Please tell me about St. Martin

Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 08:32 AM
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Please tell me about St. Martin

We are considering a vacation in St. Martin in late March of 2005 - 4 adults and 1 teenager. We have been to Bermuda (which we love) numerous times but wanted to have more access to beach and water sports which are more available in the Caribbean at this time of year. Bermuda weather in March is iffy. Any recommendations for places to stay, things to do, getting around? I don't suppose there are moped rentals as in Bermuda are there? We have two guide books - Fodor's and Frommer's which have conflicting views of St. Martin so I would be interested in hearing some other opinions. Thanks.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 09:47 AM
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A lot of St. Martin is Americanized, touristy and overbuilt, especially the Dutch side, but there are still some very nice areas and it does have a great variety - excellent beaches, great and numerous restaurants, casinos, shopping, etc. Besides the normal water-sports you can race an Americas Cup 12 meter yaught, take trips to several nearby islands, snorkeling day-trips, there is an old fort with an excellent view, some small museums, hiking opportunities, a butterfly farm. Very casual compared to Bermuda and something of a European atmosphere on the French side. Getting around is easy with a rental car, which is relatively inexpensive - roads are pretty good but trafic can be heavy in spots. Mopeds may be available, but are not recommended. The island is relatively safe - some petty crime, car break-ins, and you need to use normal common sense. You can get a lot of information on
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 10:19 AM
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St. Martin/Sint Maarten is an island shared by two distinct countries and many people who visit the island either love it or hate it which is probably the reason you get conflicting views. Whether or not one chooses to stay on the French side or the Dutch side is purly a personal decision. The island offers a variety of beaches, casinos, every type of watersport, some fantastic dining opportunities (especially in Grand Case on the French side), lots of beach bars, sophisticated "fashion" shopping on the French side and the typical Caribbean Duty Free shopping (jewelry, electronics, liquor, t-shirts, etc.) on the Dutch side. It also boasts an active nightlife. Accomodations run from the over-rated luxury resort La Samana, to mid and high rise time shares, to small hotels, to rental villas. Because of the shopping the island is a cruise ship mecca so it is more crowded than some of the other Caribbean islands. The island has a fairly mountainous terraine and there is lots of traffic, especially in and around Phillipsburg and Marigot. If you plan to explore the island, visit different beaches and dine at a variety of restaurants you'd be wise to get a rental car rather than mopeds as things are pretty well spread out. If you are seeking an activity filled vacation St. Martin is a good choice.
Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 05:56 PM
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Our favourite island by far! We've been going to SXM twice yearly for more than 20 years. We much prefer the French side; it definitely has a more European flavour than the Dutch side. Don't worry if you are not fluent in French, people are very friendly and fact the island slogan is "The Friendly Island".

Where to Stay: we have stayed in most hotels in the Nettle Bay area..Nettle Bay Beach Club, Anse Margot, Mercure Simson, Laguna Beach; all were very nice and all had kitchenettes. Some are on Simson Bay Lagoon while NBBC is across the road on the Ocean side. OK for paddling but not really great beaches for swimming but all have pools. Then there is Hotel Beach Plaza a 5 min walk from the Marina Royale area of shops and has a pool, restos, big dock for sunbathing, bar frig but no kitchenette.
A really great hotel is Grand Case Beach Club a gated property in Grand Case, a small town with wall-to-wall restaurants. Rooms are large with kitchenettes and there is a very nice shallow calm beach.
Our favourite right now (and where we're going for 2 weeks in Dec ) is L'Hoste which is right on Orient Beach. Check out the web site: The rooms are actually nicer than they appear. Very large rooms, kitchenette and 2 min from the beach.

Favourite beach: Orient..windsurfing, para gliding, sea-doos, calm areas, waves in a few spots. Half the beach is clothing optional..on the other half there are restaurants, little shops, chairs and umbrellas; just like the Riviera.

Rent a car; we get a good rate at Budget. Most are right near the airport and they will ferry you over.

