St. Marteen/ St. Martin is a unique island in the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean. The island is shared with the Dutch side in the South and the French side in the North. We got a last minute opportunity to stay on this beautiful island for a week recently. My hubby got given short notice of a business trip to the island and the rest of us jumped at the chance of going too. It was one of those trips where you have nothing planned and no agenda but have an amazing time and get to see a lot of new things. You know, sometimes unplanned adventures can be some of the best ones.
The island is no doubt a perfect place for families with kids. We love destinations that have gorgeous resorts but also have tons of things to see and do outside the resort. We travel to see new things/ places but bottom line we wanted to introduce the kids to a new culture, try new food, make new friends and experience a different way of life. So, we decided to stay 3 nights on the Dutch side and 3 nights on the French side to see what both sides can offer.
Our Stay in St. Marteen
We stayed at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort on the Dutch side of the island. Maho Beach is famous for its beautiful white sand beach and proximity to the airport runway, in which makes it to one of the coolest beaches in the world. Please click here for Beautiful Beaches of St. Marteen and St. Martin.
This resort is best for families with kids and for people who are looking for an all-inclusive property.
As much as we love the beach and the ocean, we don’t miss out using the pool. We always take advantage of every chance we get to be in the water.
Finding a room for a family of four has never been easier as most resorts have seen the growing trend of family groups of travelers. It has become common for resorts to offer bigger rooms for a family of 4 or offers suites at an affordable price. As I have said before, there is no better time to travel with family than now.
When we travel, more often than not, we book our accommodation with comfort first in mind. We don’t always get a room with a balcony or a view and instead, we opt for rooms that are more spacious. Working in the travel industry I’ve learned to always politely ask for an upgrade at check-in. You know it’s a business they run and understand that of course they can’t always accommodate your request but some staff are just really nice and want to make someone’s stay just that much better.
A Tale of Two Ariannas
The best part of travel is making new friends and since my kids are naturally friendly; they always making new friends. This time, our daughter Arianna met another beautiful Arianna and her family from Nigeria. They hit it off at once and their connection was undeniable, infact, they both ended up crying in the morning when they didn’t get to have a sleepover. They were like birds of the same feather with the same likes for gymnastics, ballet, fashion, American dolls, and travel. I eavesdropped on them and heard them planning to meet up in Paris one day; it was so endearing and I do believe they will make it happen sooner or later. We hope to stay in touch with them over the years and who knows when our paths may one day cross again.
A Stroll Through Philipsburg
We went for a walk in Philipsburg, the capital, and main town of St. Marteen. It’s a lively town where many tourists arriving from the cruise ships go shopping. On Front St, the main shopping street, you can shop for jewelry, designer goods, liquor and even Cuban cigars. Most designer brands are offered at great discounts so if you are in the mood of spending money, then this is your spot. And did I say it’s duty-free tax-free shopping?!? YES… it is!!!
The GuavaBerry Emporium is also found in the town and it’s worth checking out for some rum tasting and perhaps grab some to bring home. Guavaberry Rum is the country’s national liqueur. It used to be made in private homes and it became an integral part of local culture. It is a symbol of the days gone by and lots of stories are told and songs were sung about it, usually around Christmas.
The island as a whole is considered one of the best Culinary destinations in the Caribbean. So if food and drinks are your thing take a look at the many rum and food tours available which are highly rated on TripAdvisor.
After a hot sunny day and finishing off dinner we headed to the Carousel Gelateria Bar, to ride a real Italian Carousel and enjoy Italian Gelato – ice cream, handmade every day. YES, it was so delicious.
One night while on the Dutch side, we hired a babysitter so that my hubby and I could go explore a little bit of the nightlife in the city. We went for dinner at a famous seafood and lobster restaurant called Skip Jacks (if you are or were in the military, let the owner know and he’ll treat you like royalty). Here you can pick your own live Caribbean or Maine lobster out of the tank. My hubby chose a Caribbean lobster as it is the same as those back in South Africa (they are called Crayfish there which is not to be confused with the smaller fresh water Crawfish).
After our dinner, we went out and had few drinks at a bar by the Simpson Bay Marina called Soggy Dollar .
This island doesn’t run out of activities on any night of the week so if you are a night animal then definitely you’ll love this island. People here come out to party around midnight but with our kids waiting back at the hotel we were too early for the party but not too early to have a couple of cocktails and some fun.
Fun times at Soggy Dollar Bar by the Simpson Bay Marina
Our Stay in St. Martin
The French side of the island is what many say is the better side, the prettier side, and more sophisticated side. For us, as much as we enjoyed the Dutch side, the French side was a better fit for us. The French side has a more laid-back attitude, pristine white beaches, untouched nature, and offers fine and trendy food. It also is frequented more by overnight tourists looking to experience the island at a leisurely pace than hordes of cruisers rushing around in the few hours they are in port in Philipsburg.
We stayed at gorgeous Riu Palace Resort, an all inclusive resort which offers great amenities for the family and access to a to-die-for beach…. just wow … so beautiful!!!
Riu Palace resort is right beside the Anse Marcel Marina
Our Adventures Around St. Martin
While it’s so good to just stay and relax at the resort, we couldn’t pass over the opportunity of going out and exploring the island. We decided to check out the historical Fort Louis, which is perched on a hill overlooking Marigot Bay.
Fort Louis was built in 1789 , the on the orders of Jean Sebastian de Durat, the governor of St Martin and St Barth, for the king of France at the time. The fort is built to defend the harbour warehouses where goods were stored like salt, coffee, sugar cane, and rum. But later on, the fort was abandoned and fell into ruin.
We took a short ride to Grand Case at night time, just for a short walk and ice cream for the kids. Since we stayed in an all-inclusive resort with superb dining options; we didn’t partake of any food delights in this area (well actually my hubby did with his colleagues on the 1st night we arrived). Grand Case Boulevard has become over the years the Culinary Capital of Caribbean, where more than 67 restaurants have settled in typical Creole houses.
Island Hopping Fun
Island hopping is one of the most fun activities you can do with the whole family. We went for a 3 island snorkeling trip and it was definitely the highlight of our trip. My husband and I grew up near the beach and we love the water; we’ve also instilled this love of the beach in our kids and go on beach vacations as often as we can. This is one for the books:)
On this excursion, we got to ride a speed boat which was kind of fun in of itself especially if you like the adrenaline of roller-coasters. Parts of the ride were bumpy and may not be suitable for the all; our kids loved it but another kid didn’t. We would recommend you ask your captain how the ride will be and inform everyone – it’s less scary without the element of surprise.
Our 1st stop: Creole Rock, this is an iconic natural symbol of French St. Martin and one of the most popular snorkeling spots around the island.
Our 2nd Stop: Tintamarre Island, a popular destination for day-trippers, beautiful white sand beach where you can swim with the turtles. We got some photos with the turtles and stingrays but it’s with our captain and tour guide… oh well the memories will have to do.
Our 3rd Stop: Pinel Island, my favorite of them all!!! Wow… such a laid back island and just pure bliss. I would have loved to stay a little bit longer but I guess maybe next time. A little note for our American tourists that people here are a little “European” so don’t be surprised to see a topless sunbather or two.
Pinel Island, such a beauty!!!
So anyhow, these are just some of the activities and places we’ve visited during our week stay on the island. There is tons more to explore on this tiny island and we plan to visit again.
Are you planning a family trip? PM me, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and I’m here to help.
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