News & Reviews Caribbean & Mexico Anguilla Review: Cap Juluca, Anguilla

Dorsia Rating:

3.5/5

Arriving in Anguilla isn’t quite the paradise the posters promise. You land at an airport that looks like it survived a medieval siege, whilst being attacked by a hurricane.  Then you endure a twenty-minute drive through an area that would make even Detroiters wince. When you finally arrive at Cap Juluca, things don’t immediately improve. The front of the hotel overlooks a scabby lake that resembles a swamp, complete with a half-built structure looming beside it.

But then, just past the hotel, you encounter one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen—a stunning, mile-long stretch of incredibly soft sand and gentle waves. The ocean is a brilliant shade of blue, with warm, inviting water. The beach is an endless expanse of perfect white sand, and beyond the shores lies a lush, green paradise where chickens roam freely around the property, adding to its rustic charm. The setting is undeniably stunning.  That is, unless you show up at the wrong time, and your spectacular view becomes a sprawling field of seagrass, that makes it look like the ocean vomited up a salad.

Welcome

It seems that some of the generosity from Cheval Blanc is starting to influence Belmond, given their shared ownership. Not all of it though.  Upon arrival, we were greeted with cookies, fresh coconuts, and an adorable kids’ backpack with a wooden camera inside. However, they missed sending the pre-arrival package that we received at Belmond Maroma.  Still, they gave a very warm welcome and spoke a lot about family.  And we were family.  Until I randomly checked what was on TV, saw they offered the bill and discovered $300 in charges for items we were never informed would be billed.

Room

With 108 rooms (soon to be 113), the rooms are well spaced out and organised into units referred to as villas, each featuring distinct layouts and room configurations.  We stayed in #1401, a Pool Suite which was paired with a connecting Deluxe King room.  Just to confuse you even more, some of the villas are sold as villas, even though they are located farthest from the resort’s main amenities for no apparent reason.

The rooms follow an intriguing design.  They were fully refurbished during Irma, which is around the same time Belmond purchased the property.  So they mostly feel new, but in the Belmond way that gives a sense of place.  This place is Marrakech meets the Caribbean. The hotel’s design is a nod to Moroccan style, complete with tall ceilings and dome-like areas for the fans.  The reason behind this is unknown, but rumour has it that it involved someone misinterpreting “Caribbean chic” as “Caribbean sheik.”

Upon entering the living/dining room area, you’re greeted by a six-seater dining table. There’s a sofa that can be converted into a bed in the living area, facing the TV, and large glass windowsthat look out into the garden with distant views of the ocean.  There’s also a kitchen area and an additional bathroom with a shower near the entrance.

Outside, a shaded outdoor area with a dining table, multiple sun chairs, and a sofa perfect for basking in the sun.  Our pool was large and warm enough to keep the kids entertained and the neighbours wishing they were in another room.  Beyond this is an open garden area with steps leading down to the beach. On the beach, you’ll find your own private chairs reserved for you, complete with complimentary drinks.

Right outside your room, there’s a public pathway where passersby can stroll past your garden on their way to the beach. This lack of privacy is the primary downside of a property that boasts beach access for every room.  Yes, all the villas at the resort are strategically lined up along the beach, ensuring each room is steps away from the reason you’re here.  So on one hand, this accessibility is a significant perk, as it extends even to the most basic room categories—a rarity in beachfront properties. However, this openness means that true privacy requires booking a villa where the pool is enclosed within a courtyard. If seclusion is your priority, it’s safe to say this might not be the place for your private sunbathing escapades.

Inside, the room is remarkably dark, made worse by the incomprehensible light switches. There are several random annoyances: the shower in the guest room was broken, the TV in the living room wouldn’t turn on, and the light on the phone beside the bed wouldn’t turn off. When we opened a large wooden window in the living room, part of it fell off. The door lock to get outside seemed to be designed by a sadist, and the shower constantly floods the bathroom, making it a slip hazard for the kids. On our second night, water even flooded the entrance of our room due to heavy rain. These are the kind of issues that shouldn’t happen in a place like this.

If you ignore the numerous points where my children almost died, it’s actually alright.  The design does not wow – that’s not because it’s old, it certainly doesn’t feel it, it’s just too simple and dark for my liking.  The furnishings use lighter colours but somehow act as a sunlight reflector, and the room still looks like the basement from Barbarian.  It does incentivize you to be outside, and there are definitely worse places to be, but the humidity and mosquitos sometimes make it a Sophie’s Choice.  Yes, I compared getting a bit hot or being in a dark room to choosing which child you love the most – it’s completely comparable.

