Prickly Pear, Sandy Island, And Scilly Cay: 3 Stunning Offshore Islands In Anguilla
Prickly Pear, Sandy Island, And Scilly Cay: 3 Stunning Offshore Islands In Anguilla
Published June 4, 2022
The Caribbean island of Anguilla is one of the most impressive beach destinations I’ve ever seen. This British Overseas Territory boasts almost forty miles of breathtaking tropical coastline that ranges from soft, white sand beaches to dramatic rocky cliffs. However, some of the best beaches in Anguilla aren’t even located on its main island at all!
If you’re going to Anguilla, you absolutely need to visit one or more of the offshore cays. The three I’ll feature in this blog are only accessible by boat or water taxi, but they make some of the best day trips you can take during your visit to paradise!
1. Prickly Pear Cays
The Prickly Pear Cays are the most remote of the offshore islands we visited, but they are also the most impressive. Located a couple miles northwest of the main island of Anguilla, this pair of cays feels like an undiscovered secret. Prickly Pear is rocky with some vegetation, and the water surrounding it is absolutely gorgeous. The beach on Prickly Pear might be my favorite in all of Anguilla.
Beaches on Prickly Pear
As mentioned above, Prickly Pear is actually two islands. Visitors are able to explore the eastern one. This cay has an unbelievably pretty white sand beach on its northern side, while the rest of the coastline is made of sharp, jagged coral. You can stroll along the sandy shore barefoot, but flip flops or shoes are a must if you want to explore beyond that.
Compared to beaches on Anguilla’s main island, Prickly Pear is pretty empty. There are a couple of umbrellas and chairs set up near the restaurant (which is the only man-made structure on the island), but if you walk further, you’ll probably have the beach to yourself.
Prickly Pear Bar & Restaurant
In addition to its jaw-dropping beach, Prickly Pear is home to one of the country’s premier culinary destinations. The Prickly Pear Bar & Restaurant (website | Facebook | Instagram) served one of the most memorable meals we had in Anguilla. Its open-air, picnic-style dining area might be the most idyllic setting for a meal in all the Caribbean.
Upon arrival, order a rum punch to sip on as you take in the scenery. They serve a set menu that includes all of the most iconic Anguillan delicacies: ribs, chicken, fish, shrimp, rice and peas, and lobster. It’s a bit pricey at a little over 100 USD per person (as of spring 2022), but it is worth the splurge.
Everything was flavored to perfection. The butter sauces served with the fish, shrimp, and lobster were all slightly different. Each one complemented the flavor and texture of the seafood it was drizzled over!
While you’re here, you’ll be treated to a symphony of little yellow birds chirping away and fluttering around. They’re called bananaquits, and they’re super friendly. If you sit near the birdfeeder, some will land on your hands or legs (it doesn’t hurt and they never tried to bite or attack us). And if you’re not paying attention, they could go after your drink cup and steal a sip of rum punch!
To top this all off, the servers, cooks, and boat crew at the Prickly Pear Bar & Restaurant are exceptionally friendly and welcoming. Everything about this lunch feast was spectacular, and I’m sure I’ll be talking about it for years to come. In short, foodies and beach lovers will not want to miss the Prickly Pear Cays!
How to Get to Prickly Pear
The Prickly Pear Bar & Restaurant offers water taxi services on days that they’re open (50 USD round trip as of spring 2022). The boat departs and returns to Sandy Ground. Since the restaurant is only open for lunch, you’ll need to depart in the morning and return in the afternoon.
We drove to Sandy Ground a little before 10:00 a.m., and we actually got to head over to Prickly Pear with the crew! This was such a treat because we had about an hour to enjoy Prickly Pear all to ourselves before the other day trippers arrived!
What makes Prickly Pear special?
The ocean off Prickly Pear is some of the most gorgeous water I’ve ever seen, not only in the Caribbean but all around the world. Words and pictures can’t fully capture how beautiful this remote islet is. If you’re visiting Anguilla and only have time to do one day trip, I would say go for Prickly Pear. You won’t regret it!
2. Sandy Island
This tiny island is aptly named: a beautiful beach wraps all the way around it! Sandy Island is closer to Anguilla than the Prickly Pear Cays, so the boat ride out here is a little shorter.
We visited Sandy Island on the only cloudy day during our weeklong stay in Anguilla. As such, the pictures in this section don’t do it justice. I’m sure the water here is even more amazing on a clear, sunny day!
