Hi Sam, we had a fabulous time!
Lynn V., Washington, DC.
The (La Samanna) hotel villa was fabulous. The breakfast buffet was excellent each morning. We like the new endless pool. We found out they take small dogs so next time we are bring our miniature dachshund. We went to La Cigale twice. The car guys (Summer Set Car Rental) couldn't be nicer. Thanks again.

Stayed at the Towers... 17 years and still love it!
Airport: Absolutely beautiful!!!
Lynn C., Glastonbury, CT

Phillipsburg: Great shopping a few times, very quiet. Not too many ships. 
Marigot: One day of shopping and walking around.

DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE THE ISLAND.......but the family made me...hehehehe

La Gondola: absolutely fantastic Italian food.
RomAntica: Wonderful Italian food and a great view of Maho great service
Pineapple Petes: A fun place to go, great food and a wonderful waiter named marc. Great band. Came here twice with many friends for dinner. The teenage kids loved the Pool tables.
Jimbos: Good Mexican food
Pizza pasta La Trattoria in Maho: good food, nice place.
Sugar Cane: Great service, good food, fantastic cappuccinos. 

Zee Best: very good, lots of food
Forgot the name, a little French pastry shop near Jakes Laundromat across from the Grand marche grocery store….GREAT pastry.

Bamboo Bernies in Phillipburg: FANTASTIC
Bikini Beach Restaurant: Good
Waikiki: Great, much more comfortable than bikini, much better service and food also.

Jewelry Shopping:
I usually go to Zhaveri, but both of my jewelers were away. Very good friends of mine do business with J&N in Maho, so I gave it a try and LOVED them. If you go, ask for Ravi.

Car Rental:
We have been renting from Thrifty for soooo many years. Always fantastic service and great cars with NO problems. They do go out of the way for you. George is the person to contact.

Mullet Bay: One of the best beaches but terrible this year with jellyfish.
Bikini Beach: The kids love it here, the waves are big and there is so much to do to keep the kids busy.
Waikiki Beach: Just a little further down than Bikini, but much more comfortable chairs and better service.

TO DO's:
Lotterie Farms: I recommend everyone to come here! We went hiking, that was wonderful, can't wait to do it again. The zip lines were so busy, we will have to do that on the next trip. The food was amazing at the Hidden Forest Cafe, the waitress was a doll and the views are breathtaking!!!!
Maho in the evenings: great shopping, casino, restaurants and at 9PM you can see the dancers from Casino Royale come out into the street and dance for 15 minutes. Wonderful vacation, once again, the island never lets me down... only wish I could afford to live there... need to win that lotto!!! 


I don't know HOW, but St. Maarten has become an ADDICTION!
Phil E., Danbury, CT

Went there for our first time in 1972, and here it is, many years later, and we STILL RETURN!!! Started with the purchase of a villa at Mullet Bay, which we sold in 1994, ONE YEAR before Hurricane Louie!!! (LUCKY). Saint Maarten just gets in your blood! Every year we say we will try another island, but we NEVER DO! Will return on February 13th for two weeks and we are AS EXCITED AS KIDS!!! Why?? Well---we think it's the people. EVERYONE is so nice----how could we NOT return to "our home away from home?" Despite the horrible traffic, some crowded beaches (Mullet Bay), and the high cost of air travel in February, the PLEASURE is worth much more than the PAIN!
As long as there is a Saint Maarten --- we will return.

One of the best massages I have ever had was in St. Martin by a lady named Maribel.

Stan from the USA

She came to my timeshare and did a very professional massage. I highly recommend her. I had a great time in St. Martin doing all the tourist things including Orient Beach and the Sing Along with the band at Lee's Roadside Grill and look forward to returning.

St. Maarten is my favorite place in the Caribbean to visit where I can sit back and relax and experience a little of the European culture.

