Happy Thanksgiving! Let the Holiday Festivities begin! Brad and I returned home this past weekend from a wonderful vacation in St. Maarten. We traveled with our friends Brittnee & Michael and had an amazing time in the ocean and sunshine.
We arrived in St. Maarten and were greeted by the sunshine. The airport is pretty much ON the beach (more about that later) and is definitely an adventure flying in and out of. Our friends didn’t arrive for a couple hours so we grabbed the rental car and headed off to drop our lugggage at the resort. One would think that on an island of only 37 square miles this would be a fast trip – not so much. After quite a few wrong turns (the GPS and my map reading weren’t agreeing for a while, I didn’t trust the GPS because it couldn’t even find my hotel so I was just assuming that it was going to the right spot). A few questionable roads and an hour later we arrive out the hotel just in time to head back out. The first evening was spent exploring the resort, walking along the beach and lounging in the pool.
One thing I especially enjoyed about this trip was that we went into it with ideas on what to do but only one day of actually having something booked. This allowed us to change our plans based on what we felt like doing and also the weather. We did have two days that it was a bit overcast and raining but we still had a great time in town and at the pool.
When we woke up with the sun Sunday morning we knew we were in for a full day. All 4 of us figured we had slept in well and that everybody else was up and doing things. We looked at the clock and realized that it was barely 6:30! All of us were too excited to sleep so off to the beach we went! The water was amazing – a crystal turquoise color that was warm and inviting. That first day, we probably floated/swam for a good 2 hours before deciding to lay out in the sun.
The only thing we had planned for the week was a full day island tour and snorkeling trip. The boat was limited to 12 people which allowed it to go in some areas where other tours weren’t allowed. Our first stop was Tintamarre which is a nature reserve full of turtles. Unfortunately the water was a bit cloudy that day so finding the turtles proved to be a bit more difficult. From there we headed to Pinel Island which is pretty much a sand bar with a bar and sun bathing. Our final stop was Creole Rock which had some awesome snorkeling! There were tons of fish and even an eel.
As I mentioned earlier, St Maarten is known for its airport. We discovered that there was a 747 that came in a couple times a week and we were determined to watch it land over the beach. There is a bar right on the beach so we got there when it opened with plans to stay until the 747 landed. It was an awesome experience. In addition to the 747 we also saw some 737-sized planes land and take off. One of the thing that people like to do when the planes take off is “Get Blown” which isn’t as dirty as it sounds. I was down by the runway when a 737 took off; after experiencing that I had no desire to be down there for the 747. I’m hoping to set up a youtube channel to post those videos because it was a cool experience to be so close. The picture below was taken by Brad at the Sunset Bar & Grill; I’m one of the people directly under the plane.
In addition to the airport, St Maarten is also known for being the smallest island containing two distinct countries. St Maarten is the Dutch side of the island and is where most of the activities happen. It has the international airport, the cruise terminal and all the casino night life. St Martin is the French side and is pretty much just beaches. We ventured into the French side one day but didn’t find much to do. After talking to our hotel bartender, we found out that all the money is on the Dutch side and that the French side can be dangerous because of theft.
We stayed in Oyster Pond which is right on the border of the Dutch and French side. Our hotel was on a peninsula that stretched out from the Dutch side and created a nice calm beach for swimming. We had a gorgeous ocean view that overlooked St Barts. On a clear day we could also see Saba and St Kitts.
A couple times we ventured into Philipsburg near the cruise port for some souvenir shopping. Most of the stores had the standard Made in China merchandise that say St Maarten or were jewelry stores but there were a few that stood out as different. One of these was “That Yoda Guy”. Nick was one of the people who actually BUILT Yoda for the original Starwars movies (as well as a few other characters). He now has a shop in St Maarten where he sells signed memorabilia and has a museum that you can tour. It was a fun shop to visit and definitely a “must see” for any Star Wars lover.
I highly recommend visiting St Maarten. Here are some tips if you ever do:
- If you aren’t staying in Philipsburg, rent a car; however, be very mindful of making sure that every ding, scratch and scuff is marked when you leave. A lot of people even recommend taking photos. We rented through Hertz and did’t have an issue but there are definitely horror stories on trip advisor. The roads are very narrow, torn up and the locals drive fast while nudging the center line.
- Visit Sunset Bar & Grill, they open at 9AM and there are taxies that will take you there and back from the cruise ship or hotel. They also have a surfboard that tells you when the planes are expected to arrive that day.
- Don’t plan on getting any sort of espresso drink. It was extremely difficult to find any sort of coffee, and never actually found a place that would make me a mocha.
- The Dutch side takes US Dollars, I don’t think I ever saw somebody paying in their local currency. The French side uses the Euro; some places give you 1:1 for your Dollar if you pay cash.
- Food and Drink prices are similar to those in the states, if you order water they will ask if you want bottled but we had no issues with the tap water.
- Pack sunscreen, then go buy 2 more bottles and pack it as well.
This trip was definitely a wonderful trip. Brittnee and I agreed that we definitely could travel together again. Have you ever been to St Maarten? If so, what was your favorite attraction?