Scott and I recently got back from our honeymoon in St. Martin and we really had an amazing trip! Originally when going on our honeymoon, I told Scott I wanted to be completely surprised. I planned our whole wedding myself with no wedding planner, so thinking about planning an entire vacation on top of that was really not something I was interested in. Scott planned and booked the whole trip before accidentally spilling the beans in his excitement, so this post really is all thanks to the fantastic research that he did beforehand.
There are certain elements to a trip that can really make or break your day. This post is dedicated to those things we invested in beforehand that really helped reduce stress and confusion once we were actually on the island.
Where We Stayed
Going into our honeymoon, Scott asked me a few questions to help narrow down what to be looking for. One of my main requests was to stay in a private villa or beach house rather than a resort. This is solely my personal preference, and much more Scott and I’s style. After a lot of research, Scott used a website called wheretostay.com, and they were extremely helpful in the process. They call themselves “Caribbean villa experts,” and on their website you can search for villas based off of island or type of trip you’re taking. Once you book a villa, they build a My Trip profile for you that has all your trip information – check-in and out times, phone numbers, addresses, payment information, your local contact, and your concierge. Shout out to Andrew Macafee, who was our concierge. He sent us a ton of restaurant, beach, and entertainment recommendations, as well as answered so many of Scott’s questions and helped him pick the best island and villa for what we were interested in. We were also connected with a local contact, Alice, who met us at our rental car company after we landed and escorted us to our villa. She gave us a tour and showed us all the important features, and was available for any questions throughout the week. They also included a local phone with credits on it, so that we could contact Alice, as well as maintenance, or make any other phone calls we could need to make while on the island.
We stayed at the Beach House Gianna, which is located in a neighborhood called Dawn Beach Estates. It’s a gated community with beach front access, located just down the road from the Westin. It was a really special place to stay and was the perfect size for us. The pool overlooking the beach was amazing, the location was perfect – it was really everything we could’ve wanted and more. We also loved that previous guests left some goodies for us – we essentially had a small bar worth of alcohol, a boogie board and pool rafts, and enough sun screen to ensure we would never burn (although Scott still managed). We also had a house keeper that came and cleaned daily (we told her she only needed to come every other day), someone who cleaned the pool once a week, and Paul, our friendly maintenance man who came and helped us when we couldn’t figure out the hot water (conclusion: We’re idiots, Paul is too kind). There was also a grocery service – we just sent our list before we arrived and when we got there it was all stocked for us. We are really thankful for the folks at wheretostay, especially Andrew, who helped us find some of our favorites beaches and restaurants, and gave us a really great feel for the island before arrival.
How we got around
A friend of ours recommended downloading the map of St. Martin off of Google maps before leaving. This allows you to navigate like normal with Google maps, except you can use the map while you’re offline. This was a game changer. Without this, we would’ve been very lost and very frustrated. Alice told us that it was impossible to get lost on the island because there is one main road. This may be true, but there are also an endless amount of roundabouts. At one point, Scott’s phone died and we made a 35 minute trip into an hour trip because we took a wrong exit at a roundabout. There are also very sporadic street signs which essentially don’t make any sense, so a physical map could only get you so far. Thanks for the suggestion, Chris.
We also rented a car. I would recommend renting some sort of transportation. St. Martin is not a walking island, and it’s definitely not a biking island. There are no sidewalks, people drive like very polite maniacs, and the mountain roads are pretty steep in elevation. We saw some people attempting bikes and it was physically painful to experience. We rented a small Nissan which navigated us just fine. Some of the roads are a little bumpier and very steep – we made it for the most part, but I would consider renting an SUV to put you more at ease.
Considering St. Martin?
Here are some things that you should know:
- St. Martin? St. Maarten? SXM? Yes. Yes to it all. St. Martin is an island that is split between a Dutch side and a French side. The Dutch side = St. Maarten, the French side = St. Martin. And the cool kids abbreviate it as SXM (you’ll see that on a lot of billboards/signs).
- You can use U.S. dollars everywhere. It’s the most common currency on the Dutch side, but the French side will also accept them. The French side most often lists things in Euros, and some places will even do 1 euro = 1 dollar, which is pretty nice. There are also a LOT of restaurants that are cash only restaurants. This almost sent us into a panic, but if you ask where the closest ATM is, it’s typically very close by, so no worries.
- St. Martin is a big party island. There are a lot of places to gamble and places to drink. That is not Scott and I’s scene, so if you are interested in that, we will not have any recommendations for you, unfortunately. However, at night, basically every place turns into a small night club. You could probably just drive around with your windows down and find someplace. Because the party/alcohol scene is abundant and plentiful, there are some billboards and advertisements that I would deem as being pretty inappropriate. This didn’t take away from our experience, but I think is something to be aware of beforehand, especially if you have children.
- A lot of beaches on the French side have clothing optional rules. So if that’s your preference, that is where you should go. If it’s not, then don’t. Club Orient Resort// Orient Beach is known for being the best spot for this. Making you aware for whichever way you swing.
- Food is expensive. Our average meal probably cost around $20 per person. We had our groceries delivered beforehand as I mentioned, and we also went to the store a few times, so we were able to make some meals at home. This helped us really stretch our money and go places that we were interested in, instead of just trying to find the cheapest options all the time.
Stay tuned for more St. Martin posts! I’m so excited to share our favorite restaurants, as well as some of our favorite experiences during our week on the island! You can also check out my Facebook album for more pictures of our trip.