Third Time’s a Charm: Wonderful stay with many improvements at Cap Juluca
Sometimes nostalgia can set you up for disappointment, but in the case of Cap Juluca, not only did absence make the heart grow fonder, but it gave time for the resort to improve and exceed all our expectations during a recent visit. If you have been waiting to go back to Cap Juluca given the ups and downs in recent years, the time is right to give it another chance. While we considered Cap Juluca our first love on the island, our experience there in 2010 and 2011 did not quite match its legendary reputation. We loved the beauty of the property and beach, but back then the value seemed to be decreasing (i.e. services being cut or changed), while the prices increased, which led us to other Anguilla establishments over the last five years. But after a friend had a positive experience this past winter, it gave us the desire to see firsthand how things had changed… and changed they have. All for the better! It was wonderful to see how the entire Cap Juluca experience has grown to fit the extraordinary location.
We drove up the attractive and familiar palm tree drive, and then on arrival were welcomed with a refreshing beverage - your choice of fruit juice or rum punch.
Check-in with Lockhardt was such a warm welcome it made it feel like “coming home” again. I had some food restrictions from my doctor this trip, and so Lockhardt introduced me to Chef Dean to discuss options at Blue and Pimms during our stay (the new executive Chef Juan Bochenski was off that week). Chef Dean mentioned a fresh sea bass he had for dinner that night, and that he had already communicated with the breakfast staff at Blue for our morning meals. This was my first time traveling at a resort while under such restrictions, and I appreciated how willing they were to accommodate them.
Our room was ready early, and the great staff experiences just kept repeating… we received courteous help with our bags and enjoyed meeting a kind housekeeper named Gwendolyn on arrival.
This stay we requested a ground floor room and the layout was similar to the upstairs luxury rooms we stayed in previously. In this version, you walk through a long hallway to arrive in the bedroom. The hall has the bathroom and solarium on one side, and a large closet on the other. This layout is well-designed, as you have plenty of storage for your luggage and clothes in an area that is separate from the bedroom. When living out of suitcases, it was a nice feature to not have any packing chaos in the area of the room used to sleep and relax.
There is something uniquely special about the fresh air, bird songs, and natural light found in Cap Juluca's solarium bathrooms. For me, it is a real highlight of staying at the hotel, as I try to squeeze as much time as I can in nature, and the landscaping makes it feel like I am still outside while I am inside.
(And if you are stuck inside on a rainy day, I can imagine that listening to the rain from the large soaking tub would be a pretty tranquil oasis.) In this version of the bathroom, across from the double sinks is another counter area that has a stool, make-up mirror, and full-size hairdryer - a great spot to get ready.
There are so many improvements in the bathroom from five years ago! New faucets and shower heads, and ALL the deferred maintenance that I was surprised to see in the past has since been rectified. New caulking, clean grout, clean light fixtures absent of any dead critters, and the entire bathroom was thoroughly clean during our stay. (Most places on the island, even the high-end hotels, seem to neglect the hidden rim in under-mounted sinks, which is evident when guests bend over to brush their teeth or wash their face - but this time everything, including the sink, was clean and up-to-date.) The bath is stocked with Molton Brown toiletries and plush white towels, which were in great condition and replenished morning and night as needed.
Speaking of morning and night, we forgot how lovely it is to come back in the evening after dinner to a room that has been refreshed from a turn-down service. Towel mats on the tiles next to the bed, along with Cap Juluca slippers were helpful as it took about a day for the room to equalize after we turned the a/c off upon check-in. (Tip: if you prefer to live with the breezes coming through the louvered screen doors and windows, mention this to the front desk prior to arrival so the room may come down to temperature before you arrive. If you forget, turning the fans on high helps to evaporate some of the condensation until the temperature levels off and the room surfaces adjust - but be careful in the meantime as the floors can be slippery.) We chose to forgo the a/c because an aspect of Cap Juluca that I love is the variety of native birds that sing just outside your room. Hearing the waves crash and waking to those birds is worth a little extra heat, and the mosquito net above the bed was perfect in case we accidentally let any guests in while coming and going from the room. The new exterior doors on the beach side are an excellent addition to the room from our last stay. They are composed of two layers: the first layer is large glass doors, which preserve the view for those who want to close up the room for a/c, and the second layer is louvered screen doors, which can be used alone for those who like to leave the glass doors open to let in fresh air. The second layer can be opened from the inside or outside as you come and go from the beach, and they also seal closed completely from either side in order to keep the bugs out.
