Back at home from SXM, just flew in tonight and wanted to post my trip report before the week got away from me.
Many thanks to all that offered advice especially the TA St. Maarten Forum experts and Cinderbug!
We arrived on 7/15 (Wednesday) with a 1/2 full flight, so very comfortable direct flight to SXM on Delta. When we arrive, we were greeted by SXM's lovely airport! We waited in the customs line for some time. They did have all lines open and tried to move people through as quickly as possible. We were met in the airport car rental area by a representative from Unity Car Rental and were shuttled over to meet Michael (great guy) and pick up our car. We also rented a cell phone from Michael to call home and check on our child and the dog. Michael provided us with a map of SXM and directions to the Flamingo Beach Resort hotel. We had a super fast check in at the Flamingo and a great room - no ocean view, however a great location for our room and easy access to everything!!
Our first day, we just dropped our bags at the Flamingo and started driving around the island with no map and no clear destination, we were just sucking in all of the wonderful SXM air, beautiful landscape and our new home for 5 days/4 nights! We stumbled upon the shops in Marigot and walked on their pier area. We went to Le Gourmet Marche to do some grocery shopping for breakfast and lunch - we ate out every night for dinner. It was mostly other tourists in that market. Great place and awesome pre-seasoned chicken breasts! We got back to the hotel around 8 pm, walked on the beach a while and headed out for dinner at Lee's - AMAZING!!!! LOVE LEE'S!!!!!!!!!!! Wow - the ribs and rice and beans were phenomenal! I'm originally from TN and I don't care for my meat drowning in sauce, I love dry ribs, so this was right up my alley!!
Our 2nd day, we enjoyed a full day at the hotel laying on the beach and in the pool. We took FULL advantage of happy hour at the Flamingo and thus we picked up Topper's to go and headed back to our room to lay down at about 10 pm. Too many Strawberry Banana Rum drinks - and we added some additional Rum to each drink from our own stash! Great, relaxing day! Love Topper's hummus and pita bread - a great snack! Their Chicken Caesar salad was good too.
Friday, we had great plans to wake up and head out to Philipsburg near the pier and shops, well we woke up, put on our clothes, hopped in our rental to find traffic backed up all the way up the hill by our hotel and not moving, so we quickly moved to plan B - no problem! We turned around, headed back to the hotel and laid on the beach until about 3 pm when the traffic lets up a bit. Side note: There is usually pretty bad traffic heading down from the Flamingo and any other hotels on jewel hill, as we call it. You'll learn that all of the streets on that hill are named after gemstones - Opal, Pearl, Diamond, Tourmaline, etc. The traffic lasts from from about 11 am until 3 pm and then from 4:45 until 6 or 7 pm. Just beat the traffic or plan to head out later. Anyhow, we headed to Philipsburg from the Flamingo and stayed in that area until 7 pm, headed back and showered for dinner at Pineapple Pete's. We were not impressed with Pineapple Pete's. The food is smothered in sauce and you can't really taste the food, in our opinion. The ribs had this tangy sauce that completely took away any flavor of the actual meat. They were tender, but too much sauce. You may want to ask them to leave the sauce off and add your own sauce if you go. We left PP's and headed back to our room to plan our last full day in SXM.
Saturday we headed out to Orient Beach at about 8 am. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a beauty! If you go to SXM and fail to find this beautiful beach, well....you haven't been to SXM! :)
It is stunning and was not crowded at all when we arrived. The shops were just opening and after walking up and down the whole beach, we landed in chairs at KonTiki, we had lunch there too! Great Margherita pizza and chicken sandwich! It rained for about 20 minutes that morning, but no big deal, you're in paradise! We headed for cover for 20 minutes and got back on the beach! We left there and headed out to find the lolos in Grand Case, we were not hungry when we passed them, however it was nice to see what everyone was talking about on the boards. We circled back around to Marigot to see the shops and Maho to see the planes! Great experiences all the way around! We headed out later that night to dinner at Lee's again!!!! AWESOME X 2! After Lee's we rode around the Maho area where things were jumping! We went to the Casino Royale and watched the show and walked around to the shops for a few hours and headed back to the Flamingo. It was about 1 am when we got back to the hotel. We parked in the Sonesto Maho parking deck while at the Casino and walking around that area and were charged $1 for parking. We won't be finding that rate here at home in Atlanta!!!
Side notes: We did not ever feel like we were not safe in SXM - never! Everyone was VERY friendly and we love the courtesy driving system in SXM. It may frustrate some Americans, but we embraced it and did not find it frustrating at all. We used the safe at the hotel for our passports, valuable electronics and such and had no problems. We NEVER left ANYTHING in our rental car!!! NOTHING! And, we never put ourselves in dangerous situations or did anything that brought the wrong attention our way, so we were just fine. We did lock our doors everywhere we went.
Our rental car from Michael with Unity was just fantastic! We received great service from Michael and look forward to using him time and time again! On another note, we ran into a couple that used Paradise Car Rental and their car broke down on the first day they had the car. Just a word of caution.
We accomplished a lot in 5 days and did not have one problem at all while in SXM. Everything was fantastic and the citizens of SXM were delightful!
My rant: One comment from a fellow TA member has bothered me for some time. About three weeks ago a TA member referred to St. Maarten as a third world country, he/she obviously did not fly into the airport that we flew in to or drive beyond their own hotel because there are wealthy people in SXM - just look around and drive into those beautiful hills - the homes are stunning!!!! If you ever drive into the hills near the Flamingo or into Philipsburg or Marigot, Simpson Bay, Orient or the Maho area, you will see that those homes are probably bigger and much nicer than your own in America! Don't be fooled, SXM is a beautiful place and it is by no means, third world!
I hope this is helpful for anyone heading to SXM in the near future!