Island Hopping - Starting Point St. Maarten
Submitted by MeetCaribbean on
St. Maarten has long been known as the hub of the Caribbean and the journey started back in 1943 when the first commercial flight landed on a very sleepy island in the middle of the Caribbean. The airport has since been expanded and remodeled several times and is currently rebuilding after having significant damage during Hurricane Irma in 2017. The airport is now functioning at a high capacity and welcomes flights from around the world every day.
In addition, the islands marine industry has boomed to become the playground of the stars. Mega yachts and cruisers enjoy spending their time anchored off the islands stunning shores or docked up at one of the many marinas. Life on the water is part of island living, so it's no wonder the harbor has expanded just as quickly as the airport.
For travelers looking to get the most out of their vacation, then we suggest making St. Maarten your starting point. Island hopping your way through the Caribbean can be a fun way to see more than just one destination without having to book yourself on a cruise with 3000 other tourists. Visiting smaller less know islands can lead to vacation memories that will last a lifetime.
St. Maarten is surrounded by no less than six islands than you can see with the naked eye on a clear day and another four to five that are within a few hours flight. Additionally, there are the US and the British Virgin Islands, with over 100 smaller keys and uninhabited islands. The choices are bountiful there, and it's just a matter of what you are looking for in a vacation.
There is a significant contrast between the neighboring Saba, with less than 3000 inhabitants and no beaches to the large and bustling cities of Puerto Rico, with its rich history and beautiful forts of Old San Juan. Both are reachable by air, and Saba is also on the ferry route. Islands like Anguilla and St. Barthelemy have daily ferry schedules, which make them ideal for a simple day trip for fun and sun. Some of the destinations that lie a bit further away may warrant a stopover or a hotel for a few days so that you can explore and discover the richness and diversity of the location.
The US & British Virgin Islands have a long history, and they both offer an engaging experience. While the US islands are known for its shopping and dining, the British islands are known for fabulous sailing. It is possible to rent a sailboat for a day or a week and spend your time hopping from smaller keys while exploring the nature and beauty of the sea.
Another alternative to flying or ferry service is to charter a sailboat or catamaran and take yourself to the surrounding islands by following the routes of traders who came before you centuries ago. The choices are vast depending on your needs, and you can have a smaller, more private experience, or rent a boa that will fit both family and friends. Skippers are available for hire so that you can focus on the exploring and for the ultimate experience, you can also look into having a chef on board, so all you have to do is relax.
One crucial factor to note is that many of the islands have their own rules and regulations so should you carry a passport that requires you to have a visa, this should be arranged before you board your flight to the Caribbean.
Tip: Currencies can differ, so be sure to have your credit card and atm card set to travel so that you can access funds as you go. Generally taking out cash at an ATM offers the best exchange rate and this ensures that you don't get stuck with money that you won't be able to use after you leave. Be sure to check ATM fee's as in the Caribbean they can be as high as us$8 per transaction!
Packing lightly is a must when island hopping so as it will save you a ton in baggage fees. Bring essentials, and remember that most islands in the Caribbean are casual attire, but they don't appreciate it when you take it to the next level of wearing your bathing suit to dine. Sturdy shoes for fun hikes and flip flops for the beach are all you need and a few changes of clothes for those warm days and cool nights.
Most importantly, plan ahead. Know where you want to go and what you want to see, look for discounts online and via Social Media, as many activities and restaurants have discounts to offer. Last but not least, adopt the island mentality, take things a bit slower, appreciate the view, and most of all, …have fun!