A Information to Island Hopping Round St. Martin

One of many nice points of interest of a trip within the Caribbean is the possibility to do a little bit of island hopping. After all, so as to take action successfully, it’s a must to decide your targets and, importantly, an acceptable 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 greatest wager.

To start with, whereas I’m utilizing the final time period “St. Martin,” you might be truly 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 totally different enchantment. All are simply reachable, both for a day journey or an extended go to.

So, let’s leap in and discover the primary 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 may 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 a few of the greatest duty-free procuring 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 effectively 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 consumer pleasant, with little or no tradition shock for first timers to the Caribbean.

The bigger resorts, some with casinos, are situated on the “Dutch facet” because the islanders confer with it. Most are situated straight on white sand seashores in energetic areas like Simpson Bay, Cupecoy Seashore and the airport adjoining Maho Seashore, a favorite of the Instagram crowd.

Philipsburg, the capital, is by far the largest, busiest city within the area and is known for its duty-free procuring, which has dramatically expanded in recent times as a result of multi-million-dollar improvement of its cruise ship terminal. The draw back, in fact, is that it may possibly 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 all the time a alternative of issues to do. There are many actions, from a soothing seashore barbecue to serving to crew a former America’s Cup 12 metre yacht in a race across the island. This selection makes Sint Maarten a great place for households. There’s additionally an energetic nightlife, that means it may be little bit of a extra adult-oriented playground as effectively. If you get proper all the way 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 journey or brief flight away from the opposite islands we’re specializing in.

St. Martin

Island hopping around St. Martin
The seashore 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 technique to a extra laid-back, distinctly Gallic really feel.

St. Martin actually has its personal enchantment. The seashores, although much less quite a few than these of its neighbour, are higher, and customarily much less crowded. Orient Bay Seashore is maybe 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 totally recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Irma. There’s a little bit of a busier vibe than the remainder of St. Martin, a ravishing harbour and good small locations to seize a drink, espresso or sandwich. A short (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 effectively 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 climbing trails and sail/snorkel excursions, however the cause most individuals come to St. Martin is to loosen up. And to eat.

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

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

Grand Case can be a stunning place for a seashore 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 doubt that Anguilla’s essential 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 journey from Marigot, on the French facet, to Blowing Level in Anguilla. You may also take one of many shuttles that present speedboat service, nearly 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 price. Nevertheless, you get there, make sure to take your passport. Anguilla is a British territory.

If you’re on the lookout for one phrase to explain Anguilla, that phrase is undoubtedly ‘seashores’. This lengthy, flat slender island (the title means ‘eel’) appears to encompass little greater than a string of seashores. The truth is, 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 usually ranked the highest seashore within the Caribbean and probably the greatest on the planet. However there are numerous extra that come near difficult for these honours, Meads Bay, Maundys Bay, Sandy Floor, and Rendezvous Bay amongst them.

And, as you’d count on from a Caribbean Island with so many nice seashores, Anguilla is known for its legendary seashore bars. No island, no matter measurement, frequently options so many names on printed lists of the Prime Ten Seashore Bars. It’s actually a seashore 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 a few of the area’s most spectacular resorts. Right here you’ll find the 4 Seasons Anguilla, the Malliouhana, Zemi Seashore Resort and the enduring Belmond Cap Juluca. Their presence has additionally severely elevated the island’s eating scene in recent times.

What Anguilla doesn’t have is quite a lot of actions (past crusing and snorkelling), a vibrant nightlife, duty-free procuring of any sort, or a lot of a alternative of funds lodging. And there isn’t actually a city to discover. However, consider 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 provides 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’s also one of the 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 usually bumpy 90-minute journey. 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 business runway on the planet. And don’t count on palm lined white sand seashores. At a compact 13 sq. kilometres, Saba is actually a volcano elevating steeply from the ocean.

However those that do courageous the journey will uncover an virtually mystical panorama of winding roads, quaint crimson and white wood cottages, and pleasant down-to-earth folks – an embodiment of the previous Caribbean as many think about it. The island is actually 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 usually quaint and comfy relatively than luxurious, with lower than 100 rooms in complete unfold amongst a handful of small motels, visitor homes and cottages. Queen’s Backyard Resort and Juliana’s are essentially the most notable motels on the island, each tucked into the hillside amongst wealthy foliage.

The tempo on Saba is gradual and other than 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 retailers and stylish bars and cafes. Picture credit score: Ian Corks

If Saba is sleepy, St. Barth is buzzing. The truth is, the 2 islands couldn’t be extra totally different. St. Barth is nearer to St. Martin and far simpler to get to. Quick, fashionable ferries service the island from three totally 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 the start, 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 retailers (don’t count on any duty-free bargains) lining its essential avenue, together with a Dolce & Gabbana Martini bar. And should you want a break, the beautiful Shell Seashore is inside strolling distance of the downtown.

If Gustavia doesn’t excite you, a 10-minute taxi journey will take you to the island’s different scorching spot, St-Jean Seashore. This magnificent stretch of gleaming sand is anchored at one finish by the fabled Eden Rock resort and the famend Nikki Seashore restaurant, and on the different by St. Barth’s extremely Instagrammable small airport. The scene at St-Jean Seashore, and different components 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 excellent for renting a automotive and exploring the plush, hilly terrain. You’ll discover numerous different enticing, extra secluded, seashores like Grand Saline, Anse du Gouverneur, and Colombier Seashore, in addition to some low key however surprisingly luxurious, motels.

In brief, St. Barth could be a blast, particularly should you don’t thoughts the sometimes-scary costs.

Issues to think about when island hopping round St. Martin

  • Entry: Every of those locations may be comparatively simply accessed by ferry or aircraft from St. Martin, with the longest journey being the 90-minute quick ferry to Saba. All may be executed in a day, nevertheless, as a consequence of its geography, Saba is best served by an in a single day keep in one in every of its quaint little motels or visitor homes. And, in fact, all lend themselves to longer stays.
  • Foreign money: You may 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 file. You could get away with US {dollars} (particularly in St, Martin), however it is going to doubtless be frowned upon.

  • Ian Corks

    An award-winning medical/healthcare journalist and way of life author, Ian likes to journey, with the Caribbean being his favorite vacation spot. He has visited over 45 particular person islands so 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 authorized seashore bar aficionado.

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