I have a new least favorite Caribbean island, and it goes by the name of St. Martin (or Sint Maarten if you’re on the Dutch side). Don’t get me wrong, the landscape is undeniably beautiful. It’s a volcanic isle with multiple levels and layers, a gorgeous coastline, and a rainbow of colors just off its coast.
And then someone had to go and plop a mini-Vegas right in the middle of it. In fact, as you taxi on the tarmac, the first thing you see is a neon sign advertising an “adults-only club”—and that’s before you’ve even cleared customs.
So why do people go to St. Maarten? Well, the airlift for one. It’s the busiest airport in the Caribbean, and thus it’s easy to find cheap airfare. Ours, for example, was just $500 a piece from Nashville to Princess Juliana International Airport, and that was over a holiday, too.
Plus, it’s cheaper than most, and thus has suffered the effects of becoming “a Spring Break destination.” I didn’t investigate but I’m sure there are strip clubs galore. If you like that sort of thing, then maybe St. Maarten is for you. It was not, however, for SVV and me.
We hated the bright-lit, smoky casinos that greeted us everywhere we walked. We found the place generally unfriendly, no doubt because they have to put up with the onslaught of travelers invading their home island on a regular basis.
But the good news is that you can take advantage of the low airfare and use St. Maarten as a base, only to hop a ferry to a neighboring isle—which is precisely what we did to reach Anguilla, St. Maarten’s polar opposite ($15 and 20 minutes each way). For divers, Saba is an hour and 20 minutes and $50 each leg, as is the ferry for St. Barths (for those with more money to spend once they reach the pricey, yet charming island).
For us, we sought refuge on Anguilla—or more specifically, the Viceroy Anguilla, a property I have long wanted to visit ever since it opened a few years ago. Sure, it wasn’t the cheapest of destinations—our bill for two days there totaled more than our monthly mortgage—but it offered us the kind of experience we longed for and yet couldn’t find on St. Maarten.
The property was so quiet. There were three restaurants and multiple pools. There were very few children (versus our Westin resort on St. Maarten where we couldn’t escape the yelling and screaming and splashing). The service was impeccable.
And all said and done, our room wasn’t that much more expensive than what we paid over in St. Maarten (and so much nicer, it’s ridiculous). So yeah, other than to save a few bucks, I don’t really get why people would come all that way and opt to stay on St. Maarten instead of its classier neighbor across the sea.
Sorry, St. Maarten, I hate to rag on you and I totally want to be able to say, “it’s not you, it’s me,” but in this case, it’s all you (and your trashy strip clubs and party-loving clientele that follows suit). I will, however, continue to use you as my hub for reaching lesser-known, untainted islands. And Anguilla, hold my lounge chair, as I’m totally coming back for you the moment I have an opportunity to do so.