Anguilla, a Caribbean island located in the British West Indies, is known for its beautiful beaches, excellent dining and laid-back vibe. Anguilla is a small island in terms of both size and population. It has been able to retain its genuine feel and not become a mass tourism destination.

Anguilla is considered an expensive destination with upscale accommodations, including Four Seasons Anguilla and Belmond’s Cap Juluca, but like most places, there are ways to experience Anguilla without breaking the bank. I chose the Zemi Beach House for this trip, a new property that you can book with points.

Why I Chose to Visit Anguilla

Anguilla is one of my favorite Caribbean islands, and my decision to return to Anguilla goes back to late 2019, when I booked a trip to Anguilla for spring 2020. That trip had to be canceled because of COVID-19. After Anguilla reopened to visitors and eased its most restrictive COVID-19 requirements, it was at the top of my list for a beach getaway with my sister.

In addition, there were two significant developments since 2019 that made Anguilla more attractive for travel using points and miles that factored into my decision.

Until recently, Anguilla’s appeal for award travel was limited. The island lacked airline service from the continental United States (or Europe) on a major carrier. It also lacked properties affiliated with hotel loyalty programs that allow points or free night certificates to be used for award stays.

Getting to Anguilla involved more effort compared to many other Caribbean destinations. Since American Airlines ended service to Anguilla (AXA) in 2011—from San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU), on American Eagle— flights to Anguilla from the U.S. were extremely limited and on small airlines, such as Seaborne (now Silver Airways) and Tradewind via San Juan.

Most travelers flew into neighboring St. Maarten (SXM), served by multiple major airlines, and traveled to Anguilla by boat (public ferry from French St. Martin or private ferries from Dutch St. Maarten) or a short flight on Anguilla Air Services.

For travelers seeking opportunities to use points and miles for a beach vacation, two developments make Anguilla a viable option:

  • Zemi Beach House, a luxury boutique hotel with 76 rooms and suites on Shoal Bay East, joined Hilton’s LXR brand in 2019.
  • American Airlines began offering nonstop flights from Miami (MIA) in December 2021. The initial schedule included flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but it’s been expanded. As of October 2022, service varies by season, from less than daily during low season to one or two daily flights other times of the year.
Zemi Beach House – view of property from the beach

Zemi Beach House – view of property from the beach | Photo by Julie Neafach

Air Travel to Anguilla

After American Airlines announced new Anguilla service in 2021, I booked economy award flights for our trip. With dynamic pricing for Web Special fares, I found one-way nonstop flights between Anguilla and Miami for 11,500 AAdvantage miles in one direction and 13,500 miles in the other direction. I booked my sister’s round-trip award for 44,000 miles from Rochester, New York (ROC).

Total airline and government taxes and fees are about $60 per round-trip journey from Miami but increase with U.S. connections. A separate $28 per person departure tax needs to be paid when leaving Anguilla. Credit cards are accepted for the departure tax, but it’s a good idea to have cash as a backup because there might be issues with credit card processing.

With morning departures to Anguilla (10:20 a.m. on our travel dates), an overnight connection in Miami may be necessary (or less stressful) depending on your origin airport.

I’m not going to review our flights, but considering the state of air travel in 2022, everything went as well as could be expected. My sister’s flight from Rochester to Washington-National (DCA) was delayed by more than two hours, but she made the next flight to Miami because we purposely scheduled a long connection time.

The Miami airport security checkpoint closest to the American Airlines departure area had extremely long lines on Saturday morning, but we were able to get through security much quicker by going to the TSA PreCheck line for Concourse E. Concourse D, where our gates were located, and Concourse E are connected airside.

Unsurprisingly, given high travel demand and expensive revenue flight prices, award availability at MileSAAver levels (12,500 miles off-peak or 15,000 miles peak for economy and 25,000 miles for first) or low Web Special pricing is limited. As of May 2022, the award calendar for November 2022 shows only one date with availability at or below the MileSAAver level.

