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St Maarten holiday - advice/tips?

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St Maarten holiday - advice/tips?

Old 19th Jul 2010, 03:45
  #1 (permalink)  
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St Maarten holiday - advice/tips?

Hi All,

So call me a nerd, geek, whatever (I can hear the echos of Nerrrrrrrrrrrd already! ) but in a few weeks I am going to tick off one of my lifes "must do" items by spending 5 nights at St Maarten, staying at the Sonesta right by Maho Beach - the intent of course is to watch aeroplanes land whilst having a few drinks at the Sunset bar, amongst other things.

I have booked an all-inclusive room, and am trying to get an idea of costs on the island so I can be sure the budget is set appropriately. Considering most meals will be covered as part of the package (aside from the few times I am too drunk/lazy to get back to the hotel for a feed) - and booze is included at the hotel too - any ideas of how much spending money would be ideal? I am not much of a shopper, won't be gambling at the casino, and wont be doing any scuba diving due to medical reasons (although may well end up snorkelling). The main intention is to relax & wind down mostly during the day, and enjoy the nightlife in the evenings...

Also looking for tips on transport to/from the airport (I know its close, so taxi/shuttle I am sure would be easy), and suggestions on other activities to do there?

I did do a search on here, but didn't come up with anything particularly useful.

sinala1 is offline  
Old 19th Jul 2010, 03:52
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Join Date: May 2009
Location: Cairns Qld Australia
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Hire A car is cheapest but use one of the local companies at the airport as they are cheaper than the National companies. Free internet at McDonalds if you have a laptop. I videod many planes landing of all types, even a DC3 freighter.

We only ate at our hotel or at the sunset bar, their steaks are great, Some night life, many places to eat or hang out.
FourStar is offline  
Old 19th Jul 2010, 05:07
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Manchester, UK
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We got a taxi from the airport to the Sonesta, it's literally a two minute ride but it ended up costing $15 (4 times we did it, pretty much a set fare)! The Island itself was quite cheap, can't really remember how cheap drinks were but they weren't too expensive. The airport can be quiet at times if you've got abit of spare money I'd recommend booking a flight over to St. Barths for the day on Winair, the approach is fantastic. Saying that, St. Barths is very expensive so if you don't want to spend alot, don't bother going!
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Old 19th Jul 2010, 19:52
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Sheffield
Age: 59
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Maho beach

My first post on PPRuNe so here goes.
Fantastic place, I went with my family this Easter & stayed 2 weeks at the La terresse club - opposite the Sonesta. Got a taxi from the airport & then after paying about $20 wished we'd walked! In fact at the end of the holiday we did & walked back to Princess Julianna. Theres a couple of hundred yards of road with no pavement but its not too bad & takes about 15 minutes max. You are in a great resort, we tended to have a meal in the evening & then wander around the locality of Maho & nosied around the other resorts including Sonesta. Sonesta has nice gardens which link up with La Plage next door & all 3 resorts, Sonesta, La Plage & La Terrasse are somehow related.
Lots of restaurants nearby, our favourite, just opposite Sonesta, was Cheri's which was always packed with a great atmosphere & entertainment. Good food & about $20 - $25 per head. Some other nice but quiter places on the little street just at the back of Cheri's. Other more expensive places but we didn't try. The Casino seems to be the centre of the nightlife but we didn't bother as were not into that so much. What we went for was simply the aviation action & thats worth the trip on its own. Nonstop take-offs & landings from 9am - 10pm just about. Mainly bizjets but loads of local island hopping twin otters , regional airliners & the odd A340 & 747 from Europe.
Fantastic experience to be blasted on their take-off run whilst holding onto the perimeter fence or sitting on the beautiful beach watching the jets turn onto long finals & then proceed to float onto the tarmac just feet over your head. Unbelievable!
If you want a memorable daytrip, do what we did, wander along to the airport & book tickets on a twin otter to Saba - the volcanic peak island you can see from your balcony about 20 miles away. Lovely island & the shortest commercial runway in the world, about 300 yds! I'm a PPL flying from Netherthorpe, shortest licenced RW in GB & Saba is shorter with a cliff at each end. Awesome! Sit near the front & watch the pilot make his approach. Cost about $90 each return but the highlight of the holiday. In fact we've decided to return in the near future for a week on Saba & a week on St. Maarten at Maho.
As for car hire, we booked a car for our family of 5 from Sonesta's reception for about $25 per day. I think it's about the cheapest place I've ever booked a car from & no messing around as you pick-up & drop-off where you stay.
I know you'll have a great holiday, we did, any questions then let me know.
[email protected]
Scillylover is offline  
Old 20th Jul 2010, 13:27
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Only spent 1 day there [off a cruise ship] LOVED IT Planning to go back for a week. Let us know how it went.
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Old 20th Jul 2010, 14:29
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All good advice so far. I stayed at the Sonesta Maho Beach for a week in February it's a decent hotel and a stone's throw from the beach itself. Not sure what room you've booked, but we managed to get one with a beach / runway view (apparently it's a common request). Worth asking the question.

I wouldn't bother with a taxi from the airport, it's an easy 15 minute walk, or there are regular minibuses running past the front door. As regards spending money, from memory the sun loungers at the Sunset beach bar were around $10 each (aim to arrive by around 10am, as they go quickly) and topless girls drink for free at the bar, so if you're taking your better half and she's so inclined, it makes for a cheap day!

