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5 reasons Anguilla is the Caribbean destination you can't miss

Gwen Pratesi is a James Beard Foundation Award Finalist in Journalism and an award-winning travel writer. She is the author and owner of with her husband, coauthor of Southern Heat with Chef Anthony Lamas, and co-owner ...

I visited one of the most-loved spots in the Caribbean

If you're considering the Caribbean for your next luxury vacation destination, then set your sights on Anguilla. This beautiful small island in the British Caribbean is just 16 miles in length and may be one of the Caribbean's best-kept secrets. It's the place to completely unplug and unwind with its quiet, unspoiled beaches and warm ocean breezes. On a recent visit to this enchanting island, I discovered why so many people have a love affair with this special place and return year after year.

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1. Spectacular beaches

I visited one of the most-loved spots in the Caribbean
Image: Gwen Pratesi/SheKnows

Many of us travel to the Caribbean for the breathtaking scenery with pristine white sand beaches, a multitude of varying shades of crystal clear, blue-green waters and mesmerizing brilliant blue skies. Anguilla has 33 gorgeous beaches with some of the softest sand I've ever felt and water that's decadently luxurious to swim in. Several of the prettiest beaches include Shoal Bay East (named the number one best beach in the world by The Travel Channel and in many travel publications); Maundays Bay, which is where you'll find the luxury resort Cap Juluca; and for something livelier with a bit of local flavor and nightlife, Sandy Ground is home to beachfront restaurants and bars, such as the popular Johnno’s.

2. Luxury resorts and villas

There are many options on the island for accommodations with most of the hotels being smaller or intimate boutique properties or inns. One of the newest and chicest is the Zemi Beach Resort & Spa located on Shoal Bay East with its expansive 300-year-old mystical Thai building housing the Zemi Thai House Spa. CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa on Rendezvous Bay has its own Greg Norman designed golf course, several highly acclaimed restaurants and an impressive Hydroponic Farm that supplies the resort's restaurants with fresh produce. For a unique experience, rent a luxury villa at Sheriva where you can define your own experience with as little attention or as much as you like, including personal chefs and butler services.

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3. Excellent dining

I visited one of the most-loved spots in the Caribbean
Image: Gwen Pratesi/SheKnows

Seafood lovers will enjoy all the incredible fresh lobster, local crayfish (which is larger and sweeter than Louisiana crayfish and tastes more like lobster), mahi-mahi and Kingfish — to name a few — that are perfectly prepared at the island's best restaurants. Hibernia Restaurant Art Gallery was one of the first restaurants to open on the island 28 years ago. Raoul Rodriguez, a French-trained chef, and his wife, Mary-Pat, who is originally from Ireland, create French-Asian inspired dishes that are as beautiful as the view overlooking the water.

Blanchards Restaurant, also a longtime island favorite, opened in 1994 on Mead’s Bay. Regarded as one of the best restaurants in the Caribbean, Chef Melinda Blanchard’s dishes highlight the bounty of the ocean with creative island flair. For a more casual dining experience, the Beach Shack, right next door, serves guests until sunset.

4. Festivals

I visited one of the most-loved spots in the Caribbean
Image: Gwen Pratesi/SheKnows

Any time of the year is the perfect time to visit the island, but there are also numerous festivals throughout the year that make visiting even more entertaining and fun. Festival Del Mar is held on Easter weekend in Island Harbour Wharf. This colorful event features live music, the national sport of boat racing and of course, plenty of tasty rum punch, delicious, freshly cooked seafood and grilled lobster. The Anguilla Summer Festival takes place late July into early August and includes pageants, music, dancing, colorful costumes and street activities. There is something happening year-round on the island.

5. Friendly people

I visited one of the most-loved spots in the Caribbean
Image: Gwen Pratesi/SheKnows

One of the highlights of a visit to Anguilla is its engaging and friendly people. Within minutes on the island, you feel at home. The warm smiles, laid-back vibe and Anguillian hospitality are infectious, and you're soon among friends in this stunningly beautiful and magical place.

Anguilla: If you haven't made the trip yet, make plans to do so. You'll soon be one of those visitors who return to this island paradise again and again.

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