As promised, here is a recap of our trip to Anguilla, President's Week 2009. We just got back yesterday and I'm still in a bit of a blur thanks to and endlessly long travel day with several connection gaffes, but I will do my very best.
Before leaving I decided upon the Link ferry and made all the arrangements in advance. But low and behold, when we arrived at SXM the Link people were nowhere to be seen. After waiting a while we decided to pursue another option. The Cheers people were right there-- they were very nice, offered a competitive price and were the next boat leaving. It was already 3 p.m and I was anxious to get a piece of my first day actually On Anguilla. Done deal.
The Cheers people transported us to the dock at the police station-- about a two minute ride. We did have to wait longer than I had hoped once there-- for the boat, the manifest and a few other travelers. The sea was fairly rough though the low profile of the Cheers boat made for a comfortable ride in spite of the vigor of the waves, but when all was said and done I had the feeling that I might have arrived at Blowing Point earlier if I had just taken the public ferry as I always had.
And finally, in retrospect I think in our case it was a mistake not to just take a cab to Marigot and the ferry from there. In the end I don't think we saved an appreciable amount of time and what's worse, we were then a prisoner to their return schedule (buying the round trip ticket was entirely more cost effective). I thought the 1:00 p.m return ferry out of AXA would be sufficient to catch out 3:55 flight out of SXM, but we were informed that we should take the 10:30 a.m ferry instead. This entirely killed our last day.
We stayed in a fantastic beach front "room" at Ku that was actually it's own, free standing little house or bungalow. This was IDEAL for our family. We had one very large bedroom with an en suite bathroom in the back. Facing the sea was an equally large sitting room / dining area / kitchen with plenty of room for the two roll away beds provided for my kids. The room was clean, quiet and had lovely views of the sea. I couldn't have asked for more.
We ordinarily rent a villa when we stay in Anguilla but I found Ku to be the most pleasant place to stay. In my case, my happiness with the place was partially owing to my room and it's location. I don't know if I personally would have liked to be in one of the units set back behind the pool or behind the other block of beach front rooms. But you pay a premium for the better location so at the end of the day if price affects your decision making, it's better to be there in any room than not to be there at all!
As a mom traveling with kids, I also want to add that Ku seems an ideal place to stay, especially older kids as the suites afford enough space and privacy. That said, there were not many children there. I saw a few families with teenagers in tow and only one or two other families with kids under twelve. I'm sure the people traveling without kids appreciated the fact that it was not kiddy world, but those who did come with kids probably enjoyed the set up which is well suited to that kind of travel. I think as long as your kids don't run around like wild maniacs you'll feel welcome with your kids at Ku as we did.
We ate a lot of our meals at Kuyah, the on site restaurant. It was good, not brilliant, and it had the advantage of being there. Chef Deon does a great job with fish so I suggest you stick with seafood at Kuyah. I thought the conch fritters were delicious as was the snapper and the swordfish special. My husband kept making the mistake of ordering chicken or meat and was not as happy until I forced him to stick with the snapper and what not and then he was happy. The key lime pie at Kuyah is not to be missed!
Dinners out with children on Anguilla is an expensive and sometimes tricky proposition. Most places do not have a children's menu per se, though we found that they were often more than willing to accommodate our picky eater. One of our kids is an adventurous curry goat eating gourmand, the other won't touch it if it isn't white or in nugget form. At Kuyah my 9 year old gourmand who has no perspective about menus and prices took it upon himself to order the $38 crayfish and steak while our picky guy pleaded for (and got) a hot dog which was not on the dinner menu.
At the ostensibly more moderately priced E's oven, the 9 year old gourmand set his sites on whatever $30 some odd dollar entree struck his fancy while the picky guy got his dish of plain pasta. It wasn't great and it was no bargain either.
We all enjoyed a lunch at Smokey's where the fish soup is phenomenal. Fish soup is possibly my favorite food and the version at Smokey's does not disappoint. The kids had burgers and beyond that they found another pack of kids on the beach with a soccer ball. Instant playdate. Instant date for mom and dad. Good soup, pleasant cocktails, who cares about the slow service. Good times.
