Richard M. “Dick” Schulze has a big vision for a tiny island out in the Caribbean. Anguilla is a stone’s throw from Saint Martin, in the Lesser Antilles, but far less known than its neighbor. And that’s part of the appeal. The allure is evident the moment you arrive at Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club. Dick bought the former CuisinArt resort in late 2020, then majorly overhauled and rebranded it. Anticipation builds as you walk through the open-air lobby, with a long view of the cerulean sea via an infinity pool that cascades toward the resort’s two miles of beach. A personal butler greets you by name and leads you to one of the resort’s 179 rooms (including seven villas and two estate homes), perhaps with a pit stop at the bar for a tropical libation.
Being a Naples resident, Dick is plenty familiar with the charms of a coastal paradise, and Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club captures the best of it. Sitting on 380 acres, this Shangri-La is already stocked with two Greg Norman-designed golf courses, a spa and Technogym-equipped workout center, tennis courts and a bevy of restaurants. All the suites—most 800 square feet or larger—have been renovated with plush, modern conveniences and beds so comfortable you’ll want to strip the bedding to find the make and model. If you’re traveling from New York, you can fly direct out of White Plains in the resort’s charter plane, which stops in Puerto Rico on the way back for a quicker customs process.
But these are just the basics for Dick, who at 82 is still driven by the motivation that propelled Best Buy into a Fortune 500 company: don’t just outrun the competition but stay far ahead of them. Since taking over, the team proceeded to add two hydroponic gardens to supply the resort’s six restaurants; they brought Greg Norman back to add the 9-hole, short course; and they’re now putting the finishing touches on an entertainment complex with a waterpark. An on-site brewery is in the works, too.
The morning after we arrive at Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club, we see the magic in action on a golf cart tour with Edward “Ed” Staros, who is advising on all things hospitality for Aurora. When he first visited the resort a year ago, Ed walked away with one thought: “I said, ‘Wow, this has the potential to be one of greatest hotels ever.’” Ed would know. The Naples luminary recently retired from a 48-year career in hospitality, with two decades spent running the two local Ritz-Carlton properties. His name is synonymous with Naples philanthropy, hospitality and luxury.
Aurora is luxe, but not in a flashy way. Ed drives us past the Greek-style villas that pepper the resort, with a far-flung appeal. We take in the championship golf course with its coral-lined hazards, shrubby vegetation and half of its holes overlooking the Caribbean. He points to the nearby short course. “This isn’t putt-putt; it’s a real course, with sand traps and moguls,” Ed says, adding that the 9-holer has a par-4, rarely found on short courses. “But you can do the whole thing in less than an hour.”
Just beyond, we see the solar field and desalination plant, created to feed the resort with pristine water and keep the grounds and courses green year-round. The vibe is laid-back, serene—everything has been considered, but nothing feels forced.
The most decadent aspect of the experience is the service, which reads more like friendly banter than corporate-mandated niceness. “Hello, Mr. Ed,” a landscaper shouts enthusiastically from across the way as we walk into the 27,000-square-foot Sorana spa. Ed stops to chat with the young man—a scene that plays out time and again with various staffers throughout the weekend. Working in the hotel industry, Ed’s been in and out of dozens of countries; he says he’s rarely experienced the level of genuine generosity and warmth he finds in Anguilla: “I felt it the moment I got off the plane.”
Its people are the resort’s greatest asset, and the team created Aurora University to train staffers in multiple positions, ensuring job security for them and impeccable service for guests. Ed walks us by the classroom, a bright space just off the main lobby, then downstairs to the employee cafeteria, where meals are provided daily. It’s lunchtime, and about a dozen staffers gather over jerk chicken, steaming vats of rice and grilled veggies. “All the vegetables come from the hydroponic garden,” Ed says.
The culinary program is a point of pride for Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club, and it starts with the hydroponic gardens. We walk by a small orchard before making our way into a greenhouse, where rows of emerald-hued leafy greens and herbs blossom at various stages of development. “It’s the difference between tasting a salad where the lettuce was growing a few hours from you consuming it versus having something shipped in that was picked in California last week,” Ed says, pointing to a verdant batch. Back outside, horticulturist Rohan Maynard palms a cluster of lemongrass. “In Anguilla, we use it to make Bush Tea,” he says. “It’s good for everything—upset stomach, a cold—but it’s also just really nice to drink.”
