(Header photo courtesy of Anguilla Tourist Board)

St Maarten / St Martin : Hub of an Island Hopping Archipelago 

St Maarten / St Martin forms the middle of a multinational archipelago; all wholly different in character and nature and hence all great ideas for a day trip. Many of St Maarten / St Martin’s neighboring islands are within eyesight. British Anguilla is only a 7 kilometers distance away, with some of the region’s most attractive beaches
Anguilla’s stretched presence can be seen from all over the French side, and many parts of the Dutch side. No beaches, but the highest mountain (volcano) of the Kingdom of the Netherlands can be found on Saba, which towering silhouette can be seen from all over the Dutch side – even though it is 50 kilometers away. Together with its neighboring “historical gem” Statia or as the Dutch call it St Eustatius, they form municipalities of the Netherlands (contrary to the autonomous status of Dutch side St Maarten). French St Barths can be witnessed from the eastern part of the island, a haven for the international jetset. 

How to get to Anguilla, Saba, Statia, St Barths

To all surrounding islands, multiple flights a day depart from Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). The same accounts for boats, be it a standard connection or a boat charter or rental of your own. From both the Simpson Bay Marina as well as Philipsburg‘s Marina, boats depart – but not always on a daily basis. Please check availability of your shipping line of choice beforehand. 

Anguilla beach island

Anguilla – Where Tranquility is More Than Just a Word

For years, visitors have come to this British Overseas Territory looking for that typical Caribbean experience. What they find is more than sunny skies and fruity cocktails. Ah, tranquility. It’s in the smiles of locals that greet you. It’s where the ocean meets the sand. It’s what you feel after a stroll along pristine shores lined by fishing boats with richly painted wooden hulls. Anguilla is a country like no other.

From St. Maarten / St. Martin, it’s easy and affordable to experience the blissful tranquility of Anguilla on a day trip. Sail cats Lambada and Tango and sailboat Sail la Vie depart daily from Aqua Mania Adventures in Simpson Bay. You don’t need to pack much, as these charter boats have everything you need on board.

Sail to Anguilla’s Prickly Pear island, where you can snorkel through the outer reefs in crystal-clear water. Don’t miss Anguilla’s most famous beach, Shoal Bay — it’s the perfect spot to spend your day basking in serenity. You can also create vacation memories on an island tour as you soak up the culture and lifestyle of Anguilla.

Once you open your senses and absorb the sights and sounds of this British jewel, you will feel a lot more relaxed. It may take some time to let go of your workaday stress, but when you sit back and take in the beauty of this gem, you may not want to head back to reality. So, enjoy one more refreshing cocktail, take a stroll down the sparkling beach and breathe in that fresh ocean air, because once you have experienced “tranquility wrapped in blue,” your life will most certainly never be the same.

St Maarten island hopping: The famous road to Windwardside Saba

Saba – “Unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean”

Visiting Saba is like traveling to a land barely touched by time. It wasn’t until the mid-1930s, in fact, that residents built the island’s first road. This winding thoroughfare is an attraction in itself. Lined with spectacular stone walls, it twists and turns its way up the mountainside. Saba may be tiny, but this special municipality of The Netherlands offers much to ecotourists: rocky cliffs, lush green forests and mountains that seem to rise out of the ocean. At the top of Mount Scenery, A nonactive volcano, you can see for miles on a clear day.

If it’s overcast, you’ll find yourself caught up in the vapor of the clouds. The climb up Mount Scenery is something of a challenge. You have to hike through a tropical rain forest and up hand-carved stone steps. But the welcome distraction of views, birds, plants and other wildlife makes this hike well worth the effort.

Saba also boasts some of the best diving in the region. Strict regulations on fishing and diving mean that you’re able to see a wide variety of sea life. Turtles and lobsters are regular visitors to this spectacular underwater haven, and if you’re lucky, you may just get to hear or see a whale or two. If you are more into the history of the island, then you’ll enjoy making your way through charming villages, past picturesque homes with red roofs and well-tended gardens. Along the way, you will meet up with a variety of friendly locals who will be happy to tell you all about their distinctive home.

Journey to Saba aboard a high-speed ferry offered by Aqua Mania Adventures. You can book your 90-minute trip on Edge from Simpson Bay or online before you arrive. Packages include taxi tours around the island, with a tasty lunch poolside, hiking excursions with lunch and transfers, and guided adventures with local guides.

