Gorgeous Anguilla will forever be etched in our minds as one of the more friendly islands we visited in the Eastern Caribbean. The unbelievable shades of Caribbean blue and pristine white sand beaches also give us cause to smile when we think of Anguilla. With only a day to explore this island, we decided to rent a car from Sandy Ground and drove out towards Island Harbor and onward to Shoal Bay East, one of Anguilla’s finest white sandy beaches. After an afternoon of snorkeling, tanning, and laughing with the locals who were BBQing on the beach, we drove westward towards Picante in anticipation of dinner. Without reservations, it was an impossible task but we did enjoy a sumptuous meal at Smokey’s instead. Chilling on Anguilla was quite a task but someone has got to do it!
We visited Anguilla on an Easycruise Caribbean itinerary. We expected to pull into the ferry terminal on the Southern side of the island, close to Rendezvous Bay. To our surprise, we saw that we’d be tendering close to Sandy Ground. With just a day on the island, we decided that renting a car would be the way to go. Since we were visiting on an Easter weekend, we were a bit concerned that we would be unable to find Maurice Hodge (a local Anguillian who rents cars for $40/day and can provide the mandatory Anguillian driver’s license, valid for 3 months, for an additional $20). Thankfully, Maurice was easy to find, huddled near the group of taxi drivers who were shuttling EasyCruise passengers to Shoal Bay East for $10 each roundtrip. Maurice can be reached via telephone: +264 497 2676/2327 or cell: +264 235-2676.
Maurice and his son deftly handed us the necessary paperwork, shared some tips of Anguilla’s “must sees”, and gave us instructions for returning the car (just throw the keys under the floor mat and leave the door unlocked). We drove out past the Road Salt Pond and got onto the main road linking the West to the East. First stop was at a grocery store, amazingly open on a Sunday. We stocked up with some necessary beach snacks and beverages, and continued on towards the picturesque Island Harbor, where we admired Scilly Cay in the background. Colorful boats lined the harbor, and the harbor made for a gorgeous background for some group shots. We wanted to stop and snorkel, but figured Shoal Bay East would be a better spot for a lazy beach day.
Lonely Planet’s blurb on Shoal Bay East states that one should “witness in person the poster on your travel agent’s wall at the best of Anguilla’s many perfect Caribbean beaches”. We expected the beach to be crowded with day trippers, but to our surprise, there were long stretches of open space for us to enjoy. The turquoise-hued water was a beckoning, so we donned our snorkel gear and swam out to explore the reefs and marine life. There was a lot to see underwater! We saw pufferfish, parrotfish, flounder, sea snakes, goatfish, butterfly fish, grouper, squirrel fish, and trumpet fish to name a few.
Anguillians had gathered on the beach for an Easter weekend BBQ, and we strolled past mouth-watering wafts of freshly grilled food. We found the locals to be very friendly, with smiles readily flashed and an easygoing vibe felt by all. Some young boys asked us to take their photos as they somersaulted into the ocean, and they laughed once they saw their images caught in mid-air.
As dusk was approaching, we spotted a school of white spotted eagle rays and were amazed that they came in so close to shore. We drove out towards the West coast on Albert Hughes Road in the hopes of eating at Picante’s, a Caribbean-Mexicana eatery, but had no luck (no reservations and the place was packed). The owner recommended that we try at Smokey’s which was right down the street at Cove Bay. Smokey’s was just what we were looking for, and there was a table large enough to seat the 10 of us comfortably.
After eating to our heart’s content, we realized we had about 15 minutes to catch the 2130 tender, so we all ran to our rentals, drove like crazy, and sent Franny to stop the tender from leaving without us. Luck was on our side as one of the Easy Cruise passengers had lost their EasyCruise Identification Card, and customs was trying to prevent him from boarding the tender. This delay was just what we needed for all of us to make a mad dash onto the dock and onto the tender.
Overall, we had a great time on Anguilla. It is a beautiful island with gorgeous beaches, and we would love to come back and spend more time here.