Mike C., Oklahoma

My wife and I arrived in St. Maarten on Friday October 7th for a nine day visit. Our flight was over an hour late. Usually when we leave the baggage claim area, Claude (owner of (Summer Set Car Rental) or one of his drivers is waiting for us with our rental car. Understandably, no one was there from Summer Set car rentals. What followed is a perfect example of the people who live on the "Friendly Island." A taxi cab driver, who was waiting in the taxi driver room, asked whom we were waiting for. I told him we were waiting for Claude. I just assumed he knew whom I was talking about. Apparently he knew who Claude was because he looked around and said, "Claude is not here yet." We waited for a few more minutes. I then asked the cab driver, named Mick, if he had a cell phone. He replied he did and I gave him Claude's business card. Mick then called Claude and told him we had arrived. Claude sent a driver right away and picked us up. The driver then took us to the office. Claude was not there so the driver told us to come back tomorrow and take care of the paperwork and rental payment.

The following day, Saturday, we spent on the beach. On the way back we decided to stop at Summer Set Car Rentals and take care of the paperwork. We got caught in a Boy Scout parade in Cole Bay and arrived late at Claude's. No one was there so we traveled back to our timeshare at the Wyndham Sapphire Beach Club. Later that evening, while my wife was cooking dinner, we heard a knock on the door. It was Claude with the rental paperwork. My wife asked him if he had dinner yet. He replied he had not. The three of us sat down and had a tuna steak dinner that could not be beat. Claude stayed for about two hours. We polished off two bottles of wine and discussed many subjects. Claude was very informative about the things going on in both sides of the island of St. Maarten.

The following Saturday and Sunday were pretty stormy around the island. The good thing about St. Maarten is that if it is raining on one part of the island, usually it is not raining on the other. Monday was a rainy day all over the island. There were no cruise ships in Phillipsburg so we went shopping. We needed to replace my wife's wedding ring and were looking for a great deal. We walked into a nice, well-lit store that sparkled on a gloomy day. The jewelry store's name was Zhaveri's. Apparently they have two in Philipsburg. One is at 53A Front Street and the other is at 103 Front Street. We were at the one at 103 Front Street.

Initially a nice young man named Kevin helped us. As we showed more than a casual interest another more knowledgeable man named Vince came over to assist us. Without giving us any pressure, Vince proceeded to spend approximately one half hour educating us about diamonds. He showed us several diamonds and instructed us as how to look at them through a jeweler's loop. Once he knew what we were looking for he sent out to their other store for several more stones. We picked out a nice setting for one of the stones he showed us. We told him that this was the first place we visited today and we were going to continue down the street to see what else was available. He asked that if we found something we liked elsewhere to come back to give him another opportunity to make the sale. We went to about 10 different stores but never received the education or attention that we did at Zhaveri's. We returned to Zhaveri's to close the deal. To make the sale, Vince knocked another $150 off the price of the diamond ring. We felt very good about the quality of the ring and the price. We liked the people and the service they provided without any pressure. I would highly recommend them to all.

Tuesday we went swimming at Plum Bay. We went back on Thursday and most of the sand was gone from the north side of the beach. After leaving Plum Bay Thursday we went to Baie Rouge and did some snorkeling. On Tuesday night we went to La Vie En Rose for dinner. It is one of our favorite places to go on the French side. Just a little note about French Cuisine. The way your meal is presented is part of the French culture. You will not receive what we Americans consider a huge amount of food. What you will receive is a delicious, well presented meal that will drive your taste buds wild. Something that you might inform your readers about is the currency exchange. We also spent two days on the Simpson Bay beach by Mary's Boon. In the two days we were there I could count on one hand all the people who were on the beach. It is a great place to get away from it all. St. Maarten is my favorite place in the Caribbean to visit where I can sit back and relax and experience a little of the European culture. 

Barbara, Thanks so much for your helpful tips!! I love the island and hope to be back next winter with your book at my side no doubt!
Madelyn, Freehold, NJ

My 2 friends and I had the best trip for a "Girls Week Out!" We reluctantly left the husbands, boyfriends and children at home to fend for themselves during a chilly week in Jersey. We're not all that negligent though - we cooked and froze enough dinners to carry them through to Springtime (just in case... !).
We stayed at my timeshare (Flamingo/Sunterra). The resort is beautiful and the couple of times we asked for help, service was prompt.