Beaches on Sandy Island
It only takes about ten minutes to walk completely around Sandy Island, which has no rocky ground and minimal vegetation. The entire island is the beach! Lounge chairs are set up facing west, so visitors tend to congregate on that side of the cay.
Sandy Island Restaurant
Sandy Island’s only building is its bar and grill, which offers a large variety of tropical cocktails and all the Anguillan classics mentioned above. Unlike the Prickly Pear Bar & Restaurant, Sandy Island Restaurant doesn’t serve a set menu. You can see all their mouth-watering choices on their website.
We started off our visit on the right foot by trying their signature Jo Jo Rum Punch and the High Tide, a coconut rum drink with blue Curaçao.
For lunch we ordered lobster, a crayfish tail appetizer, ribs, and grilled mahi mahi. Everything was delicious and succulent, including the sides!
The cool thing about all of Anguilla’s most iconic dishes (lobster, fish, peas and rice, ribs, etc) is that every single place makes them differently. Each restaurant we tried (not only on these offshore cays but also on the mainland) uses their own spices and seasonings, so it’s a lot of fun to try lobster and ribs from a bunch of restaurants and experience the variety of flavors.
How to Get to Sandy Island
Similar to Prickly Pear, the restaurant here provides water taxi service, which is added to your bill. The journey over is quicker and smoother, and this one also departs from Sandy Ground on the Anguillan mainland. It costs 40 USD per person roundtrip (April 2022). Departures are more frequent than to Prickly Pear.
What makes Sandy Island special?
On Sandy Island, the food is good, the drinks are strong, and the water is warm and clear. It’s a very relaxing place to spend the day, and it’s probably the best of the three islands mentioned in this post for swimming (the water off Prickly Pear was a lot rougher).
3. Scilly Cay
Prickly Pear and Sandy Island have some things in common, but Scilly Cay offers a totally different experience. It’s only a stone’s throw from the mainland, located off the coast of Island Harbour. This little fishing village on Anguilla’s north shore has a unique vibe, a preview of what you’ll find on Scilly Cay.
Beaches on Scilly Cay
Scilly Cay is tiny, and only about a quarter of its perimeter is sandy beach. But don’t let this stop you from visiting! It still offers stunning views of shallow, light blue water and the main island of Anguilla.
In addition, Scilly Cay’s defining feature is the waist-high wall made of conch shells that encircles the island. In all my years of visiting Caribbean countries, I’ve never seen anything like it! The geometric patterns created by the stacked shells are mesmerizing and make for some really unique photo ops.
Gorgeous Scilly Cay Restaurant
As you might’ve guessed, the restaurant on Scilly Cay is this tiny island’s main attraction. It’s known for its cheap yet strong rum punch and delicious seafood. Enjoy your beautifully plated feast and libations under the cool shade of a shelter or in a little enclave of tropical plants with a view of the sea.
How to Get to Scilly Cay
Scilly Cay offers a short ferry to and from the island for 5 USD per person for a round trip which is included in your restaurant bill. You just walk out onto the fishing dock and wave over to the island. It’s close enough that the boat captain will see you! Just note that Scilly Cay is not open the entire week. Their current schedule seems to be Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Check their social media (Facebook | Instagram) to confirm days and hours.
What makes Scilly Cay special?
Even though it’s so close to Anguilla, Scilly Cay feels like a totally different world. It was the most crowded of the three offshore islands we visited, but this didn’t detract from the visit at all. If you’re looking for a fun, social experience complete with live music and delicious drinks, head straight to Scilly Cay!
Other Offshore Islands In Anguilla
Besides the ones mentioned here, the territory of Anguilla includes a few other outlying islands. These are Dog Island, Anguillita, Scrub Island, and the extremely remote and desolate Sombrero (Hat Island). As far as I can tell, no regular boat tours service any of these, nor do they have any facilities for dining or lodging. I’m guessing the only way to visit any of these would be private charters.
One Final Note: Visit All Three If You Can!
If you’re headed to Anguilla soon, prepare to be blown away! The main island and these offshore destinations have beaches will have you wondering if you’re dreaming. Choosing between the Prickly Pear Cays, Sandy Island, and Scilly Cay is tough. If you have time to visit all of them, you absolutely should!
Have you been to one or more of these little slices of paradise? Are you planning a day trip to one and have a question? Feel free to leave a comment below! Thanks for reading!
This post was published on June 4, 2022