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ST. MAARTEN/ST. MARTIN...Have Questions & Need Advice!


May 14th, 2011, 09:06 AM
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Join Date: May 2011
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ST. MAARTEN/ST. MARTIN...Have Questions & Need Advice!

My husband & I will be traveling to St. Maarten/St. Martin from July 2nd, 2011 thru July 9th, 2011. We are going with my sister & brother-in-law. All of us are very seasoned travelers, we've all been to various parts of the world...however it's been awhile since any of us have been to the Caribbean. None of us have been to St. Maarten, so this will be a brand new island to check out. I can't wait!

I've been reading this forum for the past month and I think everyone that's posted on here has provided tons of great info, but I do have some questions that I hope you "experts" can help me out with. ; )~

We are staying at the "under new ownership" Simpson Bay Resort & Villas (formerly The Pelican). My sister has a time-share here and this trip was booked last year, so there really wasn't a whole lot we could do when all of that crap went on (bankruptcy, employees, etc. ~ we are aware of the situation) at the beginning of this year, so we held our breath & hoped the resort would re-open by the time our trip came around.

How's the resort doing now? Have they made any changes? The new website looks beautiful, but I know that websites can be deceiving. Would appreciate any (HONEST) opinions. What "part of town" is it located in? Nice or nasty? Don't sugar-coat, like I said above I really want your honest opinions.

The posts I've read on the subject of rental cars have literally made my stomach churn, but I'm willing to take the risk in order to have transportation at our disposal so we can go where we want, when we want...we plan on checking out every square inch of that island (LOL). Is renting a car in St. Maarten really that bad? I've gone ahead & made a reservation with Budget, I hope they aren't nearly as bad as the Thrifty/Dollar mess I've read about. How is Budget? Anyone rented from them before?

Also would like to know what the best tour agencies are. We would like to do the day-trip to Anguilla/Prickly Pear, also the Pinel/Tintamarre trip. Which vendor is the best to use to book these excursions? There are a lot to choose from online, but I don't want to book the wrong one & wind up having a bad time because the tour operator stinks. Are there any other tours or day-trips that you would recommend for us?

We're laid-back folks, late 30's - early 40's, We're just as comfortable in a sand-floored beach bar hut as we are in a five-star restaurant (but we like the informal beach huts better). We'll probably eat "fancy" (i.e.- five-star) two nights & do the beach hut/restaurant/ tiki bars the rest of the time. Which are the best ones? We don't particularly want off-the-chain crazy & loud, but more chilled-out (if that makes sense).

I'm an amateur photographer & writer, so I'd love to know where the more "photogenic" places in St. Maarten/St. Martin are. Also, during the time we'll be there - the first week in July - is it really busy? Or is it a more quiet time of year?

Any suggestions that you guys can provide would be absolutely wonderful. Thanks in advance! ~ Amy
AABurnett is offline  
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May 14th, 2011, 09:50 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
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You might want to check out the St. Martin forum at www.traveltalkonline.com. It's a vey active forum with scores of regular contributors who are SXM experts - probably 10 times as many than on this forum - it's really the most active St. Martin forum around. There have been numerous recent threads with hundreds posts discussing every aspect of the Pelican situation. Also you'll find lots of threads/posts discussing rental cars, day sail tour operators and restaurants. Those are some of the most discussed topics on the forum. Every one of your questions has been asked and answered on the forum numerous times.
RoamsAround is offline  
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May 14th, 2011, 06:14 PM
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Right from where you are staying you can get the catamaran to Prickley Pear - it's the same place where you can take the ferry to St. Barths or Saba.....I did it 2 years ago - it was awesome!!!!! For Pinel - just drive your car to Cul-de-Sac and take the "ferry" over - it's like $7.00 rt - they run every 30 minutes...
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May 14th, 2011, 08:59 PM
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 8
You are at an awesome place. We have stayed there several times. Cancel Budget & use Tropical Rental. Not only are they the best (used them 6 times) but they are located 2 blocks from Simpson Bay.They will pick you up.
You are in the best place on the island, dinner-Pinnapple Pete's,Greenhouse, Sunset Beach Bar for Burgers,IZE-Easy, Halseys, Breakfast-St. Maarten Yacht club,Zee Best,above Peli Deli,
Go to many beaches & make it back for a drink at Sunset Beach Bar or Buccaneer Bar for a BBC.
Go to store grocery store on main road around from Buccaneer every AM. Get friut juices,ice & Rum..drive all over the island. Eat pastries at Serafina's in Marigot. Go To Grand Case Tuesday PM--go EARLY--carnival time is a blast.
Orient Beach is a must.Go all day--Eat at Cheryl & Andy's-Awesome Food & Tunes.Shop & drink in Philipsburg.
We have been all over the Caribbean--Love St maarten the best
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May 14th, 2011, 09:05 PM
Join Date: Apr 2011
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Prickly Pear is a must.Booked right at Simpson Bay.
Lambada Boat rocks. Il Pinel is cool & laid back.
Drive all over the island & stop at beaches.
Also, Old name--Ric's Cafe in Simpson Bay Rocks-great BBQ.
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May 15th, 2011, 04:49 AM
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Marigot area on the franch side appeals most to me

