By Richard Earls
Who comes to love Anguilla? Much is made of the rich and famous who come to this island haven to hide in plain site, to mingle undisturbed. But for every celebrity there are the thousands of visitors every year who come for the warm hospitality of the people, the brilliance of the beaches and the quiet, idyllic return to a more elegant, simple yet rich existence.
Anguilla is the northernmost of the Leeward Islands. It is situated 146 miles east of Puerto Rico and eleven miles north of St. Martin/St.Maarten. The island is sixteen miles long, and three miles wide at its widest point. In total, the land mass measures 35 square miles (91 sq km). There are more than 40 miles (64 km) of coastline on which its many spectacular beaches are situated. Anguilla is a mostly flat island, with its highest point at 213 feet above sea level. The island does not have any natural rivers, streams or lakes but several large salt ponds dot the landscape.
The sea and boating have naturally played an important part in the island’s culture and traditions. Numerous fishing villages, like the ones at Crocus Bay and Island Harbour embody centuries of Anguilla’s maritime history and nautical traditions. So ingrained is the love of the sea that boat racing is the national sport. The unique Anguilla boats and boat racing extravaganzas are the product of a bond with the sea that is as deep as the waters that cover the ocean floor.
The island is largely Christian in denomination. English holidays such as the Queen’s Birthday, Whit Monday and others are celebrated, but English speaking Anguilla maintains a unique balance of all the historic influences that make this island a truly individual nation.
Anguilla’s fortunate location in the Leeward Islands means that for much of the year there is a constant breeze cooling the air and affording very little rainfall or humidity. The subtropical climate and temperature tends to be constant year round, averaging 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Annual rainfall is typically 35 inches, with the “rainy season” running August through November. As a location in the Northern Hemisphere, the seasons in Anguilla are the same as in the United States: when it is winter in the United States, it is winter in Anguilla. However, the difference is that the temperature and rainfall in Anguilla is nearly constant year round. When there is snow on the ground in Boston, it’s a wonderful 80 degrees in Anguilla! Winter is Anguilla’s high season. As the temperatures fall in the United States and Europe, tourists travel to the island’s warm tropical beaches. When the busy winter (November – May) travel season is over, savvy travellers know that the best days to travel are just ahead. The period April to November is referred to as the Summer Season. During the summer, the island experiences a true value season as hotels and tour operators provide special programmes and rates for couples, families, and groups, etc., to accommodate the smaller number of visitors.
Anguilla is an easy island to explore. One major road runs from the East End to the West End, with smaller roads branching off. Whether seeing the island by taxi, bike, scooter or car, there is always a beautiful beach; a restaurant, café or barbecue with sumptuous fare; art gallery, museum or boutique; a harbour dotted with brightly coloured ‘Anguilla’ boats; a breathtaking vision of architectural resort styles that include Moorish, Mediterranean, and modern designs just ‘up the road’ from charming and, colourful West Indian hotels, resorts, and private homes.