by Brandi L. Brower, Travel Editor
We’re close now. I look out my window and see the water and the thin strip of Caribbean land as the turboprop plane prepares to land. As we hover over the sparkling blue sea, from this vantage point, I can’t imagine how beautiful it will be once I’m swimming in it. We touch down, and the excitement is palpable as everyone on board is happy to be at their tropical destination.
A car service is waiting to drive me to my final destination, a local by the name of Makoy Romney. He assures me with a wink that he isn’t related to Mitt, as he helps me with my luggage. I ask him what he loves about his island home, this special place. “The people,” he answers quickly. “When Hurricane Irma hit our island very hard over a year ago, we were devastated. Everyone was without power for three months. But we all helped one another, brought our resources together and worked hard to rebuild. The people make our island what it is.” Is it any wonder that the motto of this magical place is: “Unity, Strength, and Endurance”?
What is this unique island? It’s small, just 16 miles long and 3.5 miles wide. Because it’s made up of mostly limestone and relatively flat, it has more of a desert climate than tropical. The turquoise water is a mesmerizing color contrasting with the sugary white sand which can be appreciated on any of the 33 pristine beaches. Seven of these beaches have actually been rated as some of the most beautiful in the world.
It’s a quiet island known for its seclusion and safety. With only 15,000 people, it’s an intimate retreat where everyone knows one another. People don’t lock their doors because of the low crime. There are no nightclubs, casinos, it’s not a party island. You can count on one hand the number of traffic lights. There are no docks for the cruise ships, no fancy designer stores to shop in and with a no noise pollution law in place, there are no speed boats or jet skis whizzing by. Wealthy travelers choose this destination because it’s not overly crowded with throngs of tourists. Famous athletes, singing and film stars come not to be seen. Luxury vacationers want this tranquil quiet haven to unwind and indulge.
This enclave is a British overseas territory that lays 10 miles north of dual- sovereign Sint Maarten (Dutch) and Saint Martin (French) It’s known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean. So it’s a popular destination for foodies. For a strip of paradise at only 35 square miles it’s dotted with delectable dining distinctions. It nurtures and celebrates more than 100 restaurants ranging from world-class, elegant dining settings, sublime chef-driven eateries, and renowned beachside bungalows. Because much of the island seafood is caught just off its coast and served fresh daily; lobster, conch, red snapper, grouper, langoustines and crayfish are all devised in original or local customary preparation. Don’t forget to try the Anguillian Johnny Cakes on the side.
Now you’re wondering what this magical place is? Where can I find this best-kept secret? Recently named the #1 island in the Caribbean by the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine for the second consecutive year. It may not be a secret for long. Its name is derived from an Italian word which means “eel” in reference to the snake-like shape of the island. If you are Spanish, it’s Anguila, but the English pronunciation is Anguilla, rhymes with scintilla. And you will have a scintilla amount of regret about visiting this sliver of paradise once you arrive.
Now, where to stay? Anguilla has several five-star resorts but only one boldly asseverates “Arriving is belonging.” The Four Seasons Resort and Residences is true to that assertion. Once my new island friend, Mr. Romney, drives down the palm-lined entrance I am welcomed with a tropical rum punch and a chilled essential oil infused towel to wipe away my travels. I’m greeted by the General Manager of the resort, Jose Adames, who’s striking handsome looks are worthy of Hollywood, and he assures me that my stay will be unforgettable.
Mark, the young bellman, whisks me to my room, 104. He is so kind as he shows me the many amenities that are waiting for me. The helpful Four Seasons app allowed me to prep for my arrival with special requests such as a specific set-up time for turndown service, a body pillow, extra towels, a robe, and slippers. All are there waiting for me. I’m shown the powder room off the grand entrance, small kitchen area, and comfortable living room, then guided through the expansive bathroom with a soaking tub, spacious shower, double vanity, and walk-in closet. Mark leaves, and I’m tempted to crawl upon the king bed and relax. The Four Seasons is famously touted for their comfortable mattresses and bedding which beckon me to rest upon. But the impressive view from the massive windows wins the battle, and I have to go out through the sliding doors onto the ample patio to take in the seascape. The waist-high glass partition acts as a protective barrier but allows the full vista as I lay back on one of the lounge chairs and watch the waves crash upon the rocky shore. *Note to self: a night dip in my private splash pool is a must. Yes, it’s true. I have arrived, and I already have a sense of belonging.
