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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

A Information to Island Hopping Round St. Martin

One of many nice points of interest of a trip within the Caribbean is the prospect to do a little bit of island hopping. In fact, so as to take action successfully, you must decide your targets and, importantly, an applicable leaping off spot. St. Thomas as a place to begin for the Virgin Island and St. Vincent for exploring the Grenadines spring to thoughts, however if you wish to do some island hoping that exposes you to a couple completely distinctive cultural experiences, then island hopping round St. Martin is your finest wager.

To start with, whereas I’m utilizing the final time period “St. Martin,” you might be really getting two separate nations on one island: the French St. Martin and the Dutch Sint Maarten. And from there you’ll be able to simply attain three different islands – Anguilla, Saba, and St. Barth – every with its personal vastly completely different attraction. All are simply reachable, both for a day journey or an extended go to.

So, let’s leap in and discover the principle spots to go island hopping round St. Martin.

See additionally: Island Hopping within the Caribbean

The place to go island hopping round St. Martin

You possibly can both base your self at St. Martin or begin off on the island and hop round.

Sint Maarten

Island hopping around St. Martin, starting at Sint Martin
Philipsburg, the capital of Sint Maarten, is a bustling cruise port with among the finest duty-free purchasing within the Caribbean and a energetic beachfront. Picture credit score: Ian Corks

Sint Maarten serves because the pure hub for the realm due to its fashionable worldwide airport. Princess Juliana Airport is nicely served by most US and Canadian airways, with common flights all year long. Its Dutch/French connection additionally ensures frequent service from Europe, primarily Amsterdam and Paris. So, it’s straightforward to get to and is extraordinarily person pleasant, with little or no tradition shock for first timers to the Caribbean.

The bigger resorts, some with casinos, are positioned on the “Dutch facet” because the islanders seek advice from it. Most are positioned instantly on white sand seashores in energetic areas like Simpson Bay, Cupecoy Seaside and the airport adjoining Maho Seaside, a favorite of the Instagram crowd.

Philipsburg, the capital, is by far the largest, busiest city within the area and is legendary for its duty-free purchasing, which has dramatically expanded lately because of the multi-million-dollar growth of its cruise ship terminal. The draw back, after all, is that it will probably get fairly busy when a couple of of the massive ships are on the town. 

However the bustle of Sint Maarten additionally means that there’s at all times a alternative of issues to do. There are many actions, from a soothing seaside barbecue to serving to crew a former America’s Cup 12 metre yacht in a race across the island. This selection makes Sint Maarten an excellent place for households. There may be additionally an energetic nightlife, that means it may be little bit of a extra adult-oriented playground as nicely. Once you get proper right down to it, Sint Maarten is a kind of uncommon locations that may actually lay declare to being, “enjoyable for all ages.

And, maybe most significantly, Sint Maarten is both a drive, a ferry trip or brief flight away from the opposite islands we’re specializing in.

St. Martin

Island hopping around St. Martin
The seaside at Grand Case in St. Martin is lined with gourmand eating places and funky bars. Picture credit score: Ian Corks

Drive throughout the unmanned border (no passport required) and it doesn’t take lengthy to note the distinction. The panorama will get a bit greener and hillier, the event noticeably much less and the bustle of the Dutch facet begins to provide option to a extra laid-back, distinctly Gallic really feel.

St. Martin definitely has its personal attraction. The seashores, although much less quite a few than these of its neighbour, are higher, and usually much less crowded. Orient Bay Seaside is probably essentially the most spectacular, with Anse Marcel and the secluded and peaceable Baie Rouge additionally worthy of point out. 

The small capital of Marigot is charming, although not absolutely recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. There’s a little bit of a busier vibe than the remainder of St. Martin, a lovely harbour and good small locations to seize a drink, espresso or sandwich. A quick (uphill) stroll from the city will take you to the ruins of Fort Louis, in-built 1789 to defend the city towards the British, Dutch, and marauding pirates. The spectacular views make it nicely well worth the hike.

St. Martin has its justifiable share of actions, although admittedly lower than the Dutch facet and of a much less adrenaline-pumping nature. There are some good mountain climbing trails and sail/snorkel excursions, however the purpose most individuals come to St. Martin is to loosen up. And to eat.

