2016 St. Maarten/ St. Martin Travel Guide

Take it from an expat.

Things to Do:

  • Guana Bay Hike: Free
  • Wilderness Hike: Free
  • Pic Paradis Hike: Free
  • Orient Bay Beach: Free
  • Plum Bay: Free
  • Baie Rouge: Free
  • Indigo Bay: Free
  • Fort Louis: Free
  • Fort Amsterdam: Free
  • Running: Free
  • Exploring ruins of La Belle Creole: Free
  • Roland Richardson Art Gallery in Marigot: Free
  • Sunset Beach (Watching planes fly just meters above your head before landing): Free
  • Monday Night Movie at Porto Cupecoy: Free plus cost of snacks. 6:30 PM on Monday nights.
  • Mullet Bay Beach: Free. Beach chair rental available.
  • Orient Beach: Free
  • Walking to Cays at L’Embouchure: Free
  • Snorkling, paddleboarding, or kayaking to Green Cay: cost of equipment rental ($10+)
  • Snorkeling, Lounging, Dining, and Tours at Tiki Hut: $5 and up
  • Road Races and Triathlons: $15 and up. Check out Trisport for more info.
  • Surfing: Cost of surfboard rental
  • Surfing at Le Galion: $5 for ferry, $13 for board rental. Lessons available.
  • Snorkeling: $5-$100 (Pack your own mask and it’s free!)
  • Boogie Boarding: Cost of board rental
  • Spear Fishing: Cost of speargun or speargun rental (Be sure to get licensed and stay out of wildlife refuge areas)
  • Front-Street Shopping: Spending money
  • Marigot shopping: Spending money
  • Maho shopping: Spending money
  • Loterie Farm Hike: $5/person
  • Pinel Island: $12/ person for ferry, $40 for kayak rental, food money, beach chair rental
  • Bike Rental: $20-$200 at Trisport
  • Kayak and Paddleboard Rentals: $15 to $500 at Trisport
  • Loterie Farm Zipline: $25-$60/person
  • Sonesta Resort All-Inclusive Day Pass: $90/person
  • Saba trip: About $90 per person plus money for car/food/etc
  • Anguilla trip: $48/person for ferry (total), $40 for a car, $38/person for bus to Shoal Beach and back, spending money
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Loterie Farm

 

Places to Eat:

  • Thai Savanh’ (Cupecoy) Thai – $$
  • Bar Code (Cupecoy) Unique French and American – $$
  • Fat Tony’s (Cupecoy) Wings, burgers, fries – $$
  • Papa Dan’s Pizza (Cupecoy) Pizza – $
  • Coffee Shop (Cupecoy) Coffee, pastries, sandwiches -$
  • Ernest and Fidel (Cupecoy) Cuban and Latin – $$
  • Shanghai Brassiere (Cupecoy) French and Chinese – $$
  • Moomba (Maho) Tapas and drinks – $$$
  • Sushitti (Maho) Sushi – $$$
  • Top Carrot (Simpson Bay) vegetarian sandwiches, delicious smoothies – $
  • White Swan (Simpson Bay) Chinese food – $
  • Little Jerusalem (Simpson Bay) Shwarma– $
  • Beirut (Simpson Bay) Lebanese – $$
  • Bamboo (Simpson Bay) Sushi – $$$
  • Carousel (Simpson Bay) Ice Cream – $$
  • Buccaneer Beach Bar (Simpson Bay) Bar and restaurant at the beach – $$
  • Karakter (Simpson Bay) Bar and restaurant at the beach – $$
  • Skip Jack’s (Simpson Bay) Seafood– $$$
  • Fat Jimmy’s Roadside BBQ (Philipsburg) Chicken, ribs, and johnnycakes– $
  • Ketty’s Kich’n (Philipsburg) Caribbean food-$
  • Carts on Front Street (Philipsburg) Local fare, American, etc– $ or $$
  • Barefoot (Phillipsburg) Caribbean BBQ – $
  • Cool Lime (Orient Bay) Local fare – $
  • Serafina’s (Marigot) French Bakery – $
  • Talk of the town (Grand Case) Caribbean BBQ – $
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Local Food from Cool Lime

 

