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Trip Report St. Maarten (Wyndham Sapphire) trip report - longish

DH and I spent a week in St. Maarten in mid-April. We really loved the island and wouldn’t hesitate to return. We are in our 30s and have travelled extensively throughout the Caribbean.

Flights

We flew US Airways from Toronto. Due to mechanical problems we had to return to the terminal and were re-routed via Charlotte. Our luggage only made it 3 days later which was a major inconvenience! (We arrived on Easter Sunday and it was difficult to find replacement toiletries/clothing, etc.). Luckily we have a VISA and will get reimbursed for the small fortune we had to outlay just to buy things for those first few days.

Hotel

We stayed at the Wyndham Sapphire Beach. We got a good deal because we had won an auction for someone’s timeshare. Had we paid the full rack rate we would have been quite disappointed. It was probably a 3 star hotel back in its heyday… The room itself was clean and spacious but rather dated. The room was billed as a one-bedroom suite but really it is a large hotel room. There is a sliding door thingy that could potentially be used to divide the room (on the one side you would have the pull-out couch and door to the patio and on the other the bed, bathroom and kitchen). There is a tiny postage-stamp sized beach which is accessed via the parking garage (?). We are big beach people and never went in once at the hotel! The pool area is nice and the view from our balcony of the blue ocean was stunning.

Activities

We rented a car near the airport and would recommend it. There are so many sights and nice beaches to visit and we enjoyed having the freedom to do so. Traffic can be quite heavy at rush hour (and when the bridges are up).

Our favourite activity was probably the Loterie Farm Fly zone zip line. We had never done a zip line and found the regular course challenging but fun. If we were to return, DH would do the extreme zip line.

We also did the “Rock’n Roll” snorkel tour with Aqua Mania tours. DH and I shared one “inflatable” (sort of like a big jet ski) and were taken on a tour around the island to a snorkelling area. We liked the jet-ski aspect but found the snorkelling really disappointing (not sure if it is because the reefs were destroyed by a recent hurricane). It was a lot of fun but I was pretty sore the next day!

Other days we drove around to different beaches and explored the towns. I really loved Marigot – felt like I was in southern France. P’burg is not really my scene – don’t enjoy the crowds and duty free store after duty free store. There was good shopping though but after half a day I was ready to leave. Our favourite beaches were Baie Orientale and Grand Case (we paid to rent loungers and an umbrella). The beach at La Samanna was also stunning but we didn’t go in (just went to check out the hotel). It was a lot of fun to go to Sunset Beach Bar and have a drink and watch the jumbo jets land in the afternoon.

We had planned to go to St. Barths for the day but our flight with St. Barth’s commuter air got cancelled! [I think Anguilla was even closer but we had already been there]. On our last night we also took in a flick at the movie theatre in Simpson Bay. :)

Restaurants

Some of the best food we have had in the Caribbean was in St. Maarten/St. Martin. Walking distance to our hotel in Cupecoy were La Gondola, Temptation and Rare (all highly recommended!). We had two yummy lunches in Grand Case (at Talk of the Town lolo and Le Soleil) and lunch at Claude mini-Club in Marigot. I loved all the amazing boulangeries around the island where you could pick up croissants, quiches, etc. There were some nice French gourmet delis as well. The best seafood meal we had was at Lee’s fish grill – whole grilled red snapper and delicious plantain and coleslaw. Mmmm! We had good sushi (but expensive) at Bamboo Bernie’s in Maho. I was hoping to see more of a Dutch influence on the Dutch side but other than a few items in the grocery store (e.g., herring) it wasn’t that strong. Our guidebook had recommended an Indonesian restaurant but it had closed.

Casinos

We don’t gamble much but did wander through the Atlantis since it was so close. Maybe it was the time of year but it was almost empty and still reeked of cigarette smoke!

Shopping

Aside from the aforementioned duty free stores in P'burg, I enjoyed the shopping in Marigot more. There were some nice French brands that were actually cheaper than can be obtained in Canada (especially in the pharmacies for nice French beauty products - loved the "Ligne St. Barths" for example).

Miscellaneous

We really enjoyed the island. If we were to return I think we would want to stay on the French side (it is noticeably more expensive though b/c of the Euros). This was a special anniversary trip so we didn’t bring our two young children. There seemed to be quite a few activities specifically geared to older kids (catamaran tour, kids playgym in the ocean off Pelican Bay, etc.). Our hotel (despite being a “one bedroom”) would not have worked for us with our family. We definitely plan to return though!

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