White sands, clear waters, lush green palms trees, ice cold beer and sunshine for days… all islands in the Caribbean are pretty much alike right? Wrong! From volcanoes to steep hills, desert-like limestone expanses and dense tropical forests, there is a surprising amount of diversity within the Caribbean (not to mention its languages – Spanish, French, English and Dutch).
Although you may be familiar with the more popular places like Jamaica, Barbados, Bermuda or the Bahamas, there are plenty of other, lesser-known destinations just waiting to be discovered. The best part about taking a trip to the Caribbean is that it’s actually quite easy to plan day trips and hop from one island to the next. Here’s how:
Where to start: St Martin
This spectacular, tiny island is shared by the Dutch (on the more rambunctious, party side) and the French (on the more sophisticated, European side). With beautiful beaches, world-class dining and that certain tropical je ne sais quoi, this is by far one of the best destinations for basing day trips to nearby islands like Anguilla, St Barts or Saba.
Hop 1: St Martin to Anguilla
Anguilla is one of the easiest island to get to from St Martin and if you’ve never heard of it, consider that a good thing. This tiny British territory still seems to go under major tourist radar which helps maintain its original beauty and charm. With colorful clapboard shacks dotting the island and beaches that rival most others in the Caribbean, this sophisticated, quiet spot is where the real jet-setters go to get away from it all (sorry, St Barts). And with ferries that leave the French town of Marigot in St Martin every 15 minutes and arrive in less than an hour (47 minutes to be exact), this is the perfect place to head over for lunch and a swim and be back in time for your pre-dinner apéritifs.
Where to stay in Anguilla
Hop 2: St Martin to St Barts
The French island of St Barthelemy, or St Barts, as it’s more affectionately called, is undoubtedly one of the most glamorous, most chic, most exclusive islands in the whole Caribbean archipelago. With its yacht-filled harbor, high-end shops, stylish bars and well-reputed restaurants, this is one of the Caribbean’s most expensive destinations and is playfully known as a sandbox for adults. With a distinct French vibe akin to St Tropez, it’s well worth checking out, if only to rub shoulders with the rich and famous who frequent this well-heeled gem. Ferries will get you there in less than 45 minutes (some even in 30 minutes!), so take the day to explore one of St Barts’ 22 beaches, or spend the night and enjoy all the luxury this island has to offer.
Where to stay in St Barts
Hop 3: St Martin to Saba
Saba what, you ask? Well this little dot of an island – a special municipality of the Netherlands – is based around a breathtaking volcanic peak, the dormant Mount Scenery. Measuring only 13 sq km, Saba is full of dense forests that blanket its many peaks and valleys. The island’s crime-free, cheery community that inhabit this off-the-beaten-path Carib wonderland is more than happy to share their piece of paradise with you. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of snorkeling or scuba diving, their famous dive site, the Marine National park, lets you explore the seamounts (underwater mountains) teeming with dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and pristine coral. All travel to Saba connects in St Martin so it’s easy to get there, with two ferry services for the 1-hour and 20-minute trip.