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St. Maarten: Get In, Get Out

I have a new least favorite Caribbean island, and it goes by the name of St. Martin (or Sint Maarten if you’re on the Dutch side). Don’t get me wrong, the landscape is undeniably beautiful. It’s a volcanic isle with multiple levels and layers, a gorgeous coastline, and a rainbow of colors just off its coast.

St. Maarten, CaribbeanIt’s got all the makings of a great tropical isle: plush palm trees, nice beaches (if small), fruity cocktails, restaurant and bar options.

St. Maarten, CaribbeanAnd then someone had to go and plop a mini-Vegas right in the middle of it. In fact, as you taxi on the tarmac, the first thing you see is a neon sign advertising an “adults-only club”—and that’s before you’ve even cleared customs.

St. Maarten, CaribbeanSo why do people go to St. Maarten? Well, the airlift for one. It’s the busiest airport in the Caribbean, and thus it’s easy to find cheap airfare. Ours, for example, was just $500 a piece from Nashville to Princess Juliana International Airport, and that was over a holiday, too.

St. Maarten, CaribbeanPlus, it’s cheaper than most, and thus has suffered the effects of becoming “a Spring Break destination.” I didn’t investigate but I’m sure there are strip clubs galore. If you like that sort of thing, then maybe St. Maarten is for you. It was not, however, for SVV and me.

St. Maarten, CaribbeanWe hated the bright-lit, smoky casinos that greeted us everywhere we walked. We found the place generally unfriendly, no doubt because they have to put up with the onslaught of travelers invading their home island on a regular basis.

St. Maarten, Caribbean But the good news is that you can take advantage of the low airfare and use St. Maarten as a base, only to hop a ferry to a neighboring isle—which is precisely what we did to reach Anguilla, St. Maarten’s polar opposite ($15 and 20 minutes each way). For divers, Saba is an hour and 20 minutes and $50 each leg, as is the ferry for St. Barths (for those with more money to spend once they reach the pricey, yet charming island).

For us, we sought refuge on Anguilla—or more specifically, the Viceroy Anguilla, a property I have long wanted to visit ever since it opened a few years ago. Sure, it wasn’t the cheapest of destinations—our bill for two days there totaled more than our monthly mortgage—but it offered us the kind of experience we longed for and yet couldn’t find on St. Maarten.

Viceroy AnguillaThe property was so quiet. There were three restaurants and multiple pools. There were very few children (versus our Westin resort on St. Maarten where we couldn’t escape the yelling and screaming and splashing). The service was impeccable.

Viceroy AnguillaAnd all said and done, our room wasn’t that much more expensive than what we paid over in St. Maarten (and so much nicer, it’s ridiculous). So yeah, other than to save a few bucks, I don’t really get why people would come all that way and opt to stay on St. Maarten instead of its classier neighbor across the sea.

Viceroy AnguillaSorry, St. Maarten, I hate to rag on you and I totally want to be able to say, “it’s not you, it’s me,” but in this case, it’s all you (and your trashy strip clubs and party-loving clientele that follows suit). I will, however, continue to use you as my hub for reaching lesser-known, untainted islands. And Anguilla, hold my lounge chair, as I’m totally coming back for you the moment I have an opportunity to do so.

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Comments ( 20 )

  1. It’s so interesting to hear your perspective on St. Martin. I was there 12 years ago but I don’t remember seeing any strip clubs (I was also with my boyfriend and his family at the time sanctioned to an all-inclusive so totally different trip). That said, we drove around to all of the beaches and felt that we had many to ourselves. I’m not sure how the island has changed but I really enjoyed my time there. I’d love to go back and see the lolas and explore Grand Case (which I thought would be totally up your alley). That said, different strokes for different folks. I have heard amazing things about Saba but your trip in Anguilla looks gorgeous. Bookmarking that in my head! Great pictures! Good shot of SVV in the pool. At least you got the getaway you wanted. :)
    Natalie T. recently posted..My Top 10 Favourite Clothing Stores in TorontoMy Profile

  2. Looks really fun. Can’t wait to travel there. :)

  3. I guess, though it is a beautiful place but you are comparing it with its more gorgeous neighbors, no wonder, Caribbeans are heavens. Which is your favorite island there? I have heard a lot about St. Kitts.

  4. Wow, St. Maarten doesn’t really sound like my style at all. But Anguilla looks gorgeous! I will keep it in mind as I plan to be working on a yacht next Caribbean season and will inevitably end up in St. Maarten at some point.
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Roatan Month 8 RoundupMy Profile

  5. Interesting perspective. You raise some valid points about the island. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    Ray @StingyTraveller recently posted..5 Venice Tips You Won’t Find in the GuidebookMy Profile

  6. I’m glad that you found a place where you could seek refuge. I love the place and the pools. It looks perfect for travelers who seek a quiet and relaxing vacation. :)
    Jemma recently posted..Manna Sutukil Food House in MactanMy Profile

  7. We went on a cruise last year that stopped in St. Martin and it was our LEAST favorite port – for a variety of reasons. Glad to know about using it as a pass through to get to other lovely places though!
    Christina S. recently posted..31 for 31 – one month inMy Profile

  8. This one’s a good destination to have over the spring break.
    Jeremy Norton recently posted..Business to Business Marketing StrategiesMy Profile

  9. Good tip on using St. Martin to get to islands that may be more my style.

  10. I was there, but when I was 12 and can’t remember it at all. Good to know to skip in the future! This is how I felt about the Caymans, though in all fairness there were spots on the Caymans that you could get away from the craziness. I would have never left that pool!!!!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Bermuda: Day 1 (Part 1)My Profile

  11. It’s a shame it’s so pretty and so yet so crazy. I guess the party animals need a beautiful place to go too.
    terra recently posted..This Runner’s FeelingsMy Profile

  12. Alexa Rae Johnson April 21, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    That shot of SVV in the pool – SO COOL! Anguilla looks/sounds amazing!

  13. aww is this the last Caribbean post? im glad you got to go to so many islands. did you make it to the virgin islands over yonder left? great post about new york too, you are so productive! anyway, you are off to the ship now so looking forward to more posts about a familiar turf…europaaa

  14. Hmm, I think you stayed at the wrong place on the island. In Grand Case, I didn’t have that problem at all….but when we taxi’d into Orient Beach we did indeed see the kind of development you speak of.

    Grand Case has better restaurants, legit Carib culture and is more quiet.

    I did go to Saba as well, yes, for the diving. Incredible island experience. Definitely not at ALL like anywhere else I have been in the Caribbean. But….no beaches.

  15. Amen to all this. As far as I am concerned, the only thing that St. Maarten has going for it is the airport and the fact that it is is close proximity to Anguilla (which is my favorite place on earth).

  16. Oh God, I want that bed! I have very little experience in the Caribbean and am currently savings tips and tricks for the next time I go there as I don’t want to do it the way I have the last 3 times!

  17. Wow, what a shame. Who would travel to the Caribbean just to see a casino?
    Julio Moreno recently posted..I Just: Walked Across the Sea at the “Miracle Sea Road Festival” in Jindo, South Korea Pt.1/2My Profile

  18. Sounds like you never saw the French side of st. Martin….there really are two very different countries here…get on the n7 and don’t look back

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