Adventure to the Cosmopolitan Caribbean with its French, Dutch, British and West Indian Flavors
Our Expert Opinion
We call this the “Cosmopolitan Caribbean” – a unique blend of cultures and a shoreside ambiance that ranges from barefoot beach bars to upscale, trendy restaurants and resorts. St. Barth’s has an international reputation of a “be there and be seen” island and boasts some dazzling white sand beaches. In the winter time, the seas can be robust so we recommend that you charter a superyacht or a large sailing yacht/catamaran.
A mecca for beach buffs; gastronomic cuisine; island nighlife; scenic bays; snorkeling and scuba diving; kitesurfing; pristine powder sand beaches; luxury spas; world class golf; designer shopping.
Location and Size
Anguilla, Antigua, St.Martin/St.Maarten and St.Barts are parts of the Caribbean Leeward islands located east of Puerto Rico at the meeting point of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. These islands are very small, having an area of 35 sq.miles (90 sq.km), 108 sq.miles (280 sq.km), 13 sq.miles (34 sq.km) and 8 sq. miles (21 sq.km) respectively. The Leeward Islands also include Saba, St. Kitts and Nevis which are featured in another section.
ANGUILLA: Pre-Columbian sites are reminders of the Arawak Indians, Anguilla's earliest inhabitants. Anguilla is home to the richest prehistoric sites in the region and studies are ongoing by archaeologists. European discovery occurred in 1565, most likely by French explorer Pierre Laudonnaire, who named the island Anguille or eel due to its long, thin shape. After European discovery of the island, the Arawak population quickly died off because of enslavement and disease.
About a century later, colonization of the island began when the first English settlers arrived in Anguilla from St. Kitts, about 70 miles to the southeast. Slaves were imported, and attempts to develop the island into a plantation economy were largely unsuccessful due to the lack of water and poor soil. Most settlers eventually abandoned their sugar plantations and returned to England or moved to neighboring islands, leaving the freed slaves on their own to subsist as fisherman and farmers.
In 1871, Britain forced Anguilla into a federation with St. Kitts, an unpopular with the islanders. It was not until 1967 that a local rebellion brought about independence from St. Kitts. This rebellion captured the attention of the world and the island was given the nickname The Mouse that Roared.
In 1980, the secession became formal. Today, Anguilla exists as a British overseas territory and problems with St. Kitts have long been resolved. Anguilla is thriving as an up-scale tourist destination with well-designed luxury resorts.
/destinations/destination-overview/british-virgin-islandsANTIGUA: Pre-Colonial Antigua was originally inhabited by the Siboney Indians (“stone people” in the Arawak language). Tools belonging to them, found at the archaeological sites date back to 1775 BC. The next inhabitants of Antigua were the Arawak Indians, moving in about AD 35 and living here until about AD 1100. These farmers were overthrown by the warlike, cannibal Caribs, who named the island Wadadli, now the name for a local beer.
In 1493, Christopher Columbus named the island in honor of Santa Maria de La Antigua of Seville. Due to the fierce Caribs and the island's lack of fresh water, the island evaded European exploitation for a century. In 1632, an English party from St. Kitts landed on Antigua and claimed it for Britain. The region gradually developed into a British naval base and also a major sugar producer. The sugar industry began to falter after the abolishment of slavery in 1834. After 350 years of endurance, Antigua gained its full independence on November 1,1981.
ST.MARTIN/ST.MAARTEN: The Arawak Indians from South America were the first settlers on this island and called it Sualouiga or Land of Salt. Later, they were overthrown by the fierce, cannibalistic Carib Indians for whom the region is named. Columbus, during his second voyage, spotted the island on November 11, 1493. It was the day of the feast of St. Martin of Tours, a holy man of the sixth century. And so the island was named although Columbus never set foot on the island.
As Spain took little interest in St. Martin, the Netherlands began to consider it as a strategic post halfway between their colonies in Nieue Amsterdam (New York), Brazil and Pernambuco. By 1631, the Dutch began to occupy the island and soon constructed Fort Amsterdam - taking salt from the island's ponds and shipping it back to Holland. This led to clashes between the Dutch and the Spaniards and in 1633, the Old Spanish Fort was erected at Point Blanche after the
Dutch were removed from the island.
