The small island of Anguilla, in the British West Indies, is ringed with some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Most visitors fly in via Antigua or go to nearby St Maarten and transfer by boat. The drive from Wallblake airport to Viceroy Anguilla takes around 15 minutes, its entrance heralded by an impressive avenue of 165 palm trees. The lobby, filled with contemporary art and handsome bellboys in loose grey uniforms with natty white hats, makes it clear that this is a luxury beach resort that takes style very seriously. Opened in November 2009, the Viceroy is the latest hotel from a collection that already has popular outposts of cool in Los Angeles, Miami and Aspen, along with a sister group of urban retreats, The Tides. The brand is currently developing properties in Abu Dhabi at Saadiyat beach and on Al Sowwah island.
Anguilla is only 25km by five km. Flat and dry, its white sand beaches are the prime attraction, backed up with high-class hotels and an exceptionally good restaurant scene. Most visitors are wealthy, including many celebrities who can relax here without attention. The Viceroy lies in the west of the island, set between two fine beaches, Barnes Bay and Meads Bay. Taxis are expensive and it is worth hiring a car for a few days to explore at your own pace.
The Viceroy has 166 rooms ranging from spacious doubles to ocean-view penthouses and five-bedroom beachfront villas with private pools. All have been styled in natural tones by LA-based designer Kelly Wearstler, who has drawn inspiration from seashore finds. My two-level rooftop studio offers a grandstand view over the main pool area with engaging people-watching. The marbled bathroom is generously sized, and the four-poster bed with Italian linen assures a sound sleep, but it is surprising to find no full-length mirror in such a narcissistic property.
Good by Caribbean standards - elsewhere it can be notoriously slow. A request for a "Do Not Disturb" sign is never fulfilled, but lobby and beach staff are chatty and welcoming. Wi-Fi is complimentary and a shuttle takes guests to the resort's private beach club two minutes' away. The Viceroy is family friendly with a Kids' Club and activities for teenagers. Jet skis are banned in Anguilla - after waiting just 10 minutes, I'm out in the bay sailing a Hobie Cat over the glistening waves.
Cool. The Viceroy attracts well-heeled guests, principally from the US, who are tanned, toned and dressed in on-trend resortwear. A plain T-shirt from the hotel boutique will set you back by US$60 (Dh220) and even the gardens must conform - at Kelly Wearstler's behest, the only permitted flowers are white. Housed in a luxury villa, the oceanfront spa complements the resort's high standards with a serene ambience and extensive menu of treatments including massages from $130 (Dh477) for an hour.
There are five dining options at the Viceroy, including the principal restaurant, Cobà, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and unexceptional. At night it is so romantically low-lit, waiters carry a torch to help guests read a menu that includes local dishes such as Anguillan crayfish ($38; Dh139) and jerk chicken with plantains ($35; Dh128). My Caribbean prawn curry ($38; Dh139) is underwhelming and dessert fans will be dismayed by a standard issue list featuring cheesecake, fresh fruit and ice cream. But don't worry, Anguilla has many excellent restaurants - for a list see www.anguilla-vacation.com.
The palm-shaded pools. Both the adults-only Sunset and the kids-welcome Point House pools are blissful. Dive in for a pre-breakfast swim, kick back on a sunlounger with an iPod, enjoy a drink at dusk - it all works as a replenishment for mind and body.
The ceaseless piped music. Groovy lounge beats are fine for the cocktail hour, but not at breakfast. What's wrong with the sound of the waves?
Anguilla's latest and largest hotel is a smart beachside sanctuary that will please the sun-seeking, style-savvy international traveller with deep pockets - but it offers a muted taste of the Caribbean. And what do Anguillans think? "It's great," reflects one storekeeper. "Now I can go to Miami without having to take a flight."
Double rooms cost from $715 (Dh2,626) including taxes. Viceroy Anguilla, Barnes Bay, Anguilla (www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com; 001 264 497 7000).