Getting 'Salty' in Anguilla

Getting 'Salty' in Anguilla

About Culture & History

“Water, water, everywhere, but not any drop to drink.” Being surrounded by seawater takes on new meaning in the British Caribbean island of Anguilla, where locals are rediscovering the luxury destination’s ‘salty’ history.

Anguilla’s only 16 miles long and 3 miles at its widest; a slender length of coral and limestone fringed with green, ringed with 33 beaches. A gem of the northern Caribbean, the island is an off-the-beaten path luxury retreat for celebrities looking for quiet seclusion, as well as other savvy travelers.

This small island is dotted with about 17 lagoons – but there’s a catch. They’re not fresh water. Like a number of other islands in the region, Anguilla relies on collected rainwater, underwater aquifers, and desalination of seawater for its water supply.

When Europeans first arrived at the island in the 1600’s, they uncovered a unique local treasure: Anguilla’s ‘salt ponds.’ Before the days of refrigeration, salt wasn’t just a seasoning. It was one of the best ways to preserve meat, fish, and other food, and was a precious commodity. In fact, the word ‘salary’ was derived from the Latin word for ‘salt.’

So began the start of salt production on the island. Reportedly, for over three hundred years, close to 100,000 barrels of naturally occurring salt were ‘harvested’ each year from the salt ponds and exported.

As tourism grew in Anguilla in the 1980’s, the salt industry faded in economic importance, but natural salt remained part of local identity, culture, and history. Today, Anguillans are rebuilding the local salt pond lifestyle.

(Above and top images: Visit Anguilla)

Most of the action is at the Road Salt Pond, a 100-acre lagoon that’s the largest enclosed body of water on Anguilla.

Nature lovers and bird watchers ‘flock’ to the Road Salt Pond. The unique wetland environment is a designated ‘Important Bird Area’ as a breeding site supporting the populations of over a hundred types of birds.

(Image: Visit Anguilla)

Locals have begun a new cottage industry of salt harvesting, and local tours take visitors to the pond to ‘pick’ salt by hand like generations of Anguillans did for hundreds of years.

You can even to take a dip in the highly mineralized - and therefore, therapeutic, water.

Beyond the salt ponds themselves, locally-harvested salt is finding its way into the everyday life – and visitor experience on Anguilla. 

Visitors can buy local salt infused and flavoured with herbs.

(Image: Belmond Cap Juluca)

Spas at two of the most luxurious resorts on Anguilla draw on the local salt’s natural, therapeutic qualities. The Four Seasons Resort, Anguilla offers guests an ‘Anguilla Salt Body Polish,’ and at the spa at Belmond Cap Juluca (pictured above) you can take a ‘Salt Soak Bath.’

And the Four Seasons Resort, Anguilla has a restaurant dubbed ‘SALT’ (pictured, below) that celebrates locally-sourced salt as a gourmet ingredient.

(Image: Four Seasons Resort, Anguilla)

So you might go to Anguilla for the sea and the sand… but some of the best stories, memories and souvenirs you take away…. may be the salt!

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By: Lynn Elmhirst, travel expert and journalist

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