A Trip to an Offshore Cay 

As beautiful as Anguilla's beaches are, there's something about boating off to a desert island that is both exhilarating and liberating. (Cruising along in that clear turquoise sea is certainly a big part of it.) Visiting one of Anguilla's tiny offshore gems is a must-do during your visit -- and none is more than 20 minutes from shore. Here you can snorkel in gin-clear waters, beachcomb for shells and other treasures, and generally putter about a spit of sand in the castaway spirit. A handful even have ramshackle beach restaurants, where fresh lobster and fish are always on the grill. Some resorts, like Malliouhana, have their own powerboats to get you out to the cays. Otherwise, book an offshore excursion with Shoal Bay Scuba tel. 264/235-1482; www.shoalbayscuba.com) or Gotcha! Garfield's Sea Tours (tel. 264/235-7902; www.gotcha-garfields-sea-tours-anguilla.com).

The most westerly cay is the privately owned Dog Island, truly a deserted isle, 500 acres of sugary-sand beaches, salt ponds, and limestone cliffs. Prickly Pear is perhaps the most popular offshore cay, with great snorkeling and two beach restaurants, an offshoot of Johnnos (on Sandy Ground), and the Prickly Pear Restaurant & Bar (tel. 264/235-5864; www.pricklypearanguilla.com), where the drinks are made in a solar-powered blender. Both Shoal Bay Scuba and Gotcha! Garfield's Sea Tours offer twice-weekly trips to Prickly Pear for $55 to $65 per person (including lunch).

Sandy Island, on the northwest coast, is a tiny islet with a few palms surrounded by a coral reef, a dilapidated (and seasonally abandoned) beach bar and restaurant. During the high season, a $5 speedboat from Sandy Ground takes visitors back and forth to Sandy Island almost hourly from around 9am to 4pm. Of course, the closest cay lies just 150m (500 ft.) off the pier at Island Harbour. To get to tiny Scilly Cay (pronounced "silly key"), just go out on the pier and wave your arms (or dial tel. 264/497-5123) and a boatman will pick you up. Five minutes later you're at Eudoxie and Sandra Wallace's glorified tiki hut, Gorgeous Scilly Cay (tel. 264/497-5123; www.scillycayanguilla.com), picking out a fresh spiny lobster or crayfish (or chicken or veggies). You can snorkel around the reef or just relax over one of Eudoxie's Rhum Punches and watch the pelicans dive for fish. Lunch is daily Tuesday to Sunday from noon to 3pm, with live music Wednesdays and Sundays. This is a place to laze away the day; by the time you leave, you may have spent $100 per person -- but what a day.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.