Have you been craving a taste of the island life? Try this duet of soulful destinations where the locals will welcome you in like family.
Cap Juluca, Anguilla
When it’s time to leave Cap Juluca — a quixotic hotel composed of fanciful, Moorish-intoned, seashell-white villas set on Anguilla’s picture-perfect Maundays Bay beach — I let my subconscious take over, falling deeply asleep in a lounge chair to the rhythmic purring of the waves, the sun bronzing my face, with my bags, still unpacked, waiting in my room. My taxi driver, Accelyn Connor, who has been accompanying me for several days as I explore the island, is concerned. He’s been calling my room for an hour — there’s a boat waiting to take me nearby St. Maarten, and soon my flight from that island’s airport will take off without me. Whether I realize it or not, that must be my plan. I’ve been smitten by this intimate, romantic hotel and the island, east of Puerto Rico, that boasts sinfully idyllic beaches and a population so congenial I feel like I’ve known every single denizen for my entire life.
At Cap Juluca, the staff, too, presents like extended family. And, as family might, a beach attendant gently awakens me with a kind shaking of my arm, rousing me from my reverie, the sand swirling around us in the breeze. A fond smile on her face, she tells me to rush to my oceanfront suite and offers me a rum punch for the road. I consider it, but I can’t take the time to wait for it. After I throw my clothes into the gaping mouth of my suitcase, Connor whisks me to the port, just 15 minutes from the hotel, where I miraculously leap to the boat, the last person to board — leaving one of my favorite places in the world behind me — like a mad woman sprinting to get first place in a marathon.
Ideal for a lover’s tryst or any intimate celebration a deux, Cap Juluca embraces like a caress. Here, you’ll want to laze about on the sugary croissant-shaped beach beneath an umbrella. Sea grapes, coco palms and short boardwalks frame the way to your villa, a copious suite with an enormous porch, capacious bathtub and outdoor solarium. Tiring of the sand, you might choose to kayak or take out a Hobie Cat. At sunset, be sure to book the 32-foot, yacht-style catamaran for a cruise to one of Anguilla’s superlative dusk time destinations. I anchor with friends at Little Bay, a stunning lagoon-like patch of sapphire-blue water, edged with shears of cliffs. Dinner can be candle-lit, beach-side in the sand, beneath a canopy of stars or at one of the resort’s signature restaurants, Pimms or Spice, which lie on terraces that hover above the sea. Lobster’s the thing to nibble at either charming eatery, champagne in your glass and the evocative voice of reggae artist Omari Banks, a local wunderkind who often performs at Cap Juluca, in your ear. His seductive, personal brand of local music is like a heart-opening example of this island’s soul touching magic.
If you go: Fly to St. Maarten and arrange a private boat transfer to Cap Juluca, one of the Caribbean’s most spectacular destinations. Stay four nights and you get the fifth for free. capjuluca.com
Soulful Valley Trunk, Virgin Gorda
At Valley Trunk, an intimate family-owned estate in the British Virgin Islands’ Virgin Gorda, Godwin, who has been with the family for decades, pours me a glass of champagne. Clasping it, I sit in a rattan lounge chair and look out across Sir Francis Drake bay as if I own the place. The sun has begun its descent into the sea, and the sky unfurls in purplish hues, which make a supreme backdrop for the bevy of yachts meandering by. Near me, Roslyn and Cindy, some of Valley Trunk’s most coddling staff, set a dining table on the terrace, steps from a centuries-old cannon found by divers at the bottom of the sea. I watch them bring out yet another set of tableware, exquisitely folded napkins and such, noting that during my stay each meal presents like an assemblage work of art as attention worthy as the seascape before me.
My day began with yoga by the pool, followed by a tennis lesson, and then an afternoon on Xanadu, Valley Trunk’s 68-foot luxury motor yacht, from which I leapt into the waves to snorkel wherever my heart desired. Back now, tired, dressed casually (a house rule, though one can do what they want), I ponder the inclusive hospitality of this place. It does feel like home.
In fact, there are no keys to the suites at Valley Trunk. This might concern you initially, but then you discover that this is only the first step through a portal that leads to an ethereal enclave of personal restoration — and a curative state of letting go that you may never have believed possible when you left that urban furor behind. That’s the point of Valley Trunk, named for the turtles you’re likely to glimpse in the inky blue sea that frames it. Here, you’re supposed to get in touch with what’s inside you.
Unpretentious yet luxurious, just like Virgin Gorda itself, Valley Trunk tumbles and rambles across 19 acres of hilly, tropical landscape to a voluptuous curve of beach, texturized by gigantic, lava-black boulders. With a tennis court, pool, a cinema room, common areas and a Bali-style beach house that conjures enchantment, the haven was built more than three decades ago as the hideaway and gathering place for an eminent, old money, European dynasty. Still family owned, the eight-suite property, with a capacity for 16-20, only became available for public use two years ago as a buy-out property — ideal for wedding groups and family reunions. Beginning this year, however, Valley Trunk can be rented piecemeal (by individual villa) during the shoulder season months of May and October so that couples and smaller groups, too, can enjoy its therapeutic effects and understated glamour.
If you go: Fly into Virgin Gorda Airport, where you’ll be met by Valley Trunk staff for complimentary transfer to the property, located 10 minutes away. Private boat transfers are available on the private yacht as well. valleytrunk.com