A Home Away From Home: Peaceful stay with beautiful views at Solaire Villas
During previous visits to Anguilla, we’ve intentionally run the gamut in booking various accommodations, as each offers such a distinctive experience. This trip, with my in-laws joining us for their first time to the island, we required a two-bedroom and looked outside the usual suspects. While there are many apartment and condo-type options on popular beaches, we were looking for something a little more unique to introduce them to Anguilla and made a reservation at the new Solaire Villas.
The booking paperwork for Solaire is easy and straightforward. It even includes a grocery list option for those who would like to have the refrigerator stocked on arrival. Before, during, and after the stay all our interactions with Chris were top-notch… you can tell he is a seasoned professional in this industry and he offers genuine hospitality to guests. It’s the little things that tell you how a property functions, and operations were smooth here any time we reached out with a question. Snorkel gear? Ready for guests at the villa. Accidentally break a bowl? No worries! Fresh coconut? No problem - the expert landscape fellas at Meads Bay Villas will gladly cut one down and open for you. (And speaking of landscaping, I had not been on the Meads Bay Villas property until this visit and we were impressed by the lush and beautiful landscaping. It weaves in between the villas on a path and is perfectly manicured. The gentlemen we met working that day have talented green thumbs.)
Solaire, a sister-property to Meads Bay Villas, is located off Jeremiah Gumbs Highway (east of Blowing Point) with a beautiful view of St. Maarten/Martin. During previous trips we passed a sign advertising the green property, and the first phase has recently opened to guests. We learned that the environmentally-friendly initiatives will be rolled out in stages as the development grows. Right now they have their own waste water treatment plant, which captures all of the water used in the villas and recycles it so it can be re-used to water the garden. And in the future they plan on having some aspects involve solar power.
On our arrival to Solaire we were greeted by Delta, whose charming smile and hugs ushered us inside the villa with the trademark warm hospitality for which Anguilla is known. A local chef, Joseph Hodges, provided some appetizers that night. The spread was bountiful and it was nice to not have to go out that night after a long travel day.
Throughout the week Delta and the rest of the staff made sure we had everything we needed and answered any little questions that popped up. Daily housekeeping kept us with a plentiful stock of towels - I especially loved that they had two sets of beach towels on the patio so even if you took some out with you for the day, when you returned you had four more clean and waiting near the pool. Again, it's the little things. And applause to Shanel for such a thorough cleaning that week; she even tackled all the little things that can be forgotten at other properties, cleaning the make-up mirror, dusting nightstands, toilet paper holder, etc.
During our stay, Villas 2, 3, and 4 were open to guests. The outer shell of Villa 1 looks finished, but to my knowledge it is not open to reservations. No active construction was taking place during our stay, so everything was quiet and peaceful. Villas 2 and 3 are mirror images of each other, we were able to walk through both at different times and I snapped a few quick photos of Villa 2 on our departure day (click any photo for a larger version):
Villas 2 and 3 have a smaller living room footprint. If you are traveling with any children in addition to four adults then you will have a lot more room to spread out in Villa 4. (But you will not want to leave any kiddos unattended outside, as the Villa 4 deck currently does not have a railing; this makes for an unobstructed and beautiful view, but may be a substantial drop if you have any toddlers.) The living room in Villas 2 and 3 is more compact, as there are two sofas in villa 4, but there are plenty of places for multiple people to stretch out while outside on the patio. (And outside is where we spent most of our time even with the extra indoor seating in villa 4.) If you need/want a bathtub, these smaller villas have a unique circular tub in one of the bathrooms.
All villas are ocean front and there is a staircase down to a private beach area that is great for shelling. We didn’t try swimming or snorkeling on-site since we visited different beaches most days, but the beach was bigger than we expected for my father-in-law’s morning stroll and shell hunting.
We were upgraded to Villa 4, which is the larger of the two floor plan options on the grounds at Solaire, with a footprint that provides approximately 25% more space. The main distinction with this villa is the double wide set of doors on the pool facing side of the building, and a long wall of screens and doors wrapping the other side of the wall - all together creating more than a 180-degree view of the ocean.
