I have been lurking on the forums for the past eight months gathering all the information I could about St. Martin in preparation for our trip. My wife and I (mid to late 20’s) just returned from our honeymoon on St. Martin. We spent 10 days on the island and by far we had the most amazing experience ever. First, thanks to all the individuals on this forum that contribute so much priceless information. Hats off to all of you! Many of the locals we hung out with told me that I knew more than most people living on the island and that we had experienced everything…all thanks to tripadvisor and the contributors. As a result, I would like to give back to the forum with some more information that could help potential visitors make crucial decisions on how to shape/customize their vacation to get the most out of it! Second, I’ve also posted our 10 day trip layout (along with short reviews of each) to give people an idea of what we did to cover so much in our trip. Finally, I’ve tried to make it more succinct instead of writing huge narratives.
-Arriving Airport Customs/Baggage Claim: There is not much on the forum about these topics. My advice is to try and schedule your arrival away from other airlines and sit as far forward on the plane as possible. I utilized these two strategies and we were through customs in 10 seconds and only waited four minutes for our checked luggage. Yahoo!
-Safety: The best advice was from SXMlover, “Be smart”. My wife’s ring costs over $35K. During the day when we were exploring and traveling she wore a simple silver band. At night when we went out on the Dutch she wore the more expensive stuff and we never had a problem. I also wore my $800 citizen watch everywhere and never had a problem.
-French vs Dutch Lodging Debate: I could write a novel on this. We stayed at Flamingo beach resort in Simpson bay on the Dutch side and it was in great shape. We had the nicest room in the entire resort with our patio being on the ground level overlooking the pool and the ocean. This decision was the best in the world. We are young, like to party, and like to be around everything. This resort is not on the main road, but is close enough to where you can walk if you want. Bottom line: if you want to be around people/things and have places to go, then stay on the Dutch side. If you would rather be secluded by sitting on a quiet beach all day and don’t mind driving a ways to get to things, then stay on the French side.
-To Rent a Car or Not? What agency? We also met and hung out with another couple from Chicago around the same age as us that didn’t rent a car based off some of the opinions they read on tripadvisor. After reflecting back at their trip they said should have rented a car as they paid more for cabs than the cost of rentals. We rented a small, brand new Hyundai i10 from Empress car rental and had absolutely no problems. Bottom line: If you want your vacation experience to encompass the entire island without having to pay a taxi or worry about buses, then rent a car. If you would rather be secluded by sitting on a quiet beach all day, then you won’t need one.
-Buying Food versus Going Out to Eat: One concept that wasn’t stressed enough was the price of the food. Even many of the locals go out to eat constantly because basic commodity food prices are very expensive. We ate cereal for breakfast 8 out of 10 mornings, bought snacks at the grocery stores, and bought bottles of water to take with us everywhere. This probably saved us 15-30%. Bottom line: heavily pad your food budget.
Bugs – I had read some terrible reviews about bugs on St. Martin. We bought mosquito milk at the local store and it worked great for me as I left without a single bite. However, for some reason my wife probably had 20 bites when we left. In our unit we had the occasional gnat or fly, but nothing else.
-Traffic (Predominately the Dutch Side. All times are local.): There are countering opinions on the forum about the severity of the traffic. I live in Chicago, one of the major traffic mecca’s of the US and to me it wasn’t too bad. The only point where I wanted to shoot myself was on the first day after we got our rental car and were driving through the Simpson bay area trying to get to our resort. Other than that here are the three pointers I found on trip advisor that aided me:
*Simpson bay bridge goes up I believe at 9AM, 11AM, and 4:30PM. Avoid heading in this direction at all cost.
*Contrary to popular belief, traffic is worse on the weekdays between 9AM-11AM and 5PM-7PM. Weekend traffic was much lighter
*If you know ahead of time you are going to travel through areas of heavy congestion (as we did), then plan to leave your resort at 8AM. Even if you go out till the wee hours of the morning, get everyone up and let them sleep at the car and destination. It is worth it.