This is my 3rd visit to the Island and I've just seen more traffic than ever around the airport, Maho and Flamingo area. Don't know if this is due to increased tourists, or employees leaving work, or whatever. Just wondering if this is an actual issue and if any plans are in the workings to rectify it. We smartened up and knew not to be on the road between 3pm and 6pm, if it wasn't necessary!

I have a question about the golf course. Looks like it used to be beautiful (Mullett Bay Resort) property. What are (if any) the plans with the villas. I love running on the property as I'm an elite runner and the golf course provides a safe area to run my 10 miles per day, rather than being on the road. Thank you so much for a wonderful newsletter and hope to see you next winter!

PS. Can you include any special events going on as far in advance as possible so hotel and air arrangements can be made. Have a great day!! Madelyn. 

What a remarkable artist he (Roland Richardson) is! It was a great vacation! I'm crossing my fingers on winning the trip! We can't wait to go back. As you know, one week is not enough!
Kim, Long Beach, CA
We had a really great time. It did take us a few days to get settled and use to the island and the French people. We did not realize half of the island is closed during the month of September. At first we thought the island was going bankrupt but after talking with the locals we were told September is the month for vacations. One of the reasons we picked St. Maarten was that they had a golf course - actually they used to have a golf course. And they still wanted to charge $80 to play on it!!! Now for the good - 

While driving around the back roads (lost) we saw an artist painting the orange flamboyant tree. We stopped and met Roland Richardson! He had fun talking with our kids and we learned he had a 5 yr old daughter named Radiance. Next thing we know he is painting a picture for my daughter and inviting us to his gallery. Since they were closed his wife made a special trip to open up the gallery and there we learned so much more about the island, the people, things to do, etc. They were such great people! And I came home with a beautiful picture.
(In answer to Sam's email)
Sam, I did not mention you or The Value Guide because it wasn't until we came back from the gallery and I started reading your guide more closely that I put the connection together. And then also realized what great recommendations you had after we ate at some of the restaurants mentioned in your guide. I especially liked the Turtle Pier Restaurant. What great music, food and atmosphere. 

Actually when we met Roland I was thinking he was just an eccentric artist that lived on the island. We definitely caught him in one of his creative states. Then we saw his postcards in Shipwreck, and met him again in town and started to learn what a remarkable artist he is. I have a beautiful picture of him and my kids and his painting in the 'fields'. I'll try to scan it to you. As one of my friends said it really captures a perfect vacation!

Anna (my daughter) was begging Roland to paint a picture for her; but, he did not have any blank canvas. So he told us the day before Radiance was with him painting and was also looking for some blank paper and when she could not find any she came up with an idea. She found a very large leaf and began painting on it. So Roland found a leaf and painted the flamboyant tree on it for Anna. All the while talking about how he creates the picture using light and color. The leaf traveled back to CA without breaking and I have framed it in a shadow box.

It was a great vacation!

How lucky for you and your wife to be heading off to St. Maarten. I'm crossing my fingers on winning the trip in March! We can't wait to go back. There seems to be so much more to see on the island. As you know one week is not enough time!

Thank you again for all your assistance and advice....it made our trip to the Island wonderfully easy.
Mary, Williamstown, NJ

We just got back from the Island...it was a wonderful trip. The rental (Summer Set Car Rental) car worked out great. We really got to see a lot of the island exploring on our own. We did take advantage of some of the vouchers. We went on the Celine, ate at Turtle Pier and of course spent a little time in the Hollywood Casino. I would suggest that you let folks know about the Rhino Riders who have children pre-teen to teen. My 2 boys (ages 12 and 16) loved it...

