Anguilla has never been famous. A small, eel-shaped island in the Caribbean—anguilla means eel in Italian—this British territory has always been overshadowed by its neighbors, especially glamorous French St. Bart's. While St. Bart's has long been a tabloid celebrity, Anguilla was the nice guy whose name you can't quite remember.
That is beginning to change. Along with astonishing beaches—there are more than 30 of them, the color and purity of expensive stationery—Anguilla now has equally astonishing new resorts and an energized restaurant scene. Without much fanfare, the island has become the place in the Caribbean for an heiress to rent a fully staffed private mansion and stuff it full of fab friends. The airport was expanded earlier this year so that the likes of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston (back when they enjoyed each other's company) could land here, instead of arriving by ferry from St. Martin. Denzel Washington recently vacationed here, as did Uma Thurman, and so did Beyoncé Knowles and her beau, Jay-Z.
Until recently, the most coveted rooms on Anguilla were found at three posh Mediterranean-inspired resorts: Malliouhana, which opened in 1984 and has an enormous spa and renowned wine cellar; Cap Juluca, which followed in 1988 and is widely considered the island's finest property; and CuisinArt, which launched in 1999 with white stucco and sky-blue domes. But competition now comes from the growing number of absurdly luxurious villa retreats. Among the most ambitious is Altamer, a modernist complex consisting of three villas named for gemstones. The Russian Amethyst launched first, in 2000; the Brazilian Emerald followed in 2003; and I stayed at the newest, the African Sapphire, which opened last fall.