A month ago, SP, my boyfriend and I had to travel to the island of Saint Martin for work. We went there to create content for a client while staying at the client’s villa. It was my first time on this island but it wasn’t SP first time; he went a few times on the Dutch side but we both discovered for the first time the French side during this trip. It was an amazing vacation, even though we were there for work (which we were also super grateful!), we still enjoyed some R&R time together. My mother tongue is French and to be in the Caribbean and be able to speak French with the locals was so weird at first (usually it’s Spanish or English, that’s what I’m used to) but it was a major plus!
To begin with, our way there wasn’t smooth sailing. We missed our connecting flight. We arrived at the airport at 4 am and we learned our flight was delayed so we would miss our connecting flight in Atlanta. Crap. We had to reschedule our flight the next day and took an Uber back home. We lost a day, but we could extend our stay one more day.
As most of you probably know, the hurricane Irma hit Saint Martin in September 2017. The island was severely damaged and still today you can see the aftermath of Irma especially on the French side. There are two sides, the French side and the Dutch side (the more touristic side where all the cruise ships stop by) The Dutch side was rebuilt more quickly than the French side, the more residential side, since the island wanted to resume the touristic activities as fast as they could.
We went during low season (and during hot temperatures too) so we didn’t see a lot of tourists and the airplanes were almost half full on our way to and back from Saint Martin. The only downside of this island is the traffic. It’s bad…. more so on the Dutch side. I didn’t enjoy driving there (I’m anxious behind the wheel so when there are no traffic lights or (almost) no stop signs on the island; you have to cut the other cars and that brings my anxiety to another level. And I find it’s dangerous crossing the streets as a pedestrian!
We stayed on the French side in Orient Bay. You can easily drive around the whole island in an hour going from the Dutch side to the French side. If you want to have fun at the clubs and you feel naughty (nightlife and strip clubs) the Dutch side is where you need to go. But if you’re more into good food, fine dining and relaxing by the pool, French side is a better fit. Here’s what to do and what to eat in Saint Martin:
What to do
The main Tourist attraction on the island. It’s on the Dutch side. The flying dutchman is the steepest zipline of the world and it looks scary but fun though! We didn’t go but next trip we’ll try it!
Philipsburg boardwalk + jewelry stores
It’s the main place to be as a tourist. Everyone who gets out of the cruise ships, go on the boardwalk and go shopping (and bargaining) at the luxury stores and/or jewelry store. You can buy jewelry for a lower price (and no taxes) there. When we went, it was dead. Almost everything on the boardwalk was closed (except the shops), there were no tourists at all. According to SP, when there are cruise ships around, it’s full on the boardwalk.
The main town on the French side. It’s not amazing since Irma. You can still see damaged buildings and closed shops. We went to eat at a Creole restaurant that our client told us about so we went for a little tour but we didn’t stay long.
We spend our Sunday (nothing is open and all the locals hang out at the beach on Sundays) at the beach. It’s a beach club with a very Europeen style. According to our client, It’s the best (for the food) out of the four beach clubs on the Orient Bay beach. We reserved our chairs on the beach and had a waiter. We ordered too many Frose! For lunch, we had a table by the beach and ate tapas! We both drank the champagne mojito and damn it was strong! (Actually, the drinks over there are strong, I got tipsy often after one drink!)
We would have gone if we had more time. There’s a ferry every hour that brings you on the island, you can spend the day at the beach and there’s two restaurants.
The famous beach where you see the planes land and take off. It’s spectacular! We arrived just in time for the last big plane to land and to see another big plane to take off. That experience was amazing! The airplanes take off right in front of you and you get to feel the jet blast. It’s crazy! It’s so strong, I was holding on to my phone and fell and tried to cover myself from all the sands. I had sands all over my face after. If you’re in Saint Martin, experience at least the takeoff!
Where to eat
Before Irma, Boulevard de Grand Case was THE place to go for gourmet cuisine. Unfortunately, after the hurricane, most of the restaurants and shops are closed. Some have reopened, but it was sad to see the abandoned and damaged buildings among the restaurants. SP and I fell in love with this little street. There’s a charm to it and there’s this hip vibe that reminds us of Tulum. We went almost every day. Our first night, our client brought us to a lolo by the beach and we were hooked.
The lolo’s are like open-air bbq stands by the streets and they serve local foods. It’s a lot of greasy food but it’s so delicious! It’s not fancy at all and it’s cheap. You can get grilled meat, fish, seafood and veggies. We were obsessed, so much… we went back four times during our stay. We loved the Johnny cake, it’s like a fried bread with a donut texture, stuffed christophine (made with chayote), Crab back, salt fish cake,… We miss the local food!
Le temps des cerises
Boutique hotel and restaurant by the beach. It’s a cute place. There are only two tables by the beach to admire the sunset so you need to get there early. We went for dinner and got an Aperol Spritz and watched the sunset.
French fine dining. SP invited me on a date to this French restaurant. I’m not used to the French dining experience, but it was delicious and the wine was perfect! We felt so stuffed at the end. I find it’s a lot of food. Also, the owners are really nice. We ran into them at another restaurant they own and we became buddies haha!
We went for a drink during the jazz live band on Friday night. It was a fun night, and the dance floor was full (including me and my crazy dance!)
Takata Ice roll
Right across the Takata ice roll stand, we discovered this ice cream place. We went twice; it was so good! You pick your choice of ice cream and they mix it with the ingredients of your choice. You can add toppings too. We did Coconut & Mango (such a good mix, our favorite!) and we did vanilla, oreo & peanut butter.
Kakao Beach, Bikini Beach, Kontiki Beach, Coco Beach
The four beach clubs on the Orient Bay beach. We ate at Bikini Beach and Kakao Beach. I really love the vibe of those places. It’s so nice to eat (and drink) by the beach! I miss it!
Sunset Beach Bar at Maho Beach
It’s the bar to go if you want to watch the airplanes land over the beach. It’s right next to Maho Beach. Best time to go it’s during sunset.
We went there two times! (Okay, I know it’s a lot of ice cream so far. But I blame it on the extreme heat!) It’s on the Dutch side, also there are a lot of restaurants in that area.
OMG! I wasn’t expecting much, but the pizza was beyond delicious. I was seriously impressed. It’s worth stopping by. Plus, it’s super cute, it’s a truck with picnic tables and SP saw it when we passed by and invited me on a date there…yeah..cute!
*Oh, I forgot to mention…. There’s only one big street that brings you all around the island so you can’t get lost. And, order a bottle of still or sparkling water at every restaurant because they don’t have drinking water on the island.
It’s in Orient Bay close to the beach. (there are a lot of cute restaurants around) We went for lunch since we missed the brunch. It’s a cool place to eat. The portions were insane, my salad was so big and filled with a LOT of veggies. I couldn’t finish it! I ordered a cucumber lemonade with gin (lemon juice & cucumber with gin) and asked for no sugar! (as always now!)