St. Martin: The Friendly Island
While traveling looks different during the coronavirus pandemic, it is not impossible to still go out and see the world! A few extra steps are required and there is always the risk of a flight being delayed or canceled but don't let that deter you. Travel is still possible and popular places are far less crowded than they usually are.
The end of 2021 took us to the Friendly Island of St. Martin located in the Caribbean Sea and that is the perfect word to describe this amazing place. We have done a lot of traveling since first beginning AniGraham Travels in 2019 and St. Martin by far has some of nicest locals we have ever met. The island is known for its amazing food, festive nightlife, duty-free shopping and beaches, 37 to be exact! St Martin is particularly unique as it is home to two independent governing nations, the French and the Dutch.
Although, it is known for the kindness of its people, I like to refer to St. Martin as the Comeback Island. In 2017, St. Martin was battered my hurricane Irma for just a few hours and was the hardest hit Caribbean Island with an estimated 90% of the buildings being damaged and one-third being completely destroyed. While several parts of the island continue to be rebuilt, including new additions to the airport, St. Martin welcomed us with open arms and forever has a place in our hearts.
Our flight coming from Chicago O'Hare airport was delayed by several hours, so we didn't arrive on the island until after dark. While we missed the dramatic entrance onto one of the shortest runways in the world, the beauty that awaited us from the balcony of our Airbnb was well worth the surprise. Each morning, we were greeted with the sound of waves, the smell of the ocean and the can't be described by words view of Indigo Bay. Indigo Bay is an up-and-coming new development on the Dutch side, and we highly recommend staying in the Indigo Sweet Airbnb hosted by Nila and Anton.
St Martin has a beach to offer to everyone, whether you are looking for a secluded beach that feels just your own, a lively one with a bar or the clothing optional type. We made it a point to hit as many beaches as we could on our trip as I am known as the Pokemon Kid as I have to "catch'em all." On our first full day, we ventured to Long Bay Beach and Plum Bay Beach, which are located on the French side of the island. They are tricky to find as you need to maneuver through a gated community that hosts a few armed guards, however, don't let that stop you! We had Long Bay Beach all to ourselves for the day before venturing around the corner to Plum Bay to watch the sunset. The perks of staying in Indigo Bay is that if you don't want to drive to the beach, you don't have to! Day two was spent at the awesome little beach in our neighborhood that once again, we were its sole inhabitants. When in Rome, well when in St. Martin, we couldn't miss the opportunity to break out of the US's taboo about nudity and enjoyed an amazing day at Happy Bay Beach. Our last full day took us a workout of a kayak trip across the bay to Pinel Island, where we reveled in the beach front chairs, motionless blue water, and food/drink service from Karibuni, one of the two restaurants on the island.
Speaking of food, St. Martin has some of the best cuisine we have ever eaten on any travel adventure! Do not stay in an all-inclusive resort as you will miss out on all the island has to offer. We did not have a bad meal there, not a single one! From the Shrimp Risotto at Emilio's, the Duck Duo at Indigo Bay Beach Bar, the biggest lobster I have ever seen at Topper's to the Conch Fritters and Shrimp Creole at The Green House. I can't forget to mention the lunch we enjoyed on Pinel Island at Karibuni! We were served, beach side mind you, Rum Punch, Pork Spring Rolls, Mahi Ceviche, Tuna Tartar and a Thai Beef Salad served in a Coconut!
St. Martin also has something for the adventurer in all of us! Ever since we started exploring the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, we make it a point to do on a catamaran snorkeling excursion. This trip led us aboard the Enigma C3, captained by Captain Neal and his two-person crew. We spent the day sailing around the island, stopping at various snorkeling spots. Lunch was a homemade spread cooked right on the boat; unlike anything we had experienced. We were treated to Mahi Mahi, beef short ribs, shrimp paella, garlic bread, pasta salad and potato salad. We also met the best group of other adventurers on the boat. We became sailing friends with a family of three from New Jersey and a larger 15ish member family from Los Angeles and Pittsburg. The best part was getting a bunch of Steeler fans to say "Who Dey" during a family photo I was asked to take. If you get it, you get it.
For those who are not into sailing and would enjoy flying down the side of a mountain on the world's steepest zipline, St. Martin has you covered with the Flying Dutchman. The amazing ride is a must do for any thrill seeker! The Graham of AniGraham Travels isn't much on heights, so he elected to skip the zipline and round the chairlift up and down the mountain. Even if you don't fly down on the Flying Dutchman, we highly recommend the chairlift as your get panoramic views of the island and neighboring Saba and Anguilla. There is even a bar at the top to wet your whistle!
St. Martin is the island for everyone. While a week in paradise was a blessing, it just never seems to be enough time. Even though we have our eyes set on a few new adventures for 2022, we will be returning to the Friendly Island at least a few more times!