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St. Maarten

St. Maarten Day Trips and Island Hopping

Anguilla resort
Anguilla is a great day trip from St. Maarten. © Anguilla Tourist Board
St. Maarten is a great opportunity for island hopping in a single day based on a cruise visit or a longer term one.

Caribbean island hopping may give travelers a variety of experiences, but it also can be an expensive way to travel around the region. Ferries are almost always cheaper but slower than flights by local airlines.

It may be obvious but necessary to say that the cheapest and most efficient way to island hop is by cruise. A seven-day, six-night cruise can allow people to see four or five islands without breaking a sweat.

In addition, a cruise visit to a single island can lead to brief visits to other nearby islands, some of which can be reached in a half hour by ferry.

But island hopping for just a day can be accomplished by ferries, aircraft or short-term boat rentals in places such as St. Maarten when other interesting islands are nearby.

Three smaller islands are within reach of St. Maarten by boat, ferry or plane -- Anguilla, St. Barthelemy and Saba.

Anguilla Day Trip

Because Anguilla is best known for its beaches, one of the best ways to visit the island is via a beach or snorkeling excursion.

In our case, we took a 45-minute boat ride from Simpson Bay on the southwest side of the island to the southwest side of Anguilla and enjoyed a beautiful day on empty white-sand beaches snorkeling in clear blue water.

Another way to visit Anguilla is by taking a ferry from the French town of Marigot over to the town of Blowing Point, about nine miles away. Spending time in the quaint Marigot is a plus.

Ferries run every 30 to 45 minutes and take about 25 minutes to cross between 7:30 a.m. and 6:15 p.m., according to the Anguilla Tourist Board.

The cost is about $15 each way depending on the service plus a departure tax of $5. Make sure to bring a passport.

Ferry services also operate between Blowing Point and the Princess Juliana Airport for fees ranging around $45.

Anguilla Air Services offers access via plane at $130-200 for a round-trip ticket depending on days and times, but with only a few scheduled flights each day.

St. Barthelemy Day Trip

St. Barthelemy is the next closest island at about 17 miles away.

One way to get to St. Barthelemy is via Great Bay Expression, which crosses between the two islands several times a day. The trip takes about 40 minutes and costs (at the time of this writing) $117 for a round trip ticket for adults and $59 for children.

The ferry will arrive at the town of Gustavia, where visitors can shop, relax and sip tea while keeping an eye out for celebrities that sometimes show up on this exclusive island destination.

Otherwise, St. Barts is mainly known for its beaches, much like Anguilla. Because it is so small, visitors also can tour the island quickly by car, bicycle or scooter.

Visitors also can reach St. Barts by air. WinAir offers round-trip tickets starting at $169. Numerous times are available, and the flight takes about 15 minutes.

Saba Day Trip

The small and fairly unknown Saba, about 30 miles away, can be seen in the distance from the shores of St. Maarten as a hazy mound on the horizon. It is mainly known for ecotourism, scuba diving and numerous hiking trails.

Access is faster but more expensive by air than by ferry.

WinAir has airline tickets for $120-175 round trip in four classes of economy depending on availability of tickets. Make the reservations early to ensure the least expensive tickets.

The airline makes four trips a day, and the flight lasts about 15 minutes.

St. Maarten Activities has a day trip to Saba via boat departing at 9 a.m. from Simpson Bay Resort and departing from Fort Bay in Saba at 3:30 p.m.

The cost is $80 for adults and $40 for children 2 through 12 plus a departure tax of $15.

Like Anguilla and St. Barts, a passport is required for travel.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

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October 27, 2014
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