Photo Tour: Caribbean Luxury at the Four Seasons Anguilla
by Melanie Reffes, Special for USA Today
For a small island measuring just 16 miles long and 3 miles wide, Anguilla packs a big punch with couples tying the knot or celebrating an anniversary. Across the sea from St. Martin, the eel-shaped isle coveted for the lack of cruise ships, casinos and throngs of tourists is home to a seaside slew of high-brow resorts that attract a moneyed crowd who pay handsomely to unwind and indulge. Formerly Viceroy Anguilla, Four Seasons Resort Anguilla upped the ante following a $10 million rebrand and upgrade investment. The only resort on the island that fronts two beaches, the half a sandy mile it occupies is as perfect as the beach brochure photos that sell the island.
Ideal for families, couples, singles and anyone else who can afford it, the 181 rooms, suites and villas are elegantly appointed with a Caribbean vibe. Situated on 35 acres of gardens and bluffs, the upscale resort is the second Four Seasons to open in the Caribbean, after Four Seasons Nevis which the brand has managed for 25 years.
Top-notch service includes cold towels, frozen cocktails and sunscreen delivered poolside, wake-up calls and room service that arrive on time, and a seamless check-in that is a welcome antidote to a day of travel.
“The government and the people of Anguilla are pleased to welcome the prestigious Four Seasons brand to our island, “ says Cardigan Connor, minister of tourism. “As a worldwide brand it gives Anguillan employees an opportunity to gain work experience in countries across the globe.”
Continuing its Caribbean expansion, Four Seasons Cayo Largo will open in 2018 in Fajardo on the Atlantic Ocean side of Puerto Rico. The resort will be the third Four Seasons in the the Caribbean.
Lay of the land
The resort has opulent suites, inviting pools, tennis courts, a spa and four restaurants and bars, but courtesy of the friendly staff and plenty of signs, it’s easy to navigate.
Designed with a neutral palette, buildings are chalk white, lights are warm and décor colors don’t go beyond wood browns, grays and beiges. Curious objet d’art like face chairs that look out at the ocean and risqué wooden sculptures in the suites are eye-catchers. In the big boutique near the lobby, designer labels with hefty price tags share shelf space with pricey sunglasses and anything else you may have left at home.
Fifteen minutes from Blowing Point where the ferries from St. Maarten and St. Martin dock and a little further from the Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport where small planes — commercial and private — land, the gracefully landscaped resort is eco-sustainable with an on-site reverse osmosis plant that produces spring water, eliminating the environmental impact of bottled water.
The 181 rooms, suites and villas (some with five bedrooms) are contemporary chic with Italian marble floors, living room tables crafted from petrified wood and hurricane-resistant glass windows and sliding doors that open to expansive balconies. Bathrooms are epic with lighting that casts a relaxing glow, soaking tubs surrounded by smooth stones, huge glass-enclosed showers with rain-head faucets and Neil George amenities. Lamps made from driftwood, espresso machines, wildly comfortable four-poster king beds, bedside digital audio docking stations and a geometric design on the balconies that ensures privacy are the brand signatures. Wi-Fi is free; however, if you stream videos or play games, pay the extra $20 for super-fast speeds. If you left your gadgets at home, the resort rents laptops, audio players and cellphones.
Room categories run the gamut from resort views coming in at 483 square feet, bigger ocean view studios with private plunge pools to the grand one bedroom suites with nearly 1,000 square feet of luxe that includes a kitchenette, extra bathroom and endless views of the ocean and mountains next door in St. Martin that are even sweeter from a perch in the plunge pool.
Freestanding four- and five-bedroom villas come with private infinity pools and enormous living space. Top-of-the-line is the 5,356-square-foot five-bedroom beachfront with four king beds, two queen beds and a nightly price tag in January of $5,871.
January rates per room, per night range from $850 for a resort view room to $943 for an ocean view studio, $1,243 for a stay in an ocean view rooftop suite and $5,871 for the grand five-bedroom beachfront villa.
To dine for
The quartet of restaurants and bars are hot spots with not only resort guests but also with foodies staying at other hotels and locals who come for a celebratory dinner or cocktails at sunset. Room service is fast and cheerful and served whenever the appetite strikes.
Open for breakfast, Cobà tempts with a tastefully sumptuous buffet ($36) with baskets of house-made pastries, an omelette maker and an a la carte menu with island fare like toasted coconut waffles and pancakes drizzled with vanilla bean butter. For formal dinners, fine-dining on the bluff is enhanced by floor-to-ceiling glass windows for uninterrupted views of the ocean. Executive chef Rafael Gonzalez honed his culinary chops at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia and Vancouver and most recently presided over the kitchen when the resort was the Viceroy Anguilla. He’s also put in time at Manhattan’s Jean-Georges and Le Bernardin. “We serve a lot of people from New York,” he says, greeting guests, “who are very well-educated about food, so the things that work best give guests a local flavor as well as a sense of place.”
