Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Anguilla Day Trip

My visiting friend and I decided to explore the neighboring island of Anguilla. Instead of sailing over and dealing with the expense and time required to check in the boat, we took the easy 20 minute ferry ride from Marigot, St Martin to Anguilla’s Blowing Point ferry dock (on the south side). Upon arrival we were greeted by several eager-to-please taxi drivers willing to give island tours, offer suggestions based on what you want to do or just deliver you where you need to go. (The island does not offer a bus service.)

Anguilla is a flat 35 square mile island made of coral limestone and covered in thick scrub. It’s a British Overseas Territory (so they drive on the left) with a population of about 14,000. Anguilla takes pride in its quiet style and is known as a luxury destination, often for the jet set. You’ll find no duty free shopping or cruise ships here, which is nice change from St Martin. What lured us to this island are the 30 plus beaches, some the best in the Caribbean, and good snorkeling.

Our taxi driver persuaded us to go to Shoal Bay East Beach assuring us it would be more fun and less quiet than the beach we had requested. Of course this beach is on the far side of the island and a $20 taxi fare each way, but Shoal Bay East is rated the #1 Caribbean beach on many lists. It did not disappoint; sand so fine that it reminded us of cake mix, a string of beach bars & restaurants that also provide shelter from pouring rain, water sports concessions and snorkeling offshore. We rented snorkeling equipment ($10) but found the masks fit us poorly resulting in annoying leaks and fogging so next time I’d bring my own gear.

I found the Anguillans (I always ask “the locals” if they were born there) to be incredibly friendly and helpful, even in immigration. Another surprising observation I made was the amount of building on Anguilla, including its first mega yacht marina. Locals claim land development is slow so they can closely monitor the effects on the island, but to me there appears to be a building boom. Anguilla’s an ideal place for anyone seeking a relaxing retreat or for honeymooners thanks to the nice waterfront hotels bordering idyllic beaches, a great selection of restaurants and few other distractions.

Ferry rate $12 - 15 one way, plus $5 embarking fee each way. You can also fly to Anguilla’s Wallblake International Airport.

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