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Sonesta Beach Resort, Anguila, British West Indies

Magreb Style in the Caribbean

The tiny beautiful island of Anguilla, an hour's flight from San Juan, is currently one of the hottest, as well as one of the most exclusive, destinations in the Caribbean. Only 35-square miles, and with a permanent population of 10,000, it is particularly quiet and serene, making it perfect for travelers looking to get away and to enjoy the sights and activities of the British West Indies in relative privacy.

When guests wake up at the island's Sonesta Beach Resort, they might experience a moment of uncertainty. Marrakesh? Tangiers? The hotel, located on a strip of seashore, Rendezvous Bay West, on the south side of Anguilla, was built to resemble a Moroccan palace. During its construction seven years ago, handcrafted Mediterranean mosaics, arches and fountains were incorporated into the design, which combined with the nearby oceanfront gives the property a distinctive feeling of North Africa, particularly the Maghreb.

Sonesta Beach Resort, Anguilla, British West Indies

Each of the spacious, attractive rooms has a terrace overlooking the water and a three-mile stretch of virtually private beach. Hammocks and lounge chairs beckon those who are inclined to lie back and relax on the white coral sand. More active vacationers swim in the 12,000-square foot fancifully-shaped pool or play tennis on the plexiplane courts. Scuba diving, windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling and kayaking are also available. To explore the area on horseback, El Rancho del Blues offers daily trail rides.

One of the most pleasant aspects of visiting Anguilla is dining at the island's quality restaurants, whose count is high compared to the number of visitors. Since night life is nonexistent, long leisurely dinners are practically de rigueur.

Casablanca, Sonesta's main restaurant, overlooking the Caribbean and the mountains of neighboring St. Maarten, has a menu that is described as "new world" and draws upon several cuisines.

Hibernia in the fishing village of Island Harbour is operated by a chef-owner who traveled extensively in the Orient and now infuses his cooking with French-Asian flavors.

Although Melinda and Bob Blanchard run their eponymous restaurant in a beach shack with the sea and the sand as a backdrop, the tables are set with linen napery, silver, china and handblown crystal. Meals here include Asian, Caribbean, Cajun and California dishes.

Koal Keel, a renovated estate house, was built by Dutch colonists in the 1700s on a cotton and sugar plantation. Architectural details were meticulously restored and the building was furnished with many antiques, such as mahogany beds, chests and chairs, silver tea sets and Oriental rugs. To complement the wines in the 30,000-bottles cellar, French and local foods are served.

Visitors interested in Anguilla's history and cultural traditions will want to stop at the Heritage Collection Museum maintained by Colville L. Petty, curator and former government minister. On display are such artifacts as early farming implements used by the first inhabitants of the island and old records and photographs.

Native art is showcased at Cheddie Richardson Carving Studio and Courtney Devonish Art Gallery. Both men are sculptors who work with wood, clay, alabaster, driftwood and coral.


El Rancho Del Blues, 809-497-6164.

Heritage Collection Musuem, 809-497-4067.

Cheddie Richardson Carving Studi, 809-497-6027.

Where To Stay

Sonesta Beach Resort, Rendezvous Bay West, Anguilla, British West Indies. Tel. 809-497-6999, 800-SONESTA. Rates are approximately $200 per night. www.sonesta.com/corporate/index.asp

Where To Dine

Hibernia, Island Harbour. Tel. 809-4290. Expensive. Reservations suggested. www.hiberniarestaurant.com

Blanchard's, Mead's Bay. Tel. 809-6100. Expensive. Reserve several weeks in advance. www.blanchardsrestaurant.com/restaurant.htm

Koal Keel, The Valley. Tel. 809-2930. Expensive. Reserve several weeks in advance. www.koalkeel.com

Bruce Fancher

Spring 1997