurant is perched on the rocks above the sea, all we could see was water around us. It felt like we were on a yacht.   The food was very good although it was difficult to compare with the setting.

DSC_0025

DSC_0075

We spent quite a bit of time at the Sunset Lounge, an open air lounge which is also situated by the sea, and overlooked a beautiful, infinity edge pool as well.  Both the drinks and the sushi at Sunset Lounge are worth writing home about (the Ginger Collins is killer!).     Sunset Lounge has a great DJ that played almost nightly during our stay and a fun, lively vibe.  During our visit, they hosted late afternoon activities as well, like bingo (winner gets treated to spa services!) and rum tastings.

DSC_0073

Also on the property is a full spa and fitness center. The spa is a destination unto itself, with its own boutique and indoor and outdoor seating for relaxation before, between or after services.  My husband and I each had massages that were terrific.  The fitness center is not huge, but it has a good selection of equipment and is well kept.  At every machine is a clean towel and cool bottle of water.  There are spin classes offered in a separate spin room, as well as yoga classes each morning (by the beach!).  On some weekends, Barry’s Boot Camp offers classes as well.  The hotel also has bikes available for guests’ use.  They offer a bike tour of the western portion of the island, which is given daily at 8am.

On our first day we relaxed by the pool and then made our way to the Sunset Lounge.  Later that evening we went to Veya (http://www.veya-axa.com/) for dinner.  Veya is a wonderful little jewel box of a restaurant about 15 minutes (and a $25 taxi ride) from the hotel.  It sort of feels like you’re eating in a tree house there.  Both the food and the service were terrific.   It was at Veya that I learned the danger of “ting”, an Anguillan grapefruit soda often used to sweeten cocktails.  We had such a great meal that we repeated the experience on our last evening, this time with awesome live music by Omari Banks (a singer/songwriter vorn and raised in Anguilla).

One day we took an 8:30am yoga class, which was held outdoors between the pool and the beach.  It was a gentle class but perfect for vacation.  Our teacher Sammi was great and super friendly.  We then treated ourselves to a huge breakfast (a daily theme for us!) and relaxed by the pool until lunch time.  For lunch we walked down the beach to Blanchard’s Beach Shack, which is a super casual, outdoor restaurant located directly on the beach.  They have a great menu of Mexican-inspired dishes.   We ordered a bunch of items, grabbed a table in the sand and relaxed with drinks until the handheld buzzer they gave to us indicated that our meal was ready.

DSC_0032

DSC_0030

Directly next door to Blanchard’s Beach Shack is Blanchard’s Restaurant, which we are told is terrific.  We had reservations there but never made it – I think because we got stuck at the Sunset Lounge at our hotel and couldn’t bring ourselves to leave!  There are also a couple of other restaurants along the beach just a walk from the Viceroy – Straw Hat and Jacala – both of which are supposed to be great for lunch or dinner.

DSC_0061

Another day we borrowed bikes from the hotel and rode over to Cap Juluca for lunch.  Cap Juluca is a beautiful resort located about five minutes from the Viceroy, on Maunday’s Bay.  While the beach there is incredible, it is an older property and its age was apparent in some of the structures.  We had a nice lunch though at Blue, located on the beach.

We also took a bike tour one morning, which gave us a flavor for the west side of the island outside of the hotel.  Our guide, a hotel employee, was so warm and engaging.  He took us to the island’s most famous bakery, Geraud’s, on the way back to the hotel!

There is so much we did not get a chance to do or see during our short stay.  We did not get a chance to play tennis on the hotel’s courts and we also missed out on day trips to Sandy Beach, Prickly Pear and Scilly Cay, all of which are tiny islands off the coast of Anguilla that serve lunch and, from what I hear, a mean rum punch!   If you want to go to one of these islands you need to plan in advance because they may not be open every day, depending on their hours and the weather.

Also, even though our children were not with us, we both wanted to swim with the dolphins, which is just a few minutes away from the Viceroy.   And we would have loved to go on an ATV tour!   Oh well, there’s always next time….and if we have it our way, there will definitely be a next time!

One last note – the gift shop at the hotel, called “The Nook”, is terrific.  It is very pricey but they had some great, original clothing and jewelry items!