The Dutch-Spanish conflict lasted 80 years. After the Spanish sailed away in 1648, the island was free again. The Dutch at Sint Eustatius sent Captain Martin Thomas to take possession of the island – only to find that the French were already there. A skirmish followed and finally a settlement was reached on March 23, 1648, dividing the beautiful island between the two nations. St. Maarten became the Dutch side; while St.Martin was a French territory.
With the cultivation of sugarcane, slavery was introduced to the island and then abolished by the French in 1848. Holland however did not emancipate its slaves until 15 years later.
After emancipation, the island's agricultural economy worsened. The economic viability of he island began to shift in 1939 when it received status as a duty-free port. In 1943, Princess Juliana International Airport opened on the Dutch side and just four years later the island's first hotel began welcoming guests. By the 1950s, Saint Maarten enjoyed a rising tourism industry. The French side did follow suit until 20 years later. Today tourism is its biggest industry with Saint Maarten being an independent country within the kingdom of The Netherlands and St. Martin is an overseas collectivity of France. Border disputes on the island ended decades ago, and to the traveler, and other than the different languages, the island seems like one nation.
SAINT BARTHELEMY: Often referred to as St. Barts or St. Barth’s. Like most Caribbean islands, the discovery of this island is credited to Christopher Columbus who in 1493 named it after his brother - Bartolomeo. The first settlement here was around 1648 by French colonists who were living on St. Kitts. In 1651, the island was bought by the Knights of Malta. Five years later it was raided by the fierce Carib Indians and then was abandoned. In 1673, the French from Normandy and Brittany tried settlement again. Success met the settlers this time around. The island did well financially, aided by the bounty of many French buccaneers, including Monbars the Exterminator, a famous buccaneer. His hidden treasure is still believed to exist in the coves of Anse du Gouverneur or buried in the sands of Grande Saline.
Unlike other Caribbean islands, St. Barth’s did not have a plantation economy so slavery here was minimal. The island had brief stints if governance under Britain and Sweden, but for the most art has been under France’s control and is now an overseas collectivity of France.
By Air: Direct flights from the U.S. and Europe are available into St. Maarten, Antigua, and St. Kitts; St. Barth’s, Nevis and Anguilla are only accessible through other Caribbean gateways such as San Juan and St. Maarten.
Best Time to Go
The Caribbean has a tropical climate that is warm year-round, and temperatures only vary a few degrees between summer and winter so it is considered a year-round destination. Hurricane season is from June 1 to November with peak season being late August through mid-October. From late August through October, we recommend other destinations or that you purchase trip cancellation insurance.
Local Customs to Observe
Politeness and manners are considered important by the local people. A firm handshake, accompanied by a smile and “good morning” or “good day” is commonly used as a greeting. It is common and acceptable to sunbathe topless on St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Barth’s whereas it is illegal in Anguilla, St. Kitts and Nevis
Helpful Fast Facts
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar in Anguilla, Antigua, St. Kitts, and Nevis. Euros in St. Barth’s and St.Martin. Florin in St.Maarten. US Dollars are also widely accepted.
Time Zone: UTC-04:00
Local language: The official languages of the islands are English in Anguilla, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis; French in St. Barth’s and St.Martin; and Dutch in St.Maarten.
Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport (AXA) - Anguilla
V.C Bird International Airport (ANU) – Antigua
Vance W. Armory Airport (NEV) – Nevis
Robert Bradshaw International (SKB)– St. Kitts
Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) - St.Maarten
Gustaf III Airport - St. Barth’s (SBH).
Entry Requirements: Every national visiting the Caribbean requires a valid passport. A passport valid for six months after the date of entry into the Caribbean is required by all visitors. No visa is required for nationals of Australia, United Kingdom, European Union, the United States of America and Canada.
