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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Anguilla with kids: Our special activities

**For our first Anguilla with kids post including getting there, where we stayed, and our summary of Meads Bay, Savannah Bay, Sandy Hill Bay, and Shoal Bay West, click here.  For our second installment of beaches including Shoal Bay East, Rendezvous Bay, and Sandy Ground, click here.  Our third post describing our sample road trip day including Katouche Bay, Crocus Bay, and Little Bay is here.**

For our last post about this most recent Anguilla trip, we wanted to highlight two special activities we participated in.  

The first was a sunset cruise with Calypso Charters the first night of our trip.  My husband and I had taken a day cruise during our first trip to Anguilla, and we knew just how special it can be to see this beautiful island by boat.  Our daughter was a little less excited as she really isn't into fast boats - the ferry over from St. Martin was pretty aggressive for her - and she was unsure this would be better. My husband and I were picturing a more serene ride and told her we'd be going a lot slower.  Turns out we were only right in a few parts...  These boats move pretty quickly too!  They cover a lot of ground in the short time you are on them, so parts of the ride are very fast - keep that in mind if you have worried little ones!

Our charter took off from the dock at Cove Bay, so we got to enjoy some beautiful views of St. Martin while we waited.

Maundays Bay

Starting to get the hang of this boat thing a little  :)

Shipwreck on Sandy Ground

The oldest hotel in Anguilla, located in Sandy Ground, is currently being renovated and will soon be open for guests again.

The destination for our cruise was Little Bay, which again is only accessible by boat.  Sometimes you will run into several charters here waiting for sunset, sometimes it is only your boat  :)  We were lucky to only have a few friends join us.

This is Pelican Rock, which rises 30 feet out of the bay.  If you look very closely, you can see the rope you can climb to the top, and the right side is where plenty of tourists jump off each day.  We did this on our last visit and you will never get me up there again!  But it's a great thrill for those who like that sort of thing  :)  We absolutely could have gone swimming from our charter boat on our sunset cruise, but opted to stay dry and enjoy some complimentary rum punch (the adults anyway!)

The beach at Little Bay

Looking back toward Crocus Bay

Not our MOST picturesque sunset, but honestly - you can't complain for one minute about watching this from the water.

Pelicans and other birds frequent these rocks surrounding Little Bay- can you spot one?

Our daughter with Captain Craig...

...and first mate Carey after our trip back to Cove Bay.  They were both wonderful with her and made sure she had a very special trip.

We really enjoyed our experience with Calypso Charters and would highly recommend them for anyone looking for a charter boat in Anguilla.  They also run private ferry services from St. Martin (which we used on this trip) as well as several unique charter options.

Our second special activity of this trip was Festival del Mar in Island Harbor.  Obviously, your ability to experience this for yourself depends on the time of year you visit, but if you are on island for Easter, please be sure to check it out!  We had done some research about it before we left and knew it was a festival for locals and tourists alike celebrating Anguillan culture and their connection with the sea.  SO much fresh seafood is available - if you want crayfish or lobster during festival time, get it here, because it will be sold out on the rest of the island!  They also have live music for most of the day and sailing races of all types.

You want to approach from the west side of Island Harbor (coming from Shoal Bay East) and parking is available for a small fee in a few areas surrounding the festival.  You'll want to have cash on hand to buy food.  Even our very picky daughter, who won't touch seafood, fell in love with Johnny cakes (fried dough) and enjoyed herself thoroughly.

The colors of the water in Island Harbor are simply ridiculous.

So much deliciousness...

Myra, lobster chef extraordinaire!

My husband and I split this guy

Warming up for the sunfish race

Any good festival has live music!

Our daughter playing with local children.  We just loved watching her make new friends on this trip.

Start of the official sunfish race.  These kids take this very seriously, most of them having learned when they were tiny children.  We watched with the eventual winner's father and it was very obvious that winning this race is a huge point of pride.

We again felt so fortunate at Festival del Mar for Anguilla's safe and welcoming culture.  While I can't speak to the festival after dark (the party goes on pretty late!) we felt it was a very family friendly atmosphere and would absolutely take our daughter back.  She's still begging for more Johnny cakes!


