My St. Maarten Travel Guide
I’m just back from the island of St. Maarten, and ready to share what it’s like to visit in 2021. Today, I’ll share my experiences with hotels, activities and dining. There’s so much to see and do here, I’ve only just tapped the surface in this podcast.
Sincere thanks to the St. Maarten Tourism board for hosting my stay.
HOW TO GET THERE!
St. Maarten has recently re-opened to International visitors and is welcoming more and more travelers each week. What’s it like to visit now? In this podcast, we’ll explain what our experience was like, where we stayed and what activities you don’t want to miss while visiting St. Maarten on a land vacation, or by cruise ship. We’ll also cover the pre-travel testing and insurance requirements and talk about health and safety on the Friendly Island.
This trip took place in May 2021, and we flew in from the West Coast of the United States to Princess Julianna airport, with a stop through Miami.
Travelers are asked to present proof of authorization to enter St. Maarten before the first leg of your flight, so it’s a good idea to arrive to the airport extra early, and have that Document prepared. Let’s back up for a moment and talk about how to obtain that entry authorization from Saint Martin.
Registering with the country before you visit is a 4 step process, outlined at https://stmaartenehas.com/. There, you’ll find the entry requirements that apply to the country you’re from. Of course entry requirements are changing quite frequently right now throughout the world so information in this video may be different by the time you visit Saint Martin.
If you’re from the United States or Canada, as of May 2021, the first thing you have to do when preparing to depart for st Maarten is take a COVID test before your visit. Guests from the United States and Canada can take a PCR test up to 120 hours before flying in, or opt for a rapid antigen test if the rapid test is taken within 48 hours of the trip. I opted to take the PCR test about four days before departing for Saint Martin so I had plenty of time to get the results back.
The pre entry COVID testing time period varies by country, so visit their website to confirm your personal requirements.
Once you get your test results back, you can complete step 2, the application located at https://stmaartenehas.com. Don’t try to start the application before your get your test results back, because at the time of recording there was no option to save the application and return to it later. The application asks you for personal information, flight and hotel info and an upload of your negative COVID test. Step 3 of the application requires that you purchase mandatory COVID insurance, which covers you on the island and costs just $30 per adult.
We recommend you also purchase your own comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover all other elements of your travel. The last step is Watch for an email confirming that your application has been approved and print the authorization form off for your trip. We strongly recommend you print this document off, which also goes for your COVID test results.
Once you land in Saint Martin, you’ll proceed to the customs area, where you’ll present your passport, The immigration arrival card that was presented to you on the plane and with your authorization form and a printed copy of your Covid test.
Just outside the customs area, you’ll see pre-arranged transportation services & taxi’s to take you to your hotel. The Saint Martin airport is relatively small so this will be very easy to find.
Once at your hotel, you’ll once again be asked to show your COVID test, passport & a copy of the special insurance you purchased so be sure to print those documents out to avoid fumbling on your device with limited Wi-Fi. The hotel & airport staff seem to prefer printed copies although you can download them, in advance, to your mobile device.
As of right now, masks are still requirement indoors in Saint Martin so plan to wear your mask when you’re checking into the hotel. Most hotels also ask you to sanitize your hands before approaching the counter and will probably require a temperature check as well.
Once you arrive in Saint Maarten, expect to receive an email from the ministry of health asking you to self monitor and report your temperature on their website for 14 days if you are from a high risk country. At the time of according, the United States was a high-risk country. The daily questionnaire only takes a few moments and you’ll receive emails to remind you. You’ll be asked to report your temperature and confirm that you’re not experiencing any signs of illness. To make this process easier, We recommend contacting your mobile provider to get a plan that covers you in Saint Martin so that you’ll have access to Internet and email in areas where Wi-Fi isn’t that strong.
Voila! You’ve arrived! We’ll talk about what you need to do to leave Saint Martin to head back to the United States in a few moments – but first – let’s get to the fun stuff! What is there to do in St. Maarten and where should you stay? With diverse, mouthwatering cuisine, over 30 beaches, incredible hotels, and plenty of adventure to Choose from, you can truly customize your experience.
Choosing a hotel in any Caribbean destination can be overwhelming, so the first step is to decide what type of experience you’re looking for.
For an all inclusive, adults only option – consider the Oceanpoint Sonesta resort. Perched on a cliff adjacent to Moho beach and a joined by its sister property, Sonesta Maho resort, Spa & Casino, Ocean point offers a swanky vibe without the size and overwhelm Of a big property. From swim up suites to sunset view rooms, you can’t go wrong with your choice of accommodations here. The swim up suites on the ground floor are gorgeous, but the rooms on higher floors offer stunning views. The food, including room service, is high-quality and the bar service is excellent. The zero entry edge pool gets you into vacation mode in a snap, and it’s not bad for photo opps too.
You can book a massage overlooking the ocean in the beautiful gazebo, enjoy the amenities at the neighboring Sonesta Maho resort, or walk right down to Maho Beach for a cool dip or a quintessential shot with a jet overhead. Mullet Bay is just a 10 minute walk, and offers umbrellas & chairs for rent as well as delicious food and a nice bar. This resort is perfect for couples looking for a smaller, more intimate adults only property and friends traveling together.