Rhino Riders is located just behind Pineapple Pete's Restaurant in Simpson Bay. I found out about them on the St Maarten.org site. Basically you follow a guide on these Jet-Ski type vehicles out across Simpson Bay, under the Marigot Bridge to a place called Creole Rock. The price included all snorkel equipment needed for when you get out to the site. The guide also came complete with a cooler full of soft drinks and fresh water for everyone to have while we were out. On the way back we got to have a little fun with the riders which of course my boys thought was just wonderful. It was a great alternative for us instead of the traditional jet-skis...the Rhino Riders are a lot wider and are virtually impossible to tip over so are much safer for those pre-teens and teens who aren't as versed with the equipment, but still want to experience the same thrill.

We liked the Flamingo Beach Resort. The rooms were clean, well maintained and comfortable. We ventured to Orient Beach, Mullet Bay, Marigot, Cupecoy, Baie Rouge and Sunset beach. The kids went parasailing, used the ocean trampoline at Orient Bay and went out on the Playstation at Simpson Bay. We enjoyed our cruise on the Celine and the dinner at Turtle Pier was good. The food at Pineapple Pete's was wonderful as well...especially the lobster thermadore!! My husband and I went to Hollywood Casino and played for about 2 hours on $6.00...this would never happen at our neighboring Atlantic City casinos!!!! We took the Caribbean Duck tour out of Phillipsburg on Friday...this was disappointing. It is more for very little children. Our only other disappointment was the food was a little pricey on the French side of the island (Bikini Beach Bar charged my son $12.00 for a burger!!)

As far as our trip overall, it was enjoyable. The weather was wonderful, the water was spectacular and everyone we met was kind, helpful and friendly.

Sam, Thanks for recommending Mai's. Had a great time. Very nice place and very nice people. We will probably go there again next year.
Mike C., Oklahoma,

When I told her I was from Oklahoma she wanted me to look up a friend that lives in Tulsa. When she told me the name of this person I was shocked. I think I may have worked with him several years ago. I'm going to try to call him tonight. I mentioned your name and she remembers you.
We also went to Temptations. It was recommended by several people we know. It was a little expensive but well worth it. We like to go to a really nice place out of our price range at least once a year in St. Maarten. The service was excellent and the food was great. It was nicely presented and the atmosphere was superb. It was cloudy all week but we were able to find the sun somewhere on the island every day.
We usually go in October. I was surprised to find that the water was so much chillier in May than in October. We have a time share at the Sapphire Beach Club. Our time share runs from Saturday to Saturday. We stuck two extra days in. We stayed Friday night at the Royal Turtle Inn. They offered us free breakfast at the Turtle Pier restaurant. We usually eat there once on our vacation anyway. We stayed the last night at Mary's Boon. They offered us a complementary bottle of Champagne for a one nights stay. It is a very nice place and a very pleasant surprise. We never walked the beach located there before. It is very romantic and very safe.
I did a little snorkeling with a sea turtle at Bay Rouge. We went to Happy Bay one day. It was very crowded that day. There were 8 people on the beach. A lot of the sand that was taken away from Cupecoy by the hurricane ten years ago has returned. We can walk along the beach in front of Sapphire to the beach in front of the Rainbow Beach Club. Thanks for all the help.

"Our trip to SXM could not have gone better. The flight down was uneventful (the way I like them) and upon arrival, Claude's representative was right there waiting for us with the car."
Tom & Carol, East Hampton, NY
I met with Claude (Summer Set Car Rental) outside the airport where we completed the uncomplicated but professionally conducted rental transaction. The car was clean, mechanically sound, and proved to be very reliable during our stay. Thanks to you and Claude for everything.
During our stay, we had the opportunity to eat dinner at Le Perroquet and enjoyed it 100%. Your friend Thea was a perfect host and had many kind words for you and your husband. Le Perroquet is definitely on our "return list."
We visited Philipsburg and price shopped for jewelry in the numerous outlets along the main street. On your suggestion, we checked Touch of Gold and my wife purchased a very nice bracelet from them.
We stopped off at the Hollywood Casino (at the Pelican Resort) several times. Surprisingly, my wife walked away with almost $400 in winnings from the slots! She's the lucky one of the family.
The rest of our time was spent primarily on the beach at the Flamingo and at Dawn Beach (my personal favorite). We enjoyed lunch and dinner at Captain Oliver's near Dawn Beach. Another restaurant we enjoy is Tutta Pasta in the Simpson Bay shopping center. Our waiter, Leon, who has been with the restaurant for 8-9 years, does a nice job and is entertaining as well. We also had dinner at Jimbo's right near by Tutta Pasta. It's Southwestern menu may not be for everyone, but they do it well. Jimbo himself is a transplant from the Midwestern US and was interesting to speak with. One other restaurant of note is the Hideaway at La Vista Resort. We liked their simple lunch menu and took advantage of it multiple times. Their dinner menu is somewhat more elaborate and well worth at least one visit.
Other than that, we spent most of our time with the feet up and the brain off! A perfect trip. I hope you and your husband have a great time there in April. Thanks again and best regards,

