St. Maarten/St. Martin
This is my favorite all around island. This island is a touristed vacation spot that offers just about everything for anybody. Great Beaches, shopping, French Influence, Dutch Influence and American Influence.
Politically and culturally, the island is divided in two; The northern half is French (St. Martin), the southern half is Dutch (St. Maaerten). By a long standing agreement between these two countries, there is no formal boarder crossing. A simple stone marker is all you will see as you pass from one side to the other.
One Day Island Stay:
The Dutch side of the island has an American feel to it; its very commercial, reflecting Dutch merchant traditions. English is spoken everywhere. Traveler Checks, American Dollars and Credit cards are accepted everywhere on the island. In the Dutch Capital of Phillipsburg the shops offer many duty free selections in clothes, jewelry, perfumes, watches etc. etc. This port has equal and sometimes better deals as the island of St. Thomas is known for. The main shopping area consists of two narrow streets, Front Street and Back Street, which run parallel to the long narrow town beach of Great Bay. Here you will find several decent beachside restaurants. There are gambling place in the town that are open late. They are on Front Street.
This the town you catch the Polynesias launch from. Captain Hodges warf is where the Polynesias launchs normally land but due to construction the launchs are now leaving the Marina Area which is on the far left side of the town. Easy walking distance. Philipsburg is pretty much closed on Sunday, anyone taking the cruise will be able to shop on Monday Morning before the ship leaves.
If you are arriving one day prior to boarding the Polynesia this is the place you will want to stay. Windjammer has an agreement with the Horizon Hotel which is Front Street overlooking the harbor. Not a bad hotel, good for a one day stay. The town has food and drink places available Saturday night, arriving a day early a good way to unwind for the windjammer cruise.
Two Or More Days Staying On The Island:
The French Side of the island offers a slower pace that is typically French. French without the anti-American flavor which is nice. I personally love the French side of the island. I always stay at Orient Beach in St. Martin at the LHoste Hotel which is right on the beach. The beach is well known throughout the Caribbean for the famous Club Orient which is a naturalist resort. Club Orient covers about one fifth of the beach. The other four fifths are very French. In short a lot of
topless sunbathing on the beach with five beach side restraunts that serve very good breakfast, lunch and dinner. They all have
beach bars with just about any drink you can think of. Lounge Chairs are rented in front of the beach side restruants as well as umbrellas. The beach is excellent. A mile and a half long, the view of the water is great, nice and clear with excellent white powder sand on the beach. The waves are not rough because the Orient Bay area is protected by excellent reefs.
This is an excellent people watching beach. If you stay by Club Orient than if is not a place to stare of bring cameras. But if you lay out on the rest of the beach then it is fun to people watch. French Women, American Women and a lot of them are pretty, so guys love it. The women on the other hand love it too, they check out the guys, both French and American. The beach also offers massages ($35 a half hour/$50 an hour) which are excellent! Parasailing, jet skiing, Windsurfing and good snorkeling.
There are dozens of other nice beaches all around St. Martin./St. Maarten with topless bathing common in the French Side. Taxis can be expensive if you are not careful. I highly recommend that you negotiate the fare in advance, and arrange for the return ride if you are going to beach areas or for dinner by using the taxis.
St. Martin/St. Maarten is noted for its food. On St. Martin the French cuisine is excellent. On both sides of the island the food is excellent. If you like food this is the island to eat at!! The prices are listed outside before you go into the restraunt. On the French side the tips is usually included in the check while on the Dutch side it is not.
In Summary: If you sail the Polynesia you really should try to spend a few extra days on the island. If you only spend one night it is best to stay in Philipsburg. If you are spending two or more nights on the island than you should think about staying on the French side. I suggest the Orient Beach area. I use a travel agent who books only Orient Beach area Properties. He has proven to be honest and gives excellent prices. If you find that your travel agent is not very helpful when it comes to the Orient Beach area, just e mail me and I will send you his 800 number. I get no deals out of sending business to him, I only send him business because he is good, honest and fair.
If you have any other questions on St. Maarten/St. Martin feel free to send me an e mail note.