Our Trip schedule (All Times are Local):
Day 1 Friday:
-2PM Arrive, pickup car and groceries
-4PM Check in at Flamingo at hit up Toppers happy hour
-7PM Hit Buccaneers beach bar (simpson bay) for moderately priced drinks where we met locals and had some fun
-10PM Ate dinner at Jimmy’s LoLo in back part of Philipsburg. We were the only tourists there, but had great food and great conversation with locals.
Day 2 Saturday:
-9AM Check in for the Sensation boat tour at Chesterfields restaurant bar and grill. This excursion rocked our socks!!!! I could do this excursion for 10 days straight and not get bored! IMHO, best excursion on St. Martin...PERIOD! If you go, get on the boat of Captain Jervis!
-6PM met up with some local friends and went to a bar right near all the yachts in Simpson bay for drinks. I can’t remember the name, but they said it is where all the yacht owners and deck hands come.
-10PM went with locals to a place that serves shwarma (SP?) in cole bay in front of the movie theater. It was awesome!
Day 3 Sunday (Orient Beach Day):
-9AM Went to Orient Beach. The beach is somewhat hard to find, even with the signs. Plus google maps doesn’t really have it right either. Also, from the reviews on this forum we had read that Oreint was best on Sunday and that the Palm Beach bar was the hottest place to go on the beach. Well, they definitely had the facilities as it had a DJ and stage right on the beach. Also, we walked the entire beach even over to club orient and Palm beach had the hottest looking people. However, if you are looking for beach parties similar to Miami, Daytona, or Panama City…then you will be underwhelmed as we were. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we experienced Orient, but I’m not sold on it.
-12PM Ate lunch at Pedro’s (LOLO). This place has received pretty good reviews on here, but I thought it was overpriced and poor quality food. I wouldn’t go back.
-7PM I can’t remember where we ate dinner! LOL
Day 4 Monday:
-8AM Went to Cupecoy beach. We were the first ones to make an imprint in the sand that morning! We wanted to go snorkeling and both of us had the gear, but the waves were tossing up sediment and sand too much. Plus, we didn’t want to snorkel without someone else being on the beach. If you have a chance there are caves around the western edge of the beach that are really neat!
-9AM we wanted to go to the beach and cliff behind the La Samana five star resort on the French side. We had been there by boat on the Sensation tour, but found out that there is an armed guard that would not let us anywhere near an access point.
-9:30AM went to Mullet bay beach. It was a beautiful long beach and I imagine the snorkeling would be nice along each side of the rocks. We had planned to eat at Rosie’s, a LOLO on mullet, but ended up not getting to go.
-11:30AM went back to the Flamingo for lunch. Snorkeled right behind our resort at the rocks in simpson bay and it was really good.
-1PM did the discovery scuba dive with Aqua mania water sports. It was awesome and would highly recommend them. Ask them for a wet suit though if you think the water is cold.
-7PM Ate dinner and had a bottle of wine at a very nice Italian establishment that was across the street from the flamingo. Was going to go to red head piano bar that night but was too drunk from the wine.
Day 5 Tuesday:
-8AM participated in the 12 Metre challenge. It was a lot of fun.
-11AM ate lunch at the 12 Metre challenge. Great food that was moderately priced
-1PM went snorkeling in little bay with a vendor right next to the green house restaurant. Little bay is great for diving, but the snorkeling wasn’t as great as many of the other spots on the island.
-4PM Sunset beach bar for some overflights
-8PM La Bamba in Simpson bay for Latin night. This is not for amateurs, but it is fun to watch!
-11PM shut down a piano bar in the maho area. Pianist had great vocals
Day 6 Wednesday (French Side day. We found the food and drinks to be way over priced.):
-8AM visited the resorts and beach at Anse Marcel. Absolutely beautiful, remote, and serene. The drive is gorgeous.
-10AM visited the ferry area to Pinnel island
-11AM visited the shops and beach in Grand Case. We were going to eat at Sky’s The Limit LoLo, but we had filled ourselves up on too many drinks already!
-12:30PM Had a drink and snorkeled at Friar’s bay. Drinks and food were over priced, but it was a nice beach. I had heard that snorkeling here is really good, but we didn’t have too much luck. We had visited happy bay via boat, so we didn’t make the trek.
