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My Visit to "The Friendly Island"
Sint Maarten Caribbean Resort Accommodations
Sint Maarten / Saint Martin
I recently had the luxury and great pleasure of visiting Sint Maarten/Saint Martin. This amazing island is located in the North West Indies in the Caribbean. One of the most interesting aspects of the "friendly island" is that in 1648 it was divided into two parts by agreement of France and the Netherlands. Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of the island is a territory of the Netherlands and is composed of about 16 square miles with a population of approximately 40, 741. Saint Martin, the French side makes up the final 21 square miles of the island with its population lower at around 36,824. Combined the entire island is 37 square miles. Both French and English languages are spoken by many locals on both sides of the island. We stayed on the Dutch side of the island at the Royal Palm Beach, a Diamond Resort property. The resort and all of its amenities were fantastic. Its location was perfect; smack dab in the middle of Simpson Bay downtown area. We were able to walk to many restaurants and stores in the immediate area, which was very convenient.
Simpson Bay Fresh Seafood
Simpson Bay is very special in that many large yachts and sail boats dock in the marina. Several times a day the drawbridge opens to let the yachts and sail boats enter and leave the marina. It's really quite a spectacle to witness. Many local fishing boats also enter the marina with their fresh catches. This makes it very nice for dining out in Simpson Bay, as on any given day you could have freshly caught seafood- including lobster! I ate fresh seafood every chance I could on this vacation. One place we tried was Jimbo's, a Tex-Mex restaurant. I had delicious grilled calamari and BBQ'd shrimp. The shrimp skin literally peeled right off in the hot butter sauce. Another restaurant right across the street from our resort was Skip Jacks. Their talented chefs knew just how to season and grill the fresh catch of the day into deliciously fine cuisine. There I had Shrimp and Scallop Pot Pie that was absolutely mouthwatering to look at and even more delicious to eat. You could also enjoy your meal with some fine French wines, or Carib beer, and finish your meal with a shot (or more) of a locally made flavored rum that is offered in many restaurants at the end of the meal. Don't pass up a taste of that…it's incredible. We bought a few bottles of Ma DouDou rum to bring home. It comes in a hand painted bottle with a colorful little West Indies style scarf on the top of each one.
Sailboat entering Simpson Bay Marina
Simpson Bay Marina
Casinos In Simpson Bay
If you are into gambling, there are multiple casinos on the island. I did not go to any of them, but other people seemed to be having fun going to them. Maybe next time I will try my luck. I was just having too much fun relaxing and sightseeing around the island.
French Bakery Goodies
Since half of the island is French, there is no shortage of French bakeries on either side of the island. You definitely do not want to forget eating these treats. I went to the Taste Factory French Bakery in Simpson Bay, since it was in walking distance of my hotel. I highly recommend their Napoleons, Chocolate Croissant, Almond Croissants, and don't forget their "to die for" custard filled éclairs', in vanilla, chocolate or coffee flavored filling. Anything you try at the Taste Factory will be fabulous! The selection changes from day to day. They also serve breakfast and lunch if you want a full meal to compliment your pastry. And they even have a pastry "happy hour" from 5:00-6:00 PM.
Parts of Marigot
Marigot Is On The French Side
On the French side of Saint Martin, Marigot has a nice Marina with many fine French cuisine restaurants. We had a delicious meal on our first night right on the water looking out at the catamarans and sailboats. The food was very good. I would highly recommend traveling over to Marigot for a fine dining experience and shopping.
Free Gifts For Attending A Time Share Seminar
We attended a time share seminar for Diamond Resorts and were given gifts just for sitting through the sales pitch. We received a pre-paid Visa card and two passes for a sunset cruise. We had the good fortune to experience our sunset cruise on a gorgeous catamaran, the Lambada. I will have to admit it was well worth going to the two hour seminar. The Lambada had an excellent crew and Captain. The Captain was Dutch and really knew how to handle his boat with great expertise. The crew was very young and motivated. I will warn you, once you are out to sea, there is an open bar and they are VERY generous with the libations! It was all you could drink. They cranked up the stereo with some Caribbean party music and people were dancing and having a great time on the cruise. The sun set shortly thereafter on the horizon and it was absolutely spectacular with the turquoise water glistening in the background. It really was like no other sunset I have ever seen in my entire life. It was a picturesque environment. A Caribbean sea bird flew along the back of the boat on our return trip doing aerobatics and looking for a handout from the boat. The cruises are also available without going to the timeshare presentation for a fee. This is a must-do if you can.