very photogenic and best food by far over there

more laid back vibe nice sunset sails there for me.

Careful car rental with a reputable agency

the way to go for me many scammers there.

Alwaus use my Business CC that has the the

rental car insurance protection there.

insuremytrip.com always wise.

Happy Travels!
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May 15th, 2011, 04:58 AM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 433
It really depends what you like !

The Simpson Bay area is very built up, and has a TOTALLY different atmosphere to the more relaxed and 'un-Americanized' French side of the island.

As you will see, the two sides of the island are as different as chalk and cheese - even the electric power is different ! The French side is far less developed and, unlike the other side of the island, you will not find a highrise, casino or licensed brothel anywhere !

I fully admit to being prejudiced as we live on the French side of the island - though we mainly shop for food / booze etc. on the Dutch side because it costs considerably less than here in the Euro zone.

As someone has already said, there are some good - middle range - restaurants in the Simpson Bay area, but the really great ones are in Grand Case, which is considered to be the 'Culinary Capital of the Caribbean'.

Orient Beach is a must. It is the longest, and arguably the best, on the island.

Though I have nothing against Cheryl & Andys, Bikini Beach (my 'localpub') is far more central, just a few yards from the Orient Village Square - on the left at foot of the main entrance road, the food is good, and the beach there is MUCH wider.

If you want something a bit quieter, keep driving towards Marigot and turn right at the 'Paintball' sign just before the Cadisco gas station, fork immediately right, and follow the sign to Palm Beach. The food there is excellent, and it is definitely a cut above the average beach bar.

Have fun.
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May 18th, 2011, 09:06 AM
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Thanks for all of the info, you guys are great. I have made notes & will definately remember your advice. ; )

Smithpro, does Tropical Rental have a website? Can I book a car online or do I need to call them? At Simpson Bay, we're staying in the villas. It looks really nice!

I will also check out traveltalkonline.com to see what they're saying over there.

DavidSXM we like "laid-back". Although a night or two of partying (casino, dancing, etc.) will probably be on the itinerary, the majority of our time will be spent trying to relax and unwind. My husband & I have stressful jobs, and we are looking forward to the peace & quiet (i.e.- secluded beaches) more than anything. We've planned on spending equal amounts of time on the Dutch side and French side. ; )

Is there any side of town we need to stay away from (French & Dutch)?
AABurnett is offline  
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May 18th, 2011, 11:29 AM
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Personally I think that - from what you indicate - you will probably find the French side much more to your liking - particularly if you are looking for quiet beaches.

You must visit Pinel Island. It is a short $7 return boat ride from French Cul de Sac (there is a Dutch Cul de Sac also !). It is a peaceful nature reserve, with just 3 quiet beach bars (the furthest one away from the landing with pretty good food and a boutique with somewhat different items) and the sea is always calm there. Don't miss the last boat back, or you will have to sleep under the stars !

The beach at Le Domaine (a 4 star hotel at Anse Marcel on the French side) is one of my favorites. It is very nice, and quiet, and you do not have to be a hotel resident to use it. The hotel grounds are also beautiful now that we have had plenty of rain in the last few days to 'green up' the grass and water the plants.

The main place to avoid at night is the Mullet Bay / Rhine Road area on the Dutch side near the airport. The Maho area nearby has the best casinos (and some good restaurants), but if you 'win big' make sure that you are escorted to your car. Do NOT take a taxi from there unless it is a clearly marked 'genuine' taxi.

Obviously use comon sense anywhere, and don't flash around wads of green backs or flout expensive jewelery. Do not walk in unlit or badly lit areas, or on beaches, at night on either side of the island.

