The highlights of the trip for me were in the ocean. I love being in the ocean, swimming, and checking out the fish. The variety, the color, the number of the fish was very cool. The coral was excellent in many places, and lots of fun to explore. I wish the ocean had been calmer, but what can you do? The fine sand beaches were remarkable, and getting in the ocean was always easy. The trip with Octopus Diving out to Creole Rock and Turtle Reef was truly memorable, and something I would do again in a heartbeat.
The food was too often, not very good. With the exception of the one meal at Captain Oliver’s, a lot of the rest were most UN-memorable. The second meal at Captain Oliver’s was a major disappointment, mostly I think because the bad singer really put us off, although the steamed shrimp with lime is an amazing appetizer.
The food at the restaurants in the Oyster Bay Resort where we stayed was not that good. Beau Beaus was bad bad bad – they are fine for a lunch time burger and beer when you hop out of the ocean, but the fries were a greasy mess, and the Caribbean fare was truly a mess. Infinity was slightly more upscale, but only in terms of price. The food was decidedly average, and sometimes plain awful. Mr Busbys on the Beach was a daytime wash-the-ocean-salt from your mouth type of joint, with no food worth recommending. It turned into Daniel’s in the evening, and was a pasta joint, with too high prices, not something I care to eat.
The dinner at Big Fish was nice, though, close to Oyster Bay beach, right across from Daniel’s. Nice food, thoughtfully and attractively presented, with excellent service. I can recommend that restaurant to anyone. It is also where they should send the chefs from the Westin to learn a thing or two.
The food at the lolos, the roadside snack shacks was kind of like a Subway or a Burger King – you know you’re not getting excellence, just food. I would liked to have tried other lolos but my traveling companions (the rib fanatics!) insisted on returning to the same one over and over, even to the extent of sitting at the same table! We got to be regulars, that’s for sure! We never did swim at Grand Case beach tho – just over on Creole Rock/Turtle Reef which is opposite the Grand Case beach. Ate there 3 or 4 times, but never swam there.
The driving was like other Caribbean islands – chaotic, noisy, smelly, and bumpy. The number of vehicles belching pollution is really shocking. I would estimate that one vehicle in 300 (wow that’s an exaggeration, but man – TONS of cars are belching something) would pass our AirCare program. The roads were filled with enormous potholes, and numerous unmarked speed bumps. Goats, cows, pigs and dogs freely wandered the roadways, creating even more chaos. Drivers are aggressive, driving far too fast for conditions, and the congestion sometimes bordered on the insane! There are only a couple of traffic lights on the island and they’re hilarious. Kind of like when it snows in Vancouver – people aren’t sure how to drive. We saw a couple REALLY late cars racing through the intersection at the lights.
We had awfully cool trips to some neat locations, like Friar’s Bay, a real favorite. But the road leading to it was a wild ride, but we did it a couple times! Mullet Bay was really awesome. We went twice and had a blast. The driving on those crazy roads was in a lot of ways a highlight too. Seeing crazy mountainous roads, driving over nothing more than dirt paths to reach beaches. It was really a neat part of the trip. Getting lost, I’m really good at going down the wrong road. “Turn here M” “where?” “At the corner you just drove past!” lol But man, we saw that island!
I had read that driving at night in St Martin was scary, and I was a bit paranoid at first, but it was part of the fun too. Christmas lights everywhere. A creche with a couple Santas as wise men, in the church yard. Lots of festivals were starting, the decorating going on in earnest. Even the long two hour ride home from Mullet was worth it. Sitting there, windows down, we crept along, saw a fist fight, found the Argentine steak joint, saw the place with Route 66 signs all over place, guys popping wheelies with all manner of two wheeled vehicles, even three wheeled vehicles – motorcycles with two wheels in FRONT! It was a real slice of life.
Shopping is mainly for cheap Chinese mass-produced trinkets, with little in the way of locally produced goods. Most stores carry the same tacky items. You have to hunt for the gems, which, you know, naturally, we found! Walk the boardwalk in Philipsburg, through hundreds of stores, and see the same items over and over. Go to Marigot, and see the same items, with a 15-20% higher price.
I love Hawaiian shirts, and loaded up. I think I lost the bet, um, 4 times over! Tim is getting the hang of ’em too! The Rima store- the guys who make the shirts I like – right by the Heineken Plane was a fave stop for all the stuff in one spot. haha Although lots of stores on Front and Back Street had unique ones. Lots of masks, you have to say you “bought” them on St Martin lol because most are from Indonesia, or Africa. Only local one we found was by a St. Lucia artist.
The Caribbean is really about the sun, sand and water sports, though. And I loved all three. The sun was great – temperatures were in the mid to high 80s and never felt overwhelming. There is a nice breeze that keeps you from overheating. The ocean was always at a nice warm temperature that was attractive. While we primarily love to snorkel, there were lots of other ways to enjoy the water. Like in a hot tub! haha We jumped in for happy hour nearly every night, before dinner. They were nice relaxing hours, trying to spot the rays we knew were out there in the ocean. Would have been great to have gotten a real calm day there, off of Dawn Beach.
Bottom Line: Would I go back to St. Martin? Yes, but certainly not to Oyster Bay Resort, and not right away since I’d rather we get an exchange someplace new. The thing is, the Oyster Bay resort is too isolated, making the drive to most of the calmer beaches too lengthy – usually an hour or more, and sometimes two hours. Parts of St. Maarten are set up as cruise ship destinations – that is, a way to strip you of your money in the few hours cruise ships are in harbor, and Marigot, even more so – man they just didn’t care when you told them what they sold it for in Philipsburg! lol But if we could get a place nearer Philipsburg it would be cool, even out near the Argentine restaurant. There were a number of timeshare looking locations we drove by. Lots closer to the calm beaches. Or even the French side, up around Grand Case. Then you’d avoid the major traffic snarls, be close to great restaurants, and the best beaches for snorkeling. And you’d be closer to Octopus Diving!