One of many nice points of interest of a trip within the Caribbean is the prospect to do a little bit of island hopping. After all, so as to take action successfully, you need to choose 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 greatest guess.

To start with, whereas I’m utilizing the overall time period “St. Martin,” you’re 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 completely different attraction. All are simply reachable, both for a day journey or an extended go to.

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

See additionally: Island Hopping in 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 a number of the greatest duty-free procuring within the Caribbean and a vigorous beachfront. Picture credit score: Ian Corks

Sint Maarten serves because the pure hub for the world due to its trendy 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 positioned on the “Dutch aspect” because the islanders confer with it. Most are positioned immediately on white sand seashores in vigorous places 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 procuring, which has dramatically expanded lately because of the multi-million-dollar growth of its cruise ship terminal. The draw back, in fact, is that it could actually get fairly busy when a number 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 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 a great place for households. There’s additionally an lively nightlife, which means it may be little bit of a extra adult-oriented playground as effectively. Whenever 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 experience 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 aspect begins to provide method to a extra laid-back, distinctly Gallic really feel.

St. Martin actually 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 probably 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 fantastic 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 effectively definitely worth the hike.

St. Martin has its fair proportion of actions, although admittedly lower than the Dutch aspect and of a much less adrenaline-pumping nature. There are some good mountain climbing trails and sail/snorkel excursions, however the motive most individuals come to St. Martin is to chill out. And to eat.

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

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

Grand Case can also 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 predominant 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 experience from Marigot, on the French aspect, to Blowing Level in Anguilla. You can even take one of many shuttles that present speedboat service, nearly throughout from Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch aspect. Or you’ll be able to catch a 10-minute flight between the islands, but it surely’s hardly definitely worth the effort or value. Nonetheless, you get there, remember to 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 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. Excellent for sunbathing, swimming or simply strolling. Shoal Bay is usually ranked the highest seaside within the Caribbean and probably the greatest on this planet. 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 count on from a Caribbean Island with so many nice seashores, Anguilla is legendary for its legendary seaside bars. No island, no matter measurement, repeatedly options so many names on revealed lists of the High 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 Preserve (Rendezvous Bay).

The islands seashores are additionally house to a number of the area’s most spectacular resorts. Right here you will see that the Four Seasons Anguilla, the Malliouhana, Zemi Beach Resort and the long-lasting Belmond Cap Juluca. Their presence has additionally significantly 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 procuring of any variety, or a lot of a alternative of finances lodging. And there isn’t actually a city to discover. However, consider me, with these seashores, it’s straightforward to overlook 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. Additionally it is one of the uncommon, unspoilt, and surprisingly charming islands not solely within the area, however all through your entire Caribbean.

Saba just 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 experience. Or you’ll be able to fly there. The flight takes a mere quarter-hour, however you’re then confronted with touchdown on a tiny airport seemingly carved out of the hillside and that includes the smallest industrial runway on this planet. And don’t count on 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 nearly mystical panorama of winding roads, quaint crimson and white picket cottages, and pleasant down-to-earth folks – an embodiment of the previous Caribbean as many think about it. The island is basically an eco-paradise, above and under 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 comfy somewhat than luxurious, with lower than 100 rooms in whole unfold amongst a handful of small lodges, visitor homes and cottages. Queen’s Garden Resort and Juliana’s are probably the most notable lodges 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 aspect, 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 vigorous capital of Gustavia is house 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 completely different. St. Barth is nearer to St. Martin and far simpler to get to. Quick, trendy ferries service the island from three completely different places in St. Martin, with the shortest journey taking 45 minutes.  As well as, there are frequent flights (quarter-hour in length) from Princess Juliana and Grand Case airports.

St. Barth is a occurring place, albeit a somewhat expensive one. In the beginning, St. Barth is a distinctly French island. However not within the Creole French type 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 predominant road, together with a Dolce & Gabbana Martini bar. And in the event 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 experience will take you to the island’s different scorching 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 components of the island, by no means actually stops.

Nonetheless, 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 luxurious, hilly terrain. You’ll discover various different engaging, extra secluded, seashores like Grand Saline, Anse du Gouverneur, and Colombier Seaside, in addition to some low key however surprisingly luxurious, lodges.

Briefly, St. Barth generally is a blast, particularly in the event you don’t thoughts the sometimes-scary costs.

Issues to think about when island hopping round St. Martin

  • Entry: Every of those locations could be comparatively simply accessed by ferry or airplane from St. Martin, with the longest journey being the 90-minute quick ferry to Saba. All could be executed in a day, nevertheless, attributable to its geography, Saba is best served by an in a single day keep in one in every of its quaint little lodges or visitor homes. And, in fact, all lend themselves to longer stays.
  • Forex: 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 document. Chances are you’ll get away with US {dollars} (particularly in St, Martin), however it’s going to seemingly 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 various publications and media shops. Ian is an enthusiastic newbie bartender, most cancers warrior and licensed seaside bar aficionado.

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