So to wrap up our summary of Anguilla with kids...  Although we were uncertain about how much Anguilla had to offer the little ones, it turns out that they enjoy it just as much as we do.  I was impressed over and over again by how our daughter was taken into the Anguillan peoples' arms and hearts and how you could just see her falling in love with the island and everyone there.  It gets me really excited to further branch out and continue exploring the world with her.  Having these unique experiences and learning about different cultures is priceless and we will never forget the memories.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Anguilla with kids: Sample road trip day

**For our first Anguilla with kids post including getting there, where we stayed, and our summary of Meads Bay, Savannah Bay, Sandy Hill Bay, and Shoal Bay West, click here.  For our second installment of beaches including Shoal Bay East, Rendezvous Bay, and Sandy Ground, click here.**

One of the things we love most about this small island country is the fact that you can easily visit multiple beaches in a day.  In fact, we'd encourage it!  During the week we spent here with our daughter, we visited 12 different beaches and enjoyed something from each one.  Some beaches are empty, some are busier, some have shallow and calm water, some have more waves, some have better sandcastle building sand, etc etc etc.  

For those who might be concerned about driving in Anguilla - don't be.  You will be driving on the other side of the road, but the roads are all two lane and quite uncomplicated, and cars generally go quite slowly.  Get yourself a good map (available at any hotel) and you will be just fine navigating, although very few roads are actually marked with street names. You'll need to watch the map carefully and just count the turns, keeping an eye out for landmarks. The good news that it is very difficult to get lost, and there really aren't any "bad" areas to wander into, especially during the day.

This particular day, we decided to explore a few areas we hadn't seen before and then settle down at an old favorite.  We started by driving from our hotel around Road Bay to Road Point.  Road Point is located on the far side of Road Bay and overlooks Sandy Ground.  You will find yourself on a bumpy dirt road going past some fabulous villas, but the view over the water is particularly wonderful.

On the other side of the road, you'll get a great look over Benzies Bay.  We couldn't figure out for the life of us how to get to any real beach here, but the view was pretty amazing all in itself.

We then found our way down to Katouche Bay.  At first, this was relatively easy as there are several real estate signs pointing the way.  In the end, we had to stop at a villa and inquire about directions from a woman outside, but then found that by winding all the way down the hill into the Masara Resort, we found a very small parking lot and the beach ahead of us.

Katouche Bay from up on the hill.  This is Stephen Spielburg's yacht The Seven Seas  :)

From the "parking lot"...

...and this is the beach itself.  Small, but completely secluded and absolutely gorgeous.  It feels like you are in a jungle.

This is a relatively rocky beach so swimming might be difficult, but I wouldn't mind camping out here with a few cocktails for several hours...

Take memories and leave footprints!

The Seven Seas again

After enjoying the serenity of Katouche Bay, we headed back up the hill and made our way to our settling spot - da'Vida at Crocus Bay.  Crocus Bay itself is not one of my very favorite beaches - it's not as strikingly beautiful as many of the others and it's quite rocky when walking into the water.  But da'Vita is pretty special.  A beautiful outdoor patio and the most comfy beach chairs we have found on the island.  You will want to get there a little earlier in the day, especially if it's a nice one, because these chairs do fill up!  But when you land a few, you can enjoy a nice relaxing time with cocktails and great food.

Frozen mojito?  Don't mind if we do...


Oh, these chairs...  :)

One of the big benefits of da'Vita is that they offer very reasonable kayak rental from the restaurant. Around the corner from Crocus Bay is Little Bay, accessible only by boat, and it's a relatively easy kayak ride - it took us about 20 minutes each way.  There is a current so it would be difficult for younger kids (our daughter just rode along), but older kids would enjoy helping.

From the beach at Little Bay

I'd love to say that this picture, which clearly shows an empty beach, is truthful or accurate.  I work hard in my photography to make places look uninhabited, but the sad reality is that Little Bay is usually quite busy.  It's one of the only spots for snorkeling on the island and charter boats often anchor here.  There is a large rock to jump off of, which draws more tourists.  And you have the kayakers.  We didn't stay nearly as long at Little Bay as we would have with less people, but we still enjoyed our time.

Charter boats

Our small piece of beach was empty save kayaks though  :)

We got caught in a rainstorm on the way back to Crocus, but like most Caribbean storms, it was quick and relatively painless.  Settled back into our comfy chairs and enjoyed lunch, beach walking, and a few swims.  All in all, a wonderful day.

Next up in our last Anguilla post: two special things we did on the island - a sunset cruise and experiencing Festival del Mar.