Sometimes confused with its island cousin Antigua, Anguilla has nevertheless long held a certain cache amongst celebrities and savvy travelers. Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Timberlake, Sandra Bullock, and Beyoncé / Jay Z have all held court here. Even Justin Bieber owned a home on the eel shaped island once upon a time.
It’s not just the electric blue water and diverse culinary scene that set Anguilla apart (although they both serve as major draws), but the prestige that comes with the island’s embargo on cruise ships, casinos and hi-rises. It’s also home to some of the most luxurious resorts in the Caribbean, including The Four Seasons Resort And Residences, where we recently checked in. After changing ownership and names (it was formerly a Viceroy) in 2016, and withstanding the wrath of hurricane Irma a year later, today it is pampering guests anew.
Here’s what we loved about it.
Anguilla isn’t a big island, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in its bounty of white sand beaches and a raucous beach bar scene. The Four Seasons sits directly in the middle of 35 acres of the best beachfront in Anguilla (we know because we circumnavigated the island via boat to confirm exactly that). With Meads Bay on one side of the hotel and Barnes Bay on the other, we found the latter more to our taste, both scenery and seclusion wise. It also happens to be where the hotel’s private residences are located, as well as the Half Shell Bar and Grill, whose emphasis on speedy rum punch delivery served with a smile and a slice of pineapple could always be counted on.
The only excuse we had not to leave our room was the fact it was a mini-slice of paradise, meticulously designed by style icon Kelly Wearstler. Defined by its clean lines and cool tones, there was nothing that screamed kitsch or “I’m in the tropics” about it. Tastefully refined and yet endearingly unfussy, we found ourselves consistently back for a post-pool midday nap. The massive bathrooms, private hot tubs on every terrace and ethereal beach views only made us want to linger longer.
Scattered across the property, we also had a chance to check out the Four Seasons residences, which range from one-bedroom deluxe studios to five-bedroom beachfront villas. For $10 million, the latter is sprawled across two levels and features a total of 9,500 square feet, also custom-designed by Wearstler, right down to the furnishings, accessories, infinity pool, and outdoor shower. The villas’ oceanfront terrace overlooking Barnes Bay Beach is the real cherry on top.
There are few things capable of taking the breath away of a jaded New York journalist; but watching the pink and purple hues disappear over turquoise waters from the hotel’s Sunset Lounge successfully accomplished just that. The centerpiece of the property, the open-air bar serves up fresh sushi rolls, an assortment of light bites and a killer rum punch, which they say is the best on the island (Who are we to argue?) – never mind the views over the lounge’s infinity pool.
Late night, Sunset Lounge transforms into a full-fledged dance party, with DJs spinning a mix of soca and reggae. It’s a fun vibe that doesn’t feel forced, mostly a mix the unself-conscious and the casually trend-aware. Leave the Gucci swimsuit at home.
The property as a whole is pretty evenly spread out across its 35 acres, which is something of a blessing and a curse, since getting from one place to the next can take a minute. It’s important to note that there’s a more family-friendly section and pool, for those who have decided to reproduce in the face of all odds. But the Sunset Lounge pool, which is a saltwater infinity, is for adults only.
There’s another secret piscine tucked away in the hotel’s gorgeous spa area. We treated ourselves to a swim after signature salt scrubs, double rainbow facials, and a something something sleek and slimming treatment, before taking a steam and day nap in the spa’s outdoor bed swing.
Anguilla is known as a culinary paradise. However, we found the food on property to be much better than anything we tried elsewhere. The hotel’s signature restaurant Cobá (soon to be called SALT after the hotel reopens for the season in November) hosts a fabulous breakfast and brunch buffet, as well as dinner. Looking for a little local flavor, we ordered the Anguillan breakfast, which comes with salt fish, johnny cakes, plantain chips and sliced avocado and eggs, before making our way over to the self-prep bloody mary station. Both proved effective hangover cures after a long night at the Sunset Lounge.
We also checked out the Half Shell Beach Bar, set directly on Barnes Bay Beach. The mahi tacos were best paired with a frozen moringa: a boozy superfood invented by the hotel’s restaurant manager that combines leaves from the moringa tree, banana, mango and orange juice for the win. Finally, the other lunch spot on the Meads Bay side called Bamboo Bar & Grill offered a full menu of locally sourced seafood, like Caribbean lobster and mixed rice along with a solid catch of the day option, where you can pick whatever fish your heart desires before having it grilled and served to perfection.