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Malliouhana Hotel: Caribbean Queen

With its white sand beaches and coral reefs, Anguilla is home to the Malliouhana Hotel, one of the finest luxury resorts in the caribbean
Harvey Steiman
From the Print Edition:
Gene Hackman, Sep/Oct 00

 Pelicans silently waft past my terrace as I recline on a well-padded chaise longue. The birds bank before turning to glide with the wind. Spying fish, they plunge 30 feet to the sea and come up gulping.

  I am savoring a cigar and a glass of Champagne on the lower of two terraces attached to my room at the Malliouhana resort on the Caribbean island of Anguilla. The terraces, jutting over limestone and coral cliffs, occupy more space than many hotel suites. Foliage blocks the view of adjacent balconies, creating a sense of splendid isolation. On the azure horizon, layers of puffy clouds turn from gold to bronze.  

Most Americans luxuriating at Malliouhana focus their attention on the sand and sea. The scrubby desert island behind them is not much to look at otherwise. On a map, the coral and limestone outcropping, 16 miles long and three miles wide, looks like a long, wriggling eel. Anguilla is a British corruption of anguille, the French word for eel, or possibly the Spanish word anguila, also meaning eel. The native Arawaks called it Malliouhana.  

Whatever you call it, the frowsy island has a heart that beats a little differently from its neighbors'. Colonized in 1650 by European settlers arriving via St. Kitts, the Anguillians seem a little friendlier, a little more welcoming than their neighbors perhaps because slavery never took hold here as it did on other Caribbean islands. Little grows on the island because of poor soil, and there wasn't enough work to keep full-time slaves. The slaves left the island to seek their fortunes overseas. Many returned as free men and received small plots of land once owned by planation owners. Here they raised goats, chickens and whatever they could grow for themselves. Today, most of Anguilla is divided into small plots with concrete blockhouses in various states of construction as families raise enough money to complete them.  

Unsightly as that is, it bespeaks the strong streak of pragmatism and independence that runs through Anguillian culture. In the 1960s, when small colonies were battling the British empire for independence, Anguilla struggled to break away from its unhappy alliance with St. Kitts and Nevis, the nearest British islands, and become its own dependent British territory. Hearing of the rebellion, the British, misunderstanding the reasons, sent in armed forces to quell it, only to find the populace lining the beaches waving the Union Jack in welcome. The forces stayed, built roads and installed electricity, which opened the door to tourism.

Until recently, most of the tiny country's economy came from industrious Anguillians sending money home from jobs abroad. Tourism is rapidly overtaking those efforts, focusing on the reef-protected beaches that ring virtually the entire north side of the island. Today, Anguilla is home to several of the finest luxury resorts in the Caribbean.  

Malliouhana was the first, opening its doors in 1984, and it remains the standard bearer. With its Mediterranean arches, terra-cotta roof tiles against white stucco exteriors and elevated terraces, Malliouhana's architecture evokes a seaside villa in Provence. The resort boasts one of the Caribbean's finest restaurants, a knockout wine cellar and a decent humidor. Owner Leon Roydon and his son Nigel run the resort with an aplomb rare in the Caribbean: they welcome guests and then leave them alone, making sure the staff tends to every need.  

Malliouhana sits near Meads Bay, which gleams in various shades of blue. The delicate grainy tan sand slopes steeply into the warm water. Though several other widely spaced resorts share the mile-long beach, it never feels crowded. Turtle Cove, the beach on the other side of the property, is usually deserted because it can be reached only by stone staircases from the resort or from the sea.  

Malliouhana's showcase accommodations are the outsized suites in the two-story Villa Bougainvillea, which spills over the cliff's edge at the far end of the property. The double rooms in the main building, bigger than suites in some hotels, feature white-tiled terraces with soaring views, marble bathrooms and rattan furniture, including some with four-poster beds. One-bedroom suites have large corner terraces.  

The six junior suites feature vast white-tiled bedrooms, gorgeous views through arched doors and king-size platform beds and glass-and-rattan dining and conversation groupings. Closets with dark wood-louvered doors line an entire wall. Three steps up, each entrance area has a conversation setting and a bathroom with a huge L-shaped sink area, tub and shower in golden marble. A covered terrace has two lounge chairs, a breakfast table and a ceiling fan, and down more steps is another terrace with two lounge chairs, a sun umbrella and a view of Turtle Cove beach.  

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