If a traditional beachfront property is more your speed, Simpson Bay Resort offers affordable, spacious rooms, gorgeous calm beaches, and onsite water sports. Because the rooms include kitchenettes, this property is great for longer stays or cooking your own light meals with ensuite coffee pots, toasters, a fridge, sink & kitchenware. We loved the beach area here and recommend it for families, couples, and anyone looking to be close to the action in Simpson Bay. Both pools have swim up bars, and there are dining & bar options onsite too, including Mexican food and breakfast buffets at La Patrona and a Sports Bar. There’s also a coffee shop in the lobby with incredible views.
If you’re looking for a unique bed-and-breakfast experience on the island, Pasture Piece offers a cozy stay with lots of history. This one room hotel is steeped in local heritage and charm, away from the beach & tourist attractions.
There’s no shortage of activities & dining options on St. Maarten, and you could visit for a week and barely tap the surface. Here are just a few of our favorites, ranging from bold and adventurous to mellow.
Let’s start with Loterie Farm, a lush hideaway nestled in the hillside of Pic Paradis on French Sint-Martin where. Here you can rent a cabana, wine, dine, hike, or even zip line. The restaurant services a variety of fresh, colorful fare in an open environment, and the bar mixes up some fun as well. Don’t overlook the cabanas- the prices are reasonable, and there’s a variety of sizes & vibes available, including smaller cabanitas and the ultra cool jacuzzi cabana.
ParrotteVille, is a great option for bird lovers & families. At this walk in bird park, You’ll learn about the bird species, and interact with them first hand. You can also visit the heritage museum and medicinal garden onsite. This spot is reasonable priced, and only takes about 30 minutes to an hour, so be sure to stop by!
For an adrenaline filled day, visit Rainforest Adventures to experience the world’s steepest zipline, the Flying Dutchman. You’ll take a chairlift to the top, with optional add ons like the schooner ride and Sentry Hill Zip lines.You can choose the full experience, or simply enjoy the views at the top of sentry hill by day, or for a happy hour event.
A visit to St. Maarten wouldn’t be complete without some time on the water. We took two tours with Aquamania Adventures during our visit, and loved them both. The snorkeling tour takes you on an exhilarating ride past gorgeous beaches for a snorkel at creole rock, followed by a swim at La Samana, a gorgeous white sand beach. You won’t want to leave! With an open bar, friendly crew, and delicious snacks, this tour is a must. Snorkel gear is provided, but you’re welcome to bring your own.
At sundown,Aqua Mania offers a lively sunset sail along the coast. Free flowing rum punch, light snacks & stunning views make this a wonderful way to experience the sunset. You can sit on the net, participate in a little line dancing, or just chill out and enjoy the wine, beer & rum drinks on this short evening sail. Afterwards, grab dinner in one of the restaurants on the Simpson Bay resort property.
If you prefer to sightsee on foot, Phillipsburg is a great place to explore. Check out the colorful murals on the #ColorMeSXM art walk, and explore Great Bay Beach. There’s great shopping everywhere you turn in this area and it’s very close to the cruise ships!
If you’re looking to find some locally made goods, St. Maarten Nectar, located in Cole Bay, handcrafts vegan skincare, haircare, tea & gift sets. They also offer classes where you can experience creating the products onsite. Be sure to stop by to check out some of our favorite products- the bug repellant, sunblock & after sun lotion are just a few of the locally made, pure products available.
Speaking of classes, a trip to Tijon Parfumerie in Grand Case, on the French side is a truly unique experience. Tijon offers a variety of custom fragrance creation experiences that are not to be missed. With assistance from Tijon’s expert Perfumologistss mixing oils to find your perfect custom fragrance. Once you select your signature scent, you’ll reach the most difficult step, choosing a name! We highly recommend this unique experience on the island if you’re looking for an alternative to the typical beach day.
If you’re visiting the island during the full moon cycle, be sure to check out the beach parties that take place at night. The full moon white party at 978 Sanctorum at Friar’s bay on the french side of the island is unforgettable. Live music, tasty food, and good wine make this an evening to remember.
At the Base of the rainforest adventure property lies one of St. Maarten’s best kept secrets, Emilio’s restaurant located in a history rich building. Be sure to make a reservation for this hotspot where you’ll experience Caribbean gourmet cuisine, sweet breezes, and a world class wine cellar.
There’s no shortage of restaurants in St. Maarten, from the ultra casual to refined & elegant. In Simpson Bay, visit Captain’s Rib Shack & Mr. Fries to hang with the locals. For an authentic taste of Sicily on the marina, try Sale & Pepe. The food is incredible and the frozen mojitos are the perfect compliment to the meal. For a meal on the beach, DaWaterhole at Mullet bay is incredible. If you like spice, try the hurricane shrimp, and plan to spend the day at this gorgeous beach for a little swim, a lot of sun, and the perfect escape.
Once you’ve spent time on St. Maarten, you won’t want to leave, but once the time comes, here are a few tips to make your departure painless. If you’re traveling from a country that requires a COVID test before you re-enter, your hotel may offer COVID testing onsite or nearby. Ask them for detailed testing times the day you check in, and make your appointment early. You can also ask the front desk to print off your COVID test results for you, so you can have them in hand when you arrive at the St. Maarten airport.
Once you’re at the airport, you’ll be asked for your COVID test & passport at the airline counter. Once you move through security, there are lots of shops & restaurants to enjoy before you board your flight. Don’t miss the bar, and be sure to grab one last SXM beer before your flight.
Be sure to check out more of our experience in st maarten at Instagram.com/cruisetipstv. We’ve saved a few highlights to show you the best the island has to offer.
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