Housekeeping throughout our stay was above par, the best of the three places we stayed this trip. On the rare occasions we had to call maintenance (a clogged drain and question about the mini-refrigerator), they were always prompt and efficient.
In the main bedroom, nearly all the decor pieces have been refreshed: new cushions on the built-in sofa, a re-upholstered desk chair, new bedding, and several new patio furniture pieces. The bed was comfortable, and this time the soft sheets were in perfect condition - no holes or tears. In-room materials were all up-to-date. And though we spent limited time in the room with Maundays Bay beckoning outside, the presence of the in-room iPod dock is a welcome feature missing at other properties. There is also a TV, though we never turned it on. In addition to Cap Juluca’s complimentary bottled water, the mini-refrigerator is stocked with an initial quantity of beer and sodas for guests to enjoy (another positive change from a previous stay). Later replenishments of non-water options can be billed directly to the room.
On our first evening, we had reservations at the resort’s romantic restaurant, Pimms. View from the table:
Staff were attentive, and the new executive chef is evident throughout a new menu and food that is more flavorful than in years past. My husband especially enjoyed the Anguilla crayfish and raved about the chocolate soufflé later in the trip, which he said rivals one he used to make at home from scratch - he said it did not taste like a typical hotel food version in the slightest, which is how he originally remembered Pimms. I skipped dessert since our waitress said the only option for fresh fruit was a rather large fruit plate and I did not want to waste such a substantial portion. The sea bass dish I had earlier in the evening was several notches up from our previous experience, and included a nice variety of vegetables, including some tasty chanterelle mushrooms. And the view from Pimms was amazing. We had front row seats on the water to glimpse both a manta ray and a barracuda during dinner service.
We slept happy with full bellies. I wrote that night, “We’re in heaven! … Room looks great since the refurbishment, staff couldn't be sweeter... Perfect arrival and first day.”
We woke just as happy, with those delightful birds singing and fresh breezes. Because of the dietary restrictions, we opted to go to Blue each day for breakfast instead of having it delivered to the room. (Another enhancement over years past is that now the continental option at Blue is complimentary.) And the spread is more bountiful than I have seen at Blue in the past as it includes hot entree options like eggs made-to-order and pancakes. I brought some compliant breakfast meats with me, and each day the staff remembered when I asked, and then they were cooked in the back and brought out to our table. I fully expected an extra charge for this service, but it was gratis. The kitchen also offers gluten-free toast for those with celiac disease. And whether you go to Blue or have breakfast delivered, your view of Maundays is straight ahead so you can preview the spectacular beach you’ll soon spend the day on.
The beach being nearby is distinctive to Cap Juluca when compared to the other top resorts on the island. Here all the rooms are beachfront and steps from the sand.
As I first walked out to the beach from our villa, I was thrilled to recognize Eulalie. She was my favorite staff member from years past - such a beautiful smile and kindness. She is at one of the cabana bar tents that are set up at five intervals across the beach. If you want to order a drink you can just walk up to one of them, or drop a flag from your lounger if you are vegging for the day and then the drinks (and/or lunch) can come to you. And the resort’s beach service extends long after it did previously (6:00pm now). Coolers with ice, complimentary bottled water, and towels were plentiful for guests.
And oh, those loungers… Bliss! I snapped this pic as soon as we sat down, remembering it had been five years since I last sat in one.
Life changes a lot in half a decade, but the loungers on Maundays are still the most comfortable: thick, supportive cushions covered with made-to-fit terry cotton covers. With nature’s beauty in front of you by day and the stars above by night, there is something about lounging comfortably there that prompts contemplation and dreaming. We had a hard time drawing ourselves off the beach this time, though my husband did partake of the complimentary non-motorized water sports by paddle-boarding one afternoon. He capped it off with their homemade sorbet, served daily to your lounger around 3 p.m., with the option of berry or coconut flavor. And if you love coconuts, don’t miss meeting George, the self-described “coconut man”, who will cheerfully cut down a coconut for you and create a hole for a straw. As fresh as it gets, they could market this tree-to-table coconut water. (Also worth mentioning - the hard work George and his co-workers were doing on the grounds as they tended to the landscaping, creating such a pretty backdrop for all to enjoy.)
The days at Cap Juluca were glorious, despite more clouds and overcast skies than usual. (Which is why a few of the photographs shown in this post are from previous years.) The itinerary was read, relax, swim, rinse and repeat. Of course plenty of activities are available to entice more active guests.
