St. Maarten / St. Martin
Sonesta Oceanpoint Resort, Rhine Dr, Sint Maarten
Summer 2016 was planned very last minute and in the end, my boyfriend was able to take 10-days of vacation (slightly less than I had in mind originally). We racked our brains on where to go. We wanted to travel, but at the same time, didn’t want to go anywhere too far for 10-days. I don’t remember how or why, but we landed on St. Maarten (or St. Martin- depending on which side of the island you stay on!). We loved the fact that it’s an island that is known for its food, so no need to stay on the resort 24/7, the island is safe enough to explore on your own by car, and there are tons of stunning beaches (36 to be exact). For anyone heading to this tropical paradise come Christmas time, or looking for a getaway a little closer to home, here are my tips, must sees and dos as well as a sample 10-day itinerary!
Sample 10-Day Itinerary:
Day 1: Check-in
Settle into hotel
Relax by the pool
Day 2: Explore the French-Side of the island
Fort Louis viewpoint: located near Marigot, not much of a hike, but views are worth the visit! Walk passed the opened gate and head up the mountain.
Sarafinas: Grab a pastry and cappucino at this adorable café on the French-side
Beach hop: Check out some of the nearby beaches (Grand Case, Happy Bay, Friars Bay)
Explore Grand Case: cute shops, restaurants, and a local feel
Grab a bite to eat: If you’re on a budget try out one of the “Lolos” or food stalls by the water. If you’re ready to splurge, dine at one of the fancier French restaurants.
Day 3: Chill or Play at Orient Bay
Orient Bay Beach: whether in a bathing suit, or in your birthday suit, hang out at Orient Bay. Rent a jet ski, parasail, or just layback with a book. The beach is quite large, and there are a bunch of places to grab lunch, so you could easily spend the day here.
Day 4: Hike to the Incredible Natural Pools
Natural Pools: You absolutely cannot miss these! The natural pools were definitely not easy to find, but luckily a local guided us there and showed us the way. Drive or cab to Pointe Blanche and hike the rocky trail until you look down and see the most unbelievable natural pool. Jump in and enjoy the warm and perfectly clear waters, but beware of sea urchin!
Walk around Phillipsburg: On our way back from our hike we stopped by Front St. and the Boardwalk where cruise-goers walk around during their short visit. We didn’t spend too long here, but grabbed some lunch at Lazy Lizard’s on the boardwalk!
Day 5: Day Trip to Glamorous St. Barths
We rented a convertible Mini Cooper online for $50 the day before the trip. DEFINITELY better than cabbing on St. Barths.
We took the 45-minute Voyager Ferry from Oyster Pond to St. Barths (it is a rocky boat ride, so beware if you get seasick). We purchased our tickets online the day before.
Nikki Beach: This is definitely where the party is at, and if you want chairs here and plan on going on Saturday or Sunday, you NEED to reserve in advance. It really is so much fun to eat and party on the beach here, and the view is stunning.
Post-lunch and partying we had so much fun driving around the island in our convertible and watching private planes land literally directly overhead.
Before you leave the island, make sure to grab a crepe in Gustavia right by the ferry port.
Keep in mind that this is a very expensive island. Day trips can get pricey!
Day 6: Relaxing by Mullet Bay
Mullet Bay: A stunning bay with crystal clear waters. You can rent chairs cheaply and spend the day relaxing. This beach was walking distance from the Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, so we didn’t even need to take the car out! Make sure to eat something before, or plan on eating after, since there aren’t any restaurants here.
Bamboo Bernies: After a full day of relaxing by the beach, we headed out to Bamboo Bernies right near our hotel for some gourmet sushi.
Sky Beach Bar: Finally, we had a night cap at the Sky Beach Bar (conveniently located right next door to Bamboo Bernies)
Day 7: Lush Day at the Loterie Farm
Loterie Farm: A truly incredible place where you could hike to the highest point of the island (Pic Paradis), go through an exhilarating zip line course, or relax by the pool in a tropical paradise.
Pic Paradis Hike: Definitely a difficult hike, especially in the St. Maarten heat. Takes about 3 hours up and down, but the view is absolutely worth the sweat.
Loterie Farm Pools: These pools are unlike any I have been to before. They are surrounded by trees and wildlife and so well-kept. You could order lunch and drinks to your chair and have some well-deserved relaxation time after your hike or zip-line experience! Check their schedule online, because some nights there’s a DJ or party by the pool.
