Traveling to a new destination can sometimes create anxiety. Not knowing what to do and where to stay can become a major concern. Getting tips, advice or recommendations on things to do, restaurant reviews or other suggestions from people who have "been there done that" can be extremely helpful. Our tips below will help to make your vacation a wonderful experience full of beautiful memories.
1. Rent a car for your stay on the island. If not for the whole week then at least a few days. There is so much to see and experience on the island that a car will compliment your trip. Besides beaches, restaurants and the towns, there are other attractions. Let me say this again. Rent a car for your trip.
2. Major credit cards, MasterCard, VISA, and US Dollar traveler's checks are accepted almost everywhere with photo ID. American Express is not accepted everywhere.
3. The Dutch side of the island (St. Maarten) is like being in the USA or Canada, everyone speaks English and the US Dollar is accepted everywhere. The French side of the island (St. Martin) is like being in France; most people speak French as well as English and most prices are in Euros; but, you can pay in dollars.
4. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are located throughout the island at the Bank of Nova Scotia, RBTT bank, and Windward Islands Bank branches as well as BDAF Bank in Marigot. Also, at Princess Juliana International Airport, Sonesta Maho Resort and Pelican Resort Shopping Plazas.
5. Island banks open from 8:30 AM - 3 PM, Monday through Friday,
6. The bank at Princess Juliana International Airport is open from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.
7. There are two Medical Centers on the island, one on the French side & one on the Dutch. Each is staffed with qualified medical personnel who can handle most medical problems that may occur.
8. If you have an illness and are traveling alone, you should keep a notice or medical tag in your purse or wallet indicating your illness. Upon arrival at your hotel, inform the staff of your illness.
9.There are numerous Doctors, Dentists, Pharmacists and Nurses on the island.
10. There are many Pharmacies on both sides of the island.
11. There are 37 sandy white beaches on the island. Each one different from the other. Investigate and explore them. They are all beautiful and inviting.
12. There are Major Food Supermarkets and small local food stores throughout the island; so, if your accommodations include kitchen facilities, you can buy food products to cook and eat in.
13. Need to rent a Cell phone or check email? You can do that at one of the island's cyber cafes or business centers: including The Mailbox on Airport Road at the Palapa Center or the Yacht Club Business Center at the Simpson Bay Marina Yacht Club. There are also cyber cafes on the French side of the island. ----------
14. Spend a day at Orient Beach. It is St. Martin's equivalent of the French Riviera in the south of France. A fabulous beach; a dozen wonderful little restaurants with color coded beach chairs and umbrellas; spectacular scenery; lots of fun activities, watersports; and, great people watching. (Semi-nude).
15. The waters at Orient Beach are a Marine Reserve sheltered by reefs which protect the shore and have a calming effect on the waves as they hit the beach.
16. Orient Beach has numerous water sports of all kinds including para-sailing, wave runners, etc.
17. The Dawn Beach side of the island is on the Atlantic Ocean which has rougher seas and larger waves; so, be careful while swimming or surfing. I am told that the surfing is great!
18. StMaarten/StMartin is a Duty-Free Island; so take advantage of great prices on jewelry, clothing, alcohol, electronics, cameras, leather-goods, etc. Enjoy yourself, shop, shop, shop.
19. Pinel Island which sits about 1,000 feet from the mainland of StMaarten/StMartin is also worth a day trip for the relaxation. It's a small piece of land with two restaurants, a fabulous white sandy beach with shallow calm waters which is just great for small children. Ask your hotel for directions. It's located on the French side near the Hotel RIU Resort & Spa.
20. There are approximately 400 restaurants on the island from the guy grilling chicken, fish and ribs on the corner to the gourmet restaurants which will keep you coming back for more. Spoil yourself, try everything and live life!------21. Many of the island restaurants have entertainment and dancing nightly. There are also numerous nightclubs.
22. Tipping is confusing on the island. In Dutch side restaurants, you tip, like in the USA, 15% or more if you are satisfied. In French side Restaurants, the tip is included in the meal price just like in France. If you are happy, you may leave an additional 3% to 5% tip. Some restaurants on the island add a 15% tip at the bottom of your bill. So check it or you may be tipping twice.
23. There are twelve casinos on the Dutch side of the island. The French side does not have any casinos. Princess Casino at Port de Plaisance Resort has entertainment most nights and lottery give-a-ways.
24. Rouge Beach, on the French side, is said to be the best beach for snorkeling. But, you may wish to check out other beaches and find your own.
25. Do you enjoy Military Forts? Then, you'll enjoy walking the ruins of Fort Amsterdam located on the hillside by Divi Little Bay Resort. Likewise, Fort St. Louis named after the French King located on the hillside of Marigot, once protected the bay from pirates and other scoundrels.
26. Or, you may wish to visit Pic Paradis; at 1400 feet, it's the highest point on the island and offers spectacular views from the mountaintop.
27. The island of Saba is only 55 minutes (by ferry boat) from StMaarten/StMaarten. It has no beaches, but is said to have the best scuba diving in the area. I've also been told that there are many good scuba diving attractions in the sea around StMaarten/StMartin.
28. Saba is also unique with hundreds of steps leading up to a "rain forest" at its top. The local villages are located at approximately 1200 feet above sea-level. The island is great for hiking.
29. Anguilla is a British island and is only 15 minutes by daily ferry boats from Marigot. Anguilla has some very lovely beaches, several marvelous hotels and a beautiful Greg Norman golf course.
30. St. Barths is also said to be a lovely island, but very expensive. It is approximately 60-90 minutes from StMaarten/StMartin by ferry boat. ----
31. Crime Tips: Don't be the first person on the beach early in the morning!
32. Don't leave valuables or anything locked in your car or trunk!
33. Don't go for walks or jogging late at night in dark isolated areas.
34. Don't flash money in public stores, shops, restaurants, casinos, etc.
35. Don't park your car in the darkness of Mullet Bay near the Maho Resort. Park in the underground parking lot at Maho Resort. It is safe and only cost $3.00 & if you go to Casino Royale & gamble, they'll comp the parking fee.
36. Practice caution and common sense in unfamiliar areas as you would in in those areas of your own home town.
37. If a heavy rain storm pounds the island for several hours or a day or two, watch out for flooding on the Mullet Bay road through the golf course and on the streets in the middle of Marigot. It can get pretty deep.
38. You must be 18 years of age or older to gamble in island casinos.
39. Likewise, you must be 18 years of age or older to drink alcohol in any island bars, restaurants, casinos, etc.