In the future I should do a GoPro walk-through because static photos are limited in showing how expansive the vistas are with the main doors folded open. It leaves quite an impression! For anyone who hasn’t stayed on the south-side of the island, the views are incredible. My husband and I had been spoiled by this orientation while staying at Las EsQuinas during a previous getaway, so it brought back some of those special memories to be looking out over the neighboring island again. Villa 4 sits a little higher than the other Solaire villas and on the corner of the parcel, which yields sublime trade-winds to keep everything cool and comfortable, without any mosquitos seen nor felt. (Just keep in mind that the higher elevation also means that the other villas do not have the pool privacy that they may think they do, at least based on the birthday suits our neighbors were confidently wearing while swimming and on their patio one evening!)
For those whom space, light, and architectural design matter, these villas were clearly designed thoughtfully, and they embody several of Christopher Alexander’s pattern language principles. For example, every room has natural light on two sides (the master the second side comes through the bathroom with the gliding doors open), zen view, sleeping to the east in the master bedroom (glorious to wake to the sunrise), ceiling height variety, and a corner door in the master bedroom. Intelligent foresight is perhaps most evident through the the lighting design, which rivals any I’ve seen in terms of customizing multiple options for mood lighting, including different switches for different LED ropes in the kitchen and living area, lamps that light through the base or traditional lamp shade or both depending on the switch click, and dimmers installed in the living spaces. The lighting aspect was impossible for me to photograph properly at night without better equipment, and is hard to convey with words, but in short the designer really thought things through and the villa was constructed with lighting as a priority to set the mood. Even the multi-color evening pool light has a switch. It creates a warm environment to have such depth and variety built into the villa.
Adding to that warm environment is the art throughout the unit… again, nothing stock or standard design here. Unique touches and beach elements were woven in without being stereotypically “beach-y” in theme.
Both bedrooms have indoor and outdoor showers. We didn’t end up using our outdoor shower because the water pressure was better indoors, but it is a nice feature as two people could theoretically get ready at the same time. The master bathroom in Villa 4 is extremely spacious - you could probably fit a baby crib in there. And I’m not sure if it was the full-power hairdryer they supply for guests, the salt in the air from keeping the a/c off so we could enjoy the fresh air through screens, or if there is a magic water filter on the shower, but there was some good hair day mojo at Solaire that was not replicated elsewhere, for whatever it’s worth. It made getting ready each evening a piece of cake.
Mattresses were comfortable, plenty of pillows, and the built-in closet in the master bedroom was especially functional. The center bay has a flat surface perfect for your luggage to sit on at a convenient elevation, all behind closed doors. The other bays include plenty of wooden hangers and space for long hanging clothes. Lights come on when the doors are open and a full-length mirror is on the inside of one of the built-in closet doors. The second bedroom’s closet is traditional without the extra built-in fanciness, and that room lacks the walk-out deck and sunrise perspective, so if you are traveling with another couple, you may need to coin-toss who will be the lucky inhabitant of the master bedroom. Both guest bathrooms have two sinks, so the main difference between them is that the master bathroom is larger and has an ocean view from the sinks and indoor shower.
The kitchen was well equipped for food prep and is a true cook's kitchen. There were glasses in various sizes, plenty of glass bowls with lids for food storage and/or serving, several pots and pans to cook a full meal at once - and a GAS cook top. (Just be careful if cooking with the gas while all the doors are open - the wind blows the flame and this gets the handles very hot, so you can end up with a few finger blisters by accident.) We did bring our own oven-proof skillet and chef’s knife, which would have been needed in other places we have stayed on the island, but we would probably have been fine here without them. Before arrival, I read online that the villas were stocked with glasses for drinking, so we brought two insulated stainless cups to use during the day outside and on the go. (This happened to be our first experience with yeti-tumbler-cups, and wowza, even in the tropics, the ice cubes stayed cold all day at the beach. Cocktail game changer if you are a slow sipper.) The kitchen has a dedicated wine refrigerator which also fits tall 1.5L bottles of water, and both the wine cooler and the main refrigerator are equipped with an alarm if the door doesn’t close all the way and the temperature drops. There is also a dishwasher, which we have never seen in Anguilla, so it took two days to realize it was there… my apologies to our housekeeper those first few days as we had many dishes laying in the sink due to our lack of awareness.
