Anguilla’s culture makes it a vibrant tropical destination

Anguilla Island is much more than a pretty face. Beyond the beautiful beaches, travelers can connect with the essence of the island and explore what makes Anguilla unique. Chat with the locals, explore unexpected places not on your itinerary, and savor every memory.

Where do you start to scratch under Anguilla’s pristine surface? There is no exact science as to how to make your connection to Anguilla. We can start by exploring the long and rich history of the island, its people, culture, food, drink, traditions, businesses and favorite entertainment.

Sandy Ground Bay is a bustling Anguilla beach that offers oceanfront dining and entertainment. © daniloforcellini / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Anguilla: how it all began

As beautiful as Anguilla’s 33 beaches are, you’d think you’d be neck and neck with the tourists. Part of what makes Anguilla so appealing is the ability to go out on a beach and find that you are enjoying this exquisite time on your own.

When you consider the allure of modern seclusion from Anguilla, it is possible to understand the Arawak Indians arriving from South America and realize that this place was something special. The Arawaks named Malliouhana Island, their word for snake, describing the slender, eel-like shape of Anguilla. It was not until 1650 that the British arrived and colonized Anguilla.

Then there was a period when Anguilla was caught up in a power struggle between Britain and France. After Britain took control, Anguilla was placed under the administrative authority of St. Kitts. Finally, in 1980 Anguilla officially separated from St. Kitts and the island has since prospered as a British Overseas Territory.

The best historical and wildlife tours in Anguilla

Anguilla is fortunate to have an organization that preserves the island’s past. The Anguilla National Trust is the voice of Anguilla’s national heritage. Their tours offer visitors the chance to explore 1,000-year-old petroglyphs carved into the rock faces of Big Springs and to visit the Wallblake Plantation House, which dates back to 1787 and has witnessed much of the history of the island nation.

Thanks to the Trust, outdoor vacationers can even join a turtle patrol to observe nesting sea turtles on 15 different beaches. Bird watchers will jump on the Sombrero Island Tour, which offers a chance to spot rare native birds and reptiles.

children share the turtle
Anguilla is home to nests for leatherback, green and hawksbill turtles. © winky lewis / Getty Images / Aurora Open

If you want to stay in a tropical resort steeped in history, consider the Carimar Beach Club on Meads Bay. This iconic hotel opened in 1985 and offers one and two bedroom suites. Carimar staff graciously share the island’s history in its seaside setting.

Anguilla’s Favorite Food

Food can bring generations together with recipes and traditions handed down over the years. The one food that captures the essence and heritage of Anguilla for many would have to be Johnny Cakes.

This cookie or flatbread made with flour, cornmeal and baking powder is a marvel that goes with anything and everything: breakfast, lobster, ribs, chicken and even shrimp. You can find it on the menus at Palm Grove Bar and Grill, Tasty’s and Veya’s.

West Indian Johnny Cakes being prepared and baking
Johnny cakes are one of Anguilla’s staple dishes. © ezza116 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Rum lovers’ paradise

Rum is the spirit of choice in the Caribbean. This is certainly the case at Elvis’ Beach Bar on Sandy Ground.

Since 2007, customers have flocked to the bar for Elvis’ famous Rum Punch. Behind his rustic bar made from an Anguilla racing boat, Elvis serves a delicious concoction of rum, orange and guava juice, amaretto and fresh nutmeg.

Elvis has also designed the menu at Anguilla Great House’s Coconuts beachfront bar, so those who can’t get enough of its flavors can enjoy authentic drinks at Rendezvous Bay.

Anguilla, gateway to the beach
Sandy Ground is a town located along a beautiful bay of Anguilla. Its bars, restaurants and wildlife make it a popular spot for visitors to the island. © Mélanie Acevedo / Getty Images

For vacationers craving rum in a more upscale setting, head to Shoal Bay Beach and the Rhum Room at Zemi Beach House Resort. Choose from over 90 rums from Antigua, Barbados, Bermuda, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Peru, from Trinidad and Venezuela.

Anguilla musicians

If music is the soundtrack to Anguillian life, then Bankie Banks Dune Preserve on Rendezvous Bay is its cornerstone. Banks, who has performed with artists such as Bob Dylan and Jimmy Buffett, oversees his operation while serving tasty barbecue, cold drinks and exceptional live music.

Banks is also the founder of Moonsplash, the oldest music festival in the Caribbean. Reggae artists from all over the world travel to perform on the island.

Michael “Dumpa” Martin is another Anguillian whose Steel Pan music has marked generations. Martin’s Pan Fusion group presents a mix of soca, calypso and jazz that performs regularly at school and community events on the island.

Boating: Anguilla’s national pastime

One way to excite an Anguillian is to ask who will win the Anguilla Day Boat Race, which takes place on May 30 each year. Almost the entire island is closed to participate or watch this national event.

Mead's Bay Carnival Boat Race
Anguilla’s sailing culture is on display at events and festivals throughout the summer, including Carnival. © Layne Kennedy / Getty Images

Boat building, boat racing and the sheer pleasure of sailing have deep roots in Anguilla. Boat races start around Easter and then get frantic during Anguilla Day on May 30 and the Anguilla Summer Festival, which takes place throughout the first week of August.

A boat trip or charter is a great way for vacationers to experience Anguilla’s passion for sport, as well as to explore its 60 kilometers of coastline. Boat Captains share Anguilla’s geography, history, and culture on leisurely tours to neighboring Dog Island, Prickly Pear, Sandy Island, Little Bay, and Scrub Island. It is the perfect way to appreciate both the beauty and the richness of Anguilla’s culture.

Comments are closed.