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Advice for St. Maarten for a few hours before taking ferry to St. Barts?

Advice for St. Maarten for a few hours before taking ferry to St. Barts?

Old Jul 5th, 2010, 06:02 PM
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Advice for St. Maarten for a few hours before taking ferry to St. Barts?

Hi everyone,

I'm looking for some thoughts on the best way to spend a few hours on St. Maarten. We'll be flying into SXM at around 12:30pm and then planning to take a ferry later that afternoon/evening to St. Barts (either 4pm from Oyster Pond or 6:45pm from Marigot).

First question is whether it's worth spending a few more hours on St. Maarten and taking the later ferry? Secondly, any thoughts on the best way to see the island highlights with luggage in tow? I'm guessing that hiring a taxi for the afternoon might be the way to go - is that an easy enough thing to do?

Thanks!
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Old Jul 6th, 2010, 03:13 AM
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If you intend to take the 4pm ferry from Oyster Pond you won't have much time to do any 'sight seeing', bearing in mind the time it will take to go through passport control and collect your luggage - even IF the plane lands on time.

It seems to me that the easiest thing for you to do is probably to either take the early ferry from Oyster Pond and forget about sight seeing altogether, or take a taxi to the Gare Maritime in Marigot, drop of your luggage, and wander around Marina Royale and the surrounding area until departure time.

The problem with the latter is that I don't know whether there are any facilities for leaving luggage at the Gare Maritime - you could try calling there to enquire. They will speak English for sure, and the phone number will be on the St Barts ferry website.

Whatever you do, you will of course need a taxi but, particularly if you have a lot of luggage, I think that the Oyster Pond option is the best - even if you do miss out on seeing a bit of the island. You can always come back to visit another time.
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Old Jul 9th, 2010, 12:47 PM
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Thanks for these thoughts! Is there much to see in the immediate vicinity of the ports at either Marigot or Oyster Pond?
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 07:34 PM
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There is quite a bit to see and do close to the Gare Maritime in Marigot. There are a number of interesting shops in the street a block back from the port itself, and Marina Royale with it's boutiques and restaurants is a 5 minute walk away, however out of season, a lot of the establishments on the port are closed. Also, most of the shops that ARE open out of season close for a couple of hours for lunch.

There is nothing to do at Oyster Pond apart from having a late lunch on the dock and admiring the yachts moored there.

As I suggested before, be careful to check - in advance - if you decide to take the ferry from Marigot, whether there is any left luggage facility at the Gare Maritime. If there is not (which I suspect may well be the case), you will not enjoy carting your suitcases around in the usual 80 to 85 degree afternoon temperature !
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Old Jul 13th, 2010, 08:08 AM
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Alternatively take the Great Bay express from Phillipsburg.
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Old Jul 13th, 2010, 11:22 AM
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Not trying to be negative, but I would get to St.Barts as soon as I could. We have been all over the islands and have our favorites...SXM isn't one of them and that of course is just my opinion. I do not intend to offend anyone. It's just my honest opinion.
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Old Jul 14th, 2010, 06:46 AM
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Thanks, everyone.

Anguillagirl, for future reference, what are your favorite islands?
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Old Jul 14th, 2010, 09:28 AM
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There isn't much competition. St Barts is a one off.
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Old Jul 14th, 2010, 06:12 PM
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As usual Anguillagirl is taking a dig at St Martin !

I fully agree with J_R_Hartley, St Barts IS a one off - and an expensive one too.

Unless you have a strong stomach for small airplanes and death defying landings, I strongly suggest that you do not consider flying there !
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Old Jul 16th, 2010, 11:13 AM
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Large slow moving target.

St Maarten is weird, the whole island appears to built with the express intention of hiding the sea.
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Old Jul 17th, 2010, 04:12 AM
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J_R_Hartley - I presume that you are referring to the DUTCH side of the island which is 'high-rise heaven', with massive volumes of timeshare, casinos (12), legalized brothels and other 'attractions'.

The construction there has been allowed run riot and, as you state, it is difficult to see the sea as a result. Also the infrastructure is insufficient to support the concrete jungle that has arisen as a result of the greed of the developers, and graft in the former administration.

The French side is VERY different - you will NOT find a high-rise anywhere. There is only one, very small, privately owned, timeshare operation. There are no casinos, no KFC, no Burger King - and no legalized brothels.

Also the sea is by no means hidden - next time you are here, I suggest that you venture to this side of the island, and then revise your dangerously generalized comment.
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Old Jul 17th, 2010, 09:29 AM
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David, I travel to St Maarten very frequently.

