sunset on airport beach in sint Maarten

Things I Discovered About Sint Maarten

About Sint Maarten

  1. Sint Maarten is the Dutch side of the island.  Saint Martin is the French side of the Island
  2. The Dutch side is the southern part of the island and the French side is the northern part of the island.
  3. Phillipsburg is for the cruise ships
  4. Simpson Bay is for the airport
  5. The area near the airport is not safe
  6. Taxis need to be ordered, so showing up at the ferry dock without a taxi nearby is not a good choice
  7. Maho Beach is famous for watching the planes land.  What is enjoyable about this?  Not relaxing!  At least the sunset is nice
  8. Airport Beach is long and good for walking, but see 7 above
  9. The international line on the water between the Dutch and French side is marked by an anchor line with bikini tops hanging from it indicating the French topless area!

Where NOT to Stay in Sint Maarten

Don’t judge a book by its cover.  The grounds of Mary’s Boon Beach Resort and Spa are lovely and the restaurant serves tasty food.  That’s about the nicest thing I can say about my stay aside from a super sunset.

My “upgraded” room, literally 10 feet from where the planes rise off the runway, was atrocious. The walls vibrated with each airline departure.  My closet was a broom closet.  A conveniently placed Raid can was left on the counter.  The blanket with countless stains was unusable. 

Perhaps the dim lighting was supposed the cover up the stains.  There we no hooks to hang beach towels.  My room was located in a dank corner of water puddles which bred mosquitos that came in through the crack of the door that didn’t fit the frame properly.  I truly wished I was only staying one night rather than two. I’m scared to know what a regular room looks like if this was an “upgrade”.

Island Tour of Sint Maarten

For my short 2 night layover in Sint Maarten, I felt like I had to do something rather than nothing, so I took an island tour on Billy Bones Boatcharters.  I’m not sure if I’m glad I filled the last spot or not.  The crew was nice enough and tried hard.  The beaches were pretty.  The water was clear.  The snorkeling gear was good.  I suppose the free beer and punch is nice for those who drink.  In addition, I did get a perspective of the island and met a nice young lady named Regan from Arizona.

On the flip side, the ride, on the high-speed power boat was little to be desired.  Including crew, there were 17 passengers on a 28-foot boat.  12 were seated shoulder to shoulder in the front.  I chose to breath diesel fumes in the back with two others rather than to squeeze in between guests next to blaring music speakers.  Though we didn’t really follow the itinerary listed on Trip Advisor, we did go to the places.

12 people up front (sitting across from one another)

Philipsburg

We started out motoring against the waves to Philipsburg to pick up some cruise ship folks. So at least we saw the town from the water.

Philipsburg, Sint Maarten

Creole Rock

The snorkeling takes place at a rocky cove called Creole Rock and over a grassy, sandy area at Tintamarre.  As such, there is no coral.  At Creole Rock, we spotted an eagle ray, octopus and a variety of fish at the cove, but it wasn’t terribly pretty and along with Bill Bones Boatcharters, seven other boats arrived at the same time.  It was not worth water logging my camera, that is for sure, and that may have slightly affected my view of the day.

Creole Rock, Sint Maarten

Tintamarre

At Tintamarre, the next stop, we looked for turtles.  I spent most of my time warming up on the boat because it is cold when zipping across the bay on a speed boat.  Eventually, I did jump in and spot a turtle and the beach at Tintamarre, which required a short swim, was very nice.

Tintamarre, Sint Maarten

Pinel Island

After Tintamarre, we visited Pinel Island where we could feed the iguanas or sit on the beach.  We had to wade waist deep through the water to get there and the lounge chairs were only for restaurant patrons. 

I am personally not a big fan of being wet and sitting in the sand.  In addition, the sand was too hot to walk on to see the iguanas, so I hopped, skipped, and jumped to the dock to sit down for a few minutes, but returned shortly with nothing to do.  Each stop was scheduled for 45 minutes, but most people returned to the boat early.

Grand Case

Eventually we had lunch in Grand Case, the gourmet cuisine capital of Saint Martin.  Our lunch was tasty, but I’m not sure I’d call it gourmet. Regardless, I enjoyed a nice chat with Regan at the picnic table before we waded back to the boat.

Long Beach

At the end, we had 20 minutes left, so we made an abbreviated stop at Long Beach.  It was not a beach stop as the itinerary suggested, but more like a “dip in the pool”.  I’d spent most of lunch getting dry, so I didn’t take the final plunge into the sea, but it is always enjoyable to be on the water. This beach and resort area looked very nice!

Overall, the beaches were very pretty and the crew was friendly. I imagine the excursion was lovely for many. For me, I’m glad I did something, but I think I would have preferred a little more comfort.

If I were staying for longer than a layover in Sint Maarten, I might consider the quieter French side, though the whole island seemed crowded.  I think traveling by boat or staying in an off-the-charts expensive villa with friends is the best way to see the island.  As I am solo travelling more often, however, this wasn’t an option.  My 25-year love affair with the Caribbean was rudely interrupted with my short layover in Sint Maarten.  Learn from my mistakes. Plan the trip that works for you, but splurging is the way to go on this island! ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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