Air Travel to Anguilla

American Airlines flights from Miami to Anguilla sometimes can be booked for slightly fewer miles using British Airways Avios, but this applies only when MileSAAver awards (American booking codes T for economy or U for business or first class) are available.

One-way awards for the 1,221-mile flight should set you back 11,000 Avios in economy or 22,000 Avios in the forward cabin. American Airlines uses two-cabin planes for this route, so British Airways prices the award as business class.

Our Caribbean flight guide provides more details about how to find and book flights through British Airways by using American Airline’s website to identify dates where American has award availability that partners can book.

Hotels Where I Stayed

On this trip, we stayed at:

I don’t have much to say about the hotels where we stayed overnight in Miami the night before our flight to Anguilla and the day we returned from Anguilla. We spent less than 12 hours at each hotel, and both met my basic requirements: reasonable award prices, an airport shuttle that operated when we needed it and acceptable rooms for a brief stay.

At the time I reserved the two Marriott hotels, both were Category 3 properties bookable for 17,500 points for one night and 20,000 points for the other night. Given cash rates, using points made sense. I calculated the redemption values at 0.75 cent per point at the Four Points and 1 cent per point at the AC Hotel.

On past trips to Anguilla, I stayed on Meads Bay, but I always wanted to split a trip between the east and west ends of the island. For reference, Zemi is located on Shoal Bay East (east end). Popular beaches with multiple accommodation and restaurant options on the west end include Meads Bay and Rendezvous Bay.

Turtle’s Nest Beach Resort is a condominium style property that operates as a hotel. There are two different management companies (the other is called Bella Blu) that manage different units in the complex.

This was my second stay at Turtle’s Nest, and while its rooms and facilities are modest compared to upscale properties on Anguilla, I think this hotel provides strong value and would recommend it to visitors who are seeking reasonably priced cash stays on a gorgeous beach on the west end.

We stayed in a studio unit for less than $250 per night including taxes. All units have full kitchens and washers and dryers.

Although the property doesn’t have an on-site restaurant, Straw Hat Restaurant is located next to Turtle’s Nest, and Straw Hat provides beach service to Turtle’s Nest and Bella Blu guests.

Beach view from balcony at Turtle’s Nest Beach Resort

Beach view from balcony at Turtle’s Nest Beach Resort | Photo by Julie Neafach

Island Details

I have visited Anguilla and many other Caribbean and worldwide beach destinations, and Anguila is one of my favorite places, but the island might not be the best fit for everyone.

Anguilla has a slower pace and limited activities. You won’t find any American chain restaurants or international shopping in Anguilla. Entertainment is largely low-key. There are beach bars and restaurants that offer live music, but there are no nightclubs. I primarily recommend Anguilla to people who like to spend time on the beach and water, eat good food and relax.

For some travelers, adding a side trip to St. Maarten / St. Martin, might provide a good mix of activities and relaxation. The French side (St. Martin) offers French dining and clothing-optional beaches, while the Dutch side (St. Maarten) has casinos, international dining and shopping brands, and a big cruise ship port.

Furthermore, St. Maarten / St. Martin offers more options for tours and activities, including things like zip lining, and is considered a lower cost destination. Especially if you fly to or from St. Maarten, it might be worth spending a night or two there before or after visiting Anguilla.


Given my preference for beach time and the short duration of the trip, I can’t provide much personal or current insight about activities. Things that I did in the past and/or generally are recommended include taking a day trip to St. Martin via public ferry or taking other boat trips that involve snorkeling, sunset sails or visiting private islands, such as Prickly Pear.

In addition to spending time at the beaches where we stayed, we beach-hopped to Maunday’s Bay and Rendezvous Bay. Many restaurants offer complimentary chairs and umbrellas for guests having lunch, and a few places rent chairs and umbrellas.