As beautiful as my suite is, I’m confident the resort grounds will be equally stunning. I must survey the entire holiday hotspot. The resort is perfectly perched on a point that evenly divides more than 3,000 feet of gorgeous shoreline. Flanked on either side of the main structure are Meads Bay to the south and Barnes Bay to the north. The Four Seasons Resort has prominent real estate on both bays giving the guests the best of two water worlds. Out my door and just feet away are the Sunset Lounge and adults-only infinity pool. The open-air concept gives a feel of a grand seaside living room. The bar sets up high as guests can be served tropical cocktails and specialty drinks or enjoy libations a few steps
down into a large area of many cozy couches and chairs. A fun sushi Asian-fusion influence in the fare at this restaurant where nightly live music adds to the experience.
I watch several couples, arms enveloped or resting side by side as they take in the view on the edge of the infinity pool. What a romantic place this is, not that a single person can’t enjoy all of this breathtaking beauty but even a friend to share it with would make the destination that much more memorable. That is why I resort to photos. I try to capture the incredible sunset over the water to share with my family. When the setting sun is reflected on the saltwater infinity pool with its amazing amber glow and then magically morphs into a perfect purple pink. This must be what heaven feels like or Four Seasons Anguilla.
It is as if this resort knows my favorite things. Several quaint conversation corners with gas fire pits to take in the view of the nightlife. I’m also a fan of black and white cinema where a classic favorite is projected upon an exterior wall of the building. No sound of course but seeing the images of Casablanca, Citizen Cane, Sunset Boulevard are familiar favorites and give off a chic retro vibe. As I sit and enjoy my delicious Dragon roll and rock shrimp I’m approached by the manager of the Sunset Lounge, Alvaro. He’s from Spain, and we chat a bit sharing some of our background and lives. Several staff members stop by to ask if they can serve me in any way. A resort is only as good as the staff it employs. The Four Seasons is known for its service, but you can’t teach kindness. Not only does this resort staff go out of their way to make me feel less isolated, but they help me feel right at home, less alone. Again, a sense of belonging.
I’m a brunch enthusiast. There are very few meals I like more than a great brunch. The breakfast brunch served daily at the Coba will be my ritual while I’m here. The open-air pavilion which hangs out on the edge of the rocky point displays 180-degree panoramic views while enjoying the morning feast. The sound of steel drums is lightly playing, competing with the gentle crashing of the waves below the restaurant. It’s Saturday, and the fishermen are out in their boats laying nets. Sailing is the national sport of this little territory, and today the breezes are bountiful as the sailboats traverse to and fro within our range of view. Lisa makes me a delicious made to order an omelet with a smile, while I watch she asks if it’s my first time to “her” island. There are some surprises in the breakfast offering, a selection of homemade yogurt in small glass jars - strawberry chia and mango - yes, please. And among a diverse grouping of pastries, I find a favorite in the coconut croissants! It’s also a kind consideration seeing gluten-free pastry options as well.
I look over my list of ways to explore the island, and they’re abundant. I can eliminate one, as I’ve already watched a sailboat race while I sat on my patio this morning, two large vessels were competing, and the Canadian flagged schooner barely beat the American. A look at a list of “25 Things To Do In Anguilla” and it opens my mind up to the many opportunities.
1. Ride an ATV to the East end of the island
2. Jump off the rock in Little Bay (LeBron James did this in 2018!) 3. Take a photo in front of the famous West End Arch
4. Dance to SOCA music
5. Sit in the resort’s famed “face chairs”
6. Learn three new words in Anguilla jargon
7. Take a boat ride to a private island
8. Discover the faces in the cave at Island Harbour
9. Watch for the “Green Flash” at the Half Shell Beach Bar
So much to do, so little time. The concierge will assist in all island activities: fishing, scuba-diving, private boat excursion, horseback riding on a deserted beach, bar-hopping in search for the perfect rum punch, off-site dining options, they’re here to help make memories.
The Four Seasons Resort has so much to offer on-site that I need not venture off the island to have an adventure. Athletic enthusiasts must love the Sports Pavilion where there’s an NBA regulation basketball court, (it’s not surprising why professional players come to this resort), a rock climbing wall and three Har- Tru tennis courts with tennis pros in the wings ready to offer lessons and complimentary clinics. Golfers need not feel slighted, an 18-hole championship course, a Greg Norman design, is right up the street accepting tee times. If water is your pleasure, the island is surrounded by brilliant blue stuff. There are areas of the island that are known for their big waves and a surfers delight. But if you want to stay close to shore, the resort’s Sea Center is where you can enjoy all the complimentary non-motorized water sports like windsurfing, snorkeling, single and double kayaks, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing and boogie boards. Also available: water-skiing, Banana boat, multiple tubes, wake, and kneeboards.