Safety Guidelines

  • Transportation
    • Purchase insurance for your rental vehicle
    • Never leave valuables in your car
    • Follow the rental agency’s instructions. Sometimes they ask you to leave your car empty and unlocked while you are about.
    • Buses are a safe, reliable mode of transportation. Be sure you know where you are going and where you will be dropped off before you climb aboard
    • Don’t walk around alone after dark. Avoid places such as the Maho golf course or Sandy Ground altogether at night.
    • Remember that people drive differently in different places. Be careful when driving and watch for cars, people, and cows entering the roadway without warning. Also, honking is usually considered friendly, so don’t sweat it if you get honked at!
  • Valuables
    • Pickpockets target tourists. Keep your valuables on you at all times. Wear a purse with a zipper.
    • If you plan to enjoy the water, take as few valuables as possible to the beach. Keep an eye on your stuff while you swim.
    • Keep your phone in a Ziploc bag at the beach. You don’t want to damage it with water or sand!
  • Nature and Activities
    • Be careful of poisonous and painful wildlife. St. Maarten is home to jellyfish, sea urchins, poisonous snails, and sharp coral. Watch where you step and invest in some water shoes if you plan to poke around rocky areas.
    • Be careful when on boats and kayaks. Don’t exert yourself more than you should and always drink responsibly.
    • Mosquitos can carry Chikungunya virus or Dengue. Wear bug spray.
    • Wear sunscreen! This is the tropics.
  • Food and Drink
    • Fish: before eating fish, make sure it is not a ciguatera toxin carrier. Most fish at restaurants is OK. Before eating from a fish market or consuming a fish you caught yourself, consult a chart to be sure your fish does not have risk of ciguatera poisoning. Small herbivores are always safe, and small carnivores are often safe. Never, ever, ever eat barracuda.
    • In the grocery store, check expiration dates
    • Do not purchase perishables from small markets after extended power outages
  • Bars and Clubs
    • Be cautious. Avoid sketchy-looking bars, especially at night. I avoid even walking past them after dark.
    • Watch your drink. Drugs in drinks are a risk. In fact, I would suggest that you avoid drinking at local bars altogether. If you want a drink, go to a classy restaurant.
    • Drink responsibly. The last thing you want is to get drunk in a foreign country and wake up without your phone and wallet.
    • Drug usage is not legal. It is also not safe here (it’s never safe, but it’s especially risky in foreign countries). Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
    • Prostitution is legal on the Dutch side, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Here’s why:
      • The Caribbean has the second-highest HIV/AIDS rate, after sub-Saharan Africa
      • Many of the girls who work as prostitutes are not here of their own free will
      • Hiring a prostitute risks damaging your current or future relationship both emotionally and physically- you don’t want to take a regret or an STD home.
      • Although some claim that prostitution and strip clubs help St. Maarten’s economy, the truth is that it hurts the island. Casual sex hurts the island’s children and youth because it makes illicit sexual activity more common and available to young people– thus an increase in drugs, STDs, AIDS, and teen pregnancies and a decrease in grades, graduation rates, and functional families.
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Beware of Camouflaged Jellyfish

Respect the Island

  • Clean up your trash. There is too much garbage and broken glass on the beach already.
  • Leave the environment as you found it. Removing coral and shells makes a small but negative impact.
  • Be kind. Tourists are not well-respected here because they tend to seem rude. Set a positive example!
  • Don’t set fires. You can have a grill, but fires are not allowed.
  • Check fishing rules before you go. You can fish spearfish in some areas of the French side and you can fish in most areas on the Dutch side.
  • Nudists, be courteous. Stay in the nude/topless areas of the beach and be sensitive to people who seem uncomfortable with nudity.
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Let the Creatures Be

Other Tips

  • Bus drivers sometimes try to over-charge you. The cost for a bus is 50 American cents per town, including both the one you left and one you stop in.
  • When you enter a bus, check into your hotel, greet a waitress, or really talk to anyone, say “Good morning!” or “Good afternoon!” depending on the time of day. This is considered the proper way to greet someone, and it will be appreciated.
  • Bank of America card holders can withdraw without fees at Scotia Bank ATMs
  • Don’t stay in the tourist areas! They’re cool, but there are even better places to be explored. Make some memories off the beaten path.
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Have a suggestion? Love a restaurant? Know of a great surf spot? Comment below and I’ll add your advice to this page!
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