Shoal Bay East in front of Zemi Beach House
Meads Bay near Malliouhana
Maunday’s Bay and Belmond Cap Juluca buildings
Rendezvous Bay with view of Saint Martin

Shoal Bay East in front of Zemi Beach House | Photo by Julie Neafach

Meads Bay near Malliouhana | Photo by Julie Neafach

Maunday’s Bay and Belmond Cap Juluca buildings | Photo by Julie Neafach

Rendezvous Bay with view of Saint Martin | Photo by Julie Neafach

Live music on selected days and times is part of the island culture at many restaurants and beach bars, and Anguilla-Beaches has a weekly music calendar. “Sunday Funday” is a term used to describe the live music scene on Sunday afternoons. On previous trips, I visited Johnnos (Sandy Ground) and Ocean Echo (Meads Bay) for Sunday afternoon lunch and entertainment.

For this trip, we spent Sunday on Shoal Bay East. We walked the length of the beach mid- to late afternoon and noticed live music at Elodias, The Monoah and Gwen’s Reggae Grill. Gwen’s was the only place with more than a few people, and we preferred their music, so we had drinks and an early dinner there.

Gwen’s Reggae Grill’s famous rum punch

Gwen’s Reggae Grill’s famous rum punch | Photo by Julie Neafach


The dining landscape in Anguilla includes a wide range: roadside barbecue places, casual beach bars and restaurants, mid-range restaurants with a local flair and upscale dining (independent and resort restaurants).

We didn’t eat at many restaurants on this trip, so I’m including some favorites from previous trips and my friends’ experiences. Some of my favorite restaurants are Blanchards Beach Shack, Gwen’s Reggae Grill, Mango’s Seaside Grill, Ocean Echo Anguilla, Straw Hat Restaurant and Tasty’s Restaurant. Other restaurants that are highly recommended and on my list for future trips are Ember and Jacala Beach Restaurant.

COVID-19 Details

Since this information is fluid, visitors should consult the official source, the Anguilla tourist board website, for current protocols and full details. As of Oct. 1, 2022, Anguilla ended all COVID-19 entry requirements.

The requirements for our trip in late April 2022 were based on Anguilla’s April 1, 2022, revised protocols that are no longer in effect. At the time of our trip, only fully vaccinated visitors could enter Anguilla, and an approved pre-arrival test with a negative result was required to enter. We had to show proof of vaccination and negative test results to airline personnel in the U.S. and to Anguilla authorities.

Visitors traveling to Anguilla via St. Maarten / St. Martin also need to satisfy these destinations’ arrival protocols.

At the time of the trip, COVID testing was required to return to the United States, so out of an abundance of caution, we purchased travel insurance through Trawick International for less than $40 per person. The insurance would cover additional accommodations and food costs if we tested positive and needed to stay on Anguilla longer.


Renting a car or not is a personal choice. You can manage without a car, especially if staying on Shoal Bay East or Meads Bay, where there are more restaurants. Nevertheless, I recommend renting a car for at least part of the trip, since this is the easiest way to visit different beaches and restaurants. Taking more than two taxi rides daily usually costs more than renting a car.

We took a taxi from the airport to Zemi Beach House after arriving on Saturday, but given plans to spend all day Sunday on Shoal Bay East, we had our car delivered to Zemi on Monday and returned it to the airport.

I rented from Bryan’s Car Rental, a local agency that is a favorite of many regular visitors. I also have used Island Car Rentals in the past, and I would recommend both. There are other local agencies as well as Triple K, a Hertz affiliate.

My rental car (a left side drive Toyota Corolla) cost $45 per day, including tax. Drivers need to purchase a temporary Anguilla license, which costs $15 (valid for a maximum of 72 hours) or $25 (valid for more than 72 hours), through the rental car company.

Anguilla taxi fares are regulated by zone, and the island doesn’t have Uber, Lyft or similar ride-booking services. The most recent taxi pricing table and zone map are dated earlier than 2022, but the rate is consistent with the rate I paid from the airport (Zone 6) to Shoal Bay East (Zone 8) in April 2022.

Final Thoughts

I had a great time in Anguilla. Returning to one of my favorite islands and sharing that experience with my sister was special. Being able to fly nonstop from Miami and stay at Zemi Beach House on beautiful Shoal Bay East without spending $1,000 or more per night made the trip even better.

Curious to learn more about the Zemi Beach House? Check out Part 2 for my Zemi Beach House Review.