I’ve decided to stay close to home for a sand-free day and go “pool hopping.” I begin the morning at the Bamboo Pool that overlooks Meads Beach. It’s a zero entry which is kid-friendly for parents vacationing with their small children as well as easy access for the elderly and vacationers with disabilities. It truly gives a beach feel without the sand. The palm trees line the perimeter as a primary partition between the pool and the white umbrellas on the beach. After sunbathing my winter white skin, I make my way over to the Bamboo Beach Bar for a little snack; an Oasis Salad with grilled shrimp. I could have opted for a
Crispy Crab Sandwich or Tricolore Ciabatta, but can’t justify as I have been hardly moving all day. *Note to self, must move the body more tomorrow.
My exploration of pools continues after lunch with a stop at the other kid-friendly heated pool, the Aleta. This pool is west facing overlooking Meads Bay as well, an architecturally stunning pool which has twelve square planters with an individual palm tree in the center of each, all surrounding the rectangular pool and then four identical palm tree planters in a perfect juxtaposition with the other design elements. It’s very striking. Adding to the area are private cabanas that flank three sides. The depth is just four feet, another perfect place to entertain children. An attendant asks where I would like to sit, I choose one with an open umbrella as my skin is getting pink. Chad offers up some complimentary sunscreen as he quickly wraps my lounging chair with plush four seasons beach towels. As I sit and inhale my gorgeous surroundings, I’m relaxed and transformed. It’s incredible how quickly the time passes when you don’t want it to.
As time trickles away, I pull myself up from my perfect position and make my way to the final pool, the Sunset Pool. Daveena approaches me with towels in hand and quickly gets me set up for my final resting spot of the day. The saltwater infinity-edge pool is for adults only and is correctly named as it sits overlooking a bluff and is a beautiful spot for soaking in the magnificent sunsets. As I take in the splendor, Deveena returns offering first a piece of sushi roll, thank you! She returns again a bit later with some mango ice, thank you so much! If I stay any longer, I may not care for dinner. But I do make it to dinner after I return to my suite and get ready for the evening in my luxurious bathroom.
I enjoy a signature spiny lobster dish at Coba, along with the exterior lights that shine down upon the water illuminating the blue to give additional ambiance along with my candlelight. A romantic place to share a meal. I can hear the live music begin to play and laughter of patrons at the Sunset bar dancing and I decide it is time to join them. It is Saturday night, and despite a little too much sun on my back, the sounds of the island call me, and my love of music and rhythm were satisfied.
After a blissful night sleep on my incredible bed, the realization that this is my last day hits hard. I decide I can’t justify another meal without some exercise. Luckily the resort fitness center has every option imaginable: Precor cardio, strength and Kinesis equipment, fitness classes including spin, boot camp, CrossFit, and yoga. Private fitness, meditation, cooking, and healthy lifestyle classes are also offered. I sign up for morning Yoga which is held on the deck of the spa overlooking the ocean. The instructor tells us that he will not be using any music, but that nature will be our soundtrack. I’m very challenged by the class
but by the end when we transition into savasana, the rest pose, I feel internal peace and tranquil. A beautiful way to begin my last day in paradise.
As I leave the elegant spa, I decide to give myself a goodbye gift and schedule a spa treatment. After I speak with the lovely manager, she knows what would best help my ailments and lines up a late day massage. The appointment is booked, I happily continue on with my plan to squeeze as much as I can out of this day. I decide I need sand between my toes, so I head for the beach. With more than 3000 feet of shoreline between both beaches, there is plenty of excellent snorkeling. I start off at Meads Bay which is pristine and popular. With it’s proximity to the Sea Center, it’s the hub of activity with couples checking out kayaks, teens on paddle boards and tweens on boogie boards. It’s fun just to people watch. I see beginners on a Hobie cat learning to jibe and tack, trying their best to sail the boat back home into the bay. Or watch a young man show his little brother how to paddle to catch the best wave on a boogie board.
Seeing children reminds me of the nice bonus that all Four Seasons resorts offer their guests: Kids For All Seasons. My children have always loved this benefit. As a couple, you want time alone together however you feel guilty about getting a babysitter at the hotel. But the activities are so inviting, creative and fun and your children actually wake up and ask if they can go to the “kids club” that day. Well, that is a welcome surprise. No guilt associated with dropping them off at an activity that they ask to be part of. A fantastic complimentary inclusion for any family staying at a Four Seasons Resort. Tie-Dye, Treasure Hunt, Slip and Slide, Jewelry Making, Hair Braiding, Ping Pong Competition, Cup Cake Decorating, Mask Making, Tennis Clinics, Rock Climbing, just to name a few. Separated in age-appropriate groups and skill levels for all activities, the Kids For All Seasons is always a big hit with vacationing children who sometimes need a break from the sun and their parents.