Where to eat: Too many to all price ranges. For inexpensive fun try the "lolos" or rib shacks in Grand Case (our favourite is Talk of the Town) for chicken, ribs, johnny cake. We get stuffed for US$20/two. Another good spot in Marigot is Au Plongeoir (right on the harbour), La Belle Epoque in the Marina.

Hope this helps...and I didn't even get to the shopping!!!
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 12:11 AM
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We feel the same as the previous poster - have been going to St. Martin for years and still enjoy it!
We started out going to the Dutch side, but it has become very touristy and overbuilt over the years. Philipsburg is pretty awful - we always avoid it. These last 5 or 6 years we have stayed only at the French side, usually at a hotel called Captain Oliver's on Oyster Pond, which is on the French side but right on the border. The hotel is basic and simple but nice. A little boat takes you to Dawn Beach on the Dutch side in 5 minutes - one of St. Maarten's nicest beaches. We like the Oyster Pond area because it is still relatively quiet and undeveloped, with nice little French restaurants and supermarkets within walking distance of our hotel.
We also love going to Grand Case - it is like a little French town set in the Caribbean. Great restaurants!
We used to stay on Orient Beach, at Esmeralda which is an excellent hotel, but the beach has become too busy and noisy for us (we totally HATE jetskis!), that's why we changed.
Marigot is also worth a visit, nice restaurants and a great Caribbean market. So, lots of things to do and see, good places to eat, etc. Do rent a car, you really need it for getting around.
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Old Oct 5th, 2004, 11:40 AM
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Thanks so much for the replies and personal recommendations. Will keep you posted.
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Old Oct 11th, 2004, 09:40 PM
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First, I must comment that St. Martin, especially the French side is a very nice island, but to go there every year for 20 years...not quite that nice. Anyway, we went a couple of years ago and stayed on the French side. It was far better than the Dutch side which is overrun with cruise ship passengers, tacky shops, casinos, sports bars etc. We were quite charmed by the culture on the French side, and the food is some of the best I have had anywhere in the world..creme brulee to die for. The scenery is quite beautiful. Orient beach was a nice but somewhat crowded swimming beach. Many beaches on the west side(baie rouge etc..) were rough but relatively deserted. It is quite safe in most parts, but remember your common sense. We had a magnificent time there, but I would not recommend it to just anyone. I don't know which islands you have visited, but I think there are better islands, depending on what you are looking for. I have never been to Bermuda, but I doubt it has much in common with St. Martin, other than being an island. I might suggest the british virgin islands or st. john(usvi)-especially. We visited the area in march, and they(tortola, virgin gorda, and st. john) were stunningly beautiful, very classy, and had many water sports. Another nice alternative, although not lush, is Aruba especially if you prefer a somewhat younger crowd and some nightlife.
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Old Oct 17th, 2004, 07:39 PM
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I was there on a family vacation last year with my 2 brothers and our 4 daughters (aged 18, 19 + 2 at 20 years) and wanted to stay at an all-inclusive because of the mix of ages. We wanted them to have lots to do .. we stayed at the Maho Bay Beach Resort. It's not where I would stay for a romantic getaway with my husband. But overall we were happy with the hotel.
You have to keep in mind that you are directly beside the international airport - sitting at the hotel beach you would actually smell the jet's fuel sometimes and obviously the noise was terrific! .. but so was the site of a jet landing so incredibly close and low. There were probably 10 planes every hour.
The hotel itself did not have poolside activities, but it offered off-site trips. There is also a shopping area within 2 blocks, as well as an internet cafe, casino across the street and a bar with nightly dancing.
We rented a car and drove around the whole island over several days and only had one minor incident - someone tried to break into our trunk when it was unattended at Pic Paradis (the hightest point on the island where there's a short trail) - they broke the lock, but didn't get in. Keep all valuables with you or in the trunk so they are out of sight.
The island is beautiful! Lots of great beaches to explore - my personal favourite was Grand Case with its charming town, great restaurants and terrific snorkelling at the west end of the bay.
And I didn't see any mopeds at all, but there were Harley's to rent if you like.
I will definitely go back with my husband as I loved the whole island and I look forward to a stay somewhere in Grand Case.
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