Amid white sands and ethereal blues, a walk on the beaches of Anguilla today won’t reveal the journey that the island has been through in the year since Hurricane Irma. The coastline looks as beautiful as ever, local beach bars have music playing, and the last of Anguilla’s luxury resorts are preparing to reopen for a new season.
When the powerful Category 5 storm passed over the Leeward Islands in September 2017, shorelines throughout the islands were decimated and entire homes and businesses collapsed. On Anguilla, where 14,000 people call the destination home year-round, residents suddenly found themselves without income in the aftermath of the hurricane as tourism completely shut down. But in disaster, the incredible spirit of the Anguillan people shone through.
Families and neighbors began to help each other rebuild. The owner of Sunshine Shack, Garvey Lake, assisted another restaurant in picking up the pieces before turning to his own popular beach bar – where not a single piece of wood remained. On the island’s northwest coast, the owner of Viewfort Estate, Josephine Gumbs-Connor, established the Pure Anguilla Foundation to gather food and supplies for local families. And soon after the storm, four of Anguilla’s luxury properties and largest private employers came together to form Anguilla Stronger.
Barry Sternlict’s Starwood Capital Group, which owns Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla, joined forces with Belmond Cap Juluca, Zemi Beach House, and Malliouhana to provide support to islanders while the resorts were undergoing repairs. Together, the nonprofit relief fund raised nearly $2 million to be used toward building materials and food and enlisted hundreds of volunteers to deliver supplies to the people on a weekly basis.
After months of rebuilding, Anguilla feels alive once more. Infrastructure has been repaired, local businesses are open, and the enthusiasm of the Anguillan people is ever-present. If you are returning to the island after having visited in the past, you will find your favorite resorts and restaurants revitalized and ready to welcome you back.
Luxury Resort Updates
Zemi Beach House: Amid sweeping beaches and lush greenery, Anguilla brims with luxurious retreats like Zemi Beach House, the first high-end resort to reopen its doors after Irma. Set on six oceanfront acres on Shoal Bay East, Zemi boasts white-sand beaches (which were restored soon after the storm), alfresco dining, and holistic spa treatments in the revitalized rice barn that houses Zemi Thai House Spa.
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla: On the other side of the island, Four Seasons spans 3,200 feet of shoreline between Barnes Bay and Meads Bay. The retreat, which reopened in spring of 2018, features elegant villas, townhomes, and residences with gourmet kitchens and indoor-outdoor living spaces – many with private pools set high on the bluffs.
CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa: Another favorite of luxury travelers, CuisinArt just reopened in November after a complete transformation. Along with redesigned interiors, you will find new dining concepts headed by Executive Chef Alan Larch, like the Moroccan-inspired KazBar and the much-anticipated Mosaic. Once you’re settled in, go for a round of golf on Greg Norman’s signature 18-hole championship course, then head to the spa where the restored hydroponic farm provides ingredients for a farm-to-spa program.
Belmond Cap Juluca: Still to come on December 10 is the reopening of one of Anguilla’s most famous retreats. Recently rebranded under the Belmond name, Cap Juluca will debut a new beachfront infinity pool, restaurant concepts, a rustic beach bar, and a disappearing spa just steps from its elegant accommodations with sun-spotted terraces.
Malliouhana: Malliouhana first opened 30 years ago on the edge of Meads Bay, and on December 15 the acclaimed resort will continue its 30-year legacy when it reopens with spacious new guestrooms, a sleek infinity pool, and a toes-in the sand beach bar. In March 2019, look for the unveiling of a new spa overlooking the Caribbean.
The Culinary Capital of the Caribbean
Anguila’s restaurants were quick to recover despite sustaining heavy damage. You can once again find Caribbean, Moroccan, and Asian flavors in the romantic, treehouse setting of Veya and delicious island specialties like tuna carpaccio at the acclaimed Jacala Beach Restaurant. Despite being completely destroyed during the storm, the quintessential Sunshine Shack reopened just a few months later with its recognizable red, yellow, and green bar on Rendezvous Bay. On the opposite end of the island, Falcon Nest beckons with blackened fish tacos, nachos, and fried oysters just steps from Anguilla’s blue waters.
Tradewind Aviation offers convenient connection to Anguilla, with scheduled flights operating four days per week from San Juan and private charters available anytime from Puerto Rico, the USVI, Antigua, and the US mainland. Flight time from San Juan to Anguilla is just 45 minutes, and scheduled flights operate from December 14 through April 22.
Featured Photo: Zemi Beach House