The best place to enjoy a nice dinner our with the kids is clearly, hands down The Straw Hat. The first seating is at 6:30 and if you go at that time, you are welcome to bring your children. Peter, the proprietor has kids and he gets it. He has a great and varied kids menu that will appeal to your gourmand and your picky eater alike. And it's a pleasure to pay $16 for a kids steak as opposed to nearly $40. Though Straw Hat is by no means a bargain. But the truth is, it isn't that much more than lesser restaurants and the food is extraordinary. The sesame crusted tuna was out of this world good. Most of the time on Anguilla I'm happy if it's merely edible -- but the food at the Straw Hat is truly special. The new setting is very pleasant though I am quite sentimental about their previous location.
Perhaps the BEST and cheapest meal on the island is served right on the beach at Ku at lunch time. Do not, I repeat, do not miss the ribs that "Animal" grills for lunch. I am not sure if he is there every day, but you MUST have them. I will even venture to say they are among the best ribs I've ever had. And at $10 a plate including a side of (serviceable) fries and delicious, spicy slaw, it's easy on the wallet. There is nothing more pleasant than sitting right on Shoal Bay with this delicious plate of ribs. They put poor Uncle Ernie's to shame.
Speaking of Uncle Ernie's, it is still a decent but not brilliant place to enjoy a cheap meal. We were trying not to break the bank (trying being the operative word-- we did not succeed in this endeavor). Uncle Ernie's serves up a plate of ribs for $6. They aren't great, but they are $6. The $12 fish salad is nice. And they have burgers and hot dogs for the kids. We found that the most economical lunch solution was to make sandwiches to enjoy on our own verandah while looking at the sea.
Things for the kids to do:
We had hoped that our children would be happy just to laze around on the beach which they were. They mostly read books on lounge chairs, swam and built villages in the sand. On top of that, there are two must-not-be-missed activities for you to enjoy with kids on Anguilla.
Junior's Glass bottom boat is a MUST. My son basically stalked Junior all week as he pulls his boat ashore by the Ku. We went snorkeling with him one afternoon (and coincidentally sat beside another mom who I exchanged messages with here, Small world!). Junior always knows how to tailor the trip to the kids. He swam out to a reef with the kids and showed them a whole magical world under the sea. The kids saw puffer fish, sea turtles, barracuda and sting rays. It was the highlight of our trip!
Also, we broke down and took the kids over to Malliouhana to the pirate ship / water slide installation they have there. This is best left for one of your last days because you will hear endless requests to return. And at $25 per person including adults you won't be in a hurry to do so. But if you do it once you'll be a hero to your kids and you may even have a little fun yourself. There is a team of child minders in this area and they are a bunch of super nice ladies.
When it is time to do something nice for yourself, see Simone at Malakh Day Spa. WOW. I took a stroll down Shoal Bay and over to the very inviting massage table under the pergola right by the edge of the sea and had a phenomenal 60 minute deep tissue massage. Simone gives a mean deep tissue massage-- I highly recommend it.
The only disappointment on the trip was the weather! The first part of our trip was typical Anguilla glory, but the last few days were so impossibly windy! The sea was churning and the waves on Shoal Bay were too aggressive and pounding to swim in! I had never seen anything like that in Anguilla and it was disheartening. If we had been more clever and less lazy we would have gone to a more sheltered beach like Maundays or Rendezvous Bay.
The general lessons I learned from this trip were:
1. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish-- get direct flights to SXM. Connecting flights are a time killer and mean that you lose two days in transit 2. Just take the public ferry and 3.You're in for the penny in for the pound on Anguilla-- the seemingly less expensive meal is often just as expensive as the overtly expensive meal.
One final, maybe most essential lesson is about high season. This is the third time we've traveled during peak season and you really do so at a price. The appeal of fleeing New York winter in February is clear, but If I had held out until 4/1, my room at Ku would have been significantly less expensive and my flights would have been cheaper too. I think Anguilla is a destination that I could enjoy equally in April at a savings.
I hope this report gave you some insights. If you have questions, just send me a message! Bon voyage!