Taken from the premiere issue of Jaunte magazine, contributor Sameena Haque a 25-years-old Medical student out of Atlanta, recommended these places to visit when vacationing in St. Maarten:
- Visit Maho Beach and watch the planes take off and land.
- Visit Orient Beach on the French side of the island. The beach has a clothing optional section but both sides are lively and have tons of watersport activities. On weekends and special occasions, many of the restaurants on Orient Beach have theme parties.
-Hop on a powerboat and visit Creole Rock, Tintamarre Island, and Pinel Island. On Tintamarre Island, you can swim with sea turtles and cleanse your skin with the natural clay mud baths. Companies I recommend are Tender Tours & Rentals (Captain Tim) or Souliga Destinations Bout Tours (Captain Bob). This trip is usually a full day (9-4pm) but is worth every hour!
-Do the Extreme Zipline Adventure at Loterie Farm! Total time involved is about 2 hours. You will fly through the trees and see monkeys, iguanas, and other animals.
-Visit the Butterfly Garden on the French side
-Visit Downtown Philipsburg and see the local crafts. Philipsburg also has great shopping with designers from all over the world.
Paige from South Florida is the proud mother of beautiful globetotter, 20-month-old Ethan. Her inspirational ability to juggle life as a single mother and a successful career in Microsoft with grace and elegance makes her our choice candidate for JOZU's very first Angel of the Month. She shares with us that her secret to keeping it balanced is by rewarding herself – and for her, travel is the ultimate reward.
Since Ethan was born, we have been on 5 vacations with his first flight being at 3 months old to Texas for a wedding and to visit family. I find we are getting on a plane approximately 3 times a year with our most frequent destinations being Texas and Colorado. With such a young child, I’ve kept the trips within the United States. However, Ethan is scheduled to travel to Asia for the first time at 2.5 years old in the summer of 2017. Once Ethan is older, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean will be destinations we will do annually together.
What's on your bucket list for Caribbean travel with Ethan?
On the bucket list is the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. I’m also seriously considering travelling to an all-inclusive resort for families in the Caribbean, such as at Sandals Beaches Resort where the staff is trained to be kid-friendly and there are kid-centric activities lined up while the adults can enjoy some down time.
Tell us more about Ethan's first experience on a flight?
Ethan’s first flight was at 3 months old and we were blessed to be invited on a private jet that belonged to Ethan’s uncle. We headed to San Antonio, Texas to visit family and attend a wedding. At such a young age, Ethan had no idea how fortunate we were to be on a private plane with the luxury to move around, easy access to amenities, and speed to destination. Ethan may not remember his very first flight, but a year later we were offered another opportunity for private travel on a trip to Colorado. With nearly 10 flights under his little belt by that point, Ethan boarded the plane and immediately knew how cool it was to be on a private jet. He had his own little carry-on bag, armed with his snacks and bottle. Ethan quickly made himself at home by lounging in the large seats, looking out the windows, and playing with his cousins in the incredible space.
Ethan is truly one very lucky globetrotting baby boy!
Grand Cayman Island has to be on your bucket list. The island is small, clean and family, and offers a perfect climate for relaxation all year around. Dive operators are extremely accommodating and importantly, very safe. Beauty abounds in abundance both in the water and out.
Roatán, Bay Islands of Honduras is another favourite. It was on this island that I experienced the most beautiful vertical wall diving, encased on a deep blue abyss, by pillar corals, Azure Vase, and barrel sponges. I descended to the top of the reef at 20 feet, and then descended over the edge of the almost-vertical wall and let myself drop for another 90 to 100 feet. As I made my way back up along the wall of brilliant colour, I photographed exotic coral and marine life.
Beyond the Caribbean, I have the good fortune of taking a "live aboard" dive holiday on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Live-aboards combine the convenience of cruising and the emphasis on diving as often and as frequently as is healthy. It's immersive, but offers increased Zen properties as you are living, sleeping and diving all right from the moment you board the vessel.
During a dive, we came face to face with several Australian icons of the sea including giant clams, cuttlefish, Napoleon Wrasse, and a few friendly giant Grouper. The Nudibranch (a neon-coloured soft-bodied slug like mollusc) were breathtaking. The shallow reefs offered an array of brilliant marine life that thrives because of the intense Australian sunshine that keeps it vibrant. Although tempting because of their brilliant colourings, steer well away from the red Lion Fish as they can inflict serious injuries.
Some of the most beautiful parts of St Maarten are off the map and not in the guidebooks! My favourite place on the island is a Natural Tide Pool. The only way to get to the tide pool is via a short 45-minute hike that starts at Guana Bay. The hike follows the undeveloped coastline from Guana Bay. The views are breathtaking and you may even run into a few goats along the way!
No trip is complete without a trip to Le Trou de David (David's Hole). This natural landmark is the result of a sinkhole in the ocean. When the water is high enough, snorkelers often swim through the natural arches in search of fish.
