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Need help planning St Maarten with small children

Need help planning St Maarten with small children

Old Sep 30th, 2004, 09:02 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 59
Need help planning St Maarten with small children

We'll be in St. Maarten in November on a cruise and need a little help with planning our day in port. We'll be traveling with our 3-year-old and 6-month-old. Both are easy going and up for adventure. We like to do things outside the scope of organized tours and shore excursions and go at our own pace. There are many things we'd like to see during our short time in St. Maarten/St. Martin, and need help planning the day so as best to utilize our time.

I considered renting a car, but I am nervous about driving conditions (traffic, road conditions, etc.) and we'll either need to lug along 2 heavy carseats or make arrangements through the rental agency...so it might not be the best way to go. Generally, we prefer using public transportation - you feel a lot more like a local that way!

Here are the spots we're considering visiting:

*Marigot - open-air market along the water front, and possibly the fort. we NEED to get our fill of french pastries too

*Loterie Farm - We'd love to do a short hike there, but haven't been able to gather any information on doing this one on your own (vs a guided tour). I finally got into their website, and it shows a $5pp park entrance fee, but also prices for guided hikes - can you do it on your own? I'm also not sure how it would fit in to the rest of the day in terms of transportation and time, and even if there ARE any short hikes to do!

*Butterfly Farm - it seems like the easy answer of what to do in St. Martin with small children, but I'm wondering if it is really touristy or honestly worth a visit. I think it is down the street from Le Galion Beach, so at least it wouldn't be out of the way.

*Le Galion Beach - the quiet kid-friendly beach on the island is a definite must!

Any advice on how to get between these spots is welcome (esp using the bus, because taxis can get very pricey!), which order might be best to tackle the day, and if we should add/delete anything from our itinerary. We will be in St. Maarten again next year actually, so we're fine to save something for later.

I'd also love to visit Anguilla, but i feel bad to ferry away from St maarten since we've never seen the island at all! Maybe we'll do that next time.

Thanks in advance!
meab is offline  
Old Oct 1st, 2004, 07:46 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Hi meab. SXM is not a difficult island to drive around, as long as you have a good map. There is generally one main road that goes all the way around the island, which makes it fairly easy to get around. Be aware, however, that there can be crime with rented vehicles, so be diligent about not entering desolate areas and always make sure your doors are locked.

That aside, I think that overall you would still be better off renting a car in SXM as long as you are comfortable with that idea.....especially if you really want to try and fit in all the sights you've mentioned. If you go with a taxi to see all those sights, you will be spending exhorbitant fares and will have to continually make arrangements for the taxi to return to retrieve you. So, in the long run, a car will be easier, but as you said, you will have the added burden of car seats to deal with, so that is another consideration. I am not aware if SXM rental agencies offer car seats.

I would not advise public transportation with two small children. The buses can be very hot and crowded and literally stop at each and every telephone poll, so it would take you quite a long time to get where you want to go, and there is no way you would be able to fit in all your desired sights.

So, IMHO, you are left with two choices....taxi or rental car. The taxi might be easier with not having to worry about driving or car seats, but it will also be more expensive with paying a fare place to place each time. The car rental will require more of your personal attention and the added burden of car seats, but will save money and allow you much more freedom as to where you go and when. So, it's really a toss up.

If you decide on a rental car, I can highly recommend Best Deal Car Rental, but do not know if they have a location in near the cruise ship port in Phillipsburg.

I'd be interested to see where everyone else weighs in on this issue because some people who visit SXM regularly might have alternate ideas.

Good luck in your decision.
Statia is offline  
Old Oct 1st, 2004, 07:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I forgot to add that I would definitely suggest saving Anguilla for another trip. There would be no time for all the things you would like to see in SXM, as well as ferrying to Anguilla.

As far as the "route," I would suggest you start in Marigot before it gets too hot and crowded, then go to Loterie Farm and the Butterfly Farm, have some lunch, and then end your day relaxing Le Galion before having to return to the ship.

Someone else might have a better plan, however.
Statia is offline  
Old Oct 1st, 2004, 11:58 AM
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Statia, thanks for your response. it was just what i was looking for.

You made some great points about rental car vs taxi vs bus. After I posted this message, I started thinking the bus would be the least-best-option because of time constraints anyhow. The rental car is looking like the best idea, so now I just have to research which agencies have a pick-up in Phillipsburg and also deal with the carseat issue.

I was thinking along the same lines as you with the itinerary: marigot-loterie farm-butterfly farm-beach. Again, after thinking more about the time constraints, I'm wondering if we will even have sufficient time to do Loterie and/or the Butterfly Farm. If you had your choice, which would you choose? Or skip both and just relax more in marigot and the beach?!

