|1,000 SHADES OF BLUE: The unfettered coastline of Anguilla (Carol Lee/courtesy, Tourism Anguilla)|
Welcome to Anguilla and the ragged gorgeousness of the British West Indies. This is the most northerly of the Leeward Islands that make up the Lesser Antilles, way out there in the Eastern Caribbean. It is an island made for Imax.
No jackets-required formality here. In this outpost of the British Crown afternoon tea comes with ice.
Nine miles away on the southern horizon, beyond blue-streaked stretches of ocean, the preposterously beautiful green mountains of St. Maarten loom like a scene transported from West Virginia. At your feet, milk-white beaches framed by yellow bougainvillea and scarlet oleanders are some of the finest and least visited in the Caribbean.
Sixteen miles long and ballooning to three miles at its widest, Anguilla, population 12,000, is best known for high-end digs, to-die-for dining, and celebrity ogling. (Brad Pitt and Jenifer Aniston gulped their last supper here. "They looked happy to me," said the waiter at Diners at Ripples.)
If Anguilla was a ski resort, it would be Aspen.
Most of the action happens around the sea, which is as turquoise, emerald, and jade as you can imagine, and as clear as Perrier.
"Anguilla suits the entire family," said Mathew Billington, who runs a scuba dive shop at Shoals Bay on the Atlantic side of Anguilla. "There are great beaches, diving, and snorkeling for all abilities, and fantastic homegrown restaurants located off property from some of the Caribbean's most exclusive yet laid-back hotels."
Billington, 37, came to Anguilla on vacation from London 17 years ago and never left. "I haven't found an easier way of making a living," he said, while opening the doors to his dive shop early on a sun-splashed morning.
What you won't find on Anguilla are day trippers off cruise ships, casinos, and all- inclusive, live-for-the-moment mega hotels. No muumuus and mullets here.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication