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THE DEAL: MALLIOUHANA, ANGUILLA

Mal8 WHY IT’S A CONTENDER: Set on a coral headland overlooking Mead’s Bay Beach, Malliouhana is a 25-acre garden property that boasts one and a half miles of white sand beaches. On a recent visit, I could have spent all day with my toes in the sugar-fine sand, occasionally immersing myself in the amniotic waters. It feels like a Caribbean hotel designed for Europeans and indeed, the Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera was the alleged inspiration. Yet the property , like most on Anguilla, is largely inhabited by Americans. It has white stucco arches, a reflecting pool and a terraced lobby that leads to a fan-shaped cliff top restaurant with and a drop-dead view. It also has one of the most gracious lobbies in the world, a series of terraces and Moorish arches that only gradually reveal the cliff top views of the Caribbean.

WHO SHOULD GO: Gracious and not a little clubby, Malliouhana feels like a country house hotel. The conversation is relaxed, even a bit hushed, and you can detect the faint whiff of old money under the Royal Palms. The service is discreet and unobtrusive, a rarity anywhere, especially in the Caribbean, and many of the staff have been around for 20 years or more. What’s more, it’s a grown-up hotel that actively welcomes kids.

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THE ROOMS: The 55 rooms are minimal without being minimalist, with a good king size bed, a few pieces of rattan furniture, a large marble bath and generous terrace space. Like all rooms, my oceanfront room (720 square feet) came sans TV, radio or clock. With these views, you don’t need anything else.

MORE REASONS TO STAY: Chef Alain Laurent serves inventive French-Caribbean cuisine, the cellar has 25,000 bottles, and you can watch the tarpon frolicking in the surf a hundred feet below as you dine. There’s a separate kids pool and activity center, ideal for the many young families who come here. And the 15,000 foot two-story glass and white stucco spa is adjacent to the main building and commands an ocean view.

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WHAT’S THE DEAL: Half price, or less. An ocean-view double between May 1 and August 31, 2007 starts at $405. Go in high season, which runs from December 17 through March 31, and you’ll pay $880 for the same room. The Friends & Family package, from May 1 to August 31 is probably the best deal. Book a minimum five-night stay in a large double room with air conditioning, covered terrace and ocean view and you get a second ocean view double room for your accompanying friends or family free of charge. The rate is $2,430, which comes out to $243 per room, per night, based on a five night stay.

CAVEAT: If you need nightlife, it’s not for you. Nor, in fact, is Anguilla.

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LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Steps from your room is Meads Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with soft white sand edging turquoise colored waters. In a rental car, you can be anywhere on the island in 40 minutes.

THE DETAILS:800/835-0796; malliouhana.com

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