My family and I took a trip to Saint Martin for July 4th weekend and had an amazing time. Saint Martin is a tiny island (about 34 sq. miles big!) that is split by the French (Saint Martin) and the Dutch (Sint Maarten). A fun fact I learned while I was there was that one of the rumors about how the Dutch and French split the island was that each country hired a man to walk around the perimeter of the island starting back-to-back and where they met would represent the border. The Dutch chose gin as their stimulant while the French chose wine and the French side ended up being a bit larger. The Dutch locals argued that the Frenchman ran when they were only supposed to walk, but, in my opinion, wine wins over gin!
We stayed at the Princess Heights Hotel on the Dutch side and absolutely loved it. It was not technically oceanfront, but it had the best view of the crystal blue ocean. The staff were so kind and helpful in helping us find places to eat and things to do around the island. A few tips we learned along the way:
- Rent a car! We were a little nervous about renting a car in a foreign land, but it was the best decision of the trip. The island is small enough where you can go anywhere you want for much cheaper in your own car than constantly grabbing taxis and although there is only one (!!!) stop light on the entire island, if you understand the basic rules of driving, you will fit right in. There are some steep hills and turns, so you will still want to be pretty confident, but if you take it slow, no one will rage at you.
- Stop by any beach you see! There seemed to be random entrances to the ocean everywhere and it was so worth it to stop by and enjoy a secluded clean beach.
- If you’re staying at a hotel with a kitchen (like Princess Heights), go grocery shopping! Again, the whole island speaks English, so we stopped by anywhere with a sign for groceries. It was a great time and money saver to be able to have breakfast and snacks handy. Also, this may be a bit embarrassing, but the Burger King Big Fish sandwich there was super good. Like, restaurant quality good. Maybe it was the fact that almost all the restaurants including the fast food places were made-to-order or maybe it was because they have access to good seafood, but it’s worth stopping by if you’re starving! Another restaurant we enjoyed was Big Fish, which was conveniently located right near our hotel. Anything seafood is probably a good pick for dinner!
Maho Beach is a big tourist attraction at St. Martin. It’s not much of a beach…more of a strip of sand and rocks in front of the ocean located right next to the sole airport on the island. I remember as we were coming onto the island I literally thought we were going to land right on the water and during our day trip, we were on the other side of it! Some tips for going to Maho Beach:
- Go early! My family and I were able to grab some prime sandy rock parts (there were some areas that were just rocks off to the side) because we got there around 10AM. It helps to find parking for your rented car as well!
- Lay on the rocks to get some awesome plane pics! It’s worth it to get a few funny looks to get a cool pic of a huge airline flying right over you.
- If you’re super sensitive to loud noises, you may benefit from standing a bit off of the direct lane. Also no matter how close it seems, the plane will never hit you…something I had to convince myself several times!
What we really loved about St. Martin was how easy it was to get around the island once you get the hang of it and the fact that everyone was super kind and helpful to tourists. It’s somewhere that would be awesome to come annually for a family vacation since it is one of the cheaper islands to travel to in the Caribbean. If I were to go again, I would definitely try to visit some of the surrounding islands because I’ve read that it’s pretty simple to get there and back, but overall we were so happy with our short, relaxing trip.