Departure Tax: Anguilla - US $20 ; Antigua – none; St.Martin/St.Maarten – US $10 (to surrounding islands), US $30 (to other destinations); St. Barth’s – US $5 (French islands), US $10 (other destinations); St. Kitts and Nevis, US $22
Legal Drinking Age: 18 years
Smoking Regulations: No regulations against smoking
Staying in touch: Landlines as well as mobile phones with international roaming plans constitute an efficient tele-connectivity in the country. Internet facilities are also available across the Caribbean with many hotels, cafes and bars offering free Wi-Fi access.
Medical Information: Princess Alexandra Hospital in Anguilla, St.John's Medical Centre in Antigua, Louis Constant Fleming Hospital Centre in St.Martin and the Hôpital de Bruyn at St.Barth’s are some of the major hospitals in the region offering emergency and a few specialized services.
Public Holidays: ANGUILLA. New Year's Day (Jan 1); Good Friday; Easter Monday; Monday after Pentecost (Whit Monday); May 30-31 (Anguilla Day); June 18 (Queen's Birthday); first Monday in August (August Monday); first Thursday in August (August Thursday); August 6 (Constitution Day); December 17 (Separation Day); Christmas Day (Dec 25); December 26 (Boxing Day).
ANTIGUA. New Year's Day (Jan 1); Good Friday; Easter Monday; Whit Monday; J'Ouvert Morning; Last Lap; Independence Day (Nov 1); V.C Bird Day; Christmas Day (Dec 25); and Boxing Day (Dec 26).
ST.MARTIN/ST.MAARTEN. New Year's Day (Jan 1); Epiphany (Jan 6, French side); Carnival (early Feb); Good Friday and Easter Monday (usually Apr); Labor Day (May 1); Ascension Day (early May); Bastille Day (July 14, French side); Schoelcher Day (July 21, French side); Assumption Day (Aug 15); All Saints' Day (Nov 1); Concordia Day and St. Martin Day (Nov 11); Christmas Day (Dec 25); and Boxing Day (Dec 26).
ST.BARTH’S. New Year's Day (January 1); All Kings Day (January 3); Easter weekend; Labor Day (May 1); Armistice Day (May 8); Bastille Day (July 14); St. Barthélemy Saint's Day (August 24); All Saints Day (November 1); Armistice Day (November 11) and Christmas (December 25).
Tourist Office: The websites of the tourist boards of the region: http://ivisitanguilla.com/ (Anguilla), http://www.visitantiguabarbuda.com/ (Antigua), http://www.stmartinisland.org/ (St.Martin/St.Maarten) \http://www.saintbarth-tourisme.com/en (St. Barths) and http://www.stkittstourism.kn (St. Kitts and Nevis) provide detailed information on tourism in the region.
Shopping Information: There are a number of stores across the Caribbean for daily necessities as well as luxury purchases. Cash sales are preferred, and US dollars are widely accepted. In some locations credit and debit card services are offered upon presentation of photo id. St. Martin is a duty-free port.
Top Ten "Must Do's"
On Antigua, head to Shirley Heights on a Sunday night to enjoy a breathtaking sunset and some reggae rhythms
Dance “barefoot in the sand” at Bankie Banks Beach Bar on Anguilla- try his Vicious Venom Bush rum if you dare
Lunch for two at Harmony Hall on Antigua – don’t miss the art gallery
Enjoy the hush of dawn at Ile Fourche – maybe a morning paddle with the pelicans
Order up a combo platter of the freshest crayfish and lobster at Scilly Cay in Anguilla
Get some unforgettable snorkeling experiences at Prickly Pear Cays
Hike into the rain forest on St. Kitts in search of monkeys
Pamper yourself with some spa treatments at Cap Jaluca on Anguilla
Stroll the streets and art shops of Grande Case in St. Martin
Tee off at the Greg Norman “Cuisinart Golf Course”
Major Local and Regional Events
Sailing Week – held in Antigua each April
The National Cultural Education Festival - held each February, it celebrates Anguillan culture with customary dancing, storytelling, games, crafts, local food and music
The annual Moon splash concert - held in March on “The Dune” at Rendezvous Bay
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