-3PM visited Marigot. Did some shopping in the markets and shops. Also ate at a nice French bakery in the square.
-6PM Ate dinner at Johhny B’s under the tree LOLO in Simpson bay. Everything was good, but don’t get the lobster.
-8PM Sky lounge in Maho for ladies night. This place is amazing as it is brand new, but there were maybe 20 people present.
-10PM went to Tantra in Maho for ladies night. There was hardly anyone there at first, but after a while it was packed. This would be the place to go if I was a single man. The girl to guy ratio was impressive.
Day 7 Thursday:
-8AM ate breakfast at Zee Best. Food was really good and reasonably priced
-9AM went shopping in Philipsburg. If you are going to do any major shopping, then do your research. We found that many high ticket items could swing either way on price competitiveness.
-12PM went to explore the Oyster pond area. This area had also been built up by many people on trip advisor. We did the Dutch side and visited dawn beach. It was very pretty. The bar we went too was way over priced for food and drinks.
-3PM went to the westin. Ended up doing some gambling even though no one was in the casino and won a 7 day vacation!
-4PM went to the French side of Oyster pond. This was a big disappointment. Honestly, we were going to have dinner there, but it looked like a ghost town. Everything was deserted and the people we did see were very rude.
-5PM ate at Jimbo’s tex mex place in Simpson/cole bay. Good food, pretty good happy hour, just don’t try to eat a sit down dinner between 3-4:45PM. It is in the middle of shift change and you’ll get terrible service.
Day 8 Friday:
-9AM check in for a trip to Anguilla aboard Lambada, a 64’ catamaran. It is an all day trip that takes you to prickly pear to snorkel and then to Anguilla for lunch. Overall it was a generally good trip. The snorkeling is the probably the best you’ll get for the area, the crew was nice but not personal, and the food on Anguilla was great. We spent about two hours on the beach in Anguilla. Would I do it again if I come back to St. Martin? Probably not. It was a little too slow paced for me. I was also disappointed once we got to Anguilla as we were told not to leave the beach and we don’t have time to explore. Plus, we only snorkeled at Prickly pear for 45 minutes, which is not nearly enough time to explore the entire reef. The only saving grace was when we were sailing back to St. Martin from Anguilla. Some of the other people on the boat started drinking and opening up. Therefore, we sat on the bow and got tipsy.
-7PM ate at Lee’s road side grill. Don’t let the name confuse you as it is a somewhat higher end resteruant. We spent a little over $100 eating and drinking but the food was amazing!
Day 9 Saturday (relax day):
-8AM Ate breakfast at a French Bakery in Cole bay that was great.
-9AM sat by the pool all day reading, relaxing, and drinking.
-4PM we went resort bar hopping along the beach experiencing the happy hours and people. It was a blast.
-7PM we splurged and ate domino’s that night
Day 10 Sunday (departing day):
-8AM Checked out and dropped our bags off at the airport. This is a great idea!
-9AM Spent the rest of the day at Sunset beach bar taking pictures of planes landing and climbing the fence when planes were taking off!
-2:30PM we walked through security and customs sandy from the beach and in our swimsuits! I highly encourage others to do the same to maximize their time on the island!
Places we didn't see or things we didn't do:
*The farms – I grew up in the SE USA on the water and have driven huge tractors on farms. This didn't appeal to neither my wife nor I.
*Hiking the mountains – Besides safety issues I had read on the forums, I have personally ran 50 miles of the AT. My cousin who went to Med school in St. Martin that ran it with me said I wasn't missing much.
*The zoo/butterfly farms – My wife and I have been to some of the best zoos throughout the US. This activity didn't interest either of us.
*Zip lining – My wife and I have been zip lining in better settings.
*Horseback riding/ATV tour – we thought it was expensive for the amount of time when compared to other excursions. We talked to another couple who did these and said it was fun.
*Rhino tours – why do the rhino tours when you can do the sensation tour and go 60 MPH over open water and drink at the same time?
So I hope this is helpful! These are just our opinions/perceptions of the experience we had. I left a lot of detail out, but anyone can message me if they have questions. Once again, thanks to all of those that contribute so much time and energy to making this forum a priceless asset!
All the best, Josh