Surprisingly, particularly given its small dimension, St. Martin has constructed a fame because the gourmand capital of the Caribbean. There are wonderful eating places scattered all through the French facet, in locations like Marigot and Orient Seaside, however by far the capital of the island’s fantastic eating scene is Grand Case.

This small, picturesque beachfront city is dwelling to some wonderful institutions that supply one of the best of French Creole cooking, with an emphasis on seafood. Some standouts embrace Auberge Gourmande, Ocean 82 and Le Pressoir. And when you really feel you want a break from fantastic eating, you’ll be able to attempt one in every of Grand Case’s lolos – energetic outside eating places specializing in native dishes centred across the barbecue.

Grand Case can be a stunning place for a seaside stroll, the place you’ll be able to take within the view of our subsequent island-hopping vacation spot, Anguilla.


Anguilla, an island near St. Martin in the Caribbean
There’s little question that Anguilla’s major attraction is its spectacular seashores. Picture credit score: Ian Corks

The gap from St. Martin to Anguilla is lower than 30km. The principle route between the 2 islands is the 25-minute public ferry trip from Marigot, on the French facet, to Blowing Level in Anguilla. You too can take one of many shuttles that present speedboat service, just about throughout from Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch facet. Or you’ll be able to catch a 10-minute flight between the islands, but it surely’s hardly well worth the effort or value. Nevertheless, you get there, be sure you take your passport. Anguilla is a British territory.

In case you are on the lookout for one phrase to explain Anguilla, that phrase is undoubtedly ‘seashores’. This lengthy, flat slim island (the title means ‘eel’) appears to encompass little greater than a string of seashores. In reality, there are over 30 of them dotted alongside its 60km of shoreline.

Anguilla seashores are merely idyllic: lengthy stretches of powdery, white sand set towards calm, shallow turquoise seas. Good for sunbathing, swimming or simply strolling. Shoal Bay is commonly ranked the highest seaside within the Caribbean and the most effective on the earth. However there are a lot of extra that come near difficult for these honours, Meads Bay, Maundys Bay, Sandy Floor, and Rendezvous Bay amongst them.

And, as you’d anticipate from a Caribbean Island with so many nice seashores, Anguilla is legendary for its legendary seaside bars. No island, no matter dimension, repeatedly options so many names on revealed lists of the Prime Ten Seaside Bars. It’s actually a seaside bar-hopper’s paradise, with locations like Gwen’s Reggae Grill (Shoal Bay) and Elvis’ (Sandy Floor), in addition to the Sunshine Shack and Dune Protect (Rendezvous Bay).

The islands seashores are additionally dwelling to among the area’s most spectacular resorts. Right here you’ll discover the 4 Seasons Anguilla, the Malliouhana, Zemi Seaside Resort and the enduring Belmond Cap Juluca. Their presence has additionally critically elevated the island’s eating scene lately.

What Anguilla doesn’t have is quite a lot of actions (past crusing and snorkelling), a vibrant nightlife, duty-free purchasing of any sort, or a lot of a alternative of funds lodging. And there isn’t actually a city to discover. However, imagine me, with these seashores, it’s straightforward to neglect about all that.


island hopping around st. martin - A Guide to Island Hopping Around St. Martin
Saba affords a mystical panorama of lush hills and picturesque villages evoking a Caribbean of the previous. Picture credit score: Ian Corks

At a distance of 50km from St. Martin, the island of Saba is the furthest flung of our island-hopping targets. It is usually probably the most uncommon, unspoilt, and surprisingly charming islands not solely within the area, however all through the whole Caribbean.

Saba isn’t for the informal traveler, or these on the lookout for the stereotypical island paradise. To start with, it’s not precisely the best island to get to. Most guests arrive by the quick ferry from Sint Maarten, an typically bumpy 90-minute trip. Or you’ll be able to fly there. The flight takes a mere quarter-hour, however you might be then confronted with touchdown on a tiny airport seemingly carved out of the hillside and that includes the smallest industrial runway on the earth. And don’t anticipate palm lined white sand seashores. At a compact 13 sq. kilometres, Saba is basically a volcano elevating steeply from the ocean.

