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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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”).
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
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.
) – 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.
) – 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.
) – 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
) – 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.
) – 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.
) – 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.
) – 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
). 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.
) – 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.
) – 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.
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.
Until next time, we will remember this beautiful sunset!