Location: St. Maarten and Saint-Barthélemy
Give me 30 seconds:
- Its beach all day everyday.
- Gem and jewelry shopping is huge here and almost every single store sells pieces for over 60% less than what you would buy it for in the states. Basically I felt like Abu from Aladdin when looking around at all the rubies, sapphires and emeralds!
- The French side of St. Maarten is known for its nude beaches, clothes and outdoor market shopping. The Dutch side is known for nightlife, beaches and jewelry.
- Must go to Maho Beach. You will get as close as humanly possible to watching a plane fly above you and get ready for landing at the nearby commercial airport.
- If you take the ferry from St. Maarten to Saint-Barthelemy, buy your ferry tickets in advance online here. They are about $7 cheaper and then you can use that extra money to buy yourself a cocktail later. Read about my day trip to Saint Barthelemy here.
- Rent a vespa or a car. You will need it to get around the island. We rented a vespa and had a blast!
- If you like fruity sugary cocktails, (hey, some people love them!) I'd try the guavaberry rum punch.
- The currency here is the Euro, but they also accept the dollar.
- English, French and Dutch are all spoken here.
We stayed at a 4 star hotel, Royal Palm Beach Resort in St. Maarten and had no complaints. Not luxurious by any means, but it was clean, the people were super helpful, there was private beach access, and it was close to some fantastic open air restaurants. Since we didn't opt for a 5 star hotel, we upgraded to a suite overlooking the water which was fantastic for me. Wake up to the sound of the ocean and the crystal blue waters was everything I'd expect paradise to be.
Maho Beach, St. Maarten
Sugary sand, sparkling clear water makes for a stunning beach that is pretty family oriented and therefore crowded. Snorkeling is amazing here and you are almost guaranteed to see a turtle. The beauty of this beach is people come to watch the landing of planes. Its pretty insane to see a plane fly right above your head to Princess Juliana International Airport.
Orient Beach, St. Maarten
Orient beach is located on the French side of the island and boasts soft sand, crystal clear waters and smaller crowds. Sign me up! Chair and cabana rentals, and water sports are available on this entire strip of beach along with local restaurants and shops. At the far stretch of the beach, you will notice there aren't as many people, thats because to enter this part of the beach you must be entirely nude. Its so interesting how different our society is about nudity, as the rest of the world is completely comfortable and non judging. This area is called "Club Orient".
JP and I of course went for it. Swim suits off and we went prancing onto this part of the beach. If you can believe it, there is someone like a beach patrol person there going around kindly kicking out people wearing swimsuits and random people with cameras. I mean come on buddy, camera on a nude beach while still wearing your own swimsuit? Way to stand out. Of course I don't have any images from this part of the trip, only the great memories in my head.
There were some floating barges out in the ocean for people to swim out to and lay out on and an entire bar with swim suits hanging from the ceiling. We spent about an hour or so on this beach, met some new people, had great conversations in the nude, and eventually left. This was one of my favorite parts of my trip to St. Maarten.
With a great view of the harbor and the beach, the Boardwalk in Philipsburg is a great place to walk around, grab an ice cream and check out some touristy souvenir shops. You can also rent beach chairs and umbrellas here, but at a premium. Its in the harbor where all the cruise ships arrive, so it might be a little crowded due to those guests, but i'd only recommend checking out the Boardwalk if you happen to be around it or want a snack. I'd really just spend most of your time at the beach.
We came to St. Maarten soak in the sun and check out some underwater creatures, so we went with Captain Alan's Three Island Adventure, which came highly recommended to us from some local friends. Our boat had only 3 other couples (it can accommodate up to 12), and we stopped at 3 different places throughout the 6 hour day. You can actually rent a Go Pro from them too if you don't have one or didn't bring one. The boats are speed boats, so you get to the destinations pretty quickly. Good for me because I get super sea sick.
First stop is Tintamarre Island at the feeding area for the sea turtles. I've seen turtles while diving before, but not when snorkling! The sea turtles are pretty crazy to see and they were around the sea grass which was about 20 feet down, along with other fish and sea life. After this, the boat pulled into a beach area at Tintamarre and we ate snacks provided by the crew and had a little time to swim around in the ocean.
Stop #1.5 was just around the corner from Tintamarre, which was a coral reef. I was hoping for a dolphin sighting, but no such luck. Dove down and saw a bunch of neon colored fish, a starfish, and a few sea urchins.
Stop #2 was Pinel Island where we had lunch with iguanas. There are these huge iguanas walking around that you can feed by hand. I didn't do it because they kind of freak me out but apparently they are pretty tame. There is also a section on this Island where sunbathing has unofficial clothing optional, but we didn't have time to check it out.
Stop #3 was Green Cay which was another reef snorkeling area. The coral here was vibrant and there was plenty of colorful fish and brightly colored conch.
This snorkeling day trip was quite fun in the sense that we got to see a ton of water creatures hat we wouldn't have otherwise seen. We unfortunately didn't do any diving while on this trip, but Serial Divers in Gustavia comes highly recommended.
Bale Rouge Beach & "Devil's Hole"
A hidden gem of a beach, quiet and secluded, about 100 meters from the main road in the Terres Basses area. The beach is a little hard to find as the beach can not be seen from the road and the sign is pretty small. Secluded for a reason I suppose. The sand is a bit pinkish, which is where it gets its name, Red Bay. The main reason why I wanted to find this beach was for the "Devil's Hole". The Bale Rouge Beach is dotted with luxury villas and on the East side, gives a stunning view of Anguilla.
If you are up for it, I highly suggest it, please take a walk and search for Trou David aka The Devil's Hole, a steep hole in the middle of the cliffs, filled with water. Its quite a magnificent sight! Some people jump into it, I myself was a chicken and just admired its beauty without jumping.
Our weeklong trip to another beachy paradise comes to an end and in fact, I must say I didn't enjoy Saint Barthelemy as much as I did St. Maarten, not that there was a competition or anything. I enjoyed the views from hiking to then find my way onto the most magical and secluded beaches and not worrying about gawkers if I decided to go for the no tan line beach layout. There is such a great tie between the European and Caribbean way of life that I hope is never lost here in St. Maarten. I cant wait to return on a dive trip!
If you have any suggestions for other beaches or hikes I should check out on my return, let me know in the comments below!
As always, GO JETSETAWAY!