However those that do courageous the journey will uncover an virtually mystical panorama of winding roads, quaint purple and white wood cottages, and pleasant down-to-earth folks – an embodiment of the outdated Caribbean as many think about it. The island is basically an eco-paradise, above and beneath the waterline, with difficult rain forest hikes and world-renowned dive websites. Those that handle the hike up the aptly named Mt. Surroundings will probably be rewarded with breathtaking views throughout the Caribbean to St Martin, St Barths, and past.

Lodging and eating are typically quaint and cozy relatively than luxurious, with lower than 100 rooms in complete unfold amongst a handful of small resorts, visitor homes and cottages. Queen’s Backyard Resort and Juliana’s are essentially the most notable resorts on the island, each tucked into the hillside amongst wealthy foliage.

The tempo on Saba is sluggish and aside from exploring the tiny quaint villages of The Backside and Windward facet, there isn’t a lot to do besides benefit from the island’s pure magnificence – the rationale Saba proudly promotes itself because the “Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean”.

St. Barth

island hopping around st. martin - A Guide to Island Hopping Around St. Martin
St. Barth’s energetic capital of Gustavia is dwelling to multi-million-dollar yachts, high-end designer outlets and stylish bars and cafes. Picture credit score: Ian Corks

If Saba is sleepy, St. Barth is buzzing. In reality, the 2 islands couldn’t be extra completely different. St. Barth is nearer to St. Martin and far simpler to get to. Quick, fashionable ferries service the island from three completely different areas in St. Martin, with the shortest journey taking 45 minutes.  As well as, there are frequent flights (quarter-hour in period) from Princess Juliana and Grand Case airports.

St. Barth is a occurring place, albeit a relatively dear one. At first, St. Barth is a distinctly French island. However not within the Creole French model of Martinique or Guadeloupe. St. Barth is nearer to the French Riviera transplanted within the Caribbean.

The capital of Gustavia is famous for the multi-million-dollar yachts within the harbour and the stylish eating places and high-end designer outlets (don’t anticipate any duty-free bargains) lining its major road, together with a Dolce & Gabbana Martini bar. And when you want a break, the stunning Shell Seaside is inside strolling distance of the downtown.

If Gustavia doesn’t excite you, a 10-minute taxi trip will take you to the island’s different sizzling spot, St-Jean Seaside. This magnificent stretch of gleaming sand is anchored at one finish by the fabled Eden Rock resort and the famend Nikki Seaside restaurant, and on the different by St. Barth’s extremely Instagrammable small airport. The scene at St-Jean Seaside, and different elements of the island, by no means actually stops.

Nevertheless, when you get past the glitz and glamour, you’ll discover that St. Barth is a remarkably stunning little island. It’s good for renting a automobile and exploring the plush, hilly terrain. You’ll discover numerous different engaging, extra secluded, seashores like Grand Saline, Anse du Gouverneur, and Colombier Seaside, in addition to some low key however surprisingly luxurious, resorts.

In brief, St. Barth generally is a blast, particularly when you don’t thoughts the sometimes-scary costs.

Issues to think about when island hopping round St. Martin

  • Entry: Every of those locations will be comparatively simply accessed by ferry or aircraft from St. Martin, with the longest journey being the 90-minute quick ferry to Saba. All will be finished in a day, nevertheless, because of its geography, Saba is healthier served by an in a single day keep in one in every of its quaint little resorts or visitor homes. And, after all, all lend themselves to longer stays.
  • Foreign money: You possibly can freely use US {dollars} in Anguilla, Saba, and Sint Maarten (although the official forex within the latter nation is the Antillean Guilder). In St. Martin and St. Barth, nevertheless, Euros are the forex of report. You could get away with US {dollars} (particularly in St, Martin), however it’ll seemingly be frowned upon.

  • Ian Corks

    An award-winning medical/healthcare journalist and life-style author, Ian likes to journey, with the Caribbean being his favorite vacation spot. He has visited over 45 particular person islands thus far (the Bahamas and Bermuda included), writing about his travels for numerous publications and media shops. Ian is an enthusiastic novice bartender, most cancers warrior and licensed seaside bar aficionado.

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