With regularly scheduled service to Saba, Great Bay Express, based at Bobby’s Marina in Philipsburg, will get you there fast. The high-speed ferry offers competitive prices, online booking and a shuttle service. No matter what you decide to do once you have arrived in Saba, it is certain that you will leave with a new appreciation of history, nature and the efforts that this tiny island has made to preserve it all.

Calling All Hikers

Reach the top of Saba’s 2,910-foot Mount Scenery, a dormant volcano and the highest elevation in the Netherlands, and you’ll be rewarded with a certificate attesting to your hiking prowess. It’s free at the Saba Tourist Bureau in Windward side. “Just show us a picture of the mud on your shoes,” says Glenn Holm, director of tourism. The office is open Monday THROUGH Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

View at Oranjestad Statia with cloudy weather

St. Eustatius – Where History Comes Alive

St. Eustatius — or Statia, as islanders call it — is another special municipality of The Netherlands with appeal for nature lovers as well as history buffs. It’s a quick plane ride from St. Maarten / St. Martin and makes for a perfect day-trip destination. The island boasts several prime dive sites.

Wrecks like the 328-foot-long Charles Brown are havens for schools of colorful fish and other fascinating underwater creatures. On an archaeological dive you may find pottery or glass shards, wine bottles and maybe even an old Dutch clay pipe. If you appreciate nature, you’ll also want to seek out the island’s hiking trails. The north end of the island is a series of hills formed from the remnants of five extinct volcanoes. The Quill, a nonactive volcano, is at the south end of the island.

If history interests you, there’s much to learn on this charming island. Three hundred years ago, Statia was a major sea-lane stop for trade and commerce. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries it was a call for buccaneers, admirals and merchants alike.

Statia also was a vital link between the fledgling American colonies and Europe. Benjamin Franklin even had his mail routed through Statia to ensure safe delivery. A standout moment for the island was on November 16, 1776, when the American merchant brig-turned-warship Andrew Doria sailed into the harbor and fired off a 13-gun salute, indicating that the colonies had won their independence from Britain. Statia returned a salute, thus becoming the first foreign entity to officially recognize the new United States of America.

As the 18th century came to a close, Statia gradually slipped from importance as a trading center. Now the tranquil island welcomes a new breed of explorers: visitors in search of a Caribbean paradise. And there’s a lot to explore here. Oranjestad, the capital, is like a living museum with historic, well-preserved buildings.

Getting to Statia is easy. Just hop on a Winair flight at Princess Juliana International Airport. The airline operates several 20-minute daily flights from St. Maarten. Or hop aboard Great Bay Express. Located at Bobby’s Marina in Philipsburg, the high-speed ferry offers regular trips to Statia, as well as other neighboring islands.

Beaches of St Barths near Eden Rock

St. Barthelemy – An Island Gem That Sparkles

Duty-free shopping, designer boutiques, luxury hotels and villas dotting hillsides. No wonder Saint Barthélemy – or St. Barths, as it is affectionately called – is known the world over as a playground for the rich and famous. This petite French isle just southeast of St. Maarten / St. Martin seamlessly blends local charm with sleek sophistication, making it a gem of a day-trip destination.

The main harbor town of Gustavia is known for its French elegance and Caribbean gingerbread houses. It’s the island’s shopping hub, where you can easily rent a car or hire a taxi to take you on an island tour. Make your way through narrow streets while perusing name-brand boutiques and eclectic shops as you savor the smell of baguettes wafting from distinctly French bakeries.

St. Jean Beach and Shell Beach offer open-air dining, relaxing lounge chairs and, of course, the iconic tropical cocktail. And you must stop at Nikki Beach, where you can feast on some of the island’s most delectable bites while rubbing shoulders with celebrities. If you’re not in the mood to hobnob with the stars, relax at one of the island’s many restaurants. Almost all boast stunning ocean views and that sweet Caribbean charm that makes this region so appealing.

You may have the chance to see the island in bloom, depending on what time of year you visit. Frangipani and Flamboyant trees are sprinkled around the hillsides, in gardens and along the roads. The brilliant colors of the flowers stand out against the muted greens of the low brush that lines the hills and valleys. In addition, many species of birds are found here.

It takes just 45 minutes to reach St. Barths aboard the Edge. The high-speed ferry departs from Aqua Mania Adventures at Simpson Bay. Great Bay Express also offers a high-speed ferry to St. Barths from Bobby’s Marina in Philipsburg or book your trip online. If you prefer to fly, board a plane from Princess Juliana International Airport. The landing at St. Barths is a much-talked-about spectacular experience. Either way, you’re in for a treat you won’t soon forget.

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