Visiting St Maarten and Saint martin in 13 days. Where to go, main attractions and more…
We arrived on St Maarten Island coming from St. Barths, where we spent ten gorgeous days.
We traveled from St. Barths to St Maarten by ferry with Voyager Ferry, the same company we used before. Voyager is a well-organized ferry company, running at convenient times, with friendly and professional crew members. The sea can be choppy, so it’s always a good idea to keep the eyes on the horizon and you will not be seasick.
We had already booked a cab to wait for us at St. Maartens’ ferry terminal, located at Oyster Pond. When we got there, the cab was waiting for us. The price was 10 dollars / passenger, and there was another couple traveling in the same van.
The taxi driver dropped us at Avis St. Maarten, where we picked up a small Hyundai.
The hotel where we stayed, at Simpson Bay, was close to Avis. Our drive from Avis to the hotel took less than five minutes. We rented the car with GPS although the clerk at Avis told us it wouldn’t be necessary, as there’s only one road that goes around the island. Anyway, as the GPS cost only 5 dollars a day, we decided to keep it, at least for the first few days.
Where to stay:
The hotel where we stayed was comfortable, with a living room, open kitchen, bathroom and free parking. It is located between the beach and the main road. I am not recommending it here because we wouldn’t stay there again. The shower had low pressure and the water coming from it looked like a faint “spray” , not like a real shower. Otherwise the place was “ok”.
Where to eat and where not to eat:
Lee’s Roadside Grill at Simpson Bay: Excellent food, very attentive service and a great place to have lunch.
Grand Case: Several vendors offer delicious and affordable food. Ask for “Lolo” and you will see what I mean! We went to this place several times. As an example, one of the days my husband ate pork, I ate ribs, side dish was fresh French fries for both of us accompanied by three Heineken beers. Total cost? 15 dollars! 🙂
Ribs Shack: One of the best “Lolos” on the island is Ribs Shack. Located at Grand Case, in front of the famous “Talk of the Town”, although we have been to both and this is away better.
Not so good:
Yacht Club of St. Maarten Restaurant and Bar. The food is not “terrible”, although there are many better options on the island. The service was slow and the French fries were fried previously.
Currency: The products at local supermarkets and stores, usually have two prices tags: One in ANG (Netherlands Antiles Guilder) and the other in American Dollars. At the time we were there 1.80 ANG was equal to 1 USD.
There’s no need to change American dollars by local currency, as dollars are accepted everywhere.
Beaches: (YEAH…. that is the BEST PART)
St Maarten has gorgeous beaches, and the same happens to the French portion of the Island (Saint Martin).
On the Dutch side, Mullet Bay is our top choice, with its calm and crystalline waters. It’s also possible to watch the airplanes approaching and departing Princess Juliana International Airport without the hassle of Maho Beach.
The most translucent waters of the island are on Mullet Bay. One more positive point is that, although it’s the best beach, it does not get crowded. It’s very easy to find a parking spot, most of the times under the trees.
Maho Beach is worldly famous as “airport beach”. This is the place where people go to watch the jets landing and taking off. It’s possible to smell gasoline being burned during take off.
This is the most popular beach in the world with plane spotters, and many of the surrounding bars on the beach display airline departure and arrival timetables.
Long Beach (Baie Longue): Beautiful beach with pretty houses by the sea. The architectural style along this beach is interesting, but it doesn’t happen on the rest of the island. Usually, the taste for Architecture is kind of terrible. I found almost all constructions really ugly there.
Galleon Beach: Is “nothing special” and you don’t need to visit it, especially if you don’t have a lot of free time to spend on the island.
Orient Bay (Baie Orientale) : Looking to the sea, we stayed at the far left hand side. The right hand side of this beach is devoted to naturalism, although we can do there, sunbath and swim wearing bath suits. Clothes are optional and most of people staying at the right hand side of this beach don’t wear anything.
Overall, I would repeat a phrase I read on the web a couple of years ago: “People you would like to see naked were dressed and people who you wouldn’t like to see naked were undressed”. 🙂
Friar’s Bay: Gets crowded by locals. This is the place to park your vehicle and go walking to Happy Bay Beach.
Marigot Bay: This is another good place to walk and enjoy the views, especially during sunset. Fort Louis is on top and overlooks the whole bay. Marigot Bay is also the place where the ferries to Anguilla depart.
Happy Bay: This is the second best beach on the island, in our opinion. It’s a must and should not be missed when visiting St. Maarten.
To go there it’s is necessary to park the car at Friar’s Bay and walk approximately 10-15 minutes, on an easy trail. To find the trail, walk all the way to the right hand side of Frias Bay (when looking to the sea) and the trailhead is located very close to the last coconut tree. Follow the trail and when it bifurcate after a small gate, like a “Y”, take the left one.
The ocean views are amazing and the beach is like heaven. Probably due to its access, very few people go to this beach, and you will see how is the sensation of owning a private beach! 🙂 There are scenic volcanic rocks on both ends of the beach.
Baie Rouge: Super clear water, beautiful constructions. Many mansions are constructed here, with excellent taste.
Pinel Island: This tinny island located very close to Grand Cul de Sac is another “must see attraction” when visiting Sain Maarten / Saint Martin. The best way to access it is to park the vehicle at the huge parking lot (free) located at Grand Cul de Sac and from there take the small boat that takes tourists to the island. At the time we were there, it cost 7.00 USD (round trip). The crossing takes less than ten minutes. This is an excellent place if you are travelling with small kids as the water is as calm as a swimming pool. There are also many “sea creatures” like starfish, etc. that the children will enjoy seeing and touching in its natural habitat.
Walking on the sand:
If you enjoy long walks on the sand, there are several beaches excellent for this. Our choice for long walks was Simpson Bay. It’s long without being “extremely long”, with few people, making it a pleasant walk especially after dusk.
Tip for beach goers: Take a chair from your hotel, or buy a beach towel and/or an umbrella. The rental price for two beach chairs and one sun-umbrella was USD 15.00 at the time we were there.
Philipsburg: We have been to Philipsburg before, during a Caribbean cruise. Usually when we are traveling by ship we don’t have enough time to explore the sites in a slow pace, so we returned to Philipsburg to see it again. If you are travelling on a cruise, hide a cab and go to explore the beaches (you have a couple of suggestions on my list), as the best attractions are nature and beaches. Anyway, if you enjoy shopping, you will find many stores to buy souvenirs, jewelry and other itens.
Marigot: This is the capital of the French side. It’s less crowded than Philipsburg and has more options regarding food. There are many boulangeries and patisseries, most of them serving fresh pastries.
Fort Louis: Located in Marigot, it’s the town main attraction. We had been here a couple of years ago. At that time we had the company of our younger son. The views from the fort are outstandingly, although the site is in need of maintenance. The cannons are “repaired” with cement, there are ugly houses obstructing the beautiful view to the Fort, and the site needs more attention from the local Government if they want tourists coming and returning. It’s sad to see a place with a lot of historical significance and located on a beautiful site getting deteriorated.
Weather: If you avoid hurricane season (June-October) you will probably be fine, although the weather can change dramatically in less than 15 minutes. It’s not uncommon to have bright sun followed by a thunderstorm, followed by blue skies once again, in less than one hour.
We stayed on St Maarten island during 13 days and from here we flew to Portugal. Please check our Lisbon post! 🙂