St. Martin Trip Report

Apr 13th, 2019, 06:52 AM
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St. Martin Trip Report

We spent 10 days in St. Martin in March 2019—here are some of my ideas/takeaways.
Dutch/French Sides—We stayed in the Oyster Bay area which is technically on the Dutch side but just meters from the boarder to the north. This was a great place to stay as the amenities of the Dutch (grocery stores, gas stations, ATM machines) were very close but we could escape up to the more serene French side for relaxation.
Hurricane Irma: In August of 2017, St. Martin took a full on hit from Hurricane Irma.This was a very destructive Category 5 that did major damage over all of the Island.Homes, hotels and restaurant buildings were damaged and/or destroyed.As of March 2019 they have made good progress, especially in the tourist area of the Dutch side.The French side is a bit further behind but still lots of restaurants and small hotels are open. However as you drive around you will see many abandoned buildings and continued reconstruction on others.One difficulty we had was that guidebooks and reviews were mostly done before the Hurricane so several places were no longer in existence and the newly opened restaurants weren’t widely reviewed.
Airport: There is just one airport on the island and the terminal was badly damaged by Irma.As of March 2019 they are well on their way to reconstruction but it remains a work in progress.The good news is that it is open and air conditioned.In 2018 they were using a tent on the tarmac so this is much better.Saturday is their turnover day so the airport is very busy.They suggest to arrive 3 hours before your flight.Our experience is this is pretty close.We had time for one last drink, but not much more before our flight boarded.All flights back to the US were full, so missing your flight would not be a good experience.You could likely be stuck for several days.
Car Rental/Roads: We rented from Empress Rentals.There had been confusion with our reservations so we ended up with a very beat up Hyundai which was the only car left.In hindsight this was great.The roads are very narrow and not in great shape—lots of potholes.There are also speedbumps throughout the island.These are not clearly marked so hitting these is really hard on your car.As our car was already so beat up, we didn’t sweat the driving—even the rental agent commented that this was great for us.There are almost no road signs so navigating is a little tricky. The good thing is that there aren’t that many roads so you can’t get too lost!We were able to use Google Maps most of the time, but cell reception could get spotty so a manual map in the car is a must.There are also virtually no stop signs or stop lights.The most amazing part about driving was the patience everyone had.If someone need to merge in, cars stopped and let them in.If someone need to cross the road, cars stopped and let them cross.Especially on the French side, if 2 cars met each other and they knew each other they would both stop and exchange short greetings—1-2 minutes.This was regardless of how many cars were behind them.Once you got used to this, driving was extremely relaxing.The only time horns honked was a quick beep to thank someone for letting you in or saying hi to someone you knew.Just be aware that travel times are on Island Time.You get there when you get there, so allow ample time—especially heading to the airport.
Lodging: We stayed 1 night at Oyster Bay resort.Very clean, very comfortable.Pool area was nice with beautiful view. The rest of time we stayed at Hope Cottage which was up the hill from the resort. It is in a gated neighborhood.It had a wonderful view, very comfortable and a great get away from the hotel crowd.(Full disclosure—our neighbors own this villa which is why we happened to go but I am being very honest.)

Restaurants—these were our favorites:
  • Yvette’s—(Quartier D’Orleans)—this is a great restaurant serving local food. The building was heavily damaged in Irma so the ambiance is a little rough but the food makes up for this 10 times over. Food is incredibly cheap. Wine menu is limited to house wines--red, white or rose but they were cheap. It is up in a local neighborhood so a little tricky to find but well worth the effort.
  • BZH Creperie (Oyster Pond)—this was a gem. Menu has French entrees, crepes and pizza that was in high demand for eat in and take out. Wonderful outdoor seating. We ate here twice.
  • L’Oasis (Oyster Pond)—another gem. French entrees and pizza. They also do breakfast and have a small bakery with great croissants. Again, nice open air atmosphere.
  • Infinity (at Oyster Bay Resort)—we had a good meal and decent service. We did talk to someone who was staying at the resort and they said as this is the only restaurant open at the resort the wait times could be long and service slow.

Activities:
  • Snorkeling-we went on a ½ day trip with Captain Alan out of Oyster Bay. Excellent trip—we visited 2 reefs and 2 beaches. We also saw dolphins and sea turtles which was a real treat. This doesn’t happen on every trip.
  • Zip Line—we had never done this so was ok. There is a good view from the top but price is a little steep. If you have done zip lining someplace else I would skip it.
  • Anguilla trip—this was thru Aquamania. It was advertised as a snorkeling trip but it wasn’t at all. It was a party trip to Anguilla. Anguilla is a beautiful Island but you could take a water taxi over there and spend the day sunning and exploring for a fraction of the cost of this trip. If you want an open bar party trip it would be ok.

    Beaches:
  • Orient Beach—great view, nice amenities
  • Cupecoy—this is a much smaller beach with limited amenities but again beautiful view.
  • Note that there was some level of nudity at both these beaches. Orient has an area that is completely a nude beach but even on the other side topless women were common. This didn’t faze us but if it’s not your thing beware. Coming from the Midwest we had enough trouble keeping exposed areas from burning so going nude wasn’t even on our radar!
Money:
All stores and resturants took US Dollars and Euros. Often the price was the same in both Euros and Dollars so lost a little on the exchange, but I think they do this to avoid having to handle multiple exchange rats. Most places were reluctant to take credit cards and most smaller places wouldn’t take them at all. So plan accordingly. We were able to get US Dollars from an ATM but very limited amount.

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