Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Only Beaches? What else does St. Maarten and St. Martin offer?

The hurricane season (1) in fall has some windy and rainy days. It's time to explore the other attractions of the island. Here some ideas what to do:

Zip Line
The Fly Zone of Loterie Farm between Marigot and Grand Case has canopy/zip line tours for kids and adults.

The St. Maarten Park is a neat small zoo, although the biggest of the Caribbean, near the former Salt Pond. Some local, committed people work hard to get this zoo and park going.

The Yoda Guy
Nick Maley, the creator of the Star Wars characters, operates a small museum on Front Street in Philipsburg. He shows memorabilia from various films, where he had been contributing to.

About a dozen casinos on the St. Maarten side of the island offer their services at day and night time. The biggest casinos are in the Maho and Cupecoy area. A good casino guide is here at Fodor's.

Window front shopping or the special deal on jewelery, Philipsburg is the right place to do it. Marigot has some options, too, but is usually not so competitive due the exchange rate situation.

Pic Paradis
See the island from the top and walk from the Loterie Farm to the highest mountain of the island. You can also drive up to the top by leaving the main road in Rambaud between Marigot and Grand Case, see map.

Petites Cayes
Start at French Cul de Sac, walk around the Northwestern tip of the island to Anse Marcel and experience great scenary, amazing cactus plants, esp. the Turks head cactus, and a challenging path through scrub. More info on Petites Cayes.

Vacation Planning

If you consider returning to the island, now is a good time to look up a few potential places for your trip next year. This website shows the location of many properties on pop up maps and overview maps. Drive by and see, whether you like the area. Short term visit arrangements are more difficult to achieve. Still, a first impression from outside may already make up your mind, what you would prefer as your place to stay next year.

 (1) Although officially hurricane season is defined as between June 1 and November 30, higher risk of hurricanes exists and some rainy days are more likely in September. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to stay up-to-date with SXM

If you wish to to get the latest news about the island before your trip or just want to stay informed about what's going on, an amazing number of options exist about the island. The online editions of newspapers and online news sites are a valuable source for planning and understanding the island specifics. Most of the information refers to the "Dutch" side. The French side is less retrievable online and - of course - it is in French.  
  • The Daily Herald 
     is the most authoritative news source on the island. Crime and political turmoil are the most common headlines. Indeed, the island has its fair shares of problems. It is paradise for many, but it is not utopia!

  • SMN News is a website reporting primarily about Sint Maarten politics and local business.
  • St. Maarten Island Time is another website consolidating news from various sources about crime, politics, business, and other subjects.
  • Today is the other major printed newspaper with an online edition.
  • Everything SXM is a weekly newsletter and website mainly targeted to North American visitors.
  • Sint is a large website with plenty of island information including some more links to News, Weather, and Activities.
  • Faxinfo (French) is a daily printed leaflet and online edition covering the news on the French side of the island.
  • Barbara Talks is a mindful blog about the environment, nature, and daily things on the island from the perspective of an expat living on St. Maarten for many years.
  • Sint is a large website with plenty of island information
including some more links to NewsWeather, and Activities

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tips and Tricks

Getting the most of your St. Maarten - St. Martin trip!

Knowing the vacation rental business for 15 years+, I want to share some tips and tricks for getting the most from your trip to the islands, and especially to the popular island of St. Maarten (former Dutch part) and St. Martin (French part). 
  • Understand the seasons! Xmas to April is high season, rates are higher for air tickets, for car rentals, and for accommodation. Little chance for deals!
  • The other months are times, when customers are kings.September is extremely quiet. No tourist business as it is hurricane season. Stay away in September.
  • Look for air seats first! You can save the most by getting your flight tickets first. If possible by any means, take the popular routes from NYC or Boston, which have the most competition. Accommodation is not restricted to Saturday/Saturday cycles at most condos and villas. Go for the days with the lowest flight rates.
  • How to find a vacation rental! Here is a good summary for more on this. Click!
  • Compromise for a block to the back! Beachfront properties are rare. If you are not a big spender, you may want to reduce your accommodation cost by 50% to 75% by accepting a property, which is not beachfront.
Dreams can become reality!

More tips to come! Enjoy your island time!