The Best Daytrips from St. Maarten
This island destination is two countries in one, split into French Saint-Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten with a curving, non-patrolled border separating the two. Phillipsburg, the capital on the Dutch side, is home to the main international airport (where planes famously swoop low over Maho Beach before landing) and is a better option for those looking for large restaurants, nightlife and casinos. The French side has quaint waterside cafes in Grand Case and boutiques dotting its capital of Marigot.
Our favorite part is how easy it is to explore other islands after landing here: Although connecting or charter flights can be arranged (sometimes they’re seasonal-only and very expensive), travelers looking to save money — and even plan last minute — should opt for boat transfers instead. Here are our top picks for a daytrip for:
It’s an understatement to call Saba a remote retreat — the island has less than 2,000 permanent residents. Saba is best known for world-class diving around coral formations and underwater mountains formed by volcanic activity. In fact, the entire island is actually the top of a dormant volcano, so it’s great for mountain treks, too. The cheapest and quickest way to get a taste of Saba is to take a morning boat from St. Maarten and return on the afternoon one for $80 roundtrip per person. If you’re looking to spend a night or two, it’s slightly more to travel roundtrip on different days: $110-$116. The total boat journey is about 1.5 hours each way.
Saint Barthélemy — otherwise known as St. Bart’s — is a destination often found in glossy magazines next to bolded names. While travel in winter is notoriously expensive, with celebrities’ mega-yachts filling the harbor, even the non-famous (or non-hotel-guests) can visit the island’s first hotel, Eden Rock, to rent a beach chair or dine at Jean-Georges’ Sand Bar, and shop the boutiques of Gustavia. The island is accessible from both the French and Dutch sides of St. Maarten — it’s $70 roundtrip (per person) to go there and back in the same day, or $90-$120 roundtrip for longer stays. The total boat journey is about 30-45 minutes each way.
Anguilla falls somewhere between the natural, unspoiled beauty of Saba and the glam factor of St. Bart’s. Home to many private villas and a handful of 5-star resorts (including Zemi Beach, Malliouhana and the Four Seasons), the island is slow-paced, with amazing, oft-empty beaches like Shoal Bay East, Meads Bay, Rendevous Bay and Sandy Ground, just to name a few. Then, when night falls, the energy picks up at Dune Preserve, the place to be for live music. The island is accessible by a “fast ferry” — actually a speedboat with complimentary drinks — found right by the St. Maarten airport, or a public ferry from Marigot. Both trips take about 20 minutes, but the fast ferry can be booked in advance for a guaranteed spot for $80-$90 roundtrip for same-day return and $129-$165 roundtrip for longer visits. The public ferry is $40 roundtrip for same-day or different-day trips.
Depending on the destination, ferries leave from Philipsburg’s Great Bay Marina, Simpson Bay or SXM Airport on the Dutch side; Marigot Ferry Terminal on the French side; and Oyster Pond Marina in between the two. In most cases, these can easily be booked upon arrival — to search ferry prices and routes by destination, click here. There are additional departure taxes and security fees that are not included for both daytrips ($8-$13) or when leaving permanently ($23-$28).