That’s why 24 years later, when choosing our excursions in St. Maarten, Stephen and I were incredibly excited to see the option of riding horses on the beach. After signing up and traveling to family-run Bayside Riding Club on the French side of the island, we set out with our guide for a private hour-long tour on Aztec and Wizard, two of the gentlest horses in the stable.
As novice riders, we both had some mishaps to start out. First, we weren’t holding the reigns the right way, and the horses kept stopping to snack on plants and trees growing alongside the trail. This made us fall behind our guide, who kept admonishing us to keep up. Add in a pop-up rain shower that left us all soaked, and this trip could easily have turned into more of a hazard than an exciting trek along the shore.
Luckily, we continued having fun in spite of these few hang-ups, becoming better at guiding our horses as the tour went on and actually enjoying the rain, which cooled us off after a hot and humid afternoon in the sun. And, of course, we were far too mesmerized by the stunning views to really care about much else!
|Yes, I'm riding barefoot because the only shoes I packed for this trip were -- what else -- flip-flops!|
The next day, we set out on another adventure – snorkeling with Captain Allan, an outfit popular with resort and cruise tourists alike. Heading out on a catamaran with a group of about 10 other visitors, our guides took us to two different snorkeling spots, interspersed with stops at Happy Bay Beach for a skin-softening mud bath and Pinel Island, a small tourist enclave that's home to restaurants, shops and the most massive iguanas I’ve ever seen!
|Relaxing beside crystal blue waters at Pinel Island.|
Though we had planned to eat at a specific Italian restaurant we’d read about in a magazine, once we arrived, our taxi driver recommended instead a local hangout called Calmos Café, where the tables extend right down to the water’s edge and a live band plays island music late into the night. This unexpected detour ended up being perhaps my favorite experience of the entire trip, as we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset, fresh shrimp and scallops, and a couple samples of the restaurant’s homemade banana rum.
All in all, it was an amazing highlight of a truly amazing trip. I can’t wait to head back to the Caribbean again sometime soon, maybe to one of the next hotspots on my must-see list – Puerto Rico!
Travel Tip of the Day: While it's good to plan ahead, stay flexible and take locals' suggestions to heart when in a new place. Had we not listened to our cab driver's advice about Calmos Café, we would have missed out on a truly incredible experience!
Which places top your vacation wish list right now?