Take it Easy on Anguilla

Posted On November 24, 2016

Kick back and let the world drift away.  Cap Juluca is designed for leaving it all behind.

By Katie McElveen

Some destinations beckon with promises of exploration. African safaris come to mind, as do wonders like Machu Picchu and the Great Barrier Reef. Others – a golfing trip to St. Andrews in Scotland; a week of cooking in Provence, invite you to indulge your interests.  There are spa trips to pamper and detox, party weekends to let loose, jaunts to the world’s great cities for food, theatre and shopping.

But what if you want to do nothing?  Really nothing. No cooking or cleaning or even tidying up. No driving or worrying about dinner reservations. No getting up at dawn to “reserve” a poolside chaise lounge with a paperback and yesterday’s bottle of water. Just a beach, a book and wonderful food. For that, there’s Cap Juluca, on the sleepy island of Anguilla.

Run an internet search of Cap Juluca, and you’ll likely see a photo of a perfect crescent of sand decorated with a few brightly colored-kayaks and lapped by water so blue it looks fake.  It is not.  “We first spotted Maundays Bay 30 years ago from a boat when there was nothing here but the beach and some scrub,” says Linda Hickox, who, with her husband Charles, opened the resort in 1988 and continues to run it.  “It’s the reason we’re here.” 

Today, the resort’s 179 acres is filled with blooming gardens, winding pathways and just 70 guestrooms. The stunning main building, with its domed ceiling and thick stucco archways, resembles a fantasy villa on Mykonos.  Inside, the gleaming white lobby opens onto that view, a scene so startlingly gorgeous that I literally dropped my hand luggage on the floor and began crazily snapping photos.   It took the gentle suggestion from the manager that perhaps I’d like to check in that broke the spell and forced me to return to reality.

I wasn’t there long.  My room also opened onto that glorious beach, only this time the ocean was framed by the white stucco arch of my patio and punctuated by a sculptural sea grape tree and several graceful palms.  Tearing myself away from the view, I poured a glass of Champagne then set about exploring. Rooms are spacious, with private terraces and gigantic bathrooms set with outdoor showers the same size as many hotel bathrooms.  

There is one thing missing: room keys.  When I called the front desk to report that I had never received one, I unintentionally marked myself as a first-timer.  Turns out that the only time my room would be locked was when I was in it. Once I got over my initial nervousness (and realized that staff members, it seems, are equipped with photographic memories of all guests, their friends and everyone’s room numbers) I found the experience to be remarkably freeing. 

Staff members did more than keep track of who shouldn’t be on property.  Time and time again, seamlessly and without fanfare, they not only greeted me by name, but were able to tell me the whereabouts of each of my friends. They remembered what I liked to drink, how I took my coffee and where I preferred to sit. One night, as my friends and I took the beach route from the restaurant back to our rooms, we paused, wondering which path led to which room. Within seconds a staff member appeared and, without asking for a single room number, pointed us each in the right direction.

My days at Cap Juluca passed over me like a soft breeze. Breakfast is a bountiful, oceanfront affair that’s served so late into the morning that I felt no need to set an alarm to ensure that I could “make breakfast.” I could exercise at the well-equipped gym or participate in yoga, Pilates or tennis clinics held throughout the week; a massage in my room as I listened to the sea outside was nothing short of blissful. I loved the generous touches, like awakening to complimentary coffee and rolls delivered to my room before breakfast, traditional afternoon tea and, like clockwork, homemade sorbet delivered to guests on the beach at 3pm.

Going to the beach was dreamy.  Each day, attendants created a personal zen space with one of the resort’s custom-made, marvelously comfy chaise lounges, an oversized umbrella and a small cooler packed with ice and bottled water. Then, they left me blissfully alone, returning only to refresh my water and take orders for food and drinks. I was happy to spend my time reading or strolling or bobbing in the water; sportier guests made use of the free kayaks, windsurfers, Sunfish, snorkel equipment and stand-up paddle boards. One day, our small group chartered the resort’s 32-foot cruiser, the Juluca Star, to Little Bay, a cliff-lined cove populated by sea turtles, soaring birds, a few kayakers and a rock climber or two. We arrived, armed with Champagne, canapes, crystal flutes and French linens, just in time to take a quick dip then celebrate the sunset. 

As a lover of food and restaurants, I was a bit concerned that dinners at the resort night after night would begin to feel predictable, but I was, happily, wrong.  One night, we ate grilled local lobster at a table in the sand while the water tickled our toes. Another dinner, at the Moroccan-themed Spice, which sits on a broad patio stretched over the water, included spicy lamb and rib-eye steaks and local snapper with preserved lemon couscous, all to a soundtrack of waves and, later, live music. We saved Pimm’s, the resort’s Wine Spectator-awarded restaurant, for dinner on our last evening – a mistake, it turned out, since we stayed longer than we should have sipping the last of our wine and listening to local singer Omari Banks. 

I tend to return from trips filled with wonderful memories but woefully exhausted.  Returning from Cap Juluca, I felt something I’d never felt after a journey: homesickness for the vacation destination.

If you go:

Getting to Anguilla is half the fun: the private ferry that runs between St. Maarten and Anguilla is actually a luxury speedboat that carries just a handful of passengers on a trip (about 40 minutes) that’s just long enough to drink the cold beer you’re handed as you pull away from the dock.  By the time you arrive, windswept and tousled, you’re ready for vacation.  For more information about Cap Juluca, visit capjuluca.com