Exploring St. Maarten/St. Martin
Updated: May 13, 2020
I'm the kind of friend who is always looking for a flight deal, which is partly why I became a travel agent. So when I saw a
Spirit flight deal for $350 from Wednesday to Saturday night, I could not resist and of course in typical fashion, I convinced my roommate to come along! We stayed at Simpson's Bay Resort and Marina in a room with a beautiful balcony view of the water. The resort is nestled within walking distance of some great restaurants and nightlife, and also has several pools and its own beach.
Two notable spots were:
1: Nick's Café: It's cash only, but the food was worth it and affordable
2: The Greenhouse Restaurant: Delicious food and cool beach side ambience but a little on the expensive side.
Before I get into what we did, I want to highlight 5 key things:
1. Bring cash! There were lots of random places we decided to eat at which only took cash. You can also withdraw US cash or local currency at the banks. I exclusively used US on this trip.
2. Support local! We were able to meet great people and also find random eateries by just going where the locals go.
3. Gas is priced per L! This is a challenge we faced when deciding how much money to put into the car. You had to prepay for gas so we just made our best estimates!
4. Buy bottles of water! For the most part, we decided to get large bottles of water from the grocery store which came in handy during our island tour and Anguilla trip!
5. Be prepared to take things slow: This is one of the most laid back islands I have been too. Be prepared to relax and go with the flow. Enjoy the food and your time there.
We had two full days in country and decided to make the most of them. So here is what we did:
Thursday: Self-driven Island Tour
So we rented a car to get around the island, which was extremely affordable. The caveat being the $800US hold they put on your card in the event of incidentals. On the other hand, they had a free rum tasting right outside of it! I ended up bringing back a bottle of rum!
Nevertheless, driving on the island is relatively easy and stress free, and they drive on the same side like you would in the US. Here is the route we took (Total Trip Driving time is 1.5 hours according to Google Maps):
We started with breakfast at Croissant Royal which is off the Marina in Saint Martin and walking distance to both the Fort and Marigot Market! We parked in a lot nearby and walked! These were the best croissants I have ever had! You could taste the freshness! Bonus points for this place being right on the Marina! Additionally, the US dollar is taken 1:1 for the Euro on the French side!
1. Fort St. Louis: Built in 1789 on a hill overlooking Marigot Bay and the island of Anguilla, Fort St. Louis has views to die for and it's also a trek to the top. Be prepared with good walking shoes and water. It's worth it so just keep going!
2. Marigot Market: A series of shops run by locals, with some fair priced souvenirs at places on the waterfront beneath Fort St. Louis. The prices seemed standard across the booths and the locals were very accomodating, even recommending things for us to do! We also had some of the best fresh freezed fruit juices right outside of the market! This is where I got some magnets and souvenirs and my roommate was able to get a painting.
*Somewhere between Grand Caste and the Market, you will pass Lady Liberty! We just happened upon it and pulled into a random lot, crossed the traffic at the round about for a photo opportunity! To be honest, I didn't even know this existed!
3. Grand Caste: This is a small town on the French side of the island known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean. We tried to find a beach here but couldn't find the entrance so we opted for lunch instead! We found a "lolo", which are small open-air restaurants found on side streets and right off the beach. This was honestly some of the best food we had during our time on the island! From the rum punch to the stuffed crab back and ribs, that were extremely affordable!
4.Orient Beach: We found the clothing optional part of the beach and it was honestly the most liberating experience! There were beach chairs and umbrellas laid out for use and the water was the perfect temperature and crystal clear!
5.Philipsburg: Philipsburg is the capital of Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of the Caribbean island. We walked around for a bit and even found roti!! I'm from Trinidad so I was in heaven! Roti is my favorite thing in the world and this was literally a slice of Trinidad!
6. Maho Beach*: Originally the last stop on our tour, we ended up saving this for lunch before we flew back. Sunset Beach Bar is the spot to be if you're trying to eat while watching the planes land!
Friday: Booked a trip on the Lambada to Prickly Pear + Anguilla:
We knew we wanted to do a day trip to Anguilla so we opted to take one with a tour group housed in our hotel! The tour itself cost $120USD (we were guests at the resort) and you had to bring your passport. The best part of this tour was the open bar! Anything you wanted to drink was included, so needless to say we had lots of rum punch! If you just want a trip on the water with some beach stops, then this is the tour for you. If you want to spend more time on island, I suggest perhaps taking the local ferry and spending a night on Anguilla.
Overall, this was an amazing few days and just what I needed! the nightlife was enjoyable and food was delicious! We really had a blast at a bar called Nowhere Special and I would definitely go here again! I truly was living my best life in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin and I can't wait to go again