SXM Travel Guide
Let me take you to a beautiful island called Saint Maarten.
Saint Martin/Sint Maarten is a beautiful Caribbean island that is shared by France and the Netherlands. Everyone on the island speaks two or three languages, if not more! If you want to practice your French, feel free. The best way I've been able to describe the island is as a tropical version of France. You're in the Caribbean, but eating the best croissants you've ever had. Pretty good, right?
Also good is that US dollars are accepted everywhere. No need to exchange your dollars for Euros!
We were based near the town of Maho, on the Dutch side, very near the airport. Getting around was really easy, there were a million good restaurants and bars, and although we didn't get wild, I've heard the nightlife is pretty nuts.
Now that you know what you're getting into, you've got to get there. We flew American both ways from DCA, with layovers in Charlotte. JetBlue flies direct from Boston. I was able to use points for the majority of the ticket price, but you can expect to pay $500-$800 round-trip depending on when you book.
When you land, you'll go through customs, which is a breeze here. Welcome to island life! The airport is small, so you'll be able to get out pretty quickly. I definitely recommend getting a rental car for your time here. We used Empress Rent-A-Car, but all the options are available if you have another preference. It was about $125 for the week. Be warned - driving on the island can be intense! The roads are narrow, people drive way too fast, and you'll have motorbikes to deal with. Be careful and aware!
You'll need a place to stay too. As we were there for a wedding, the bride went all out and booked us an incredible private villa. If you have a large group and want to go all out on luxury, I'd highly recommend this route. Check out Carimo Properties and Saint Martin Blue for options. This costs roughly $10,000 for a week in low season, and upwards of $17,000/week in high season.
Other wedding guests stayed at La Samanna, which offers both hotel rooms and private villas within the resort or at the Royal Islander, right in the middle of Maho. On the other side of the island, the bride recommends The Westin.
Ok, you're here and you're settled. What to do?
Our first full day, we did the bachelorette party right by renting a catamaran through Sugar Rush Charters. 8 hours of bliss. I can't recommend this enough. You can do a private rental or share the boat with strangers who are potential new friends! The trip includes breakfast on the boat, snorkeling, all the booze you can drink, a trip to Pinel for lunch, more snorkeling, and snacks! It was the most amazing day.
Pinel was probably my favorite part. It's a small island across from Saint Maarten. There are two restaurants, warm, calm water, and plenty of space for paddle-boarding. We ate lunch at Le Karibuni (so much fresh seafood), polished off two magnums of rosè, and played in the water for an hour or so.
If you're up for other stuff, the boys went jet-skiing and other than the fact that DT almost killed himself going full-throttle into a large boat's wake, they had a great time. I believe they went through Bubble Watersports at Mercure Saint Maarten.
Another great way to spend the day is to go to Orient Beach. We went to Waikiki Beach Club. $10 gets you a chair, an umbrella, and wait service. I imbibed in some tiki style cocktails, enjoyed lunch on the beach, and ended up with a coconut full of rum from a man with a machete. Solid day right there.
All of the food that we ate on the island was incredible. Obviously, there's lots of French cooking, but we also had sushi, barbeque, and really good pizza. The French care about their food and you can see that in the presentation at every restaurant. I'm getting hungry just thinking about some of the meals we had!
The wedding was the best part of the trip. Watching my college best friend marry her high school sweetheart was beautiful. I couldn't be happier for the two of them and am so excited that they asked me to be part of it. Seriously, best vacation ever.
Where We Ate:
Where We Played:
Where We Stayed:
If you have any questions about the island, drop me a note! firstname.lastname@example.org