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Old 09-17-2009, 03:37 PM   #1
kpadalik
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Last Minute St. Maarten/Martin help needed!

DH decided last minute (we leave 9/26) that he wants to explore St. Maarten/Martin. I have been there a couple times before but it's been a LONG time. We don't really want to be tied down with a shore excursion, but we are not sure what to do/how to get around the island.

How is the layout of the port and the island? Do we port in Phillipsburg or do we have to walk/cab there? Is there a map somewhere I can get an idea of my bearings?

We would both like to mostly do the French side (St. Martin). We have two kids (6 and 2) and thought about doing some beach, shopping, lunch. Any beach recommendations? DH and I heard about Maho beach w/ the airplanes and think that would be really neat, but is it too loud for our kids? What about shopping in Marigot? We will also have a stroller. Is that going to be a pain on the beaches? It does fold up and we can carry it if necessary. Also a beach with umbrellas would be nice.

So do we just hop cabs all day or once you get into Marigot, is everything within walking distance? What about water taxis? Where will those take us? What is the most economical way for us to travel?

Sorry for the millions of questions, but I usually research stuff out the wazoo and I haven't had the chance since we weren't planning on getting off in St. Maarten. Thank you so much your help!
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Old 09-17-2009, 04:12 PM   #2
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We rented a car from Budget in Phillipsburg. There was a shuttle right as we got off the ship that took us to the car rental place in town (ten minute ride). There were a couple places to rent cars right at the dock, but the price was triple our reservation made in advance (we only paid around $50 for the whole day) We drove all around the island (two lane road, traffic can be deadlocked). Marigot is like a small, urban French town. Expensive. You even had to pay to use the toilets in the shopping mall there. The beach we went to on the Dutch side (Orient Beach) had some nude sunbathers, but we didn't have the kids with us, so it was just amusing.

We spent a couple hours at Maho watching the planes land. It was not too loud; it was great fun to "dive to escape" the planes flying right over your head. There aren't as many jets as smaller planes, and the big KLM jets tend to come in around 2 or so in the afternoon. The only thing is, we enjoyed watching the planes from the comfort of the Sunset Beach Bar which had (of course) a beach under the flight path, cold beer, and a reasonably priced outdoor grill selling burgers. The place has since shut down, at least temporarily. It was supposed to reopen, but I don't know that it has except for its wistful website. If it isn't there, there isn't as nice of a place to while away some time watching the jets land unless another outfit has opened up shop there. One BIG caveat...there is a drawbridge that connects the Maho area to your way back to the port. The bridge goes up to let boats go by around 4 for quite a long time (was a couple years ago, check to see if still accurate) and it can tie up traffic and prevent you from getting back in time. Make sure if you go, you leave Maho in plenty of time to avoid the draw bridge.

It is a fun island to explore as long as you keep the traffic in mind and don't expect to drive the speed limit. We had a good rental car experience there, but it may be costly if you don't make a reservation in advance.

Have fun!
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Old 09-17-2009, 04:49 PM   #3
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We have been to St Maarten a few times. Phillipsburg is where the boat docks, and if I recall, there actually is a very small nice family beach right there. You take the water ferry to it (a couple $) and I think the beach is about $5 a person.

Marigot is great, but its quite a jaunt over to it. Maybe an hour? Depending on traffic. The little shopping area and marketplace are great, but I would be nervous going there on my own. As I recall, its a 4 lane highway to get there, it goes up in the hills and then down to get to the French side.

We went to Marigot in June on RCI, and it included a beach break at Orient Bay/beach. Very nice beach - lots going on there. Pretty good waves tho - might be too much for little ones. The vendors at Orient were pretty snotty, but the vendors at Marigot were great.

We also took a Disney excursion on a catamaran once to a beach on the Dutch side - no waves, but you swam from the boat to the beach. However, i am sure they would take your little ones on a kayak. We went by the airport.

With 2 little ones, I would stick to the Dutch side. i would feel pretty nervous getting to the French side on my own. I would allow a lot of time if I did...
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Old 09-17-2009, 04:52 PM   #4
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Forgot to add - I can answer and questions you want.

I do like the French side better, but I don't think its as kid friendly as the Dutch. On the other hand, the Dutch side is kind of dull...Phillipsburg I mean.

Def. get off the boat tho! If nothing else, there is a little mall and bars right when you get off. They always have music playing.
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Old 09-17-2009, 06:36 PM   #5
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Maho beach is not very big, and it's really loud when the big planes fly overhead. Sometimes the sand can be kicked up by the planes too, so you need to be careful about your eyes!

We also went to Orient beach (on the French side), we asked to be taken to the side where people wear clothes and although we didnt see anyone nude near us, right down the beach we could see the nude sunbathers. It is just one beach, and nothing devides the nude side. Not a big deal but we had a lot of kids with us and we didnt want them seeing that, I just wanted to warn you!
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Old 09-18-2009, 07:23 AM   #6
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We're also on the 9/26 cruise and are taking the kids to Le Gallion Beach which is also called Baby beach. The beach is supposed to be great for little ones and we have a 4 an2 yr old.
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Old 09-18-2009, 08:20 AM   #7
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Le Gallion is the best beach for kids... so I have heard. It is nick named the baby beach because it is so shallow. It is very close to Orient Beach. I looked on Google Earth and checked out the beaches that way. It was a great help!! I also looked at St Thomas and there is a nice beach there right near the airport that is shallow and great for small children. In St. Thomas you can get there by taking the bus but I am not sure about St. Martin.
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