This is the story of a Tropical Trifecta on three little leeward islands in the West Indies, 30-45 minutes apart by sea in the beautiful Caribbean.
Fly into St. Maarten, the island that is half Dutch, half French.
Stay in Simpson Bay at the Flamingo Hilton for a clean beach with transparent teal water, oceanfront pool, jacuzzies, and in walking distance to many great restaurants.
Shuttle to Phillipsburg for blocks of shopping by the boardwalk or taxi to the Yacht Club for breakfast by the bridge and watch the world sailors and tiny kids’ regatta.
Island tours are available or rent a car for the day and it takes only an hour to drive the whole perimeter.
Stop at Mullet Bay, the longest and prettiest swimmable beach with lounge chairs and restaurants right near the airport.
Many people walk across Mullet Bay Golf Course to get there but hardly anyone plays it due to its poor condition. We did not, but believe it is a prime location if you are considering an investment and the owners are willing to sell.
Do take a sunset cruise on the Tango at Simpson Bay Resort’s Aquamania with music, bubbly and apps that serve as dinner.
St. Barts is the second island in the trifecta, reached by ferry on the Great Bay Express.
This is the isle of the rich and famous, drawn to the duty-free luxury brand shopping right off the dock but which is closed during shoulder (hurricane) season.
It’s still fun to be picked up in a rental car and driven to the charming airport with the shortest runway for registration and payment of 25 euros for a day of traversing the narrow roads, sometimes straight up the hills with magnificent views and baby beaches to explore.
The best of the West Indies trifecta and most Leeward Island is Anguilla.
Merely 16 miles long and 3 miles at its widest point, with 33 milky sand beaches contrasting with turquoise water, bright bougainvillea, and fuchsia flamboyant trees, it is proof that great things come in small packages.
By the numbers – 14k population, 65 restaurants, 7 schools, and lots of little goats. In 2017, Category 5 Hurricane Irma struck the island causing unimaginable devastation.
The villages unified to survive three and a half months without electricity and bonded to clean up and rebuild. Anguillans are as beautiful as their tropical island, genuinely friendly and according to our driver, there is no need to lock your doors.
Where else is that true today?
Aurora Anguilla Resort and Golf Club lies on 380 acres with a jaw dropping open view reception to the mini palm lined pool and the brilliant multi-hued blue Caribbean Sea beyond.
Our car door was opened with smiling greeters and a scented cold towel, as our luggage was whisked away.
A sweet gal held a woven basket for the towel disposal and the welcoming Aurora family offered a spiced rum punch or refreshing water bottled from their own RO plant.
Their punch has no Hawaiian punch hint. As the West Indies was discovered for its spices, the rum is mixed with real fruit juices, ginger beer, nutmeg, and angostura bitters, sipped as a tease to a flavorful resort journey.
This was check in, midway through the spacious lobby, with comfy sofas and the dreamy view promising a vacation like no other.
A wooden bead bracelet unlocks your ocean suite where amenities and service are over the top – a beach bag with towels at the entry, coffee station, snack station, walk in luxury closet, and soft robes. Soft were the soaps and lotions and sheets and even the sand.
The room extends with almost a private personal veranda overlooking the sea, steps away from the reserved thick cushioned beach chairs, quickly draped completely with a soft towel, and umbrella adjusted to your liking. More iced water is delivered or beverages of choice from C Level, the beachside bar and restaurant.
The Caribbean water is like a chameleon changing hues of tropical teals and blues by the varying lights of day, always inviting a swim to the floating dock.
Water vessels are included in the stay, to glide across the gentle waves in a kayak, sunfish, or hobie cat with or without a guide.
Stroll the beach or luxuriate by the pool and either way, feel the cares of the world completely disappear.
The full-service Sorano Spa delivers more serenity and bliss with a large jet pool and heated chairs beside it. The locker rooms have saunas and a relaxation room on the second floor overlooks the resort and sea for contemplation before or after a holistic massage or treatment of choice. If energized, a complete fitness center avails beside the spa.
Above the spa and fitness center is Tokyo Bay serving evening sushi with a sky-high view.
The lobster roll with cucumber, shrimp, shiso garlic butter, soy paper, crispy potato and sweet soy accompanying the lobster, melts in your mouth. It pairs well with a special rice bowl and sake or champagne.
The menu is extensive with fresh fish, grill, and garden options.
Dining at each of Aurora’s six restaurants is a foodie fest with fresh ingredients from their hydroponic garden. From creative mocktails to homemade sorbets, every morsel is a treat.
D. Richards is the island’s only steakhouse, overlooking the International Golf Course and the Caribbean with prime beef and fresh seafood.
Refreshing elixirs include the Scarlet Tonic mixing hibiscus, lemon verbena, and fresh lemon with the tonic water.
The Jasmine Fix revitalizes with green tea, ginger, honey, and fresh lemon.
Best of the mains on the lunch menu is the red snapper with roasted leeks, cherry tomatoes, hazelnut, and citrus oil.
Chef’s Table is front and center at the resort with delectable dining options served with smiles and tales of island life from servers like Janique.
Vishal, the Restaurant Manager takes pride in the menu items, explaining how the lentil flour crackers are made with powder from a plant only found in Afghanistan.
Sorbet surprises finished our evening meal – a creamy coconut and a pineapple lemongrass. Sweet and savory is the name of the game beyond golf at Aurora.
Golf and cuisine distinguish Aurora from all the West Indies resorts.
The 18-hole International Course was designed by Greg Norman, originally called Temenos, then CuisinArt before Aurora.
Director of Golf, Scott DeLong has served Aurora for 9 years, through Hurricane Ian and the pandemic which he refers to as Operation Iron Dome. The island was shuttered and never had a case of Covid. He reopened for three days a week as the only employee on board.
When the course sat for a year and a half, they recalled Norman for a remaster with minor changes. The Aussie knows how to style island courses and it is fit for a king.
Number ten has it all with lakes, a stonework bridge and ocean vista. Sea birds perform aerial shows and iguanas form galleries. Originally a private club, it now has 112 members and draws visitors from around the islands and the world.
Norman also created the Avalon Links Short Course with 9 fun holes to zip around while enjoying the same exhilarating views. It begins facing the ocean and concludes along a stream with waterfalls.
Each course has a fully merchandised pro shop with fine logo apparel and rental clubs but beware – the round might cost more than expected if you fall in love with their TaylorMade Stealth set.
Happy hour at the Rendezvous Lobby Bar features two for one specials and live music on the weekends. For live concerts and movies, a grand amphitheater was built by number 14 of the International Golf Course. Food trucks and pop-up bars serve patrons there.
Everything feels fresh at Aurora, partly because much of it is so new, and mostly because it is well cared for.
Built in 2006, Aurora was recently purchased by Richard Schultz, founder of Best Buy, who selected Salamander Hotels and Resorts for hospitality management, ensuring a quality luxury experience. Multiple phases are in progress to add more accommodations, real estate, and entertainment center with water park, sports courts, and kids club based on Schultz’ family input on what they expect when they vacation.
A bonus up the beach, by the elegant resort, is a crazy shack belonging to Anguilla’s music icon, Banky Banx. He hails from the Bob Marley days and partnered with the late Jimmy Buffet.
The Dune Preserve as he calls it is his jamming spot with his son and musician friends where guests can listen and party or attend the annual Moonsplash Music Festival.
By recommendation of the lobby bartenders Osborne and Zenrique, we strolled up after dinner for his “Sunday School” to catch the last of the evening repertoire, “Smokin’, Smokin’, Smokin” and we still can’t get it out of our heads.
At Aurora Resort and Golf Club, guests are spoiled like royals with a personal contact like Rakeem to text for any little thing. Turndown service includes fresh glass water bottles and a forecast for the next day. Fun is always in the forecast.
To get there, fly Aurora’s private jet or from Miami to Anguilla direct on American Airlines. Or fly most carriers to St. Martin and catch the Calypso fast and fun ferry gliding out of Simpson Bay, then bouncing over the waves to Blowing Point, Anguilla. From there it is a short drive by arranged car to Aurora. It’s left side of the road driving on this British Isle. That goes for golf carts too.
Fall shoulder season is less crowded so you own the courses, the beach, and the water toys. It is a risky bet however, given the hurricane season.
We lucked out and were blown away by the resort rather than wind while there. However, when we returned to St. Maarten for two nights before our flight home, we were hotel bound for the day before departure as a hurricane skirted the islands and the government shut all of St. Maarten down out of precaution due to the Irma disaster.
The next day the airport was efficiently transporting both days’ flights and we were home free. It goes down in the books as one of our best trips ever!
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