"Had fun, met some interesting people, got some relaxation (when I wasn't driving), food was good ..."
Ron and Marilyn, Plano, TX
"We had a great time, but did make a mistake picking the Towers. It wasn't as if it was bad, but there were little amenities if at all.
We did have a great time visiting the various beaches; met Gus and Janet on Rouge Beach. We did a lot of shopping and met really interesting people. The casinos were cold as ice paying off in the beginning. I did get on a 3 day roll and lost it all back. We really used your guide and ended up at alot of the places you recommended. Brought back alot of booze, so much we had a hard time carrying it all (very cheap at the place next door to Jimmy Buffett's place. Bought t-shirts there, good quality.)
Only thing I wished I had left behind were my golf sticks. You were so dead on for the golf course. Overrated! We will definitely go back in a couple of years now that we know the island a little better. 

"Perhaps you can put a suggestion in your Value Guide on how to deal with the timeshare hounds".
Dennis, Costa Mesa, CA
"Thank you very much for your Value Guide. It came in very handy while my wife and I were at the island. We stayed at Club Orient on Orient Beach and had a wonderful time. We will be going back next year.
Here is an issue we noticed. We got bombarded by people trying to sell timeshares. we even got suckered into one on our second day there. We had one lady pull us over while driving, and a guy flag us down when we drove by him. We realize they make a commission on getting people to go to the timeshare presentation, but it does get to be a pain in the butt after a while.
Perhaps you can put a suggestion in your Value Guide on how to deal with the timeshare hounds. You might also mention what some of the road signs mean. We are from the US and did not know what some of the signs meant.
You have a great Value Guide and many thanks for sending it to us."

"Everything was fabulous --- food, sun, waves, casinos, booze, shopping".
Patti, Steph, Mike & Doug, Minneapolis, MN
"We just got back yesterday February 10th. Baywatch no longer exists but has been completely redone and is now called Bamboo Bernies. It has a Pacific Tiki type theme, bar next to a free pool (no beach just terrific views of the ocean), a Sushi Bar, and attached full service restaurant. Food was top notch, we can highly recommend the PooPoo platter and the Wet Ribs. We had a wonderful dinner at the Boathouse. The ambiance was great, the Lobster huge, and prices a little spendy but worth it. We also ate at Goodfellas several times. It was great every time. The Spinach Pizza was awesome and the grill chef did amazing things with veggies and meat. Definitely worth a stop and very reasonable prices for what you get.
Stayed at the Pelican Resort (we are RCI timeshare owners and traded for St. Maarten/St. Martin this year). The beach at the Pelican is OK ... seemed like the sand was trucked in; lots of shell fragments around so not the best, but a nice place & quiet due to the private nature of the resort. Orient Beach was our favorite. Sand like sugar. Here is where we saw the most "natural" sunbathers, be careful if you don't want to see naked people. Sat in front of the Kakao Beach Bar, got chairs from Francois for $6 apiece with nice cushions ... very comfortable. Francois is the epitome of service! He runs drinks, hunted up a cigar for me. I even saw him deliver a pizza. When I asked him to trade dollars for Euros to take home for my niece, he delivered 5 different coin denominations, a 5 Euro note, and also gave me a 10 minute education on the Euro.

