The life of zip lining across a forest, digging your toes in the sand and hiking a volcano is the dream. For fellow blogger and friend Kaitlyn Bailey, this dream became a reality last summer when she traveled to St. Maarten, Anguilla, Saba and St. Barts. Her schedule was filled with spending time on the beach, parasailing, zip lining, surfing, snorkeling and road trikes—a three-wheeled motorcycle similar to a tricycle.
Her main stops in St. Maarten were Orient Beach, Great Bay and Moho, a beach known for its views of low-flying planes. From St. Maarten, her family took excursions to smaller islands around 30 minutes to an hour away. In Anguilla she took a boat tour and had a mud bath. In Saba she hiked a volcano and tried their Saba spice—exclusively sold on the island. She spent her time shopping—well, browsing—on the celebrity-filled, expensive St. Barts.Q: What was the best part about your trip?
A: There are far too many! However, the feeling I had when I reached the top of Mount Scenery had to be one of my favorite parts of my trip. I’ve never experienced the feeling of being in pure amazement and awe of the world I live in—a world far bigger than myself. Q: What surprised you most about this trip?
A: When I think back on my vacation, I don’t just think about the excursions I got to do or the views I got to see, but I also think about how much the people of St. Maarten rely on the cruise ships that come in. Although I knew cruise ship tourism was very heavy in St. Maarten, I can’t even describe how empty it was when a cruise ship wasn’t in port. Businesses and restaurants didn’t open for the day, beaches were empty, and the streets were completely silent.
Q: Tell me how you prepared for this trip.
A: My family had been preparing for this trip for a year and a half, which is why I think our vacation went so well. Although my family loves being spontaneous, I cannot express the importance of being prepared when taking a trip to St. Maarten. Because St. Maarten heavily relies on the tourism they get from cruise ships, there are so many things to do and see; however, they can get booked quickly. TripAdvisor became our best resource when planning for the excursions we were going on and the places we were going to eat. We also looked at cruise ship websites, like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, to check when those cruise ships were going to be in so we could avoid the overpopulated areas and to know when it was a good idea to go somewhere when a cruise ship is in port. For example, going to Moho Beach wasn’t our best option on a day a cruise ship came in because many tourists go there, however going to Great Bay was a good idea because Great Bay doesn’t open their shops or sell chairs when a cruise ship isn’t docked. Q: What are your biggest pieces of advice for people wanting to travel to St. Maarten?
A: My biggest piece of advice would be to take advantage of the boats that travel to surrounding islands. Each surrounding island had something unique to offer for each culture whether it was food, language or excursions. Saba is Dutch territory known for its hiking and scuba diving; Anguilla is a British territory known for it’s luxurious beaches, resorts and mud baths; and St. Barts is French territory known for its luxurious shopping and celebrities who travel there.
However, I also think you should plan enough time to see each island without feeling anxious because you may miss your boat ride back. For example, we only had four hours to hike Mount Scenery, which meant we had to quickly climb up the stairs, look at the view and go back down. The tour guide had no problem going up the volcano, but my family and I had to take a few breaks to catch our breath. Taking advantage of the resorts each island offers would be a good way to maximize your visit to each island to the fullest without feeling anxious. Q: How did this trip change your perspective, if at all?
A: As I interacted with people who lived on St. Maarten, you could tell this island isn’t very fortunate due to the hurricanes. In fact, they were still recovering from the category four hurricane in 2010, Hurricane Earl. They had the simple necessities, but that was it. So, this trip taught me to love the necessities I’m given in this life—even if they aren’t the prettiest, most updated or best things. Often, humans feel the need to have it all. The cutest clothes. The most expensive car. The best home. But on the island, I didn’t feel that need—ultimately because these people didn’t have those things. All they had was family, love, faith, and shelter—and that was enough for them.
All photos courtesy of Kaitlyn Bailey.