Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 17, 2017

© William Boyd

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Chill on Anguilla

Billed as a high-end destination, this laidback isle still has a few affordable hideaways

While there are plenty of excellent beach destinations in the Caribbean, few can touch Anguilla for the quality of the sand, aquamarine waters and tranquility. For peace and relaxation, this laidback British isle is unsurpassed. However, it isn't a discount destination by any means. In fact, it can be challenging to find affordable accommodations, particularly around busy Rendezvous Bay and Meads Bay.

However, if you've been dreaming of a pristine and peaceful beach to soothe mind and body, then head to Shoal Bay East on the island's northeast side, where lovely reasonably priced accommodations also await.

Shoal Bay East is mentioned as the best of the island's 33 beaches in the official Anguilla (pronounced an-GWILL-a) guide. Which is saying something, given that the island itself has been ranked first in the world by the Travel Channel’s "World’s Best Beaches." In fact, numerous travel magazines over the years have ranked Shoal Bay East as the best beach in the world.

To top it off, it isn't overrun with visitors, and there are only two hotels in the vicinity. If your goal is to explore a busy and exciting beach town, then the nearby island of St. Maarten is a better bet, and is easily reached by a very short connecting flight or ferry.

Five-star serenity

Shoal Bay East wraps around a point of land, which is perfect for walks in sand so soft and cool that a stroll could qualify as a foot massage. Select a spot and relax or take a refreshing dip in the most beautiful aquamarine water imaginable. The beach is mostly devoid of rocks and shallow coral that can be hard on the feet, and there are no powerful currents to worry about.

If scuba diving or water sports help you relax, there is Shoal Bay Scuba. When we were there, they were very accommodating and even went out with just myself diving, something that doesn't often happen at other destinations. This operation also offers a full range of water sports — except for jet skiing and waterskiing, since both of these would disturb the tranquility of the spot.

On this beach, accommodations are limited to Kú and Shoal Bay Villas. Families will select the latter, while Kú is ideal for couples. Having left the kids at home, we chose a four-day package at Kú including a beachfront room, daily breakfast and two dinners.

The one-bedroom suites are spacious, clean, light and airy. Kú describes the decor as a blend of the minimalist cool of South Beach and the relaxed sophistication of St. Bart’s. Suites come with a fully equipped kitchen and an appropriately quiet air conditioning system. A few steps is really all it takes to reach the beach — unlike so many resorts, which advertise being on the beachfront, but you arrive to find that they are, in fact, far removed from the water. Lounge chairs are reserved for guests, but crowds are not a concern.

Casual elegance is the rule in Anguilla and certainly at Shoal Bay East. The restaurant is on the beach with a very relaxed atmosphere, so shorts are fine. The fact that former US president Bill Clinton and his family have dined at Kú more than once speaks to its quality. Photographs show the Clinton’s posing with restaurant staff.

Plantation style

A popular option for those staying for a week or longer is to rent a car and visit different beaches and restaurants. Given the limited length of our stay combined with the quality found at Kú and Shoal Bay East, we only ventured out once for a dinner in The Valley, the capital of Anguilla and the only real town.

We headed to Koal Keel restaurant, set in an old plantation owned by descendants of slaves which were once housed on the very site. The building is rich in history and its 200-year-old rock oven is still used for baking and slow roasting.

Matching the history is the uniqueness of the cuisine, representing a fusion of Caribbean, French, and Indian styles. There is an amazing 15,000-bottle wine cellar and also a store selling various special rums.

Consistent with the quality and uniqueness, desserts have to be ordered at the start of the meal to allow adequate time for preparation. Several other restaurants on the island are also highly rated and worth trying, though the deep level of relaxation induced by Shoal Bay East tends to limit vigorous exploration of any sort. In case you need a little assistance in the relaxation department, you'll find spas across the island, including one at Kú.

Ultimately, if tranquility is what you desire then make Anguilla your only stop in the Caribbean. Your mind and body will appreciate it. For peace and rejuvenation, it's unsurpassed: the food, the beach, aquamarine water, and sun all see to it.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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