Supporting St. Martin/Maarten

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting the twin Caribbean island, Sint. Maarten/St. Martin. I'd visited before back in the summer of 2012 with my family on a cruise, this time I flew in for a few days of pure relaxation.

What I like about the island is that each side offers something different. During my first visit, the French side was relaxed, laid back and very chic; while the Dutch side was vibrant, lively and full of action, and today it remains the same. 

In 2015, many Caribbean islands were devastated by Hurricane Irma.

SXM is still very much in recovery mode.

I was actually planning to visit another Caribbean island this summer, but I found a really good flight deal out of Atlanta to SXM, for $350 on JetBlue. 

I did a lot of research to see how the island was progressing since Irma. YouTube provided some good insight. Since many of the Dutch side hotels were still under renovation, and prices were at a premium, I decided to stay on the French side. I wanted to relax anyway, and the laid back vibe suits me.

I booked an Airbnb in Orient Bay. While the photos were beautiful on the platform, it looks slightly different in person.

View from the balcony, via Airbnb

What it actually looked like on the bay, tons of coral washed ashore and flat land.
There was an entire lagoon on the other side that was swallowed up 😞

While waking up to an oceanfront view each morning was fabulous, the damage from Irma was utterly heartbreaking. 

The wind damage is still evident
Irma hit the island at 200mph!

I got around by renting a car and seeing the island at my leisure. If you don't want to drive, it's best to stay on the Dutch side, perhaps in Simpson Bay or Maho Beach, as they're near most everything and it's feasible to walk places. Taxis are expensive, Gasoline is VERY expensive. So decide what will work for you.

While there, I took a day trip to Anguilla. Lots of people fly into SXM then leave for Anguilla and remain. Not much to do there compared to SXM, but it was nice to see it. 

On the catamaran leaving Anguilla

You can support the local economy by eating at lolos, which are small hut cafes mostly owned by Black SMXers. Lolos are in random places around the city, but mostly on the beaches. My favorite one was Speedy's in Grand Case.

I did a rum tour with Topper's Distillery, and while it's not quite a legit distillery (more like a processing unit), the rum is really good, it's owned and operated by locals and the selection is diverse. I took a few bottles as souvenirs and as gifts.

The first time I visited SXM, we did an island tour that took us to both sides and to the beaches. Since I had a rental car, I moved about on my own. I would caution to be careful when visiting certain places on your own. Two shady characters tried me while at Fort Louis, and I ended up having to leave. Most people are friendly, but keep your wits about you at all times.

You can see views of the island at the summit of Fort Louis
but I had to leave thanks to the losers below trying to break into my rental 😒

While Maho Beach is the most popular beach on SXM, there are other great beaches with fewer people. Orient Bay used to be the happening spot, but Irma tore up most of the coastline over there. Grand Case beach is nice but very small. My favorite among the fray was Mullet Bay Beach. It's literally next door to Maho, but without the crowds, and you can still see the planes land. I found the plane watching to be very anticlimactic during my first visit, so I was more than happy to perch myself on Mullet Bay. There are two lolos there that serve food and drinks throughout the day. Great way to relax, and support locals.

Of course you have your run of the mill water sports readily available and plentiful, if you desire that. In addition to Anguilla, you can also take day trips to St. Barts, and Saba, depending on your interests.

I fully enjoyed my time on SXM. While it is still very much in recovery mode, there are still many things to do and enjoy, and the Caribbean still needs our support.

Stay strong, SXM!

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