Lambada Sunset Cruise
Sunset Bar & Restaurant
Another great place to visit in Sint Maarten (a real must see) is the Sunset Bar & Restaurant, which is right outside the Princess Juliana Airport. Here you are right on the nice light sandy beaches and are able to have food and beverages while watching the sun come down. Until right around 4:00 PM, the jets are flying in and out of the airport. Here, people line up to get pictures of the jets landing extremely low to the ground and right over head. Some people even get close to the fence of the take off ramp to get blown over by the jet engine propel. This place provides some priceless and picturesque views of the Caribbean.
Sunset Views From Sunset Bar and Grill
We had the opportunity to visit several places on the island. Two worth mentioning are the boardwalk in Phillipsburg and Pinel Island. The boardwalk was a great place to pick up souvenirs and there are many places eat. There were Caribbean musicians playing as you walked along, creating a real fun experience. My wife talked me into eating lunch at the "Blue Bitch Bar and Grill" (LOL) I survived. I will say with a name like that I was leery of eating there. But the food was delicious. We also had a nice tour of the beautiful St. Martin Roman Catholic Church right there on the boardwalk. It's grounds and statues are beautiful and well cared for. The inner part of the church was tranquil and beautiful. (see photographs)
Phillipsburg Ocean Views & Boardwalk
Pinel Island was like taking a ferry ride to a modern day Gilligan's Island with all the modern amenities to enjoy. To get there you cross over the bridge from the Dutch side to the French side and pass through the French Cul-De-Sac district. Once you get through Cul-De- Sac, there is a parking lot where you leave your car and board one of the small ferry boats over to Pinel Island. This will cost you around $12.00 per person round trip. Pinel Island makes you feel like you are a celebrity relaxing on your own special island. You can rent a set of chairs and an umbrella for $25.00 for the day. We chose the Yellow Beach Bar & Restaurant, which is the first place you see when you leave the ferry. There is a menu from which you can order and the food/drinks are delivered right to your beach chair or tables under the cool palapas umbrellas as you relax by the ocean. I found the prices to be very reasonable and the food was fresh and delicious. The French staff working at the Yellow Beach Restaurant & Beach Bar was very friendly. The water at Pinel Island is very shallow, so they also have tables embedded in the sand just at the water's edge. Imagine enjoying your drinks or food while you are standing in the ocean! Pretty amazing isn't it. Oliver was our beach side server that day. He was very friendly and served us quick. Naturally, he is French, but also tall, tanned, blonde and, with the French accent, you could tell the ladies go crazy
over him! But Oliver was very professional and handled his stardom well and with grace. I took his photo just to show it to all of you ladies out there. Oliver working hard at Pinel Island! He did agree to pose for the pics and to me using his name in this article. If you get a chance to go to Pinel Island, please be sure to say hello to Oliver!
There are also iguanas up on the rocks on Pinel Island. They are close to, but not on the beach. They stay to themselves and will not get near you or bother you. I even had to walk a good distance from where I was just to see them. The iguanas congregated in this one area near some trees and rocks where they were being fed. They were really interesting and had different shapes, sizes and colors. Most were green or gray. Some were really large, around a foot or so in length nose to tail, others were smaller. I saw probably a dozen or so of them slowly moving around and sun bathing. I would not recommend touching them as they will probably defend themselves and bite you, but they seemed peaceful and let me take their photographs. I always have learned to respect animals of any kind in the wild and to not touch or get to close to them where they feel threatened by us people invading their individual comfort space. I really liked these cute little dragon looking- lizards.
