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St. Martin beach Uncommon Caribbean Patrick Bennett

St. Martin is Back: Stronger than the Storm

The Caribbean island of St. Martin was visited by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. However, the inspiring resilience shown by the people of St. Martin has proven them stronger than the storm. As we reopen our newly relocated charter base in Marigot, our very own Marty L., Sales Manager, visited St. Martin to report back on the impressive progress made in such a short time. Be sure to view suggested itinerary and travel notes.

Day 1 – SXM and Marina Fort Louis

Arrived in St. Martin early. As I got off the plane I realized it was a full plane and from what I could tell, most people were tourists. This was a good sign of many people coming to the island.

The airport building experienced extensive damage and is not currently being used. When de-boarding the plane, you exit through the plane doors and take stairs down to the tarmac. It’s about a 200 ft. walk to the tents where they have everyone go through Customs and Baggage Claims. It took about 3 minutes for me to get through customs. Once going through customs, you immediately are standing in Baggage Claims. A cart comes by and about 5 people assisted getting the luggage off the cart. My first bag came faster than any airport I’ve ever been to before – the total process took about 15 minutes for everyone to get their bags.

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After I got my luggage, I walked to the taxi signs. There was a line of taxi drivers standing outside, right next to the street. One had my name on it so I walked over to my taxi driver.

My driver said it would normally take about 15-20 minutes to get to the base, but suggested a stop at Carrefour Market – one of the best grocery stores on the island. This was on the Dutch side, near the airport. Carrefour Market was great. It had everything I wanted and more, with a wide variety of items and even dietary products. Everything seemed to be reasonably priced. It looked very nice on the inside. There was some construction on the outside, but I think it had more to do with the upgrades and a change in ownership.

As we drove, I saw some boats beached and some buildings destroyed. I also saw some buildings that looked brand new and there were a lot that looked normal. Not as much traffic as before, although I’ve found that this really depends on the time of day and the timing of the two draw bridges. One thing that I was not expecting was how green everything looked!

I arrived at the Marina at about 4:00pm, following the sign to Marina Fort Louis. We walked up the dock and found Petra, the Sunsail Customer Service Representative, sitting in the office.

The Marina itself has Wi-Fi (only accessible from the office area, not from the boat), showers (costs €2.00), and two restaurants. I took about a 2-minute walk over to the shopping mall to find that it was open and in good condition, and figured I would go back later when I had more time.

I spent that evening talking with my Skipper, Jacques Yves, and planned out our itinerary for the rest of the week.

Day 2 – Grande Case and Anse Marcel

We set out early as we anticipated a long day of stops before having to make our way back to the Marina. 

We set out at roughly 6.5 knots towards our first stop in Friar’s Bay. It only took about 20 minutes. This is a nice little beach to go to as a first stop and have a swim. The beaches look great and for those that can’t wait to feel the sand between their toes, this is the perfect stop. There are two beach bars, although only one is open at the moment. It welcomes you with plenty of umbrellas and beach chairs.

Grand Case, St. Martin

Grand Case, St. Martin

From there it took us about 10 minutes to get to Grand Case. This area looked to be hit pretty hard. You could see hotels and buildings missing roofs. Grand Case was known for its fabulous restaurants and beachside balconies. Unfortunately, all of the beachside balconies are now gone. The famous Calmos Café that was known for always blasting their music and being the place to be at night, is also now gone. Even the dinghy dock is missing boards. You can walk on it, but you have to be careful. There is no place to dinghy in either because the water level has risen and the beach is at too much of an incline. 

Despite all of that, Grand Case still has some amazing places to eat. The moment you reach shore, you can smell the BBQ from the famous Lolo’s. They are known for their ribs and lobster. I counted six restaurants open with a mix of BBQ, French, café and even a tapas bar. Down the way a bit there was a beach bar open with plenty of lounge chairs waiting to be filled.

Next, we made our way East 20 minutes more to Anse Marcel. Anse Marcel looked to be hit as well, as there are no restaurants or bars open. The beach resort was destroyed as well. The beach looks ok, but there’s just a few areas that look like they need a little cleaning. Anse Marcel does have working water and fuel station.

After a quick stop there, we made our way to Tintamarre which took about 45 minutes. I was amazed to see that it looked just as beautiful and pristine as always. Taking a walk along the beach or strolling more inland gives a great opportunity to see Tintamarre in all of its beauty. Normally a very popular place, we were one of about five boats. So, if you want to have the place virtually all to yourself, now is the time to go! The mooring balls looked to be in good condition, but it’s hard to take a dinghy ashore right now because of the steepness of the beach. If you are on a mooring ball, they are placed close enough to where you can just swim ashore. Snorkeling isn’t as clear right now due to the sand. But in time that will correct itself. 

beach
Beach

From there we moved on to Orient Bay which took about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, almost all the bars and restaurants are gone. There is only one bar open at this time. The Orient Club is no longer open and won’t be for a while. Interestingly, a lot of the palm trees that survived the hurricane held the shape of the storm – they all look like the wind is blowing even if it’s not. One of the nice things about Orient Bay is that the beaches look great. White sand and beaches that stretch on for what seems like eternity. There are plenty of umbrellas and lounge chairs set up just as they always were. For the adventurous type, there is a jet ski rental place open for business. 