We also went to Rouge Beach, kind of weird sand, but soft and comfortable, nice rolling waves. Chez Raymonds at the entrance to the beach is an interesting place. Average food, junkyard ambiance (read no frills), lots of booze and Raymond is a nut, but a hoot. I would have really liked this place in my college days. However the beach is very large and a short walk can take you away from the party bar atmosphere. The last beach we went to was Friars Beach. The day we were there it had unusually heavy surf, the winds had changed and were coming from the east. Nice, soft, fine sand with marble to fist sized rocks at the edge of the surf then sand again when you get about waist high in the water. There were three bars here, not sure the first one even had a name. The second, Kali's Beach Bar Jamaican Red Green and Yellow offered reasonable drink prices and great food with Creole-type spice. We never made to Friars Beach Bar, but I walked past it to take a hike up the hill for the view (highly recommended by me). I didn't find out till the next day that if I had continued along the path farther I would have come across nice, very secluded little beach cove.
We didn't shop too much, but Philipsburg is very much the cruise ship port. We were there when ships were in so the marketers were really putting on the sales pitch. Marigot was very nice but a pain for driving. We wandered around for a while trying to find breakfast and ended up getting lunch at BDLG or Brasserie De La Gare ... very very good but kind of expensive. Wandered in to the local liquor store to buy some beer and Bacardi only to find wonderfully low liquor prices. Last note: Harley Davidson fans stop at the shop in Cole Bay to pick up a St Martin H-D tee shirt, prices about the same as dealers in the US (or online at www.h-dstmartin.com). We will definitely be going back someday!"

"Orient Bay - Just fabulous ... No matter where we went, the food was very good..." 
Pam, New Jersey
You were right with your description of the fabulous beaches. Each has its own personality. Orient Bay - Just fabulous. We loved being catered to and having our "cabana boy" around to get us drinks. We loved it there and didn't want to leave.
No matter where we went, the food was very good.
Sunset Beach Bar - THIS WAS OUR FAVORITE SPOT!! We were there a lot! Met some very interesting people...are you familiar with their sign..."Topless women drink 4 free"? Well, there were a few women that did and someone from my group....no names mentioned. We had the best grilled chicken and tuna sandwich!!
La Tropicana - in Marigot - fabulous food and setting.
Layla's - great lunch and view!!"

"We Loved Our Time There, but We Especially Liked the French Side."
Anne C., Ashland, VA
Dear Sam and Barbara:
I want to thank both of you for the valuable information that you supplied us for our trip to St. Martin/St. Maarten. We loved our time there, but we especially liked the French side.

As to our trip, we found all those we met to be helpful and friendly. The beaches are beautiful and the water was a perfect temperature. The food was wonderful. We managed though to thoroughly tour the island and see all of the beautiful sites.

As promised, I am writing you about the restaurants we visited and our favorites. Our favorites are difficult to pick because the food, especially on the French side, is exquisite. The service was also wonderful and relaxed. We also found several favorites on the Dutch side, thanks to Barbara's e-mail. Here goes:
Dutch side
•Turtle Pier, both for breakfast and lunch

•Antoine's, delicious food with the most attractive wonderful owner who bought us drinks and told wonderful tales
•Sunset Beach Bar, fun and great drinks
•Oyster Bay

French side
•Bistro Caraibes, probably overall the best meal we had. The hosts were delightful. Visited several times here.

•Le Fish Pot, wonderful food.
•L'Alabama, great food.
•Le Portofino, good food and nice for a change.
•Boo Boo Jam, great music, drinks and dancing. Great ribs.
•La Samanna, beautiful setting and wonderful lunch and drinks. View should not be missed!!
•The Lolos, wonderful food, inexpensive and friendly people. "Don't miss this."

Publisher's Note: If you recently returned from a trip to St. Maarten/St. Martin and would like to share your memories, suggestions, and recommendations with travelers who have the same interest as you, please email us your Trip Report. Please include your first name, last name initial and city, state and/or country where you live which will be posted with your report. Your Trip Report will be posted on this page within 48 hours after receipt. Please keep in mind that we reserve the right to edit all content.