Pinel Island Is Paradise
Relax In The Sun & Swim In Turquoise Ocean
We also had a few days during our week stay where we relaxed on the beach under the cabanas in our lounge chairs. We took some nice swims in the turquoise ocean water. The water was around 78 degrees. The ocean swimming was fabulous. Make sure that you put lots of sun screen on your entire body and reapply after swimming! I recommend SPF 50, as you are very close to the Equator in Saint Maarten. I will have to admit that these beaches are probably some of the best beaches in the world. It truly was swimming and lounging in paradise.
Beautiful Turquoise Ocean
Safety Warning Tips While in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin
Just a little safety warning here: Be cautious at all times while walking near or around any street of the island. This includes: Marigot, Phillipsburg etc. Pedestrians are not always given the right away. I recommend putting your hand up and waving it while crossing the street. This alerts drivers that you are crossing and they will, hopefully, stop for you! Be aware because the driving and walking can be a little hectic while maneuvering around the island. Overall, it was not too bad, but I would recommend always traveling in pairs at all times. The locals were friendly, but remember you are out of the USA and are a tourist in a foreign country. We did walk around at all different times of the day and night without any complications. I always have one travel rule and that is not to be out after midnight and to stay out of dark allies and streets with poor lighting and visibility. There are a lot of individual vendors that will try to sell you homemade necklaces and jewelry items. Be careful and don't be too trusting. Never leave your purse, wallet, luggage, or personal belongings unattended at any time.
St. Maarten Full -Color Travel Guide
Aaron Henkel's Caribbean Traveler's Advice
Here is some last advice about preparing your trip to St. Maarten that my friend Aaron Henkel passed on to me prior to my trip. First off, if you are flying from a major airport it's a good idea to reserve a hotel room for one night either before or after your trip because many large hotels offer a park, stay & fly program. These hotels let you park your car in their garage for the week that you are gone for free as long as you book with them. It's best to do this to prevent a long drive home when you are tired. Second, make sure you take snacks and/or food with you on the flight. Most airlines only serve beverages and cookies, pretzels, and peanuts. You'll be hungry if you don’t plan ahead. Also, you can only bring water on the plane after you have passed through security and you will have to buy that at a higher price from the airport vendors. No water is allowed to pass through TSA screening or other beverages and they will take away or make you throw them away. Once you get to St. Maarten eat a meal close by to where you are staying and, if you have a room with kitchen facilities, go grocery shopping as soon as possible. This will help you save a few bucks instead of eating out for all meals. We usually ate breakfast in our room, and lunch or dinner out. We felt it was not that expensive, but it all depends. Dinner on the island can run anywhere from $50.00-$60.00 for two, not including alcohol. You can end up spending an enormous amount of money on food if you do not get groceries. The water is real expensive in St. Maarten and if they ask you if you want water they will charge you for bottle water. All refills on soda, coffee, etc. you will be charged in St. Maarten. Also, during breakfast they will bring a basket or plate of pastries to your table. You will be charged for any you eat and they run from $2.00-$4.00 each. We had them remove the basket the one day we ate breakfast out as we didn’t want any. But it's very tempting! I also learned that most restaurants add a 15% service fee to your tab. In that case, you do not need to leave an additional tip unless you want. Be sure to look at your check closely.
If you have not put Sint Maarten/Saint Martin on your bucket list of places to visit, I would highly recommend doing it. I hope to return some day and it was one of my most memorable and favorite vacations ever.
The Caribbean Is Paradise
When people tell you the Caribbean is paradise, they are telling you the absolute truth. Sint Maarten will always be in my heart and the people on both sides of the Island do make it the "friendly Island".
Sint Maarten Is Paradise
A Special Thank You To Kathy and Phil
I would especially like to thank my cousin Kathy and her husband Phil for allowing us to stay at their timeshare and making this trip possible. Staying at the Royal Palm Beach Resort was an amazing experience. The view of the Caribbean from our condo was picture postcard perfect.
Cousin Kathy and Phil
I hope that you found this hub article interesting and informative. So, go and book your next vacation to Sint Maarten/Saint Martin and have the time of your life in paradise. Trust me, you will never forget it. It is truly amazing. Enjoy yourself and go relax in the nice Caribbean sunny beaches!
All photographs and content of this article are the sole and exclusive property of Author Matthew A. Easterbrook (copyright) and cannot be dispensed, reproduced, or copied without his written permission.