For example, the restaurants by the port in Marigot have their views of see obscured by a road, parked cars and a market.

Friars bay is a nightmare to get to.

Grand Case is constructed such that you can only see the beach at all from the bridge by the carpark.

Cul de Sac, never worked out how to the get there.

Lorient beach I will grant you.

"There are no casinos, no KFC, no Burger King - and no legalized brothels"

No decent hotels, spas or shops either. Decent restaurants are hard to find. Marigot is a ghost town after 7pm.

(Credit to the restaurants in Grande Case on the other hand)

The authorities on the French side need a good kick in the rear, without the support of the economy on the Dutch side, the French side would have to be shut down completely.

There is almost no tourism infrastructure whatsoever on the French side.

The Dutch invested in Front Street, the Cruise ship port and a proper airport, have allowed casinos and high rises. You may not like it, but at least the economy is employing people.

Areas like St James, Sandy Ground and French Quarter are shamefully delapidated and the poverty is evident.
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Old Jul 18th, 2010, 04:39 AM
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J_R_Hartley. I presume that you live - or at least frequent - St Barts, therefore surely you must have noticed that there is very little view of the sea from the waterfront, ferry terminal area, in Gustavia either !

Why would you want to eat in the restaurants on the roadside by the Gare Maritime in Marigot when you can eat far better in the restaurants on Marina Royale, only a short walk away ? They all have nice views overlooking the attractive pleasure port, and are uninterupted by passing vehicles and traffic noise. Next time you are here try Le Tropicana or Le Chanteclaire, or perhaps the well known Mario's Bistro (not on the Marina, but a short distance away, and also right on the water).

I rarely go to Friar's Bay, as I am alergic to small children, however Orient Bay is only minutes from where I live, and Pinel Island is a haven of peace and a short $7 boat trip from Cul de Sac (which you apparently haven't found, though it is clearly signposted !).

You say that there are no decent hotels on the French side of St Martin. Perhaps you haven't heard of La Samana (owned by Orient Express) which is probably one of the best hotels in the Caribbean. The Radisson(opened last year) in Anse Marcel and is in a beautiful location. Before opening it had a massive multi million dollar face lift. Both have excellent spas. It seems to me that you do not know this island as well as you would perhaps like us all to think.

I fully accept that nothing much happens in Marigot after the shops close in the evening, unless you want to dine out, and there is no night life at all - if that is what you want, make the short trip across to the Dutch side where there is plenty of choice.

You should realize that the French side of the island aims to attract a totally different type of tourist to the Dutch side. There are no 'day trippers' apart from the few 'cruisers' that escape from the shop owners on Front Street, and the lure of the casinos, and take a cab to, probably, Orient Bay.

There is far more crime on the Dutch side of the island, and far more 'illegals' employed there, than on the French side. Naturally, like most places in the Caribbean there is an element of poverty on both sides of the island, and (apart from St Barts) there are areas on most islands which, in consequence, are somewhat run down. That is a fact that has to be accepted, though more effort seems to be made on the French side of this island to keep the place reasonably tidy.

Basically, the Dutch side of the island (partly due to the massive timeshare element) attracts a different level of tourist to the French side, and St Barts caters to the up-market few. It is a case of 'to each his own', and I do agree that St Barts is a great place - if you can afford it !
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 07:04 AM
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Sorry David, but the Marina in Marigot is a dump with a collection of very ordinary restaurants, and I would certainly think very hard about going there alone after dark.

Once you are in the Marina, fine, but getting from your car into the Marina is scary.

Mario's Bistro? Sandy Ground after dark? You must be joking.

I've remarked that people who live on St Maarten seem blissfully unaware how run down and shoddy the whole place is.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 10:23 AM
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J-R, who said anything about eating on Marina Royale or at Mario's Bistro after dark ? greentea123 and his party plan to leave the island on the 6.30pm ferry BEFORE it get's dark.

Even if you think that St Martin is a dump, perhaps you will allow that you were wrong in your statement that therte are no decent hotels or spas - or have you never been to La Samana or the Radisson ?

I think you were better at Fly Fishing !!
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 02:13 PM
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I don't know the Radisson, and am aware that the Sammana has a good reputation.

We can up the ante to "French side St Martin has two decent hotels" which is kind of pitiful if you look at Anguilla, Antigua and St Barts.

My point was rather that there is minimal economic activity on St Martin.

I'm sorry, I know the Caribbean a fair amount, and I know France better.

French side St Martin has little to offer in comparison to other islands, in terms of either French or Caribbean experience.

Most of the young Saint Martinois work on the Dutch side, because if they relied on the French side, they would starve.