I would also thoroughly recommend a day trip to Statia (St. Eustatius) on a Winair twotter. You'll fly via Saba, where the view through the flight deck doorway is breathtaking. Statia is a different world to St. Maarten, and great for hiking, snorkelling or just pottering around.

While on St. Maarten, it's well worth hiring a car and spending a day or two exploring the French side of the island, which is quieter and less gaudy than the Dutch half. Marigot, the capital, is a nice little place and around half an hour's drive from Maho Beach. Another half hour (depending on traffic) will get you to Orient Bay, which is absolutely stunning.

Just to the north of Orient Bay is Cul de Sac, where for around $6 you can take a 10 minute boat to Isle Pinel. This is uninhabited apart from a couple of beach bars / cafes and lots of sun loungers, and is a great place to spend a quiet afternoon away from the crowds. It also has a lovely shallow beach with water that's as calm and clear as a paddling-pool.

I'd better stop now as I'm getting depressed wish I could go with you!!
G SXTY is offline  
Old 21st Jul 2010, 11:28
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: U.K.
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All fairly accurate thus far.
My sixth trip now booked.

Local buses from Maho to P'burg are $2 each way. How do you spot them? Number plates all have BUS on them and some digits.

Sunset Beach Bar - best views except in April/May when the sun comes further round. Boat Bar on the northern side of the beach has same drinks and half the price of the Sunset Beach Bar.

Do not stand behind departing jet a/c - I have so many photos that clearly show high levels of FOD being blown in the jetblast (travelling at velocities not seen by the naked eye) and whilst I can appreciate the 'buzz' it's plain daft, especially when last year the runway surface broke up in places.

For the best steaks/lobster on the Island, go to Uncle Harry's which is just past the car hire rentals on the northern side of the runway on the way to Simpson Bay. Yes, it is different and Harry is a real character. Then round in Simpson Bay, try Pineapple Pete's.

GK430 is offline  
Old 26th Jul 2010, 12:49
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Thanks all for the hints/tips - very excited about the trip, just hoping I am not on the island at the same time a Hurricane decides it would also like to check out the views SXM provides!

Any other tips most welcome, will post back here after the trip.

sinala1 is offline  
Old 26th Jul 2010, 15:52
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Join Date: Aug 2007
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Did you fly into Miami on your trips, or from Amsterdam or Paris direct?..
If you have done all of them, which was the most convenient.? Thanks in advance. [I gusee it would be the direct from Europe]. John.
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Old 26th Jul 2010, 20:57
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I don't want to put a damper on the enthusiasm expressed here about St. Maarten, an island that I truly love, however, there is a note of caution that needs to mentioned about the French side of St. Maarten.

I have not been to St. Maarten in the last four years and hopefully things have changed for the better. There has been a sudden increase of crime on the French side at night committed against tourists. So much that the threat assessment division of my former company* issued a warning about this problem and we were told not to travel at night in the French side of the island.

As I previously stated above, I really hope this situation has changed for the better. St. Maarten is a beautiful place and as the many times I have been there, I cannot recall anybody who lives on St. Maarten not being very nice and pleasant.

Have a couple of beers for me at the Sunset Beach Bar while you are there and have a great time, I'm sure you will.

* I was the chief pilot of a international oil and natural gas company before I retired.
con-pilot is offline  
Old 27th Jul 2010, 10:37
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Join Date: Dec 2008
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Four of us booked to SXM with Virgin and flew from Gatwick to Antigua two years ago,we reclaimed our 4 suitcases at Antigua and checked-in at the LIAT desk for the short hop over to SXM.
The flight was full (Dash 8-100) and when we landed at SXM we stood for about an hour in the baggage reclaim area and only our smallest bag ever appeared.
We went to see the supervisor to report 3 suitcases missing,he wasn't surprised and said it happens all the time with LIAT as their aircraft simply cannot carry a full load with all the bags.
Our bags arrived at our hotel (Sonesta Great Bay) 16 hours later.
It happened on the way back too,even though the LIAT check-in staff attached large bright orange "PRIORITY" tags to them all.This time 3 got to Antigua and the 4th arrived at our house 78 hours later.
So fly direct from Paris or Amsterdam if you're travelling from Europe,your cases might just arrive on the island on the same flight as you!
Apart from that we had a great time
Big Eric is offline  
Old 27th Jul 2010, 12:59
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Join Date: Mar 2003
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Travelling via the U.S. always meaned a nightstop outbound, however you can now route via MIA as AA have an evening dep to SXM. I live miles from LON so use a regional airport to go via CDG or AMS. I also like tranatlantic crossings on four engines! One outbound with headwinds was 9+ hours and that's a lot of water. LGW to Antigua is equally a non starter for me and that is without the LIAT problems.
I am less keen on CDG with all the airside bussing. Last trip all via AMS. Althought the return journey is via Curacao and longer, it was nice to at least see the landscape on Arr. there and a few different a/c on the ramp.
This time going out one way and back another. Prices still ......expensive!

Not sure about Conpilot's info regarding crime on the French side at night - only been over during daylight hours.
Last trip flew the Aero Club Cherokee from Grand Case into St. Barthelemy - just for a cup of coffee of course
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Old 27th Jul 2010, 16:03
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: It wasn't me, I wasn't there, wrong country ;-)
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Don't sit on the beach then jump up and try to catch the 777 on short finals
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Old 27th Jul 2010, 18:05
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Join Date: Aug 2007
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Many thanks. I have told Mrs. Jem to be very nice to me!!.
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