Sint Maarten/Saint Martin: Where We Stayed, Ate & Played
As I slowly return from my blogging hiatus, I often find myself wondering where I should pick my storytelling back up. I still have so much content to share from our getaway to Victoria, BC and Seattle last year, not to mention content I still haven’t shared from our 2015 travels to Colombia, Ecuador and Jamaica.
So yeah – I have a lot of catching up to do, and I’ve been meaning to get back into the swing of things with a post about our time in Bogota. Except I didn’t particularly enjoy Bogota, so writing about it is proving to be a struggle.
So instead, I’ll start with St. Maarten/St. Martin, a beautiful slice of the Dutch/French Caribbean we had the pleasure of visiting less than a month before Irma reared her ugly head and left the island in shambles.
While the timing of our visit was impeccable, the fact that this beautiful island was our destination of choice for our first ever vacation with our baby girl (well, our second if we count our quick weekend getaway to Palm Springs earlier this summer) gives it a warm and fuzzy place in our hearts.
Amid reports of looters and locals robbing tourists out of desperation for food and other resources, our thoughts and prayers are with the island and her people during this unimaginably difficult time.
But in happier times, here’s a glimpse of how we spent our all too short week on the island…
WHERE WE STAYED
After reading a few general reviews about the island, I discovered that the Dutch side of the island is more ideal for singles and couples who love to turn up. Since turning up is no longer our reality (not sure that it really ever was though), we opted to stay on the mellow, quieter French side of the island at Mercure St. Martin Marina and Spa.
The hotel, which has since been closed in the aftermath of Irma, isn’t one I would’ve included in my Where to Stay series. Why? Well, although our room itself was nice enough (minus the dim bathroom lighting and the fact that the fridge was on the balcony which was less than ideal for middle of the night baby feedings, especially since there were also creepy iguanas on the prowl!), the service at the front desk was hit or miss, and the restaurant service was practically non-existent.
But compared to other hotels I researched on the French side, the Mercure seemed to be one of the more modern accommodation options. The hotel grounds were nice and very artsy; there were lots of random sculptures, interactive artwork and other pieces throughout the property. Additionally, each of the hotel’s buildings is named after famous European artists.
The property also features a beach that’s really more of a marina. Still, it was nice to have the option to lounge by the shore and enjoy the views of Nettle Bay.
Overall, the best thing the Mercure has working in its favor is its location, midway between Princess Juliana airport on the Dutch side and Marigot Market on the French side. The hotel’s location makes it quite easy to explore both sides of the island with relative ease if you rent a car.
So…would I stay at the Merure again once it’s back up and running? Yes, I would – but again, not because of its exceptional service.
WHERE WE ATE
One of the best parts of our St. Maarten/St. Martin getaway was eating Caribbean Creole cuisine. For sheer convenience, we only ever ate on the French side of the island, and we were completely blown away by how delicious Caribbean Creole food is.
As we gradually explore different Caribbean countries, I always look forward to how each country puts its own spin on the same ingredients. Let me tell you – the food in St. Martin is some of my favorite. And that’s not to say that we thoroughly explored St. Martin’s culinary scene, because we didn’t. But the restaurants we did try – even our hotel’s restaurant – didn’t disappoint.
WHERE WE PLAYED
As I mentioned in my prior post, if this trip had been a couples only trip, Jave and I wouldn’t have left any stone on the island unturned. However, because we had baby girl with us and had to incorporate two naptimes into our days, our activities were limited and mellow yet memorable nonetheless. Here’s how we spent our time.
We were surprised to see just how high end and upscale Philipsburg is. It reminded us of a tropical Rodeo Drive.
I was craving ice cream but couldn’t seem to find an open ice cream shop or gelateria to save my life. And then we came across this ice roll stand at the entrance of Old Street…
We wanted to do something specifically for Celeste (not that she’ll remember!), so we took her to The Butterfly Farm (La Ferme des Papillons) on the French side where we got to play with the largest species of moth in the world…
And of course we stopped by the famous Maho Beach where folks go to watch planes take off and land. As planes approach for landing, they get so close to the sand that it looks like you can just stretch your arm up and touch them.
Because we had Celeste with us and the approaching big jets created a windstorm of heat and sand, we opted to take in Maho Beach from a nearby restaurant. But the live DJ and crowds at the restaurant were just too much to handle with a baby, so we kept our visit very short.
Overall, our trip to Sint Maarten-Saint Martin is one for our family history books. We’re praying that the island makes a full recovery from the devastation Irma caused.
Have you been to Sint Maarten-Saint Martin? Do you have a favorite place to eat, stay or play there? Please share in the comments.