I have a small window of time before my appointment at the spa, so I make myself comfortable on a beach chair at Barnes Bay. Right behind me a little hidden treasure, the last of the Four Seasons restaurants, called Half Shell Beach Bar, which I enjoy some Avocado Hummus with jerk spiced pita. The cute beach haunt serves lunch as well as the ever-popular “Green Flash Hour” between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. This mystical hour on bright visible days, where the last of the sun disappears below the horizon, there’s a flash of green. Sometimes it’s quite vivid and lasts for about a second. Other times it’s faint and brief. I think if you’ve enjoyed a few too many rum punches, the chances of seeing it will most likely increase! However, the only flash of green I see today are the stripes on the phosphorescent fish as they swim in and out of the beautiful coral while I snorkel. As I dive down and witness the underwater beauty, connect with nature, once again I feel a belonging to this place.
The spa is spacious and inviting. I arrive early enough to take advantage of the steam room and shower off any remnants of Barnes Bay. I slip into the spa sandals and extremely cozy Four Seasons signature robe and wait for my masseur. His name is Wayne, he’s very astute in his knowledge of the body, anatomy, kinesiology, and physiology. I choose the Deep Sea Massage Treatment, and my experience is the best I’ve ever had. Not only does he apply specific balms and essential oils specific for my affected areas but he explains why my body is in pain in certain areas and what I need to do for relief once I leave. I’m his last client of the day, and he works an additional 20 minutes on my issues because “I have the time,” he offers. While I am relaxing outside on the deck after my treatment, he finds me before he leaves for the day, to shows me specific exercises, Piriformis stretches that I should do once I’m back home. The Four Seasons is known for their high level of service and Wayne is no exception to that rule.
As I lay on a suspended bed which hangs down on chains, it rocks gently back and forth with the slight breeze. It is part of the spa retreat area which overlooks another infinity pool and the Caribbean sea. I am completely relaxed and rejuvenated. I stay for a while, quietly going over in my mind the beautiful memories I’ve had during my brief stay and savoring the remaining moments. And then, as if the vacation Gods are smiling on me, they save the most gorgeous sunset for the last night. I am completely fixated on the breathtaking beauty that is my reality. What a perfect goodbye.
My bag is packed, and I take one last look at my stunning suite. The pallet is all natural, void of any bright color, almost as if it’s saying ‘we are the background players and the stage is for the star which is the beauty of Anguilla.’ The aquamarine backdrop which comes through bright and evident behind the mahogany floor to ceiling plantation shutters really is the only accent needed. Petrified wood lamps, marble and quartz components, bleach blonde wood floors, exposed wood beams, all design elements by Kelly Wearstler. What was once a Viceroy property, signature designer Wearstler, along with an infusion of 10 million dollar renovation budget, transformed the 181 individual accommodations, main lobby, spa, restaurants, and lounge into a more understated, monochromatic composition, using mixed textures, natural materials and one of a kind artistic pieces. All of which allows the nature of Anguilla to bring in the bright pops of color to punctuate the aesthetic.
Before I leave, I roll my carryon out my door over to take one more mental picture of Barnes Bay. As I check out, the still handsome Jose Adames approaches to make sure everything met my satisfaction. I decide to share with the general manager just a few of my experiences with Alvaro, Daveena, Gina,
and other attendants during my stay. I tell him that no matter how beautiful the resort is, it will only ever be as good as its staff. I assure him that he has done an excellent job in this regard and has surrounded himself with quality people.
I get into the car to leave for the airport, and to my surprise, a familiar face is behind the wheel, Makoy Romney. “How was your stay on our island?” he questioned. I tell him how much much I love it here and I hope to return. “You will be back !” he says confidently. “They all come back.”
I have to come back ~I feel like I already belong here.
It’s easier than ever to come back!
Or if it is your first time, “arrive and belong”!
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from May 12th - December 19th, 2019
Brandi L. Brower, Travel Editor
Brandi Brower received her BA in communications/broadcast journalism from the University of Utah. After years of working in television for PBS Nova Science Series and The Christian Science Monitor, she decided to do freelance writing while raising her five children. With her love of exploration, her position as travel editor for our magazine is a welcomed opportunity.