Caribbean's Sandbox - Page 4

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Caribbean real estate pioneers and moguls haven't fully settled in here yet, and Anguilla is far from a shopper's paradise. The main souvenir shop is the 1950s-style Anguilla Drug Store. A few art galleries sprinkle the island (high-priced watercolors, carvings, and Georgia O'Keefe-like knockoffs), mostly the work of ex-patriots.

Some of the best encounters with local working stiffs, who might just be the most kind and gracious inhabitants of the Caribbean, are at the island's 100-plus restaurants. Many of them are run by island folks with a flair for exploding taste buds.

"The growth of local businesses has been phenomenal in recent years," said Accelyn Connor, who rents bicycles and operates Premier Adventures, a taxi and tour company.

Nightlife is minimal and consists mostly of dining. But there is local reggae legend Bankie Banx. You'll find him at Dune Preserve, one of the most way-out-there beach bars in the Caribbean (with a killer menu from star chef Dale Carty). Bankie's beachfront bar and restaurant wraps visitors in a kind of timeless island charm. Bankie performs Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday evenings.

Annual visitors number less than 200,000, mostly Americans, and about half of those are day trippers from St Marten traveling via ferry. Until a few years ago, change to the island proceeded at about the speed of coral formation, but Anguilla's sparkling reputation has legs and new developments are everywhere.

And what about those celebrities? Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, and others apparently chill here in Anguilla. But where? When the question was put to Amelia Vanterpool-Kubisch, the director of tourism, she played her cards close to her vest. "I hear they come here as well," she offered, without offering so much as a hint of how one can catch a glimpse… For that, we suggest your own island exploration.

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