At least you can easily drown your sorrows—the minibar is free the first time, then they charge for replenishment. It’s very generous as it includes the kitchen, which has a large fridge filled with complimentary drinks.

Facilities

The entrance of Cap Juluca guides you towards the beach, with an entrance that immediately shows off the scenery.  As you get closer, you’ll start to notice the boutique on one side, and the art gallery on the other, trying to convince you that a beach is shit when you can’t buy it.  There’s also a small library, before you reach the large shaded, indoor/outdoor open living area, perfect for just lounging in or having a drink.  It’s right next to a bar, which leads through to Uchu, their Peruvian restaurant that offers their small but iconic pool.  It’s in a courtyard, weirdly positioned beside dining tables.  Luckily there is a more practical, much larger pool downstairs, but iconic is not the word for it.

In front of you are two more restaurants, so dining options are conveniently concentrated in this area, except for the Cap Shack, which is alllllllllll the way down the other end of the beach. You might need a drink just to get there, but luckily they’ve got that covered with charming two-seater bars scattered along the beach.

The resort offers motorised water sports, a basketball court with a pickleball option, a tennis court, and even a nursery for growing their own food.

They also provide a valet service for the buggies, so you can just roll your vehicle in there, Ace Ventura style, and let someone else handle the damage.

The gym is phenomenal for a resort of this size—it puts most city hotels, and certainly all I’ve visited lately, to shame. It’s huge, with endless, new TechnoGym equipment, with separate areas for strength and cardio. Then there’s the new Guerlain spa, which took over two years to build and has just launched—sadly, only a few weeks after our stay.  In the mean time they converted one of the villas into a spa, but this review is published since the new one opened, so what really was the point in you reading this sentence?

If you’re into something beyond laying on a beach, getting bitten by mosquitos, sweating profusely and getting heatstroke, there are alternatives.  They have a scheduled list of complimentary activities.  There’s also horse riding on the beach, if you want a potentially rogue animal between your legs. The water sports centre offers motorised options. And don’t miss the champagne cutting at 6pm, where guests get to awkwardly fumble with corks and swords in an attempt to make the national news by having their thumb sewn back on, using the hoof of a horse.  Just don’t ask where it came from.

Kids Friendly

If we hadn’t already experienced the dismal state of Nannie’s in BVI, we would have switched to someone with an actual personality. Instead, we knew this was as good as it gets.  The kids club boasts daily scheduled activities, but in reality appeared to be a small room with some toys. We dropped by a few times, and it was emptier than a ghost town—no kids, no adults, just tumbleweeds. It’s often deserted, probably because they seem to scatter staff across different departments. The room itself is depressingly quiet, but luckily the babysitter tried to liven it up by suggesting we put the TV on for our daughter.  Another sitter was streaming YouTube to our daughter when we came back in.  It takes the “care” out of “childcare”.   I might as well have put Bluey in charge.  On the brighter side, there were no other children at the resort the entire time we were there—talk about exclusive.

Service

Now, this is the Caribbean, so you might expect there to be issues.  Well, shame on you, you judgemental son of a bitch.  Not because you’re wrong, it’s just bad to judge – didn’t your parents teach you anything?

Every room is assigned a host, which is a glorified receptionist rather than butler.  We mostly communicated via WhatsApp, which I do like because 1). I hate talking on the phone and 2).  I have all their flaws in writing so can rub it their faces when I write these reviews.

It often felt like we were assigned someone off the street rather than a trained professional. We asked to have incorrect charges removed from our bill; they weren’t. We requested engineering to fix something; it wasn’t done. We inquired about free laundry for kids; nope, not that either. Each time, we were told it had been handled.

Everyone was always eager to say hello and chat, check in with us, but there was little activity beyond that.

Housekeeping was particularly poor – we had to call and repeatedly ask for them to come.  We requested room service at 9 am, it was acknowledged, but they showed up nearly four hours later. Sometimes it felt like they shouldn’t bother at all, as one person would come and do so little—it was basically just making the bed.  Housekeeping showed up hours late in the evening too. When phoning to complain we were greeted with bewilderment that we found it an issue.

At breakfast, help carrying plates was a foreign concept, and when I asked for a juice I was just pointed in the direction of it. Any other place, they’d have gotten it for us – especially seeing we were trying to get two young children settled in. And especially because during breakfast most staff stood around doing nothing.

This trend of having a host, I feel, adds little to a property.  It distorts between a butler and just dealing with reception.  Seeing our host was away for a day, it was like starting from scratch with requests, which unsurprisingly didn’t get done anyway.   Seeing that rarely anything was done, nor did he often check in on us, the title of “host” added very little.  Is it better than receptionist?  Yes, but if done properly.  At Cheval Blanc St. Barths, our butler would be there during turndown and ensure our room was setup properly.  Here, a host, is just to answer your questions.  He did at least try to improve things and acknowledge the issues with housekeeping and managed, in the end, to fix it. But it took unnecessary effort to get it fixed, after trying for three days.

I don’t expect top-notch service where everyone knows my name, room number, and preferences from day one. But after four days, having to repeatedly provide the same information and getting greeted by blank stares, like we’ve never met before, gets annoying. In the restaurants, we were asked for our room number, name, and allergies at every meal, only to have people double-check this information constantly.

Food

Breakfast at Cap Juluca is a delightful experience, with the ocean right next to you, sunlight streaming in, and a refreshing breeze.  All of which quickly became irrelevant the moment I saw the large buffet selection.  It features a wide variety of fruits, pastries, cooked items and everything that gets those endorphins more lit up than an Icelandic volcano. The pastries change regularly, with their brioche with cream being an absolute masterpiece. There is also an à la carte menu for additional options.

The rest of the food is also an absolute gem. Uchu, their Peruvian restaurant is a standout, serving lunch and dinner that are worth the wait—though be prepared, it can be a mighty long wait. The portions are generous; a single course is often enough. If you order two courses, you might spend half the day waiting and the other half eating. Still, I did not expect to find such excellent Peruvian cuisine in the Caribbean.

In fact, everywhere the food was superb.  For lunch, you can also have it amongst your loungers by the beach, or the Cap Shack, for more relaxed dining options.  Think chicken wings, poke bowl, kinda easy going food but still decent.  The problem was that everywhere we go it’s so slow to get served – even to get bread takes an age

At dinner, Cip’s and Pimms open – both are within the same building, but have a different decor, menu and vibe. Cip’s offers Italian with a stunning oceanfront dining experience. With full views of the epic beach and ocean, you can enjoy the soothing sounds of the waves while indulging in classic Italian cuisine. Pimms is adjacent to Cip’s but with its own distinct decor and entrance, Pimms offers a more fine dining experience, but we still took our 3 and 1 year old, who were remarkably well behaved and everyone escaped alive. The menu here is diverse, featuring standout dishes like the incredible scallop starter.

It’s very kid-friendly with different menus in each restaurant, and it’s not just the usual burgers. Each menu is thoughtfully designed to fit the restaurant’s style, providing a genuinely good dining experience, even for my kids who throw 90% of it on the floor.

The Good

  • At least it has a kids’ club

The Bad

  • Service
  • Being surrounded by all this delectable scenery, you’re not the only one who wants to enjoy it—the mosquitoes join in too. They arrive in respectable numbers, just to comfort you and remind you that you’re never truly alone.

The Luxurious

  • Setting
  • Food
  • Gym

Conclusion

Cap Juluca is in a breathtaking, idyllic paradise, world-class setting, with typical Caribbean service.

Despite the frustrating service, it’s clear that many guests love this place and return regularly. They even have names of regulars on the trees, showing the property’s strong following. I thoroughly enjoyed our stay, for the most part. We, as a family, thoroughly enjoyed it.

There is something undeniably special here—it’s extremely relaxing and incredibly beautiful. The refurbishment made Cap Juluca still feel fresh, and the large investment into the new spa further demonstrates the desire to continually improve. However, there’s work to be done to make it better – namely, in every department where a human being works.  A few years ago I would have been less forgiving with the service. But with more travel experience, I’ve come to accept certain truths, such as knowing when you spend all this money in the Caribbean, you’re not paying for the service.  You’re paying because you’re American and have lots of money.

Still, for all its faults, I would return.

In Summary

  • Worth knowing

    While the beach is epic, it was plagued by significant amounts of seagrass every day. Interestingly, when we visited the nearby Four Seasons and Malliouhana—both of which are a significant downgrade from Cap Juluca—we never saw any seagrass. We did see a lot of crowds though. Returning made us appreciate Cap Juluca even more, highlighting how chilled out, relaxed, peaceful, exclusive, and serene it is.

  • Getting around

    Suites and villas come with their own buggy for getting around, otherwise you’ll need to be picked up or walk. We were about half-way, staying in villa #14 of #24 and often walked with the children, especially in the mornings when the temperature was still bearable.

Beachfront suites start from $5,500 per night

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 2nd Jul '24

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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