As far as the Caribbean goes, Anguilla, the British West Indian island just north of St. Martin, has been very fortunate—it managed to duck the brutal batch of hurricanes last autumn. But its most serendipitous moment came back in 1980, when the government of the virtually hotel-free island decided to limit development to discreet, small hotels and elegant, upscale resorts. A quarter of a century later, the 16-mile-long territory known for its pristine beaches has stuck to this policy (which means there are no casinos, large cruise ships, or shopping malls) and is now home to what is arguably the Caribbean's highest concentration of luxury properties. Most of them are on the western half, which encompasses Shoal Bay West, Rendezvous Bay, and Meads Bay; the eastern portion is more residential. Although still a long way from being overdeveloped, Anguilla is becoming decidedly more sophisticated with each season. The island is buzzing with recent and imminent openings of new hotels, restaurants, and "super villas" (an Anguillan specialty); its airport runway has just been expanded to accommodate larger commercial planes in addition to private jets. And here's more good news: the English-speaking Anguillans have remained unpretentious, and their island is still the West Indian charmer it always has been.
WHERE TO STAY Clutching the cliffs above Meads Bay, Malliouhana Hotel & Spa (800/835-0796 or 264/497-6111; www.malliouhana.com; doubles from $620) seduces all the right travelers (and the shelter magazines) with its enormous Haitian art-filled rooms and suites; sexy, jungly terraces and dining areas; and the island's most sophisticated French cuisine. Over the years, Malliouhana has fine-tuned its attractions, adding posh new suites, pool areas, and one of the top spas in the Caribbean. • Cap Juluca (888/858-5822 or 264/497-6666; www.capjuluca.com; doubles from $780, including breakfast, water sports, and afternoon tea), on mile-long Maundays Bay Beach, has continued to raise the bar for luxury since it first opened in 1988. The Caribbean had never seen any place quite like this Moorish fantasy: most of the domed, whitewashed buildings are appointed with traditional Moroccan rugs and lanterns; glamorous marble bathrooms have tall glass walls overlooking plant-filled private solaria. For a little more privacy, opt for one of the multi- (up to five) bedroom villas, each with a pool and private butler. • Besides its eye-grabbing Greek island architecture, CuisinArt Resort & Spa (Rendezvous Bay; 800/943-3210 or 264/498-2000; www.cuisinartresort.com; doubles from $550) is home to a hydroponic farm that enables the resort to grow much of its own produce. Chef Daniel Orr, formerly of Guastavino's in New York, was brought in last year to oversee the resort's three restaurants, which feature Mediterranean cuisine and, naturally, the best salads in the region. This season, guests can learn to cook in a stadium kitchen and then feast on a five-course dinner.
THE SUPER VILLAS Smart travelers know the unbeatable luxury and privacy of renting an entire house. But visionary architect Myron Goldfinger is responsible for upping the ante with his bold, monolithic mansions on the southwestern tip of Anguilla. Called Covecastles (Shoal Bay West; 800/223-1108 or 264/497-6801; www.covecastles.com; from $1,095 per day), these two- to five-bedroom houses feature enormous rooms with tropical minimalist interiors, the latest electronics, andfull hotel amenities (concierge, 24/7 room service). The super-villa concept has flourished on Anguilla, as has Covecastles, which now includes 15 villas; the most recent, the Point, is a five-bedroom extravaganza that rents for a cool $4,295 a night. • Just up the beach, Altamer (Shoal Bay West; 888/652-6888 or 264/498-4000; www.altamer.com; $35,000 per week) is another impressive compound with three towering five- and six-bedroom residences, also designed by Goldfinger, each with a private gym, a 45-foot swimming pool, and a staff that includes a butler, a concierge, and, by request, a personal chef. • Big-name celebrities seeking total seclusion book Cerulean (264/497-8840 or 212/285-2070; www.cerulean-villa.com; $39,000 a week, including butler, private chef, and spa services) on Barnes Bay, a seven-bedroom, multi-domed villa designed by Modernist architect Deborah Berke, with handcrafted Moroccan and Mexican furnishings, limestone floors, a pool and gardens, and in-room spa treatments. • The newest member of the super-villa set is Temenos Anguilla, a St. Regis Retreat (Long Bay; 264/222-9000; www.temenosvillas.com; from $33,033 a week, including personal butler). Each of its three two-story units resembles a mini-Aman resort, wrapping around a spectacular infinity pool above a palmy beach. Architectural surprises abound—from Santorini-style terraces to secret alcoves, perfect for meditating or napping. Scheduled to open this summer is the island's first 18-hole golf course, which was designed by Greg Norman without disrupting the seaside setting. Also on the horizon (in 2006): a 97-bungalow hotel on the 4,400-foot-long Merrywing beach, just five minutes away.