The overall layout of the kitchen is great for cooks and ideal for a group. Fellow guests can access beverages without being in the cooking or prep traffic zone, and the width of the aisle between the island and cooktop allows for someone to be at the sink and stove simultaneously. I normally do not enjoy cooking on vacation, but given the breezes and ocean sounds with the doors open, it didn’t feel like I was having to “go inside” to prep meals. With the space designed and stocked so well, it was an enjoyable experience instead of a chore. If you’ve tried to cut with a dull condo knife or sauté quickly in a cheap pan, you know what I’m talking about when I use the word chore - it was a different experience here. And I could get used to that scenery from the counter everyday!
Patios are equipped with plenty of places to soak up that panorama before you, whether lounging or dining. The chic modern pillow-type loungers were a little more form than function for two in our group who prefer a firmer surface for hours outside, so we brought up two of the loungers from the beach that were not being used. But for most, the villa’s plush contemporary loungers will be the perfect cushy spot to watch the waves by day or the stars at night. They remind me of a refined version of an adult bean bag chair turned lounger.
Each villa has a private infinity-edge pool. The pool is very convenient to have so near the house so you can take in the view, get cooled off in the water, and have all the amenities or snacks nearby you want. I didn’t smell any chlorine, so either they keep the chemicals just right or it is a saline pool.
Several highlights of Solaire that I do not want to forget to mention… The villa is equipped with landline phones and free international calls in addition to local use. This feature was a welcome bonus as to stay on the island longer this trip we needed to do some remote work. Both the wifi and phones worked flawlessly during our stay. In addition, the unit has a high-efficiency washer and full-size dryer. We brought our own powdered detergent since we are used to not having any supplied, but if we had forgotten there was a large bottle already stocked in the laundry closet.
The location of the villa made an excellent home base throughout the week to venture to both the west and east ends of the island. And it was the perfect place to watch the Anguilla Day boat race… we even got to see the future winner overtake a boat to put it in first. All the excitement of a race without crowds made for a fun afternoon!
Obviously we had a wonderful experience at Solaire, and look forward to repeating it in the future. As they grow, there are only a couple little additions to suggest to take things over the top… additional hooks or a place to hang wet towels and swimsuits, a small shelf or stool for toiletries near the master bedroom’s indoor shower, and perhaps an iPod/iPhone dock in the living space for playing music. The comforters and linen shams over down accent pillows make for colorful decor and pretty photos, but as beautiful as it is, some day changing the bedding to triple sheeting or something that can be cleaned in between guests may wear better over time. But those are only finicky details to keep the review balanced… the experience is fulfilling just as it is now.
One more detail to keep in mind if you are a new traveler to the island… some of the photos on the property’s main website are stock photos from another country or site. While similar (plunge pool, ocean in the distance), a few furnishings are different and Anguilla is not as lush nor mountainous as some of the stock photos, so it could set up a first-time Anguilla traveler to be disappointed if unfamiliar with the island’s terrain. The real-life version of the villas exceeded our expectations, so my guess is the stock photos are just placeholders until their webmaster gets the property’s photos online since it is new this year.
On the departure day, our parents were flying out before restaurants were open for lunch and they had a long travel day ahead, so we decided to have an early lunch catered in by the same chef we used at the beginning of the stay. We found him via Shannon Kircher’s blog before we booked Solaire, but he happens to be the private chef that the property recommends, so guests booking chef services as part of their reservation will benefit from his kitchen skills too. Once again Solaire made the process simple, as the chef turns his invoices into the property and it is part of your final bill. You pay a flat-rate for the meal plus the cost of groceries. The only caveat I’d give for future travelers is not to wait until the last day to use his services as there may be a good bit of groceries left over depending on the menu that you choose. It was such a memorable end to the week, I'll write about it more in a separate post covering other highlights from the trip.
We left Solaire that day having been spoiled by the spectacular view, artful interiors, and kind staff. It was a wonderful experience and is definitely a place we look forward to repeating someday. With their opening special, it is an excellent value on the island. This summer's rate of "two nights free off a seven-night stay" makes the smaller villas around $257/couple (inclusive of the 10% tax and 10% service charge) per night when booking the two-bedroom with four adults. With their unique combination of luxurious interiors, dramatic views, and reasonable price point for the experience, it shouldn't take long for Solaire to build a loyal following.
AnguillaTripReports.com note: Links to any restaurants or 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 an opening special discounted rate, the opening specials can be seen on Solaire's website: http://www.solaireanguilla.com/reservations/.