I am writing this as I am on the plane travelling back from SXM to YYZ. I had a wonderful time at SXM and was glad my friend’s a regular there. She knew where to go and what to do. Not that it is hard to figure out, but it is always nice to not have to worry or do in depth research.
We booked a flight with Air Canada Rouge. Rouge does not have personal in flight entertainment. They will ask you to rent an iPad from them for $10. So be prepared. You can download their app ahead of time and use on your personal device.
We rented a car from Dollar Rent a Car. I highly recommend renting a car if you are staying on the island for more than a couple of days. It makes getting around very easy and you do not have to rely on taxi service. We took a small vechical and was quite happy we did. It made parking and maneuvering the streets of St. Maarten very easy. There are no traffic lights in St. Maarten, just round abouts. It is very easy to get around town because there are only a few main streets. It is very hard to get lost. Motocycles will vear in and out of traffic but we felt very safe driving in St. Maarten. No international license needed.
We booked our hotel on the Dutch side of the island. Festiva Atrium Hotel and Spa is located in Simpson Bay area. It is super convenient. The beach was right at the back of the hotel with a bar, pool area and a restaurant. Show the bar your room key and you can get two for one drinks during the weekdays. They also provide beach towels daily. Wifi is available but not on all floors. Lobby is your best bet. The rooms are big and we got the oceanview. But La Bamba bar is right around the corner. The music can be heard in our room. So if you are not a party animal, you might want to ask for a different room. The hotel is walking distance to restaurants, bars, grocery stores and liqure stores. One drawback of the hotel…the toilet. It isn’t the cleanest. I don’t know how to explain it but there were things floating around even after you flush.
The club scene in St. Maarten is pretty much set. However, I didn’t club so the only two nights I know of is Tuesdays at La Bamba and Fridays at Soggy Dollar. Everyone from the island will show up to these clubs on those nights. Just ask around and the locals will let you know where to go.
The reason why we chose the Dutch side of the island was because the Dutch side is more lively. Maho is where you want to be. But Simpson Bay is only a 10 minute drive to Maho. The only draw back is the bridge. The bridge goes up for the boats to cross every hour. So if you stay in Simpson Bay and try to cross to Maho, beware of the bridge, it takes about 10 minutes for all the boats to cross. Maho is where the airport is and where the famous Sunset Bar resides. Right next to the bar, there is a beach where everyone gathers and watch the planes come in and take off. What is so famous about that beach? The planes’ back face the beach and when they take off, the wind from the engines are so powerful that they literally blow the on lookers into the water! Watching the planes land is also a sight. The planes decend soooo low that you can particularly touch the plane.
The beaches there are amazing. The beige sand, the clear blue water and the moutains as a back drop…breath taking. There are a few places to enjoy the beach: Simpson Bay, Mullet, Maho, Orient, Philipsburg. Out of all those I liked Philipsburg the best (15 -20 minutes drive from Simpson Bay). The water is calm, no seaweeds and no sudden drop offs. Philipsburg is where all the cruise ships dock. And there are restaurants and vendors all around. Make sure you bargain with the locals. Don’t ever pay full price unless it is in an actual store. Even getting beach chairs and umbrellas they will try to get a few dollars more out of the tourists.
We also ventured out to Marigot, the French side of the island. We drove around the area and found the French side a lot different from the Dutch. Although we did visit the tourist area which is very much like the dutch side, the drive felt like we were amonst the locals. We got to see the streets of where the locals live and it was very different from where we were staying. The houses are old and run down. Not a place where you would want to live in if the same conditions applied in North America. As two female tourists, it was not a place where we wanted to stay. We took their new bridge that cuts across to from Maho to Marigot but we learn that it is not the best way. Traffic jam all the time! The best way to get across is to drive the coast. You get the most beautiful view and no traffic.
Unfortunately we did not visit Orient Bay. My friend tells me at Orient, there are a lot more activities available besides the normal snorkling, skidoo and scuba diving. Perhaps next time I will check it out.
As for restaurants, the best place we ate at was Charter House. It is a steak house and they cooked our steaks to exactly what we asked for…which is really rare even in North America. One thing I noticed about St. Maarten is when you ask for red wine…it comes chilled. Unless it is Sangria, that is not how I want to drink my reds.
Best drink I had in St. Maarten? BBC -Banana, Bailey’s and coconut water. We drank those everyday. We plan to make them when we return home.
Wifi is everywhere on the island. All you have to do is ask for their passcode. We were able to use the wifi even on the beach. Makes Instagram-ing much easier. 😁
That is all I can offer you about St. Maarten. You just have to go and experience the island for yourself. Next time we go, we will definitely visit the neighbouring islands. They are only a 20 minute plane ride. Hope you will visit St. Maarten soon. If you have been to St. Maarten already, let me know if you share similar experiences or if you have more tips for us!