Move that Beach Destination Up on Your Travel List

In early December, it was confirmed at work that I would be one of the lucky few going on a ship inspection trip in the Caribbean, and I was thrilled at the thought of leaving Chicago for 80-degree weather.  A beach destination meant that in addition to my business wear I could also pack some shorts and a swim suit.  Amazing!

As a travel nut, (I’ll use that term rather than saying I have wanderlust, because that’s a little played out) I have a whole list of places and trips that are in various stages of planning.  However, I tend to stay away from planning island itineraries on my own, and I definitely ignore beach resorts.  I love to see cities, learn history, and take in the culture and pulse of a new place.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a margarita and beer just as much, ok maybe more than the next person, but I could do that here at home and it seems like a missed opportunity to experience something different than I would normally.  

Where was I?  Oh yeah, shorts and swim suit, my chance to pull out items that had been folded away for months…so when the plane arrived into St. Maarten I loved two things.  One – it’s such a small airport that you disembark by stairs directly onto the tarmac which makes you feel like you’ve walked off your own private jet and, two – when the door opened I could instantly smell the salt air.  So lovely… I knew I had made it to a beach paradise.

One of the highlights for me was our guide in Virgin Gorda.  He had a wonderful island accent and positive outlook – so much so that I wondered if he might be high.  I’m such a cynic.  However, he kept repeating a saying that has stayed with me, “If you keep smiling, the sun will stay shining.”  Physically, I know that won’t happen.  I might as well do a rain dance, to summon a rainstorm.  It stayed with me though because it was a reminder that your mentality does affect what comes after.  If you can stay positive and at least not panic when something doesn’t go your way, it can keep your day steady rather than spiraling further and further down. 

So, while my list is filled with cultural cities of Dubrovnik, Paris, London, etc., Virgin Gorda is now in the mix.  We’ll see what happens.  For now, I’m planning on coming back soon.  The islands are a great getaway for us city dwellers that never seem to get a chance to slow down.  Keep smiling everyone, find the things that make the sun stay shinin’.

PLANNING TO GO…

Gateway: I loved Jost Van Dyke and Virgin Gorda, but St. Maarten has affordable flights on Delta.  If there is another city that is easy to fly into, let me know…

Season: The Christmas and New Year holiday is high season so I wouldn’t mind coming another time.  Perhaps spring when weather should be warming up but winter just won’t go away.  Or go before Thanksgiving and then make your family jealous with pictures and your tan when you come back!

Where to Stay:  Westin Resort on Dawn Beach was beautiful and the rooms and bathrooms were so spacious, but next time I’m hoping to stay on the French side of the island.  I’m always thinking of France so why not combine two into one; a bit of France and a bit of beach.  Grand Case Beach Club or L’Esplanade, seems walkable and within a 10 minute walk of the strip of restaurants and shops nearby.

During the Day: Happy Bay Beach is nearby and I keep seeing it on lists of the best secret beaches.  Phillipsburg for shopping and exploring.  For those of you who have been to St. Maarten, what else should I see or what day trips can be done to nearby islands?

Please share any suggestions in the reply section below!

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