Next, we went just across the way to Pinel Island in about 10 minutes. Pinel surprised me because from the looks of things you might have thought only a little damage was done. But come to find out that both of the restaurants were completely destroyed. Still, it’s amazing to see the progress. Yellow Beach bar has its structure in place and is now working on rebuilding its famous Tiki Huts for people to relax in the shade while enjoying a cold beverage. It’ll be another month until it’s open and serving food and drinks. Karibuni is the other restaurant/bar. They are already open for drinks and will be serving delicious food in about two weeks. The beach is just as nice as it used to be. On this particular day, there weren’t a lot of people there, but the ones that were there were families. I enjoyed listening to the sounds of kids laughing and seemingly having the time of their lives. Not too far out in the water were some snorkelers. This still continues to be a great snorkeling spot. Just above me were families taking a hike atop Pinel Island to really take in all that it had to offer.

Beach

That was pretty much the conclusion of the day’s journey, as we set out for our 1 hour 45-minute trip back to the marina.

Day 3 – St. Barts

Today we got off to a bit of a later start. We left around noon and got to St. Barts in three hours. We stopped in Gustavia to have a walk around.

Gustavia seemed to be untouched. If there was any damage from the hurricane, it’s been repaired already. All of the high-end shops and the great places to eat are back in action. If you loved St. Barts before, there’s absolutely no reason not to come back!

It was getting late and we headed over to Anse de Colombier for the night.

Anse de Colombier is just as great as it’s always been. Aside from a few trees that looked damaged at the top of the hill, not much had been touched here. The beach is so inviting and fun to play in. You can still take a great hike up the mountain. And if you’re lucky like I was, you can even swim with the turtles! Anse de Colombier is the perfect place to go following an afternoon of shopping and eating on Gustavia, to come and relax in the beauty of this island.

Day 4 – Phillipsburg

The goal today was to spend as much time as we could on the Dutch side since we had spent most of our time on the French side so far. We started off on our 1 hour and 45-minute journey to Philipsburg in Great Bay. In Great Bay, the beaches are beautiful and lined up and down with lounge chairs and umbrellas. The main attraction for Great Bay though is the shopping, restaurants and beach bars. These stretched out for what seem like over a mile. There was some damage to the area – mainly any of the two-story buildings or higher. All of the main shops on the lower level were just fine and happy to welcome customers. This is a place where you can easily find yourself spending quite a bit of time.

From there we took a 30-minute sail over to Simpson Bay. You could see many nice resorts, although it looked like a lot were being repaired. There is a little beach area with a bar, and a place to rent jet skis to ride around. You can also take the dinghy under the bridge into the marina for more options to eat at some of the restaurants. Simpson Bay is beautiful as there is a wide beach area, although most of it is used by those that live there.

Phillipsburg
Phillipsburg
Phillipsburg

Next, we headed to Maho Beach, which only took about 15-minutes. You can’t access the beach by boat or dinghy. Finding a taxi from Simpson Bay is probably the better option. This is still famous for watching the planes land over your head while you are on the beach. The beach itself looks great. The bar/restaurant looks repaired and fully ready to serve you an ice-cold beverage while you sit back, relax and watch the planes land. 

Another 5 minutes or so and we were in Mullet Pond. This place was stunning! Perfect white Sandy Beaches that you dream of. Plenty of umbrellas, too. A perfect place to have a swim and lay out at the beach.

After that it was only about 15 more minutes until we stopped in Anse Longue (Long Beach). This area had very picturesque beaches. The beaches go on for a very long time. Hence the name, Long Beach. This would be a perfect place to have lunch on board or go for a swim before heading back to the French side.

That was pretty much the conclusion of our trip. From Phillipsburg, we did a total of about 1.5 hours of sailing back to our base in Marigot.

I love SXM sign



Though the island still has a long way to go, the inspired efforts of the locals to rebuild their lives, the amount of repairs already carried out and the site of families returning for vacations and providing a welcome boost to the local economy is a great site. St. Martin is back in business, just see for yourself.

Travel Notes

Airport

Transfers

Anguilla 

Anse De Colombier 

Anse Marcel 

Banks 

Carrefour Market 

Ferries 

Fort Louis Marina 

Friar’s Bay

Fuel

Water Fill Ups

Hotels

Grand Case

Gustavia

Ile Forche

Loterie Farm

Maho Beach

Marigot

Orient Bay

Phillipsburg

Pinel Island

Simpson Bay

Super U Market

Tintamarre

Contributor

Ian Pedersen

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