It's traditional for us to take a trip over New Year. We always feel refreshed and inspired to keep traveling throughout the year when we celebrate in new places. Last year for the 2015/2016 New Year we were in Washington, DC. Playing in the cold crisp air and exploring our nations capitol was a great way to ring in the new year. This year however, we wanted to experience something a bit warmer; so we traded in our timeshare points for a week on the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten! We kept this trip fairly low key but wanted to share what we found to be the 7 best things to do in St Maarten.
1. Rent an ATV
If you want to truly experience all this stunning island has to offer then you need to rent yourself an ATV and get moving. We spent a whole day zipping around both the French and Dutch side of the island and felt that we didn't miss out on a thing. This is a great way to see the difference in architecture, culture, and food from both sides of the island! If you dedicate a day to this activity, you'll have plenty of time to leisurely explore, take as many photo ops as you need, and to even eat in sit down restaurants. We booked our ATVs through Johnny's Scooter and ATV Rental and would definitely recommend using him.
2. Snorkeling Tour
What's the point of going to clear, warm water if you're not going to snorkel?! We booked a four hour tour through Captain Alan's Boat Charters due to their great rating on TripAdvisor and were not disappointed. The staff was extremely attentive, you could tell they truly wanted you to have a good time. Our tour included snorkeling at three islands, lunch, and unlimited beer. Need I say more?
3. Eat Like a Local
Okay, this might be an obvious one to most, but we wanted to emphasize how important this is, not only on Sint Maarten but anywhere you travel! The island did have your typical fast food and chain restaurants, which may seem easy since it's familiar territory but please eat local! We took the advice from our Uber driver when asked where to eat, and had some fantastic meals from the local restaurants. You're on vacation to experience something outside your normal routine, so why not start with food. Frommer's has a quick and easy guide to help choose where to eat on Sint Maarten.
4. Day Trip to Anguilla
Even though this is the day we killed our drone (we don't talk about that) it was still one of the best days on our trip. It's only a 20-30 minute boat ride from Sint Maarten but had a completely different island vibe. The white sand, turquoise water, and laid back locals made this island one of the most relaxing days for us. We spent the first 30 minutes of our morning “swimming with dolphins” (we don't recommend this activity) and then rented a car. Now, this was quite the adventure to us considering the drivers seat is on the opposite side of what were used to in the US and they drive on the opposite side of the road for us. We managed to get ourselves around though and ended up spending most of the afternoon at Shoals Bay snapping pictures, drinking the local beer, and playing with the drone (until it took a swim in the ocean). If you want to know a little more about this magical island, we found this blog post from Travel with Bender to be a great read.
5. Explore the Boardwalk in Phillipsburg
We ventured to the boardwalk in Phillipsburg (on the Dutch side of the island) a few times during our stay. It's a great place to people watch, buy $2 beer, or just enjoy the sunset. Our first time here during our trip was for New Year's Eve; it was filled with tourists/locals and everyone was buzzing with excitement to ring in the new year. At midnight they had a small fireworks show and we really felt a sense of community as all of us strangers cheered together. It was a great start to our trip and probably the highlight of our vacation as well.
6. Beach Day
Not like a beach day wouldn't happen during your trip but it made the list anyway. This gorgeous island has 37 beaches so you really aren't lacking options here (here's a list if you want to check them out). Our beach days were spent on our resort but we still got to visit the popular beaches when we rented ATVs for a day. Make sure to ask the locals for recommendations, as there were a few beaches on the North West (I'm referring to a geographical location on the island, not Kim and Kayne's first born) side that we were advised to stay away from due to scammers and pickpockets that target tourists.
7. Photo Op on Maho Beach
If you live under a rock and have not seen pictures of planes descending over Maho Beach, then please see our picture below! Of course we had to visit this famous beach and wave at planes as they landed. About a month before our visit they announced that the Boing 747 would no longer be in use for this flight path, but that didn't damped the experience at all. I mean, seeing someone flung across the beach because of a 747's jet wasn't why we went to Sint Maarten in the first place. There are still plenty of other planes landing every 10 minutes and it is a once in a lifetime opportunity!
I do want to wrap this post up with one final recommendation. Take a peek outside your airplane window when you're landing on St Maarten. Seeing all of the tourist waving at you is a great welcome to island!