Anyone who has talked to me about Anguilla will recognize my love affair with not only the island itself but the people who call it home, whether they were born here or moved here when they realized they had discovered paradise. In this article, I feature three opportunities to “get local” and meet the people who truly make Anguilla the treasured destination it has become.
Sandy Ground and Road Bay
Anguilla has a lot of breathtakingly beautiful beaches but Sandy Ground will always be “home” for me. Yes, it’s lined with beach bars and beachfront eateries that any self-professed beach bar bum would be more than happy to spend a lot of time at but it’s more than that. During our recent press trip, we stopped to take pictures of the town and bay from the appropriately named La Vue that overlooked the area. I gazed down on the crescent shaped beach with its piers slicing into the azure waters and immediately remarked out loud “Now this is home.” My eyes started scanning the beach from north to south, verifying that Elvis’ hadn’t gone anywhere, the Pumphouse still sat on the salt pond, Johnno’s and Dad’s were still around and Roy’s still dominated the south end of the beach. I couldn’t wait to drive down the only road in town and as soon as we hit the beach and I verified how much time we had before the Sandy Island ferry, I set off through the sand, hoping to spot old friends and make some new ones.
Also adding to the appeal is that it’s an Anguilla beach that is popular with locals, where I’ve found more locals and their kids enjoying the water than any other Anguilla beach I’ve been on. When you’re lounging in the sand, gazing at the sunset through bobbing boats that dare to impede your view of the ever elusive green flash and you hear the sounds of children’s laughter mixing with the clattering cacophony coming from the beach bars, you can’t help but take a moment and be grateful. Anguilla may have prettier, quieter, wider and longer beaches but Sandy Ground is its heartbeat.
While the Strip at St. Kitts is known for its beach bars, the Strip in Anguilla is known for something decidedly different let remarkably the same – food trucks. Someone much smarter than me came up with the idea to designate an area in the central part of the Valley near the people’s market where food trucks could set up shop and sell their wares. Less than a few months into the experiment, it’s turned into a rousing success as 10-12 food trucks line the block and it has become a place where locals gather to play dominoes, lime with friends, enjoy some inexpensive beer and food and dance into the wee hours of the morning. If you want to experience local Anguillian culture up close and personal and enjoy some of the best valued food on the island, head to the Strip. The busiest nights are Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It gets a little more “lively” and “passionate” later into the night as the food trucks start offering 3 for $5 beer specials and $1 shots and the games of dominos become a tad bit more competitive so keep that in mind (the sound of slamming dominos starts competing with the slamming beats coming from the DJ’s speakers). I was there close to midnight one night and never felt unsafe but I wouldn’t recommend bringing the kiddos there too late into the evening.
Affordable Anguilla – It’s Easy To Get To
If there are two adjectives that a beach bar bum appreciates, it’s “affordable” and “easy,” two words not normally associated with a visit to high end Anguilla. While a lot of the people traipsing up and down Anguilla’s beaches are normally of the well-heeled variety and most likely came over on a private jet or private boat charter, inexpensive options are available and getting there couldn’t be easier.
Getting to Anguilla is easy and convenient, notably due to its close proximity to St. Maarten and its Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), a major air hub in the Caribbean. Once you arrive at SXM, the public ferry dock to Anguilla is just a short cab ride away, followed by a 25 minute boat trip through some of the most beautiful water you’ll ever bounce across. After arriving at the ferry dock at Blowing Point in Anguilla, your accommodations are just a cab ride away. Take the opportunity to interact with the people on the ferry. Chances are they either live in Anguilla or are visiting it for the multiple time – their knowledge of the island will be indispensable.
Inexpensive lodgings are plentiful in Anguilla (and generally locally owned and run so you’ll be directly supporting the local economy) and if you take the time to look for them, you’ll find that they cover the breadth of any discerning consumer’s wish list. Ranging from Sandy Ground options such as the Sea View apartments, Sydan’s and the apartment at Roy’s Bayside Grill (all for around $100 a night in the high season) to Lloyd’s Bed and Breakfast in Crocus Bay ($150 per night), the under $200 per night crowd has a multitude of choices available. All of the above offer convenient access to bars and restaurants (no taxi fees!) where you’ll get to meet locals and tourists alike and where your hard earned money will be supporting the same people who call Anguilla home.