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Island Collectors - Hopping the Pond in the Caribbean

Written by  Melanie Reffes

 

StWhile a week of lazing around a seaside resort is tempting, there are a growing number of travelers who prefer more than one resort, one beach or one island and instead, are opting to hop from one sandy sliver to another either by air or by sea. For the bragging rights alone, hopscotching to as many islands as is geographically possible is the new Caribbean cool with regional flights, ferries, yachts and catamarans ready to make the hop. From St. Kitts to Nevis aboard a comfy boat and St. Maarten to Anguilla on a fast ferry, to a scenic sail from Nassau to Eleuthera, island collecting is the real deal in the Caribbean. 

“Island-hopping is high on my list of recommendations to consumers who want to spend a day or two on an island  and really get to know the nationals and the destination in an off-the beaten track way,” said Sylma Brown Bramble, director of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, USA. “The Caribbean is the ideal region in which to enjoy an escape that will allow the stress to roll off your shoulders in anticipation of an island hopping vacation that will engage you in the most diversely
sensuous way.“  

On A Clear Day

As one of the most accessible islands in the Eastern Caribbean, St. Maarten is the ideal springboard to six islands - all visible on a clear day. Anguilla is so close you can practically swim there (twenty minutes by ferry and less than ten minutes by air). St. Barths is an hour away by boat and Saba and St. Eustatius are short plane hops. Also a seashell away from St. Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis are within hopping distance from each other. “A short ferry trip, or more leisurely boat ride, makes it possible for residents and visitors alike to move easily across the two-mile channel that separates the closest points between our two islands,“ said Ricky Skerritt, minister of tourism for St. Kitts and Nevis, and a frequent hopper. “Our visitor satisfaction exit surveys have confirmed that 40% of guests took a day trip across the channel, which they felt added good value to their
visitor experience.” 

With St. Maarten as home base, there is no better perch for serious island collecting than the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort which is next to the runway at the Princess Juliana International Airport. Perfect for those wanting to explore the nearby neighborhood, the resort is also a short hop to the ferry pier. “Where else can you go to three European nations in one trip to the Caribbean?“ said Kevin Matier, director sales and marketing of the Sonesta Collection, referring to the French countries of St. Barths and St. Martin, British island of Anguilla and the Dutch countries Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten. Popular day trips that can be organized from the resort include a fast ferry to St. Barths for a tour in a convertible Mini-Cooper, catamaran cruises to Anguilla to play a round of golf at the CuisinArt course, and the Saba Day Tour that takes film fans to the volcanic island where the original King Kong movie was filmed.

On the French side, island hopping is big business at Creole Rock Water Sports at the Grand Case Beach Club. General Manager Steve Wright says,“St. Martin is an amazing location to hop to neighboring islands that have incredibly different cultures and scenery. Anguilla has some of the finest beaches in the world, Saba is known the world over for stunning diving and St. Barths is a playground for celebrities.” 

Up, Up and Away 

Tradewind Aviation will launch nonstop service from San Juan to Anguilla and Nevis on Oct. 31 with flights continuing through May 15, 2014. Offering four flights a day to Anguilla and two to Nevis, return flights from both islands will return five days a week to San Juan. Tradewind currently flies to St. Barths from San Juan bookable via booksecure. www.tradewindaviation.com  

Good news for those who enjoy hopping between USVI and BVI with the resumption of the Cape Air flights between St. Thomas and Tortola on December 16, in addition to flights between St. Croix and Vieques in Puerto Rico. www.capeair.com

Haitian start-up Sunrise Airlines is flying daily between Cap Haitien and Providenciales, Turks & Caicos with flights to Kingston, Jamaica to start later this fall. “Those vacationing in Provo can now easily include a side trip to Cap Haitien’s historic attractions, while also enjoying the restaurants and nightlife in Haiti’s capital - all in one trip.” said Hamish Davidson, COO. www.SunriseAirways.net 

High Five on a Fast Ferry 

Smiths and Speedy’s link Tortola to Virgin Gorda and
Van Dyke. www.bvivacations.com

Osprey Lines runs frequent ferries between Grenada and the small Grenadine isles of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. www.ospreylines.com 

Frequent ferries connect Nassau to Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, Harbour Island, Abacos and Cat Island.
www.bahamasferries.com

T & T make the twenty mile journey between Trinidad and Tobago in less than three hours. www.ttitferry.com

L’Express des Iles takes hoppers between Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia, Marie Galante and Les Saintes. www.coxcoltd.com

 

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