During our stay when I had already blazed through the books I bought, I enjoyed browsing the on-site library shelves for my next read. While many have made the transition to e-readers, there is something I like about the tangible feel of a book in my hands on the beach, and this library is a great resource for guests. We remembered it from the last trip, so brought along two new release copies of a book authored by a couple who are friends-of-friends back home, and left one behind in each of the library rooms. The wife half of the author duo had a massive brain-stem stroke several years ago, and her journey back to health and life is a remarkable and encouraging memoir of hope and new life against all odds. With a beautiful ending to boot, it should make a great beach read for those who find it.
If you are staying at Cap Juluca over a Monday, be sure to attend the manager’s cocktail reception from 6:00-7:00 p.m. at Spice. Omalie360 performing on arrival:
The quality of the reception was top-notch, with cocktails, Veuve Clicquot champagne, and plentiful platters of passed hors d’oeuvres. A real highlight was Omalie360, and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet and mingle with fellow guests, including happy honeymooners who had just arrived. Later that night, we spontaneously crossed paths again with several guests at Meze (downstairs from Veya) for some after-dinner drinks and conversation - one of the things I love about Anguilla is such impromptu friendships.
The next day on our departure morning, I rose early for the sunrise, trying to squeeze the most out of our last few hours. View from the lounger:
And that morning, even though it was before the advertised “beach service” time, Terrance saw me as he was setting up and stopped by to offer me a new dry towel… little things like that make such a lasting impression. I really cannot say enough about the staff this time, though I just realized I forgot to mention all the Blue and Pimms staff whose individual names escape me since I met many in close succession, but who were memorable nonetheless. It made us so happy to see Cap Juluca returning to its former glory.
It’s no secret on the TripAdvisor Anguilla forum that I can be a bit “finicky” when it comes to noticing details. (Having worked in the hospitality industry previously, it can be difficult now to ignore the little things from the other side of the experience.) Yet my attention to detail brain was able to turn off while here this time, as it was such a night and day difference from before. If I had to pick one thing to improve, which I am sure is already in the works since they have recently hired the new chef, it would be to continue to elevate the food program. To be clear, it is already an immense improvement over five years ago, when back then it was standard hotel fare. On an island known as a “foodie-type” destination, now it is just an opportunity to distinguish themselves with higher quality ingredients, as the other top resorts seem to have cut back on their breakfast quality in recent years. While the breakfast at Cap Juluca was fine, elevating it with real maple syrup, some fresh berries or other fresh fruits instead of mostly standard melons on the fruit tray, and having a juice or smoothie bar with whole food/from scratch options would go a long way. (You can order fresh juices and smoothies at Maundays near the Main Lobby, but the only smoothie options I saw on the Blue menu looked like traditional smoothies from a mix.) With so many positive changes apparent at Pimms, we look forward to seeing how Blue evolves with time and the new chef’s influence there too. (Have you seen the Cap Juluca Instagram photo of Chef Juan’s burger?! That photo looks like a mouth-watering gourmet burger, and certainly not mere hotel food. They could already be well on their way.)
In closing, we love the authentic Caribbean feel at Cap Juluca and hope it is retained going forward. Now that the deferred maintenance is being regularly addressed, instead of the resort’s age being a liability, it now seems as though it could be an asset… These days any cash-rich developer can build a fancy, new modern structure on a beach, but what is becoming increasingly rare is to find a resort like Cap Juluca that is so beautifully spread out across one of the world’s most stunning beaches. There is only one Maundays Bay beach, and with Cap Juluca’s low-rise structures wisely tucked into the landscape, it feels like a special and exclusive nod back to what many of us really desire a Caribbean vacation to be… a peaceful oasis.
So to those who might think the nostalgia of a previous stay might create unrealistic expectations or who may have visited during the rocky ownership dispute years… For us, revisiting Cap Juluca after a five-year gap, it rose above and beyond our expectations and has us looking forward to returning sooner than later. It was wonderful to be back where we first fell in love with the island and people of Anguilla.
AnguillaTripReports.com note: Links to restaurants and businesses in this trip report are just for convenience for readers to find information; this site is not commercial and it does not use affiliate links. Trip report above submitted with media by a TripAdvisor Anguilla forum member, "Cindy30A". Trip reports are only reposted in their entirety with permission. FTC Disclosure: Traveler did not pay full rack rates, but purchased a discounted rate that included a credit at Pimms; current discounts and promotional packages can be seen on Cap Juluca's website: http://www.capjuluca.com/caribbean_resort_packages/.