There is so much to see and experience on St. Maarten/St. Martin that a guided tour around the island is the best and most efficient way to get an overview. Visitors arriving by cruise ship should sign up with an established tour operator, who does not have to be affiliated with the cruise-lines. There are two significant advantages: much better rates and a personalized trip around the island focusing on the visitor's interests.
|Editor's Note: The cruise lines work only with a very few tour suppliers and charge highly inflated prices! Book directly with a local company and save up to 50%!|
Joseph 'Joe' Liburd of Jo Junie Tours has created several tour packages to suit the interests of individual visitors. “But the itinerary of a tour can't be written in stone, there must be some flexibility.” explains Joe. “Attractions and sights change every day. Sometimes, higher ocean waves remove some sand of our favorite beach spot within a few hours and swimming there is no good anymore. Living here, we get to hear that the sand is gone and we can change the tour accordingly.”
And there is timing: St. Maarten/St. Martin is an island with a relatively affluent population and traffic congestions to prove it. But there are patterns to heavy traffic and instead of wasting precious time in a jam, Joe knows how to keep the wheels moving by picking the best route.
Even though Jo Junie Tours operates large buses as well, Joe believes that they are not perfectly suited for the purpose of individual island sightseeing. “With our air conditioned vans, we are flexible and our guests never feel rushed. They can enjoy the stops and they are going to see way more with us than on a excursion with a big tour bus. Just think about the time it takes for fifty passengers to leave and re-enter the bus at every stop. I feel that our comfortable vans are way more efficient.” Part of the comfort is the well-filled cooler Joe always takes along, with beers, sodas and even rum punch.
What are the sights Joe recommends to first-time visitors? “Orient Beach is usually a must-see for visitors. Some go there to check out the clothing-optional section, others enjoy the fancy French beach bars with great drinks and food. But on the way to Orient Beach, we have a few stops to enjoy our great scenery. Oyster Pond is one of our beautiful areas, and there is also a great hill-top spot above Orient Bay with incredible views."
"After about two hours on the beach, we take our guests to Marigot to check out the local crafts market and for them to get a general feel of the town. Marigot is so different from Philipsburg that I think they need to see it. After that, we move towards the Dutch side, with Sunset Bar and Grill. Nowhere can you have a drink that close to a landing or starting airplane! I make sure we arrive there at a time when the transatlantic jets from Europe are coming in, they are the most dramatic sight.”
But what's about shopping? Isn't St. Maarten the bargain capital of the Caribbean? “I know, we can't leave out the shops in Philipsburg. We get there in the afternoon and I drop my passengers off in the center of town, so that they have a few hours of browsing.”
Joe Liburd is aware of his role as an ambassador to the island: “We want to give our guests an impression of what St. Martin has to offer. And we need to do such a good job that they come back to St. Martin for a long vacation. People need to realize that this is a special place and worth an extended stay."