I know anguilla is definitely a day unto itself; i was just debating skipping sxm all together and seeing shoal bay!

Thank you so much for your advice!!!
meab is offline  
Old Oct 1st, 2004, 12:10 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I don't know what to tell you with regards to Loterie or the Butterfly Farm since I've only been to the Butterfly Farm myself. However, I've always been there with children and they absolutely love it! So, if it were me, I would choose to do only that one and spend more time on the beach. Your three year old will just adore the butterflies landing on him/her. It's very interesting and beautiful for both adults and children.

I have to admit that Shoal Bay is the most beautiful beach I've ever been to, but it might be difficult with time constraints to 1) get to Marigot, 2) take the ferry over, 3) take a taxi to Shoal Bay, 4) get back to Blowing Point for the return ferry, 5) ferry back, 6) get back to the ship on time. I don't think that type of day would be very enjoyable, so my suggestion is to stick to St. Maarten/St. Martin.

Good luck.
Statia is offline  
Old Oct 1st, 2004, 05:40 PM
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Great - I had just ruled out some time at the Butterfly Farm for fear of it being too touristy!!! Maybe we will reconsider. How much time should be allotted for a visit there? 1 hour? more/less?

And, do you know the approximate travel time from Phillipsburg to Marigot, Marigot to the Farm, and the Farm back to Phillipsburg? I thought i read somewhere P to M was about 45min.

There are people out there who have done anguilla as a day trip on their own (and also through the cruiseline's shore excursion program), but it seems like an awful lot of work just for a beach!

Honestly, I think sxm is an island that deserves a return trip for sure, and we haven't even visited yet! There is just too much to do IMO.

Statia, thank you again so much for answering my post. Sorry to be obsessive, but isn't that what these boards are for?!?
meab is offline  
Old Oct 1st, 2004, 05:50 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 37
The traffic can be horrendous on SXM, particularly on busy cruiseship days (usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays)so the more expensive taxi option may prove worth it for the stress free ride it provides.

Marigot market, the town and the fort are all well worth a visit. Butterfly Farm is a good value short visit and very close to Galion beach which is ideal for kids. That should fill your day.

My son works as a hike guide at Lotterie Farm so Im not about to recommend any unguided tours! The setting of the plantation house in the valley is breathtaking and quite unexpected for SXM - many who live here are still unaware of it. Maybe worth a stop for a photo session and a drink but the hike itself is fairly tough and I wouldnt recommend it as fun for , or with, young children.

Anguilla wouldnt be possible in the same day unless you bypass SXM sighseeing completely.

A bientot.
tropicaldan is offline  
Old Oct 2nd, 2004, 07:56 AM
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I think that 1 hour at the Butterfly Farm would be just the right amount of time.

As Dan said, the traffic from Phillispburg to Marigot can be bad depending on the time of day. The main backup is always going over the hill from Phillipsburg into the Cole Bay area. I would allow at LEAST thirty minutes between the two, maybe more with traffic.

Marigot to the Butterfly Farm would probably be another 20 minutes. There again it will depend on the traffic or if you get stuck behind any heavy equipment going slow along the only road. You could make a stop in Grand Case for lunch or a quick visit to the beach (my personal favorite) on your way, if you have extra time to spare.

You can take the back route from the Butterfly Farm back to Phillipsburg and there shouldn't be much traffic going that route. It would certainly be faster than going back thru Marigot. That drive would proably take another 20 minutes.

If you do decide to rent a car, please be vigilant about not leaving valuables inside and keeping your doors locked at all times. I don't mean to frighten you at all, as we drive over there all the time, but it's best to be cautious and not to stop for anyone as tourists are occassionally targeted for car theft, etc.
Statia is offline  
Old Nov 2nd, 2004, 09:13 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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I will be visiting St Maarten(the Dutch side) in april. i will be traveling with my 17 yr old daughter. i would like to be there during carnival. can you tell me when that is. also can anyone give me some information about which hotels are nice and that might have some sctivites for a 17 yr old
christine_s is offline  
Old Nov 2nd, 2004, 09:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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If I'm not mistaken, Carnival on the Dutch side is in the summer (June or July). I think Carinval on the French side might be in April. If you go to the tourism website for the island, you can easily find the dates for each.

As far as hotels, I would suggest an AI with a teen. Perhaps Maho, Royal Palm, or Royal Islander. Others might have more suggestions for some good hotel properties with teens.
Statia is offline  
Old Nov 4th, 2004, 04:41 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 37
Dutch side carnival is definitely in April, French side is the traditional Mardi Gras one in February.
tropicaldan is offline  
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