Life under the radar in tiny Anguilla

A Caribbean island with 33 beaches, 100 restaurants and homes for less than £500,000. Welcome to Anguilla
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While Prince Harry charmed his way through Jamaica and the Bahamas earlier this year, his uncle, Prince Edward, was despatched to a dozen much smaller Caribbean islands as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Anguilla - Zemi Beach
On completion in 2014, Zemi Beach will have a restaurant, spa and gym on the 5.25 acre site beside a national park
In contrast to Harry's antics, the tour by Edward and the Countess of Wessex went largely unreported outside the region — and that suited little Anguilla, number 10 on their itinerary, just fine.

Anguilla likes to stay below the radar, a fact that, of course, has put it near the top of glamorous travellers' favourite islands. Property there reflects their buying power but you can still find a large new studio apartment for under £500,000, from the window of which you might be able to spot Chelsea-owner Roman Abramovich's super-yacht Eclipse parked offshore (he likes the island's restaurants), while other regular visitors include Paul McCartney, Sandra Bullock and Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown.

Sun, sand and feasting

Anguilla is one of 14 British overseas territories — Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Bermuda are among the others — yet it is far better known to North Americans than the British. Nearly 60 per cent of the 60,000 annual overnight visitors come from the US or Canada, compared with just five per cent from the UK.

One reason for its US popularity is that it lies just a mile from St Maarten, a half-Dutch, half-French island served by direct flights from New York and Miami as well as Amsterdam and Paris. UK visitors have to fly from London to Antigua and connect by a 30-minute flight to Anguilla's small airport.

Anguilla's exclusivity is shown in the sleek private jets that line the airport runway. This is a Caribbean island with an economy totally dependent on tourism that has avoided cruise ships and eat-all-you-can inclusive resorts.

two-bedroom house with gardens and a pool
£567,630: a two-bedroom house with gardens and a pool and views of neighbouring islands (020 7495 9580)
"The Government tried allowing cruise ships in once but it didn't work," says Jeff Goldstein, developer of Zemi Beach on Anguilla. "They have seen what's going on in St Maarten with casinos and massive resorts and they don't want it here. Anguilla has real exclusivity. You come to sit on a spectacular beach and to eat well."

The 33 white sand beaches on Anguilla are some of the best in the Caribbean. In fact, they are some of the finest in the world and that's probably just as well because they are the main focus on this 16-mile by three-mile, flat island. Away from the electric blue sea with seven marine parks and coral reefs, there are 100 high standard restaurants — impressive for a population of just 15,000 — a Greg Norman-designed golf course and a laid-back, safe vibe.

Boutique hotel

Houses on Anguilla range from £441,300 for an inland home to vast waterside villas selling for £3.152 million. Non-residents are not allowed to buy more than half an acre of undeveloped land nor any land that touches the beach so many choose cliff-top homes.

Prices are higher than on neighbouring islands despite falling 30 per cent from their 2008 peak but that hasn't deterred the New York-based Goldstein family from developing a condo hotel at Zemi Beach. They are building 73 one- to three-bedroom apartments of 1,200 to 3,700sq ft, most with sea views, to create a 140-room complex.

Prices start at £383,300 with annual maintenance charges including all utilities from £11,350. On completion in 2014 Zemi Beach will have a restaurant, spa and gym on the 5.25 acre site beside a national park.

The waterfront location of Shoal Bay is idyllic, the design by St Lucia-based architect Lane Pettigrew looks impressive and the Goldsteins are self-financed third-generation developers who operate three million square foot of commercial property in New York alone. However, Zemi Beach is their first project outside of the US so why choose Anguilla?

From £383,300: Zemi Beach has 73 apartments in a hotel complex with a pool and spa, at sandy Shoal Bay (0844 856 6879)
From £383,300: Zemi Beach has 73 apartments in a hotel complex with a pool and spa, at sandy Shoal Bay (0844 856 6879)
"Anguilla is familiar to wealthy Americans," says Goldstein. "It's private, exclusive and beautiful. We don't think it's the place for a large, branded hotel, which is why we plan a boutique hotel with the aim of creating a community."

Property is owned freehold but under planning rules most apartments must join the rental pool. Owners have 56 days use each year and receive 45 per cent of rental income. Average hotel room rates on Anguilla are high and occupancy figures at the three main hotels run at 68 per cent.

Off the radar

At the newly-opened Viceroy, an extraordinary Miami-style modern hotel in 45 acres with one million square foot of Italian marble in its entrance halls, studio to five-bedroom villas range from £441,300 to £4,412,900. General manager Jeff David says occupancy levels in high season are more than 85 per cent.

"As recently as the 1980s Anguilla had no electricity or running water yet now it has world-class hotels and attracts top celebrities," he adds. "People like Anguilla because it is off the radar. It's like a cool nightclub without a sign."

Contacts and factfile

* Zemi Beach: 0844 856 6879;
* Hamptons International: 020 7963 0614;
* Non-resident buyers in Anguilla have to pay a 12.5 per cent Alien Landholding Licence and five per cent transfer tax. Purchasers at Zemi Beach are exempt from the alien licence.
* BA and Virgin fly to Antigua from Gatwick. LIAT flies daily from Antigua to Anguilla.
* Deposits at Zemi Beach — of 30 per cent — go into a protected escrow account.

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