Another wonderful secret is Plum Bay. Plum Bay is a quiet beach in the French Lowlands. It is home to many beautiful villas including Donald Trump's. Because all beaches on the island are public, visitors may access the beach without any issues.
If you looking for a more laid back, discreet St. Barth's experience there are many well appointed and well managed private villas that offer privacy, comfort and more room to move. Villas provide an economical alternative to hotels and are perfect for families, girl getaways and couples weekends where shared space is part of the experience.
The Fleur De Lune Villas and Bungalows in Saline Bay are located ten minutes from the airport and central to some of the most beautiful beaches and salt flats that are popular with kite surfers around the world. Villa Paradise sits in a tropical gated island enclave managed by one of the most knowledgeable and gracious hostesses, Ms Maryse. The two-bedroom villas are elegantly furnished, complete with a pool and barbeque and offer a casual ambience of relaxed sophistication common on French Caribbean islands.
If you are a fan of Ben Stiller and remember the cult classic, Along Came Polly, you'll love Tom Beach Hotel on St. Barths for a number of reasons. If you get the pleasure of visiting the Tom Beach Hotel in St Jean, you'll recall Hank Azaria (The Scuba instructor) and Ben Stiller in the classic laugh-out-loud scene, despite the cheesy Trinidadian steel drum music that you'll hear nowhere on the island, at all.
Tucked just off the St. Barts runway, Tom Beach Hotel is a bespoke boutique hotel offering understated elegance, a great beach bar, plenty of loungers and umbrellas for day hire and a fabulous boutique. The superior rooms offer guests either balconies or terraces perfect to take in the endless delight of fifty shades of blue or relax in the shade the tropical gardens generously offer. The hotel also has deluxe rooms on offer (approximately $546 USD per night for two guests) that offer larger, more discreet unadulterated views of St Jean bay from sweeping terraces equipped with deck chairs.
St. Jean is one of the first beaches you'll spot if you approach St Barths in the air - you fly directly over it to land on this gorgeous gem of the Caribbean. The tiny airstrip can be a bit daunting for travellers not quite used to puddle jumpers (small propeller planes used for short flights between islands) but the pilots are incredibly experienced and confident - just ask them how many flights they have made in their lifetime as you wait to board the plane.
St Jean is not just one beach, it's two separated by the Eden Roc Hotel which juts prominently out in the centre. Eden Roc Hotel is famous for rock stars and reality tv show luminaries and shares the beach with Tom Beach Hotel and Miami institution and day party venue Nikki Beach Club.
Tom Beach Hotel also is home to an iconic beachside restaurant that I highly recommend - La Plage. Our group of ten guests dined on fresh seafood that was well presented, and delicious - offering local delicacies like a yummy lobster salad with mango and champagne dressing, grilled lobsters by the kilo (enjoyed by the men at the table), and a few Asian fusion dishes including a cold rice noodle salad and fried rice.
The restaurant also provides impromptu entertainment, with a 'fashion show' as models ambiently roam around in chic outfits and accessories available for purchase from the hotel's boutique. After a few magnums of Rose, my friends parted with Euros and took home outfits inspired by afternoon's entertainment.
Saturdays during high season, La Plage offers a Bikini Brunch -- a bit more of a themed brunch and party atmosphere. Expect plastic hot pink flamingos, lots of roses, and a party vibe. It was fun.
Planning your next trip to the islands? Here are a few tips when travelling to the St.Maarten, taken from the premiere issue of Jaunte magazine, contributor Sameena Haque a 25-years-old Medical student out of Atlanta.
St Maarten is a wonderful island that caters to all ages and all interests. There is something for everyone from those looking for an adventure to those who may prefer a more relaxing vacation!
General travel rules that apply to any destination also apply to travel on the island:
1) Lock your car, don't leave valuables inside.
2) Don't wear flashy jewellery.
3) Keep a close eye on your handbag and personal belongings.
4) For women travelling alone, I would suggest staying away from the more remote areas of the island after dark. Crime is generally lower on the Dutch side of the island and it is more developed. The French side of the island is beautiful but be sure to stay at a reputable hotel.
Other than that, the island is safe and women travelling alone should not be afraid to get out of their comfort zone and explore! Also, don't be afraid to drive on the island, renting a car is a great way to get around and see everything. It is not too challenging!
Hope this was informative and helpful when planning your next trip.
What are your general travel tips when travelling to the islands?
If you are lucky enough to know where St Barths is (it's a tiny speck on Google Maps), and clever enough to book the four flights I needed to take to get there from Los Angeles, you'll find St. Barths one of the most idyllic islands in the Caribbean.
The fifty shades of blue never get old, the people are genuinely friendly to tourists, and the beaches are mostly small and protected so it's never too windy or rough to swim.