With enough options to provide a different dining experience every night of your stay, Aurora is also becoming a dining destination for the island, luring locals and travelers from other resorts. During our stay, we start every morning with a hearty spread of omelets, croissants and fruit at the open-air Chef’s Table. We lunch on Anguillian lobster in a buttery sauce and tuna steaks with mango salsa, with our toes in the sand, at the beachfront Eventide. And multiple times, we return to D Richard’s, the resort’s new upscale steakhouse, where diners indulge in 28-day, dry-age ribeye; Westholme wagyu striploin; and 42-ounce tomahawk chop. The steakhouse—said to be the first on the island—may remind Neapolitans of The Grill, with its marble-clad bar, handsome millwork and stellar cellar. The Japanese restaurant, Tokyo Bay, is still being remodeled when we visit, but Ed lets us peek inside. The restaurant was once one of the most popular on the island; when the team decided to restore the gem, they tracked down the original chef, Joe Richardson, in Vegas and convinced him to return home and make the restaurant even better than it’d been. Guests now linger over teppanyaki, sushi and sake from the second-floor perch, with panoramic windows looking out to swaying palm trees and gentle waves.
Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club is divided into two sections: Merrywing Bay, a family-friendly area with rooms in a high-rise near the entertainment complex, and Rendezvous Bay, a romantic enclave with suites and villas that wrap around verdant paths. “When you check-in, you check into the entire resort,” Ed says. No amenity is off-limits, regardless of where you stay. In Merrywing, we check out Breezes, which follows the curve of the beach and seems to rise from the sand (fittingly, the specialty here is fresh-caught seafood). Ed points down the beach to where some of us will later saunter to see Bankie Banx perform. The musician is a legend on the island, crooning covers of Guns N’ Roses and Bob Dylan late into the night at his character-filled bar, steps from the resort.
But for now, there’s more resort ground to cover. At about twice the size of Naples Botanical Garden, Aurora allows you free rein, even when it’s at capacity. Back at Rendezvous Bay, we peer into one of the private villas, which has three bedrooms (the largest villa has five), a pool, a lush courtyard, a state-of-the-art kitchen (which can be fully stocked before arrival) and a swath of grassy lawn leading to the beach (complete with a hammock).
Private villas, jet transport, a farm, a desalination plant, an entertainment complex, a double-decker bus in Aurora’s signature orange hue to transport guests, a condo building to put up staff and contractors—as we wrap our tour, we can start to see what Ed means about this being an unparalleled resort.
As enterprising as Aurora may be, the project feels personal for Dick. His 35 grandchildren were in mind when developing the entertainment complex. The massive area has a waterpark with a lazy river, soccer, basketball and volleyball courts, four new tennis courts, kids’ and teens’ clubs, putt-putt and an amphitheater, where movies play on a 40-foot projector during the week and live musicians hit the stage on weekends. The latter was inspired by a concert Dick saw last summer at Belfry Music Theatre in Lake Geneva, Michigan, of an Eagles tribute band. “I work out to the Eagles every day,” he tells me a few days later when we meet at his Naples office. “I know every word, every chord.” The band headlined Aurora’s New Year’s celebration.
The personal touch carries through every aspect of the experiential resort. When making plans for the amphitheater and its steady rotation of entertainment and food trucks for swimsuit-clad guests, Dick ensured his team stocked the scene with ponchos and blankets. “I told them, ‘Make sure the blankets are waterproof on one side and warm on the other, so families can cuddle together,” he says. Seating is terraced, so everyone gets a stellar view of the stage and water beyond.
Hospitality lies at the heart of the operation, and that’s where Ed comes in. “I don’t know who provides better service than The Ritz,” Dick says. “And that’s been his world. I didn’t know hospitality, so the fortunate part for me is that Ed failed retirement.”
The two are united in their commitment to employees and guests and the interactions between the two. “I could see right away that this is in his blood—no different than 53 years in the retail business is in my blood,” Dick says. Ed acts as a liaison between Dick’s Olympus Ventures company and Salamander Hotels & Resorts, the Southern-based hospitality stalwarts that were brought on to manage the property. Or, in Ed’s words, he’s the pragmatic thinker to Dick’s visionary prowess. “He can visualize, and I can say, ‘Here is what you want, and here is what we have to do to get there.’” For Neapolitans, it means getting to experience the magnetism Ed helped create with the local Ritz-Carlton properties in a Caribbean locale—and maybe getting to run into him or Dick on any given visit.
In Naples, you may not see Dick at fundraisers, but his Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation is constantly giving. And it’s no different in Anguilla. Since planting roots on the island two years ago, the foundation has donated laptops to needy students and started a lunch program to feed all elementary school children. He’s also contributing to the island’s hospital and working on an affordable healthcare program for locals. “It’s important that employers pay close attention to the impact on their community,” he says. “It’s not enough just to hire the people that live there; you really need to support the community’s needs.”
On our last night in town, our group gathers for dinner on the beach. A firepit with seating has been sculpted out of the sand, tiki torches illuminate tables, and a spread, with Anguillian barbecue, lures diners back for seconds and thirds. Toward the end of the dinner, Dick invites the Aurora staff out for a standing ovation. Pride permeates the scene. At that moment, we all feel part of this village. And, as with all truly great getaways, it gets harder to leave.
Photography courtesy Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club/Beautiful Hotels/Darren Ortiz/ Kris Tamburello