Anguilla's 50 shades of blue

From sea to sky, Anguilla is a scintillating 50 shades of blue.

You can’t help but gawk at the ocean. From the palest aquamarine to the brightest turquoise to the stormiest blue, the color show unfolds as the sun and clouds jockey for position in an equally alluring sky.

With 33 beaches on this 35-square-mile Caribbean island in the British West Indies, there are plenty of vantage points from which to appreciate its subtle shades.

Anchoring down at Cap Juluca

We anchored our five-night stay at Cap Juluca, one of Anguilla’s premier resorts.

Storm brews on the shores of Cap Juluca
Storm on the horizon as we walk the beach at Cap Juluca

Stark-white Moorish architecture is a nice contrast with Anguilla's blues at Cap Juluca
At Cap Juluca, every villa is on the beach. 

The other ritzy contenders are Malliouhana and Viceroy.

Viceroy in Anguilla
Viceroy is situated on the northwest end of the island. Instead of facing Saint Martin, your view is all ocean.

One of the infinity pools at Viceroy in Anguilla
Viceroy’s infinity pool is a great place to watch the sunset.

VIceroy's facilities are modern and new
The Viceroy’s facilities are modern and sleek.

Malliouhana in Anguilla
Down the road from Viceroy is Malliouhana on Crocus Hill, Anguilla’s highest point at 213 feet.

View from Malliouhana
View from Malliouhana

After a quick tour of the other hotels, we’d still choose Cap Juluca for several reasons.

Cap Juluca offers immediate and convenient beach access from your room. It’s also located on one of Anguilla’s best beaches at Maundays Bay.

The cozy crescent of beach is home only to Cap Juluca. There is no worry of having to get up early to reserve a beach spot here. A beach setup is easy to secure and one of the best we’ve experienced.

Horseback riding on the beach at Cap Juluca

The resort’s stark-white Moorish architecture set against the blue-sky backdrop is dramatic and gorgeous.

While the resort has had several upgrades over the years, I thought the interiors needed a little polish, especially the gym and pool areas. If pools are your scene, you’re probably better off at the Malliouhana or Viceroy.

We also were a bit disappointed in the food, but thankfully there are plenty of incredible offerings off property. Read more about our favorite dining spots.

Savoring the chill factor in Anguilla

It’s easy to do nothing in Anguilla. The chill factor – and I’m not talking cold weather here – is part of the island’s charm.

It’s easy to get in the rhythm of basking in the sun and cooling off in the clear waters as you contemplate life across the bay on the neighboring island of Saint Martin. It’s verdant mountainous landscape looks wild and exotic from afar.

I’ve never been a big fan of swimming in an ocean full of critters I can’t see. I only had to watch Jaws once to get a healthy fear of the ocean.

One of the major bonuses of a beach vacation in Anguilla is that the clear waters dissolve any fear of taking a dip. However, I still appreciated the convenient floatation devices – my security blanket in the water – stationed around the beach at Cap Juluca.

It’s also hard to beat a vacation where the biggest decision ahead of you is where to eat lunch. If you’re staying at Cap Juluca, I highly recommend taking the 30-minute beach walk to Smokey’s at the Cove. We arrived to the soothing tunes of a Caribbean band swaying, strumming and singing Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.” It was pitch perfect.

Walking to Smokey's at the Cove
This way to Smokey’s at the Cove

A “special” rum punch and lobster roll later, we fully savored the moment as we watched the ocean sparkle like diamonds across Cove Bay.

Cove Bay in Anguilla
It’s hard to decide which is better – the beautiful journey to and from Smokey’s or the lunch itself.

Exploring the island

There’s so much more to do than chill if adventure is your game. Boat rides to both populated and unpopulated neighboring islands, snorkeling, kayaking, horseback riding and surfing are options if you feel like getting more active.

If you’re braver than us, go kitesurfing. Described as a cross between surfing, wakeboarding and windsurfing, the pursuit looks more like a good way to lose complete control of your body in the ocean. For some reason, that didn’t appeal to me. But surprisingly, alleged novices seemed to catch on quickly.

Kitesurfing in Anguilla
Vendors offering kitesurfing lessons are plentiful on the island.

Kitesurfing beginner gives it a try in Anguilla
A “beginner” takes her first attempt at kitesurfing.

Kitesurfing in Anguilla

One day we rented a car to cruise the perimeter of the island. Thanks to Anguilla’s small size, it’s easy to accomplish in a few hours. But take it slow and easy or you’ll miss its most interesting parts.

Goats, both tethered and free range, are a fixture on the island. Stone and pastel-colored churches stand like beacons against the dry scrubby landscape. Fishing boats bob along the coastline. Chickens dart across the beach. Roosters crow in the distance.

Church in Anguilla

Church in Anguilla

Church in Anguilla

Church in Anguilla

Church steps in Anguilla

Goats of Anguilla

Boats in Anguilla

These are just a few of the sights and sounds that greeted us on our drive across Anguilla.

The best part of leaving the comfortable cocoon of your resort is seeing real life play out on the island.

During our day trip, we watched groups of girls in green pleated skirts with matching hair bows and starched beige shirts walking home from school. At night, life spilled out onto front yards of homes that lined Anguilla’s sedate main street. Domino games, music and locals gathered around tables made life in Anguilla look friendly and comfortable.

It’s hard not to smile as you pass by a rainbow of homes and businesses. Pea green, mustard yellow, bright orange, royal blue, purple and pink – Anguillans unabashedly paint their buildings in a myriad of color combinations.

Colorful structures in Anguilla dot the landscape

Unfinished buildings are a common sight. We read that it’s typical for an Anguillan family to start a home, but leave construction unfinished until time and money presented itself. The promise of what’s to come. That’s Anguilla.

Unfinished business in Anguilla

Tourism has been huge for this country, but it seems to have been kept somewhat in check. You won’t find cruise ships docking or casinos chiming on this quiet island.

Historical perspective

Life on the island hasn’t always been easy. Anguillans fought for their independence from St. Kitts and Nevis during a revolution between 1967 and 1969. The fight to become an independent British overseas territory has paved the way for today’s infrastructure and tourism.

The eclectic Heritage Collection Museum is worth a visit for historical perspective. The small house is filled with colorful artifacts that paint a vivid picture of Anguilla’s past.

Heritage Collection Museum in Anguilla

Even better, the museum is run by a man who played a part in Anguilla’s revolution. He’s more than willing to share his stories and answer your questions.

The museum’s tale of Anguilla begins in 2000 B.C. with its native inhabitants. It continues through British occupation in 1650, French attempts to take control in the 1700s, emancipation in 1834, a great famine in 1890 and plenty of hurricanes.

While tobacco, sugar and cotton were grown here at one time or another, low returns kept them from taking root as lasting industries. Before tourism, many Anguillans made a living harvesting salt from area ponds.

Domestic life in Anguilla also is well documented at the museum. You’ll find everyday items including stone axes, gas lamps, cast-iron coal pots, floral tin bowls and plates, decades-old canned goods and bicycle license plates. Photo albums document good and bad times, from hurricanes to royal visits from the Queen.

Seeing more than blue

While this Caribbean island has had its share of hardships, Anguilla is filled with heart and hope. You see it every time you pass one of its cheerfully painted structures and on the faces of the children walking home from school.

It’s easy to get lost in Anguilla’s 50 shades of blue as you cast your eyes seaward. Instead, shift your focus inward. Explore all of the island’s charms. That’s where you’ll find a direct route to the heart of Anguilla.