Unwinding on a “Desert Island” off Anguilla in the British West Indies

You can't get lost on Sandy Island off Anguilla. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

You can’t get lost on Sandy Island off Anguilla. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

Sandy Island, two miles off the coast of Anguilla, would be a great place to film a version of Robinson Crusoe. You can walk all the way around it in less than 15 minutes. You could probably count the number of palm trees on two hands with fingers to spare. A few hardy shrubs keep the namesake sand in place. Other than that, it’s one big beach.

In Your Bucket Because…

  • You want to feel like you’re miles from civilization.
  • You already have a list of books you would take to a desert island.
  • You prefer the sounds of the wind and waves to an endless loop of taped calypso.
  • Good for: sun worshipers, beach lovers, readers.

Wait — did I mention one little amenity that Crusoe and Friday could only dream of? There’s a laid-back restaurant, where the bartender mixes lots of huge, neon-hued drinks with monikers like High Tide and Island Breeze. (If the idea of a hurricane glass with an umbrella in it gives you hives, you can also slake your thirst with high-end booze like Grey Goose, Chivas Regal and Courvoisier.)

Decisions, decisions: will it be rum punch or an Island Breeze at the Sandy Island restaurant off Anguilla? Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

Decisions, decisions: will it be rum punch or an Island Breeze at the Sandy Island restaurant off Anguilla? Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

The chef cooks up tasty seafood, chicken and ribs, all served with heaps of rice and peas, curried macaroni salad, green salad and coleslaw.

Yes, it’s even better than a desert island. It’s a desert island with catering.

No Crowds on this Caribbean island

The best part? You only have to share this tiny slice of the tropics with a few dozen other souls. The island–which has no permanent inhabitants–can accommodate a few boatloads of day trippers at most. It costs US$10 return for the 10-minute trip aboard a little shuttle boat named Happiness from Sandy Ground Beach on Anguilla to Sandy Island.

The minute island inspires admirable devotion among both locals and visitors. Anguillans have rebuilt the restaurant at least three times: after Hurricane Luis in 1995, Hurricane Lenny in 1999 and Hurricane Omar in 2008. After each reconstruction, visitors came back. These days, yachties sail from Anguilla, neighboring St. Martin and St. Barths, and beyond to make like Gilligan for a day. Visitors can book the whole island for weddings, parties and corporate retreats. Even the cast and crew of The Bachelor once dropped by, to shoot a 2011 Valentine’s Day episode.

If you're feeling really energetic, you could go stroll lazily around Sandy Island looking for driftwood. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

If you’re feeling really energetic, you could go stroll lazily around Sandy Island looking for driftwood. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

So, what is there to do all day on Sandy Island? Absolutely nothing. No one will try to talk you into getting your hair braided or going water skiing. You can’t check your email or watch CNN. You can bring your own snorkeling gear and splash in shallow waters that are clearer than the stuff that comes out of an average faucet. Otherwise, grab one of the hammocks or lounge chairs overlooking the beach, and prepare for the nap of your life.

 Practicalities

  • You can use credit cards, but cash is easier. Expect to pay at least US$25 per person for lunch, without drinks. (Hey, it’s not cheap to bring everything in by boat and run a generator.)
  • Bring anything you think you’ll need, including sunscreen, hats, books, towels, snorkeling gear and camera batteries. Aside from food and drink, you can’t buy or rent anything on Sandy Island.
  • The island is generally open from 10am to 4pm, November through July, but you can make special arrangements to visit outside those hours.
  • Reserve your spot on the shuttle boat at the Sandy Island website or ask the staff at your hotel for a current phone number. You can also just show up at the jetty and take a chance that there’s room on the boat.

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