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Casinos, adult entertainment, night clubs, mega liquor stores, St Maarten stands apart from its immediate neighbors with its spring break forever ethos. The mega cruise ships dock in shopping town Philipsburg while the parties rage at the resorts by the airport at Maho Beach.
In this series:
- Northern Caribbean Island Hopping Itinerary
- St Maarten – Caribbean Vice
- Video – Maarten Airport Golf Cart Tarmac Transfer
- St Martin – The Quiet Side
- Anguilla – Discretion Island
- Saba – Kong Island of the Caribbean
- Video: Landing at Saba Airport, Shortest Commercial Runway in the World
- St Barth’s – Gorgeous People, Pricey Hamburgers
- St Kitts – Plantation Splurge and Mega Fortress
- Nevis – Is An Hour Enough?
Easily accessible from the US and Europe, St Maarten’s beachside airport, famed for its jet blasts that give onlookers a face-full of sand, serves as a regional hub. Not to say it is a budget destination, none of the nearby islands are deals compared to US mainland beach destinations. There are ways to go off the beaten path in St Maarten, and the milieu changes drastically on the short ride up the French side, St Martin, though a quiet beach vacation is not the point.
I used St Maarten as a base as I island hopped on WinAir, spending two nights near the airport and budget hotel Travel Inn Hotel at Simpson’s Bay, only recommended as a cheap place to spend a night while in transit. The only major chain hotel is the Westin. At a remote location on the French side at a remote location is a Radisson Blu.
The stretch from Maho Bay/Airport to Simpson’s Bay to Philipsburg is plied by frequent, safe minivans in lieu of public buses. From Simpson’s Bay it is US$1.50 to Maho Bay/Airport and $2.00 to Philipsburg. I never waited more than four minutes for a van. Basing at a resort at Maho Bay is a good option, there are no night flights, and it is only a 15-minute walk or short ride from the terminal. I never saw any vans going to Marigot on the French side, they may run from Philipsburg, so for that I took a taxi for $20.
Food options are mostly standard fare, mains typically $20+ at sit-down restaurants, and there are fast food outlets as well. I did not have any meal to highlight.
One stop at the Sunset Bar & Grill at Maho Beach is de rigueur to see the planes coming and going, though it is standard fare an inattentive service. They have pizzas named after major airlines serving the island, still no Delta, and there is a Continental instead of United. They should have a joke pizza, the LIAT, that never arrives.
If you want to party this is an option, though you can probably have a better experience at a better price in Florida. Otherwise, catch the next flight or ferry to one of the more interesting or tranquil islands.