The rest of the resort’s exterior is just as magical. We got lost in landscaped gardens and pathways and explored the endless species of different indigenous flowers and plants. That’s when we weren’t zooming off to breakfast on our complimentary resort bikes or hitching a lift in one of Cap Juluca’s restored, turquoise-blue VW camper vans, a story in itself that originated in Brazil.
In our suite, the outside-in, inside-out theme continued with earthy-toned, contemporary furnishings, accented with lush, eye-catching green illustrated botanical prints from the 18th and 19th centuries. The space was flooded with natural light, particularly the bathroom, which almost had an outdoor shower, the walled courtyard having no specific function except to embellish the inside-out theme from the bathtub big enough for two. Beyond our four-poster bed and billowing, lush white linen curtains, a private patio opened up to the beach, giving access to it within seconds. It was the perfect space for us to read, unwind and daydream. The resort’s higher-category spaces boast private pools and the number of bedrooms multiplies to three and five, ideal for groups of friends enjoying a milestone celebration or a multi-generational OutThere family on holiday.
Over in the Arawak Spa, Anguillian-themed treatments (crafted by our old friend Cynthia, a self-billed ‘contemporary witch doctor’ who we first met at Belmond’s property in Mexico) are on offer in a gorgeous complex with its own pool, gardens and treatment rooms overlooking the sea. If our visit during the resort’s opening already showcased some of Cynthia’s signature ‘spells’, we can’t wait to return to see what she cooks up for the future.
Speaking of cooking – and while we might have left it until last to mention the resort’s food and beverage options – Cap Juluca’s eateries are top-notch. At their most relaxed, the Cap Shack was the place to enjoy the catch of the day in a rum-shed without needing to leave the resort. Cip’s by Cipriani is a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth, offering swim-up breakfasts, from plump avocados to something more sinful and fried, and casual evening dining, with dishes inspired by the renowned CIP’s Club in Venice. Though thousands of miles may separate the two, here you can live and eat is if you were in one of Italy’s Belmonds.
But, undoubtedly, the gastronomic highlight at Cap Juluca is chef Andrew Gaskin’s tasting menus at Pimms, which champions locally sourced, freshly prepared fine dining. While the vibe may be a little more scrubbed up (literally, as pre-dinner hand scrubbing is part of the ritual here), the food – much like the chef himself – is a rather informal and approachable affair, offering a barefoot luxury take on what was consistently delicious, perfectly prepared, modern, star-worthy cuisine.
Many are calling Cap Juluca a game-changer. On paper, we’d wholeheartedly agree. Everything is absolutely on point here and, especially when it comes to service, the Cap is a notable notch up from its otherwise laid-back Caribbean counterparts. But we realise that, operationally, it’s easy to be a game-changer when it’s your game to change. What we’re most interested in when we visit a resort like this is its soul. Beyond the multi-million-dollar facelifts, celebrity ambassadors and perfectly crafted brand stories driven by talented London-based teams, what is it that really lies at the heart of Cap Juluca? And this is particularly poignant question, because the resort is now a Belmond, whose global portfolio contains properties that each have an individual and undeniable soul and are worthy of being described as iconic.
Hopefully, time will tell. Sometimes a fine wine needs time to breathe. At the time of our visit, we felt as if they’d put the ol’ guy Juluca in a very expensive, bespoke suit, keen to parade him around and show him off to high society. In doing so, he’s not yet been able to tell the real stories of what makes him truly magical. That said, we rest assured that the spirit of Cap Juluca hasn’t been whitewashed along with the buildings and that the tales are there and will soon be told. Every so often we’d hear a little murmur of it – like from our waitress Gloria, who has worked at the Cap Juluca for 28 years. For her, staying here should always be like coming home. For Chef Gaskin, it’s about celebrating Anguilla and its natural riches. For the spa manager Cynthia, it’s about authenticity – encouraging and allowing the place to be and develop into its true self.
We’re thrilled to have had the opportunity to come here to be among the first to see ol’ Juluca’s grand makeover. If you’re planning to visit soon, you’re just going to love what’s been done. But we can’t wait to come back to see how he breaks into that suit.
Anguilla is a beautiful island that has retained its natural beauty, unlike the casino-laden beachfronts of Saint Martin. As a result, it’s somewhat sleepy and its capital, The Valley, is no more than a high street. Apart from beautiful beaches, sights include the Arch, a natural wonder carved by the sea in the cliffs, and the island’s answer to a rum-shack, The Dune Preserve, owned by local celebrity Bankie Banx.
Photography by Richard James Taylor and Edgardo Contreras