Image credit: Susan Croft photography

Chic, petite and full of culinary treats, Jo Cooke checks out this swanky slice of Caribbean paradise

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In Anguilla, doing nothing has been elevated to an art form. In fact, when you are doing nothing, you actually feel like you are doing something.

Perhaps because you have to choose the location for your day of inaction. Will it be at one of the incredible, white-sand virgin beaches? Or maybe an offshore island?

The infinity pool above the ocean is a tempting option, or will you just stay on your private terrace by the sand dunes? With few sights to speak of, there’s no pressure to squander valuable reclining time chasing a ‘must-see’.

The most taxing task is deciding which of the 100 or so restaurants you’ll dine at. From beach-side cafes to candlelit fine-dining the standard is impressively high. Leading to the only word of caution, Anguilla will challenge the most dedicated calorie-counter.

SELL: LOW-KEY LUXURY




Good things come to those who wait could be Anguilla’s motto.

There are no direct flights to the island, but it’s an easy hop from Antigua, which is well served by both BA, who offer daily flights, and Virgin Atlantic, which operates three times weekly, all from Gatwick. From Antigua it’s just a 45-minute onward flight with LIAT.

If clients go those extra miles they can expect to leave large-scale tourism behind them. There are no high-rise hotels, bustling resorts or sizeable, concrete shopping centres on Anguilla.

Retail opportunities are as low-key and aesthetically pleasing as the beaches. Hotels such as Viceroy, CuisinArt and Cap Juluca have elegant boutiques that will have you kitted out like a supermodel in no time, while art galleries such as Savannah and Devonshire dot the island and display work by artists from across the Caribbean.

Suggest clients hire a car for a day to see the sights, check out the different beaches and size up the restaurants they want to taste-test. It’ll also give them a chance to see the semi-arid interior, a landscape of shrubs, hardy trees and salt lakes that attract egrets, herons and sandpipers.

You could sign them up for some island-hopping, too. Build a twin-centre itinerary with a week in tranquil Anguilla and another on livelier Antigua. Alternatively, book them a day trip to St Martin less than an hour away by ferry.

Anguilla

SEE: SHORE AND MORE




Lying north of St Martin and west of the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla measures 35sq miles.

Boasting a good road system, this British Overseas Territory is easy to get to know and you can become like old friends after just a day of exploring. Do a loop of the island and on both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea coasts you’ll stumble across beaches that knock your socks off.

It’d be a challenge to find softer, whiter, broader stretches of sand anywhere in the Caribbean, or bluer, clearer, waters. Many are backed by sand dunes and none ever come close to being crowded. If you think that can’t be topped, take the speedboat ferry to Sandy Island.

A sand bank oasis with a tropical-plant garden and rustic-chic beach shack, you can dine on grilled lobster and killer cocktails then step off the beach to snorkel the reef. It thoughtfully nudges up to the sloping circle of sand around the island’s perimeter.

Back on the mainland the Heritage Collection Museum has a fabulous hotchpotch of artefacts, memorabilia, photographs and news cuttings that make unravelling the island’s colourful history fun.

Down in The Valley, Anguilla’s capital, you’ll spy some cute colonial gingerbread houses, the island’s oldest church, Ebenezer Methodist, dating back to the early 1800s and the pristine and intact Wallblake House. A former plantation estate, these buildings presided over sugar cane and later cotton crops in the late 1700s.

Salt production was Anguilla’s most successful income earner before tourism, though. The former processing factory is now to be found within the Pumphouse, a hip bar in Sandy Ground. This fishing village is the hub of the island’s nightlife with a handful of other watering holes offering live music, karaoke and a big screen on the beach for sporting events.

The epicurean epicentre of the island is Meads Bay. Elegant eateries vie for supremacy as they line up along the sand – tables overlooking the ocean often need to be booked months in advance.

STAY: RULE OF THREE




Viceroy, CuisinArt and Cap Juluca are the big three players in the British market.

The price tags are significant, but not eye-watering. Each is a ‘des res’ brimming with personality.

The 188-room Viceroy, Anguilla, is Miami meets African lodge in feel and edges both Mead’s Bay and Barnes Bay, two peachy beaches.

An abundance of modern art, marble walls and floors and contemporary colonnaded walkways give the public areas impact. Guest rooms are spacious, have high ceilings, uber-luxurious bathrooms and divinely sumptuous beds and beddings.

In the evening, Viceroy has a clubby vibe and the property appeals to hip younger couples and trendy families.

Cap Juluca on Maundays Bay is a 70-unit boutique property with Moroccan-inspired architecture. Low-key and romantic, this hotel is ideal for couples seeking peace and seclusion. A sweeping arc of gently-shelving sand has a peninsula at one end where the property’s waterfront restaurants are located. The upscale option, Pimms, is exceptional. Rooms are simple and comfortable and have a villa-feel.

Anguilla is sleepy rather that action packed, unless you stay at CuisinArt. Ideal for families and sporty types, facilities include a Greg Norman golf course, trail of circuit training stations, bocce ball courts, yoga classes and kids’ activities such as scavenger hunts.

Greek-themed, the property has a European feel with a touch of south of France and Italian styles in the mix. The 103 rooms have cheerful yellow and blue soft furnishings and many have views of dreamy Rendezvous Bay.

Those seeking a luxury villa are also in the right place. Clifftop or waterfront, palatial or just sizeable many have hosted celebrities, including Robert De Niro and Mariah Carey.

Bird of Paradise has four suites, oriental furnishings and is located above Sandy Hill Bay, near the eastern end of the island, which can be reached from a winding footpath.

On Little Bay, Le Bleu is contemporary and minimalist with a huge lawn front and back, cinema room and sleeps up to 20.