Have fun.
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May 24th, 2011, 08:57 PM
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To add to your list of quiet beaches I'd include Baie Rouge, Baie aux Prunes and Long Beach. All three are on the same road in the French Lowlands and located one after the other (you have to drive from one to the other). They are all long beaches and perfect for finding your own private spot. Baie Rouge has 2 wonderful beach bars which serve great food too : Chez Raymond and Gus Beach Bar. You can pick up what refreshment you need from them since they are located right at the spot where you enter the beach, and then walk to your place in the sun. The water at all three is turquoise. You can rent sun beds and umbrellas from Raymond but can't go too far away with them.

There are two more nice beach bars/restaurants along this same road along the stretch from the lowlands (Terres Basses) and Marigot that are great for lunch; one's called Ma Ti Beach, and I'll have to get back to you with the name of the other ! I can see it in my mind's eye but not remember it's name. Layla's, maybe ?

I was very happy with Empress Car Rental. Ask for Elias who mans their airport desk.

In about 16 trips to SXM since 1985 the first 6 were with accommodation on the Dutch side, but all the rest have been on the French side near Marigot which we love.

Enjoy your stay.
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May 25th, 2011, 03:25 AM
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I fully agree with Mathieu about Baie Rouge and Baie aux Prunes, but I have never been to Long Beach.

In my experience the food and the view at Ma Ti has always been good, but the beach has never been really clean.

I think that he is right about the name of Layla's - I have driven past it many times, but never visited.

I know rather more about the French side beaches on the other side of Marigot.

You could also try Friars Bay (Anse des Peres). The access is via a largely unmade road, but it's nice when you get there, and it has a good beach bar. The water is usually calm, and ideal for small chldren - which is why I personally do not go there very often, as I am alergic to them !

Happy Bay is also very nice, but even more difficult to access.
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Jun 13th, 2011, 05:23 PM
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If you are looking for more information on the beaches and the island, you can take a look at http://sxmdeals.com (New St. Maarten website, centered on getting great deals for new visitors to the island), there is also an activity section to book tours online directly. And for everyone else here, there is also a sweepstakes on the website, Vote for your favorite beach in St. Maarten/St. Martin, some of the voters will win a free trip on the Friday Farewell Party Sail around the island. Make sure you vote guys!!! And pass the message on to other SXM Lovers, let's find out what is the most popular beach!!!
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Jun 16th, 2011, 10:17 AM
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Two more weeks, I don't know if I'll be able to make it that long (LOL)! We are really looking forward to our trip.

DavidSXM you crack me up..."allergic to small children". Although we have a 12-year old son (who will not be joining us on this trip ~ he will be spending some "quality time" with his grandparents while we're away). We have promised him that he may join us next year on our vacation. But not this year. Mommy needs quiet time, lest the murders shall commence. If you catch my drift. ; )

We are definately doing Prickly Pear, Pinel & Tintamarre. My husband wants to go deep sea fishing & golfing. Sister wants to go zip-lining (I'll be sitting that one out, have no interest in it), brother-in-law wants to go hiking on Saba (which I will also sit out). We will probably do a dinner cruise (Tango? I think? Some friends of ours went, said they had a blast) towards the end of the week. Thinking about doing the day-trip to Statia (St. Eustacious), it looks so peaceful. Anyone done that? If so, how was it?

As I've said before, more than anything I'm really looking forward to "shutting my brain off" and not doing a whole lot of anything (besides drinking strong fruity liquor drinks, reading Dorthea Benton Frank's latest book & soaking up the sun). *sigh*

Anything else that you guys think we absolutely positively must do and see before we leave?
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Jun 16th, 2011, 06:17 PM
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It's been years since I've been to Statia - maybe I saw the wrong side of the island - I found it to be industrial..didn't care for it that much. The rest - Saba, Pinel, Prickley Pear, Tintamarre....LOVED them all.
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Jun 16th, 2011, 08:27 PM
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If your husband is a SERIOUS golfer, tell him to leave his clubs at home ! The apology for a golf course on the Dutch side of SXM (there isn't one on the French side ) is a joke !

That way you will then not be obliged to sit in a beach bar all alone, being chatted up by the local lads, while your husband hacks around !

You could of course tell him to BRING his clubs, and get rid of him for 5 hours while you enjoy the attention of the 'boys' who you will no doubt attract !
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