Eat at the Lolos
Lolos are makeshift restaurants serving traditional creole fare. Typically consisting of a small kitchen with a counter, a grill, and some plastic tables and chairs under an awning or plywood roof, lolos are direct descendants of more rustic barbecue shacks. Clustered at the main pier in Grand Case and along the waterfront adjacent to the public market in Marigot, lolos are extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. Serving hearty meals at less than $10 a pop, lolos are difficult to beat. Picking which one to eat at can be a challenge – my theory was to eat at the ones with the most locals, and I was never disappointed.
- Food and Dining
There are charters everywhere around the island. Go on the water taxi to Saba and sign up for the 2-dive outing. We opted for only the afternoon dive and got a taxi to take us around the island and had lunch in the small town at the top of the hill. The water was warm down to 82' and the coral and fish were amazing.
Visit Saint Maarten
In case you did not know, St Martin is the French side of the island and St Maarten is the Dutch side of the island. Look up St Maarten here at Virtual tourist. It is listed as part of the Netherlands Antilles. You are in the Guedeloupe and you are also in the Leeward islands. So many names! There is no border crossing, just a sign on the side of the road. You may come and go at ease whenever you please. If you want to call from one side of the island to another you will need an international calling card.
On both sides of the island there are telephones with red and blue stickers. Avoid them, they are a private company's phone. My $10 card of theirs did not work. Use the other phones and you will not have any problem. On the dutch side it is 75 cents US to make a phone call. You can drive around the whole island in an hour-and-a-half if there were no trafic or bridge openings (south west side).
There are 33 beaches all with free public access (some have washrooms for a fee/others are free bring TP) The French capital Marigot is know for great clothing shopping. Grand Case is known as the Gourmet Capital of the world second to Paris. The Dutch sides main capital is Philisburg and is know for it's jewelry. The most popular beach on the French side is Orient Beach, on the Dutch side Philisburg beach with the cruise ships and Maho & mullet beaches.
On the Dutch side the currency is the Netherlands antilles Florin. I never saw this currency during my trip. I wanted to bring some because I was sure the cheapest way to travel was to use the local currency. I'm glad I did not bring any, the currency exchange places offered such a poor rate back home in Canada, I said forget it, I'll use the US dollar. Everyone uses the American dollar!!!! On the French side the currency is the Euro, however I did not use any either cause every person I encountered accepted the US dollar dollar per Euro and that was a bargain!
Loterie Farm (safe) and Pic Paradis
Pic Paradis is the highest point on the island. It is NOT safe to travel there alone. Car Jackings and robery are common! Do visit Lotterie farm for an ambitious group guided hike $25.00 9:30 am, or for a delicous lunch at the cafe. The cafe gets rave reviews. There is an $8.00 charge to visit the property. Closed on Mondays. It is safe to visit pic paradis with the Lotterie farm guide.
The city of Grand Case has a festival on tuesday nights called "Harmony nights". Happens during the winter months. Maybe Nov-March? They have bands that perform and crafts people set up tables for their booths. The street is lined with festive lights and all the local children come out to dance. Many local women bring home cooked goodies to sell. Look for Acra - fish cakes and Jonny cake.
Philipsburg, the Dutch Capital
After more than an hour walk, we decide it is time to go check out Philipsburg and those famous “sweet deals“ this duty-free part is supposed to offer you. Well… if you are not into alcohol, cigarettes or jewels, you might find it hard to find something worth bringing back. The prices for most goods are almost similar to the US, sometimes even more expansive but you don’t pay any taxes. One thing I did bring back was my favourite brand of Belgian chocolate which is impossible to find in the US so, I’m not complaining *s*. Apart from the Courthouse and an old church, Philipsburg is quite a bland town, sorry to say but strangely, the population is more mixed than the French side with Arabs, Indians, Blacks, Dutch, Americans, Latinos living there. The French side is more “white”. The Dutch side is livelier too and I wish I could’ve remained longer to see the stretch Along Simpson Lagoon coming alive at sunset. After our little walk, it was time to drop the car back and go back to the ship.
Orient Bay/Baie Orientale Beach
That's it, I found my dream beach (until proof of otherwise)... this place is a straight out of a fantasy. As I stepped off the car, I could see glances of turquoise through the manicured trees surrouding the area. And wham! This crescent shaped beach is...stunning! The sand is white and so soft my ankle are disapearing in seconds, the water is such an intense blue it glows, the waves are crashing (I love a decent amount of waves), beach bars all around to provide shelter, food, drinks and fun... Of course, you have the occasionnal naked people from Club Orient (the nudistclub at the southern tip of the beach) strolling by. I don't mind, as a European but the reaction of my American fellow passengers is funny (between a gasp of horror, an embarassed laugh or a curious interest).
You can parasail, windsail... Snorkeling is not the best here though.
What can I say, I could spent the rest of my life here!
Marigot, the French capital
Marigot is a slice of France in the middle of the Caribbean. You could really believe you've been transported to a small and classy French riviera resorts. Only the exotic plants and the intense turquoise of the Caribbean Sea betrays its real location. Don't miss the lovely waterfront with Fort-St-Louis perched atop the city to defend the island from the French's main enemy: the Brits. The canons used to be pointed at St-Kitts, the closest British settlement at the time.
Sit at a bar, enjoy the streets and the shopping is fabulous!
If you have a chance to sail in the Heineken Regatta (held every March), DO IT! And if you don't have a boat, try to party with the sailors in Phillipsburg at the Greenhouse or in Marigot Bay and if you become friends with the right ones, they might invite you along the next day - it happened to me!
- Sailing and Boating
- Diving and Snorkeling
Baie l'Orient, la plage des hôtels de touriste, elles est la plus belles de l'ile et fait face au vent. Les vagues y sont donc puissantes. De là, on apercoit les voiliers passer en direction de St-Barth. On voit aussi l'ile déserte sur laquelle on est allé passer quelques heures lorsqu'on était justement en route pour la même place.
Nous avons passé la journée a un hotel pour prendre un verre, manger et relaxer au soleil. Grosse vie sale!
Le Fort St-Louis est situé a quelques pas de la place du marché Marigot. On y accède par un sentier qui grimpe la montagne.
Les ruines du fort sont intéressantes à voir et donne une occasion d'admirer une grande partie de l'ile.
Orient Beach is situated on the French side of Sint Maarten / St. Martin. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful white sand beaches I have encountered. I would rate it right up there with Magen's Bay in St. Thomas. One thing to keep in mind...Orient Beach has 3 sections - non-nude, partially nude (topless sunbathing ok), and totally in the buff! So, if you aren't used to clothing optional beaches, stay on the "family side." I have to admit, though....it didn't really matter where you were...the nude sunbathers went everywhere. Kick back with a Carib and catch some rays!
Must go see downtown Marigot. (especially at sunset). It's got small, crazy roads and little hidden away shops and fantastic clubs. Be sure to eat at "la Vie En Rose" while you're there.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons