For years one of the Caribbean's best-kept secrets, this small, serene island in the 1980s embarked on a careful plan of marketing itself as a top-end destination with a handful of resorts. Anguilla (rhymes with "vanilla") deliberately turned its back on the package tours, casinos and cruise ships, and glitz of neighboring St. Maarten. It's remained a chic but unaffected island destination, with dozens of secluded powdery-soft-sand beaches and sparkling green seas.
Shoal Bay East offers both activity and seclusion: Beach bars and barbecue shacks line one section, while you can snorkel about undisturbed on its less-crowded eastern side. Sunbathers have three miles of curving white sand at Rendezvous Bay. Watch fishermen haul a boatload of silver bonito onto the sugary crescent at Meads Bay. Disappear for the day on idyllic offshore islands such as Sandy Isle or Prickly Pear.
Things to Do
To get an overview of this small island, take a taxi tour, with your driver as local guide. Arawak Indian tools, slave shackles and household items belonging to 19th-century island settlers are part of the Heritage Museum Collection at Pond Ground. Watch the fishermen bring up their nets as the sun sets at Sandy Ground. Enjoy the laidback vibe and music at a beach shack like Smokey's.
Serious shoppers head to nearby St. Martin for designer brands, but Anguilla has a thriving arts and crafts scene. The Anguilla Arts and Crafts Center has paintings and ceramics by local artists, along with embroidery and cloth dolls. The island has a surprising number of art galleries, including that of American painter Lynne Bernbaum, in George Hill; Louise Brooks' Alak Gallery on Shoal Bay East; and Devonish Art Gallery in Long Bay, with work by Anguillan potter and sculptor Courtney Devonish.
Eating and Drinking
Fresh, locally caught fish -- red snapper, yellowfin tuna, grouper, mahimahi, red hein -- gets plenty of play on restaurant menus, as does Anguillian lobster and big, sweet local crayfish. Anguilla has some of the best beach bars and grills in the Caribbean, serving up ribs or barbecued chicken in Upper Shoal Bay. Splurge at award-winning Malliouhana on French fare with island touches, and one of its 25,000 bottles of wine.