Day 8: Day Trip to Anguilla
We took the public ferry to Anguilla from Gare Maritime and it was quite pricy (but the best option) at $50 round trip per person plus departure taxes. The ferry takes a whole 18 minutes! Don’t forget your passport for this trip.
We rented a car for $55 right where we got off of the ferry and got a license to drive on the left-side of the road. Scary.
Shoal Bay: We spent the day at Shoal Bay, though I have heard that there are other stunning beaches on the island worth checking out. The sand was so white and powdery. We rented some snorkelling gear and spent the day lounging and snorkelling in the beautiful clear waters. We walked down the beach to grab lunch at Gwen’s Reggae Grill and headed back to the ferry shortly afterwards.
Day 9: Plane-Spotting
Maho Bay: On our final full day in St. Maarten we did not stray too far from the hotel. We spent the day plane-spotting at Maho Bay and getting some awesome shots of planes landing right overhead.
We took advantage of the beautiful pools the rest of the day and enjoyed the hotel amenities.
Day 10: Check-Out
Sadly our trip had come to an end, so we packed up, spent the morning by the pool, said goodbye to the beautiful view and headed home. Until next time St. Maarten and Sonesta Ocean Point Resort!
Lolos: these food stalls located along the beach in Grand Case really give you a taste of the local cuisine on the French-side of the island. Order ribs, fish, and other Creole specialties from any one of the Lolos for a wonderful and culture-filled experience.
Sarafina’s: Grab a coffee of pastry for breakfast, or a snack at this little café located on the French-side of the island.
Simpson Bay Greenhouse: Located on the Dutch-side of the island, the Greenhouse serves lobster and other seafood dishes right by the beach. We were lucky enough to be there on a night of a beach-side concert and got to experience it right from our dinner table!
Bamboo Bernies: A delicious sushi restaurant located on the Dutch-side of the island and even more conveniently, walking distance from the Sonesta Ocean Point Resort. Head here for a late dinner and then visit the Sky Beach Bar next door – a sandy bar on a rooftop!
French Restaurants in Grand Case: We did not end up at any of the French restaurants in Grand Case because we know we have amazing French food at home, but they are very well-known, and if you are willing to go for a pricier meal, I have heard that they will not disappoint. All of these restaurants are easy to find and located on a small street right by the beach.
Azul Restaurant: You can only eat at this stunning restaurant if you are staying at the Sonesta Ocean Point Resort and it is a real treat. The restaurant is perched atop a cliff overlooking beautifully clear turquoise waters. The lunch and dinner menus change on a daily basis and seasonally and their breakfasts are to die for!
There are nonstop flights to St. Maarten from Montreal that are fairly inexpensive! They do have a high season (December – April) and low season (May – November), and flight prices tend to vary by season. If you are able to catch a direct flight, it is only a quick 4.5 hours to sunny St. Maarten!
We were lucky to be accommodated at the gorgeous Sonesta Ocean Point Resort located on the Dutch side. The hotel is all-inclusive meaning bottomless mimosas every morning, frozen daquiris by the pool, and delicious eats at their well-known restaurant Azul.
The hotel is situated right by Maho beach where plane-spotting (of both huge commercial airliners and private jets) is a daily activity. Watching the planes land so nearby is pretty incredible and although it happened quite often, we were awestruck each time.
Our room had our very own swim-out pool and the hotel is uniquely designed, so that each room has an ocean view. Sonesta Ocean Point makes for a great home base to explore the island and is equally perfect if you are just looking to unwind and relax by the pool or beach on a tropical getaway with zero worries.
USD are accepted across the island! However, the Euro is the primary currency on the French side, and the Florin on the Dutch.
American sockets on the Dutch said / European sockets on the French Side
Atlantic Time Zone (AKA on the same time as Montreal – no jet lag!)
Rental Car vs. Cab:
I highly recommend that you rent a car – cabs get quite pricey and there is lots of exploring to do! We rented from the Hertz right in our hotel and it came to under $200 for a week.
I unlocked my phone before the trip with the intention of purchasing a SIM card at the airport – which I did, but it was $50 base fee +++, so I would say stick to wifi, or get a plan if you can.
Comment if you have visited or plan on visiting St. Maarten and have additions or questions for this travel guide!