Swimming, snorkeling and diving opportunities abound on some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, along the coastal areas of Anguilla. Fine restaurants, art galleries, historic homes and museums compensate for the lack of shopping and nightlife in Anguilla. The residents of Anguilla are easy going and friendly on this small, lightly populated island.
Alluring and unassuming, Anguilla is a Caribbean gem. Dazzling beaches are the island’s biggest draw, mixed with friendly locals and an authentic island vibe that package tourism has diluted on other Caribbean islands. Serenity seekers come here to sprawl on the island’s silky strands, swim in luminous water, play Robinson Crusoe on Anguilla’s offshore islands, and snorkel or dive the fish-filled reefs and wrecks. Other popular things to do in Anguilla include dining at the island’s fine restaurants and browsing the art galleries and museums. You can also hop aboard a ferry or small plane and take a day trip to the nearby island of St. Barts. If you’re interested in history, follow the island’s heritage trail in The Valley, Anguilla’s sleepy capital. In the summer, peaceful Anguilla comes alive during the Anguilla Summer Festival, with boat races, dancing, beauty pageants, and parades.
Shoal Bay East
Shoal Bay East is a broad and long sweep of radiant white sand that beach connoisseurs consider to be Anguilla’s premier strand and one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Ideal for swimming and snorkeling, the waters offer some of Anguilla’s most beautiful coral gardens inhabited by hundreds of tiny iridescent fish, and the sand is soft and squeaky clean. A few resorts and restaurants fringe the shores here, and umbrellas and lounge chairs are available for rent. Despite its beauty, this beach remains blissfully peaceful and uncrowded.
Meads Bay Beach
One of the most popular beaches on the island’s west end, Meads Bay presents a stunning one-and-a-half kilometer stretch of white-sand beach with clear, calm waters for swimming. The sand here is the consistency of soft, finely ground flour. Luxury villas and resorts line the shores, tucked back in the tropical foliage. You’ll also find some excellent restaurants along this stretch. Blanchards is famous and among the Caribbean’s best fine-dining restaurants, but if you’re looking for a more casual option, you can grab a bite to eat at its sister restaurant, Blanchards Beach Shack, next door.
Rendezvous Bay Beach
Rendezvous Bay is a dazzling four-kilometer crescent of powdery sand and translucent sea, fringed by coconut palms. Calm and shallow, this peaceful stretch of coast is great for families with small children. Sunbathers, swimmers, and shell collectors will also be impressed. Small beach shacks dot the sand, and you can see Saint Martin from the shore. This is also a lovely beach for a sunset stroll.
Maundays Bay Beach
Stretching for one and a half kilometers, Maundays Bay Beach is a sublime stretch of soft, powdery sand and aqua sea. The famous Moorish-themed Cap Juluca luxury resort is an eye-catching landmark along this beach, welcoming guests and day visitors alike. In calm conditions, beach lovers can enjoy great snorkeling and swimming in the clear water. On windy days, sailboats and windsurfers skim the bay. This magnificent beach is also a popular spot for weddings, with a glimpse of Saint Martin across the water.
Dolphin Discovery Anguilla
If you’ve ever wanted to kiss a dolphin, this is your chance. Dolphin Discovery Anguilla allows you to interact with these lovable creatures in their natural habitat. The dolphins live in an enclosure off Blowing Point beach on the island’s south coast. Depending on the package you choose, you can cuddle the dolphins, dance with them, and enjoy being pushed or pulled through the water by these gentle animals. An educational talk is included, and professional photographers capture images, which you can purchase after the experience.
Location: Blowing Point, Anguilla
Sandy Ground Village
To soak up the local island vibe, head to Sandy Ground Village. Popular with local children, the white-sand beach is lined with restaurants, a dive shop, and a few low-key places to stay. Its fishhook-shaped bay is one of the most protected on the island and is Anguilla’s main port of entry for yachts. Most of the onshore activities of the popular three-day Anguilla Regatta in May take place at Sandy Ground, with entertainment at the local restaurants and other venues. The ferry to Sandy Island departs from the pier, and a large salt pond behind the village attracts egrets, stilts, herons, and other wading birds. The Old Salt Factory and Pumphouse restaurant here is also one of Anguilla’s historical attractions. Salt was a main industry in Anguilla and one of the country’s primary exports until the early 1980s.
Sprinkled with a few tourist attractions, the sheltered fishing village of Island Harbour is the launching point for local fishermen, who park their brightly colored boats along the narrow beach. Stop by late in the afternoon to watch them unload the day’s catch.
Just off the main road in the village, Big Spring National Park protects a partially collapsed cave containing 28 Amerindian petroglyphs dating from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Ask about tours at the Anguilla National Trust. In late March or April, Island Harbour’s Festival Del Mar is a two day “celebration of the sea,” with a mix of entertainment, competitions, food, music, activities, and (of course) a fishing contest. Three-minutes by boat from Island Harbour, the small private island of Scilly Cay lures day trippers with its palm-fringed beach and alfresco restaurant, while nearby Scrub Island flaunts a beautiful beach on its western side, with great snorkeling.
Fountain Cavern National Park
Close to Shoal Bay, the Fountain Cavern is a natural and cultural wonder and Anguilla’s top archaeological site. Two freshwater pools and many Amerindian petroglyphs lie 15 meters underground in a cave. The most significant of these is a tall stalagmite carved in the shape of “Jocahu,” the supreme God of the Taino Indians. The Fountain Cavern is thought to have been a major regional worship site and a place of pilgrimage for Amerindians.
Anguilla Dive Sites
Anguilla boasts a double reef system with a large variety of corals. The island is also known for its intentionally sunken ships that become artificial reefs. Divers will find seven marine parks surrounding the island: Dog Island, Prickly Pear, Seal Island Reef System, Little Bay, Sandy Island, Shoal Bay Harbour Reef System, and Stoney Bay Marine Park. Turtles, stingrays, and garden eels inhabit many of the dive sites, and divers at Scrub Island regularly see sharks and barracuda. Stoney Bay Marine Park is the resting place of the El Buen Consejo, an 18th-century Spanish galleon that shipwrecked off the southeastern shores of Anguilla in 1772. The site is an award-winning underwater park open to certified scuba divers.
Day Trips to Anguillita, Sandy, and Prickly Pear Islands
Anguilla’s offshore islands of Anguillita, Sandy, and Prickly Pear are popular day trips for scuba divers and snorkelers. Anguillita offers mini walls and caves, where divers often see barracudas, nurse sharks, stingrays, eels, and turtles. Popular Prickly Pear can be packed when boatloads of visitors arrive from nearby St. Martin/St. Maarten, and castaways love Sandy Island, a tiny sliver of sand with a few coconut palms and excellent snorkeling in its aqua lagoon. Trips to Sandy Island and Prickly Pear depart from the pier at Sandy Ground.