The unique thing about the small island of St Maarten/St Martin, in the Caribbean is that it is part Dutch and part French, which is why you will see the 2 variations of the spelling. The flight to St. Maarten was about 4.5 hours from Toronto. This island is only 37 square kilometers and is a coral island. This means that it is not very fertile and not a lot grows here. Most of their produce is brought in from other places.
While we were in St. Maarten, we stayed at the all inclusive Sonesta Great Bay Hotel and Casino. This is a smaller adults only resort. The beach is very picturesque, with incredible turquoise water, but the sand is coarser and has a slight grade and a bit of a drop off right in front. It is still great for swimming. The rooms are comfortable and a good size with views of either the ocean or hills/main road. The hotel has one buffet and two a la carte restaurants. The food was good, but I did not find as good of a selection for lunch and dinner as in other resorts I have been to. The resort was clean and well maintained but it is older.
When staying at the Sonesta Great Bay you also have access to the Sonesta Maho Beach as well, which is about 20 minutes away. Transportation is not included to the other resort. You can take a cab, which costs about $20.00US or you can take the local transport, which is about a 10 minute walk away and costs $2.00/ person. The Sonesta Maho is currently undergoing renovations to the rooms. Right next to this property is the new 5 star Sonesta Ocean Point Resort. You do not have access to the Ocean Point Resort.
From the Sonesta Great Bay, it is about a 15 minute walk to the town of Phillipsburg. St Maarten is known as one of the duty free shopping capitals of the Caribbean and you will certainly find that in Phillipsburg, along with lots of restaurants and bars. They have a great boardwalk along the beach, and this is also where the cruise ships dock, so it can get very busy in town when the ships are in.
We rented a car for one day while we were in St. Maarten. It is relatively easy to get around with a car especially if you have a GPS. There are 37 different beaches on St Maarten, so we only got to see a few. Orient Bay is probably one of the most spectacular, and of course is famous for it’s nude beach on one far end.
We also made a stop in Marigot, which is the largest town on the French side of the Island. It has many shops and restaurants, and we took a walk to the top of the hill to Fort Louis. It offers incredible views of the bay below. One of the things many people know St. Maarten for is Maho Beach where the end of the runway is literally right at the beach edge. Watching the huge planes arrive while you are on the beach is pretty incredible, or watching people on the beach getting jet blasted as the planes take off. Other popular things to do include going to some of the other islands that are close by like St Barts or Anguilla. These can be done as a day trip.
All in all the holiday was a relaxing beach getaway. St. Maarten is a unique island that is worth a visit.
Susan Small, Chilliwack office