Just Back From … Anguilla

By Elaine Srnka, Editorial Director, VIRTUOSO LIFE

One recent winter morning my husband and I left behind below-freezing temperatures for the Caribbean clime of Anguilla in the British Leeward Islands. My mission: To check out the new villas at CuisinArt Resort & Spa.

Elaine Table w captionA low, scrubby island, Anguilla is ringed with gorgeous fine-sand beaches and stunning views of Saint Maarten – and the megayachts of the rich and famous – off the southern coast where CuisinArt is situated. Sprawling across 20 acres with two miles of beachfront, the 93-room resort (yes, of the kitchen appliance fame) boasts a unique hydroponic farm, three tennis courts (lessons with head pro Rodney Ross were a fun treat), bocce court, and an expansive new spa with a fitness center and yoga pavilion. With two restaurants, cigar bar, and wine room, executive chef Daniel Le Guenan offers creative dining options, including his chef’s table. We feasted at a decadent poolside lobster barbecue one night, enjoyed fine dining at Santorini another, and even took a cooking class at lunch, learning to prepare local specialties.

And about those villas: Wow. These six expansive new beach houses boast from one to five bedrooms and range from 1,800 to 5,100 square feet. Surrounded by lush foliage, they have a full kitchen and most have an outdoor courtyard, grill, shower, and private pool (with beachside cabanas for the oceanfront ones), offering families or couples privacy and space. We liked that the iPod docking station was wired for surround sound, and noted wistfully that the indoor-outdoor flow of the villas begged to host a cocktail party – if only we’d had friends on the island to invite.

Anguilla is home to a surprising number of quality restaurants. We ventured off property one night to Blanchard’s, an island classic deserving of its status. Everything we ordered was fantastic, and their signature rum punches were the best we’ve ever tasted. We also admired Cap Juluca’s waterside Pimms, literally perched over the water. And just a few sandy steps down the beach from CuisinArt is Banky Banks, an iconic hole-in-the-wall famed for music (funky or not, the cover charge was $15 a person the night we went).

Tennis lessons, beach walks, lobster barbecues, cooking classes, spa treatments, and plenty of rum punch – we packed a lot into our three-night stay and were sad to leave. The staff was charming and personable, starting at the top with GM Stephane Zaharia. On the last day of my quick visit, several staffers hugged us goodbye – how often does that happen? It won’t be goodbye forever, though – I definitely hope to return.