The few restaurants etc there are in Marigot and Grand Case are run by Metros, employing Metros.

I have never found "lack of development" as a euphemism for poverty "charming".

Don't forget the murder earlier this month in Concordia. Kids are killing people for a few hundred bucks.

Not a healthy society.
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 03:57 AM
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J_R, as you obviously are not familiar with La Samana (spelt with one 'M' by the way) - which you somewhat grudgingly have to admit has a good reputation - you are therefore presumably also unaware that, in the surrounding area (Terres Basses), there are numerous extremely expensive and very beautiful properties, many of which are regularly rented to the rich and famous who enjoy the high level of accomodation, privacy and security which they offer. Maybe we don't NEED too many top class hotels !

The Radisson in Anse Marcel is, to all intents and purposes, a brand new hotel, which is beautifully designed and located in a very attractive, and private, location - so at least, as I said before, we DO have TWO good hotels on the French side, plus a few other 'boutique' hotels which cater to the 'discerning few' - not to mention the large number of up-market villas available for rent.

The economy - on both sides of the island - relies entirely on tourism, but the majority of the higher spending (French side) visitors stay in well appointed rented villas, rather than in the hotels of medium standard located around the Orient Bay area for example.

As I stated before, the French side of the island aims to attract a different level of visitor to those attracted to the Dutch side.

I most certainly dispute your statement that "most of the young St Martinois work on the Dutch side of the island" as it is PATENTLY UNTRUE, and ill-informed.

You ARE correct about ONE thing however, in that most of the best restaurants in Grand Case and Marigot are owned and operated by 'Metros', but that fact should not detract from their excellent reputations. Grand Case is, after all -justifiably - known as the 'culinarary capital of the Caribbean !

Naturally, as I live here, I am well aware of the supermarket murder in Concordia earlier this month, and that there IS a level of crime on the island - indeed as there is in Anguilla and Antigua (though not, apparently, in St Barts to any significant extent).

Much of the crime here is perpitrated by young locals on young locals, though there are of course, well publicized, other instances, as will almost always occur in places where there is a high level of tourism, and a degree of 'visiting wealth' sometimes being made rather too obvious.

You should remember that the population size of this island, together with the literally MILLIONS of tourists (if you count the cruise passengers) who visit each year distorts the crime statistics somewhat, and if crime figures are viewed as a percentage per capita, the island is no worse than most other islands in the Caribbean, and considerably better than some.

I have lived in 8 different countries - including many years in France, where there is a very high level of crime in certain areas, particularly in parts of the larger cities, however I never felt unsafe while living there - and nor do I feel any more unsafe living on St Martin than I have when living elsewhere.

I am still of the opinion that your knowledge of this island is by no means as 'in depth' as you are trying to indicate - and certainly you seem to know NOTHING about the two best hotels, and not very much about the economy of the French side of St Martin either.

I suggest that it is singularly stupid to make sweeping statements about ANYTHING if you are inadequately informed in the first place. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing !
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 01:19 PM
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Sorry David,

Not being "as bad as some of the rest" is hardly a reoommendation.

St Martin is simply not a place I would ever go on vacation.

If I were a gambler I would, if I were looking for cheap electronics and jewels I would, if I were looking for a cheap girl for the night I would, if I wanted drugs I would.

As you say, the French side doesn't have these.

Perhaps I am spoiled, but worrying about locking my appartment and car avoiding trouble areas, I could do without.

Actually, perusing the villas on the French side, price wise, they are in the same ballpark as St Barts.
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 03:40 AM
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J_C, I know that, if you really want to do so, you can obtain drugs - or the services of a young lady for the night - on the French side of St Martin or even on St Barts, however I do not personally use the former, and I am reliably informed that the latter would not be 'cheap', as you suggest, in either place !! As the saying goes "you get's what you pays for".

You are - for once - correct in regard to the cost of rental or purchase of up-market villa property on both of the islands, however I think that most of the high end properties on the French side of this island are usually rather more spacious than those available on St Barts, but I hasten to add that I am NOT as knowledgeable about St Barts as you would have us believe YOU are about St Martin.

For your information, I have always locked my property when going out - in EVERY country in which I have lived. It is a common sense precaution, which most intelligent people take, whether neccessary or not.

On St martin I leave my car unlocked when I park it - without any tempting items left on view inside - but I do use a steering lock. Unless it is raining (as it has been here for the last 3 days) I usually leave the front windows rolled down to keep it as cool as possible. By doing so, it also indicates that there is nothing in the car worth stealing, so nobody will bother to break the windows to find out ! I even do this with a rental car when I visit St Barts !!
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