Location: a small (13km in length, 88km²) half French, half Dutch island in between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. One of my three destinations of the MSC Divina spring break cruise.
It's constant climate and relatively undeveloped infrastructure means it is a great travel destination year-round. It is a common destination on many Caribbean cruise itineraries. My cruise offered different excursions, including a visit to the Butterfly Farm, a visit to the capital of the French side Marigot and a visit to the Fort Amsterdam, among other options.
Personally, I opted for the “do it yourself, get lost” option. I rented a moped just outside the St. Marteen port in Philisburg. Initially I was being charged $70 a day without insurance but ended up paying $60 with insurance. Driving regulations are not enforced so as long as you have a helmet, you are good. You’ll want to make sure your scooter works, mine didn’t have a left side mirror and kept wobbling to the left.
So.. without any GPS, we drove north towards Pinel Island where we got lost for a couple hours. We stopped at a local convenience store near the butterfly farm and asked for guidance. Realizing we drove completely in the wrong directly, we head south until we reached Marigot and made our way towards Princess Juliana International Airport and Maho beach - where we intended to go initially. The roads in the southern Dutch side are usually fairly large and busy. It seemed the more north we drove, the smaller and more elevated the roads became.
Maho Beach was a positive experience. On the corner was a crowded but vibrant restaurant bar with live music. We ordered good food and listened to some mainstream American music. After lunch, we made our way to the beach and experienced just how strong the engine thrust of an Boeing 777 is. You can see what I mean here and here. We fell asleep to the sound of landing airplanes every 20 minutes. At 3:30pm we had to make our way back to the rental store and the cruise.
My experience with St. Marteen was great, the little time I spent was a lot of fun. Getting lost on the moped showed me breathtaking sceneries, a few local schools, some very confused locals looking at two white males on a moped and a near-crash moment. All in all, I recommend St. Marteen as a “stop-by” destination. I’d never purposely fly into the island to spend a few days there. It seems too small and uneventful to stay any longer than a day or two. But if you are booking a cruise and one of the destinations is St. Marteen, you should be very excited!