With warm turquoise waters, swaying palm trees and blinding stretches of powdery white sand, it is easy to see how Anguilla gets its reputation as a paradise for beach enthusiasts and relaxation seekers. The 33 beaches on the Caribbean island of Anguilla look as though they belong in the glossy pages of National Geographic or Travel and Leisure. And best of all, despite their international renown, they remain relatively untouched by mass tourism.
Simply put, when it comes to perfect beaches, Anguilla is in a league of its own.
I visited Anguilla as a day trip from neighboring St Maarten. Though I couldn’t imagine a coastline more pristine than St Maarten’s Mullet Bay, I was anxious to see if Anguilla’s beaches lived up to all the hype. And so I bit the bullet, splurged on a day trip to the island and prepared myself to be wowed by some of the world’s finest stretches of sand.
In order to reach Anguilla’s Shoal Bay Beach, I had two options; public transport or private tour. Traveling by public transport requires either a bus or a taxi to Marigot, a roundtrip ferry from Marigot to Blowing Point ($20 each way) and either a rental car or taxi ($40 roundtrip) from Blowing Point to the coveted Shoal Bay Beach. Alternatively, organized day trips to the island start at $95, including lunch. Both options require that visitors pay a $20 departure tax when leaving Anguilla.
All costs included, I found little difference in price between the two options. And since I couldn’t justify the hassle of traveling by a combination of public transport and taxis for the same price as a tour, I opted for an organized day trip with Bluebeard Charters.
The catamaran journey to Anguilla was much like the day sail I took to Tetiaroa Atoll in French Polynesia. For the duration of the hour-long sail, I enjoyed soaking up the sun, eating cheese and crackers and sipping on rum punch.
As we neared Anguilla, the ocean began to transform into a bright shade of swimming-pool blue. The white sand was blinding even at a distance and I could see palm trees rustling in the light Caribbean breeze.
Our first stop was the uninterrupted expanse of sugary sand at Rendezvous Bay. As soon as I caught a glimpse of Rendezvous Bay, I knew that I would be setting foot in paradise.
At Rendezvous Bay, we waited for the shuttle to take us to Shoal Bay Beach. I was glad we had about half an hour to explore Rendezvous Bay before hopping on the bus, and took the opportunity to walk the stretch of sand, wade in the water and photograph the beauty around me.
When the bus picked us up, it took us from Rendezvous Bay to Shoal Bay, across much of the island’s interior. The journey allowed me to catch glimpses of rural Anguilla and afforded me views of the incredible Sandy Ground Bay and its adjacent salt ponds. It also taught me a bit about the island’s history as a British Colony with a once-robust salt exporting industry.
By the time we reached Shoal Bay, we had a few hours to enjoy the area. I sat down for lunch at one of the beachside cafes and soaked in my surroundings. Then, I took turns walking down the beach, lounging in the sand and swimming in the crystal clear water–all the while darting back and forth to my camera in an attempt to imprint these images of paradise into my memory.
I was continually struck by the lack of other tourists on the island and could only imagine how crowded Shoal Bay would have been had Anguilla been a major port of call for cruise ships.
As with my day trip to Saba, I realized that spending one day in Anguilla–while certainly worthwhile if strapped for time–is not enough. Rendezvous Bay and Shoal Bay are merely two beaches on an island that has more stretches of immaculate sand per square kilometer than just about any other place on Earth.
I know I’ve referred to many of the places I’ve visited as paradise. And I know that, by doing so, I may have lost a bit of credibility. But Anguilla’s beaches are so perfect, that I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees. Simply put, in terms of fitting all the bread and butter criteria for a perfect beach–fluffy white sand, warm turquoise water, an absence of large crowds and gently lapping waves–it doesn’t get much better than this.
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