It’s a seafood-driven menu, although steak, chicken and pork are also cooked to order. Starters to share include Anguillan salt cod croquettes and a seafood platter of ocean edibles like lobster, oysters and shrimp. Move on up to mains like locally caught crayfish or West Indian-inspired snapper with a drizzle of coconut milk and curry served with a mound of jasmine rice flavored with scallions and cilantro. Lemongrass-ginger ice cream on a mango tart is the recommended diet-ditcher although choco-philes won’t be disappointed with molten cake and two forks. Gluten-free options are offered. To order wine, guests are given an iPad with an updated inventory of the current selection.
Open for lunch and dinner, Bamboo Bar and Grill fronts Meads Bay a few steps from the sandy beach. Start with a jalapeno margarita or rummy fruity punch and choose from a Mediterranean-inspired menu. Try the conch ceviche with fennel, chili, mint and sweet potatoes; crispy calamari with an orange and mint salad; and a mezze platter with scoops of herbed feta and hummus with roasted garlic. Shareable plates include mahi mahi sauced with artichokes, tomatoes and olives and a meat lovers pizza smothered in chorizo, red onions and peppers. At night, you might find steel drums and tiki torches spicing up barbecues on the beach.
For oysters on the half-shell and poached black peppered shrimp, Half Shell Beach Bar is the quiet go-to on the Barnes Bay side of the resort. Open only for lunch for light bites and frozen cocktails, the small restaurant also can host private dinners for no more than 30 people.
Sunset Lounge is a hipster bar with a South Beach vibe at the foot of the adults-only saltwater infinity pool. With seats at the bar or in the lounge that looks like a seaside living room, cocktails are liquid works of art that don’t come cheap, starting at $16 for daiquiris and mojitos and $18 for a Blue Waters with rum, vodka, spicy pineapple syrup. The scene-stealing Lotus Froze ($22) is refreshing with rose granita, strawberry-infused Cointreau, lychees and prosecco that adds the fizz. Cocktails marry well with a selection of fabulous sushi and sashimi and a menu of nibbles like salmon poke with Korean pears. The Lounge stays open late. If you bring the kids, they can pick out a fruity mocktail like a Nojito ($9) made with apple juice, lime and fresh fruit.
With more than 3,000 feet of shoreline along Barnes and Meads Bays, the resort is the only one on the island built on two beaches, with plenty of room to spread out. Soft sand, gentle surf and a swim-through grotto at the separation point of both bays add up to sublime snorkeling for phosphorescent fish and coral.
Home to resorts like the Four Seasons, Malliouhana and the Frangipani Beach Club, the beach on Meads Bay ranks in the top three along with Shoal Bay and Rendezvous Bay. Surfers like the big waves, especially during the winter months. On the beach, Sea Center is where you sign up for non-motorized water sports like sailing, windsurfing and snorkeling.
For those who prefer a sand-free afternoon by the water, there are three swimming pools: The adults-only saltwater infinity pool that overlooks the bluff by the Sunset Lounge and a pair of family-friendly pools — Aleta with cabanas for rent and the Bamboo next to the Sea Center on Meads Bay Beach.
Complimentary for those 4 to 11 years old, Kids for All Seasons dishes up a variety of fun stuff like cupcake decorating classes and scavenger hunts on the beach. For teenagers, gratis activities are offered, from bocce ball and rock climbing to steel pan music lessons and windsurfing, sunfish sailing and snorkeling. For an extra fee, painting classes, spa treatments and photography workshops are fun for teenagers and for grown-up date nights, babysitters and nannies are available.
The gym stays open 24/7 with scheduled spin classes, yoga and pilates. At the Sports Pavilion, the sports-minded head to the NBA regulation basketball court (the island’s only one and a favorite of vacationing NBA players), rock climbing wall and three Har-Tru tennis courts. In partnership with the Anguillan Tennis Academy, tennis pros give lessons and offer tips. To wind down, the resort offers classes in meditation and healthy cooking and for those who prefer to break a sweat in private, personal trainers are available.
Refresh and renew
At the water’s edge, the Spa is a gigantic 8,100-square-foot wellness center with therapists offering massages, body polishes, facials, manicures and pedicures. Airy with outdoor treatment rooms, the two-story spa has a couple’s suite and infinity pool with ocean views. Signature rubdowns worth trying include the Double Rainbow Ritual where two therapists work their four hands on winter-weary bodies and the Anguilla Trilogy that soothes with a trio of aromatic oils made from lemongrass, chamomile and uplifting citrusy bergamot. Treatments can be booked en-suite, poolside or seaside in a spa cabana.
By sea, Funtime and GB Express make the 20-minute crossing from Dutch St. Maarten for about $65 each way, while public ferries cross the sea from French St. Martin for $20 each way. Private planes and commercial flights arriving from Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Martin, Antigua and St. Kitts land at Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport where resort staff will meet, greet and whisk you to the resort 20 minutes away.
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