Royal Palm Beach Resort, St Martin – The Perfect Spot

**The night I published this, St Martin was hit by Hurricane Irma. The devastation is widespread and my heart aches for their losses.

After looking at numerous hotels and loads of research on where to stay on St Martin, we booked a two bedroom ocean view suite at the Royal Palm Beach Resort by Diamond Resorts in Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of the island.

We lucked out location wise, we couldn’t have picked a better spot! Right across from restaurants and bars, short walk to more restaurants and bars in Cole Bay and the supermarket. Plus only $12USD to the airport in a cab and a short trip to Maho where all the night life is! Right outside is a gorgeous sandy bay with crystal clear water.

The staff at the resort were so welcoming and warm. I’d love to say it was just the Caribbean culture but there was more to it than that. They all seemed genuinely happy to be there and to make our stay as pleasurable as possible. Right from check in you receive a welcome pack with all the information around the hotel and tour and surrounding areas. This happens again at check out when you receive your welcome gift, a voucher to create a Diamond Resorts Royal Palms Beach hard cover, personalised photo book with all your memories on their website which is shipped to you – wonderful touch.

There are daily activities – aqua aerobics, karaoke, bingo, fish for a prize and a whole range of other things that I should have taken advantage of.

We were upgraded from the ground to the fourth floor, with sweeping views across the resort grounds and Simpson Bay. There’s a huge pool, a stunning beach and cabanas galore to relax under. Our suite had a huge kitchen and living area, two big bathroom and of course two large bedrooms, one opening up to the gorgeous balcony and view. There was plenty of space for the two of us and many more.

The staff recognise you from the beginning and always say hello and offer advice. Whenever we spent time on the beach they would come and say hello, happy to have a chat if we desired. They would share their local tips and then head off again.

I even saw Jervis (security) facetime with one of the guests! He later explained that they come every year (sounds like many of them do) and that was their daughter who usually comes with them. Watch out for Ava, who is the best masseuse there on the beach – she hums her lovely Caribbean tunes while massaging away as you lie under the cabana on the lounge chair – absolute bliss!

It is a wonderful spot to base yourself for a Caribbean holiday on the wonderful island of St Martin.

Snorkeling Party Boat Charter – Let The Fun Times Roll!

On our first day in St Martin we investigated day tours from the island. We decided on a tour to St Barts and a Boat Tour with Billy Bones Boat Charters that visited three spots around St Martin, the eco snorkeling and beach full day excursion.

The morning of the tour, there was a high chance I was still slightly intoxicated from a rather unexpectedly large night the night before. I was in great spirits when Chris (our guide) from the tour group picked us up and started with his cheeky jokes.

I think Chris had the entire van wrapped around his little finger by the time we pulled up 15 minutes later and jumped on the boat. Nico (the boat driver) was a great help but the company could almost be renamed ‘The Chris Show’ instead of Billy Boat Tours! Chris was absolutely hilarious with his ridiculous antics, terrible (but amusing) dancing and cheeky wit. He had created private jokes with everyone on the boat and is a master with people – he definitely made the tour what it was!

Our first stop was Creole Rock, at the edge of the Caribbean and the Atlantic oceans. You jump off the boat in your snorkel gear and are immediately surrounded by fish. The closer you swim to the rock, the more fish species and coral there are to look at. I loved following a bright blue and yellow fish about the size of a ping pong bat and his best mate, a bright yellow flute like fish who swam right next to him the entire time I was with them! I also saw an awesome spotted white and brown eel, some more crazy flute looking fish and the regular parrot fish etc. Was lovely! Except… my hangover had kicked in. When I hopped back on the boat it wasn’t long before I was feeding the fish myself – which they were quite excited about.

The next stop was Tintamarre Island. Here you jump in where it is still deep and head out to the dark blue water (means seaweed is growing on the bottom) in search of turtles. Our group came across a few and I followed a very chill turtle dude around for about ten minutes. I was feeling rather unwell again so I grabbed a float noodle and watched Nico teaching one of the other passengers how to swim (what a sweetie) then I swam away and fed the fish again.

Thankfully, our next stop was Pinel Island and I was straight off the boat and over to the island for a ginger ale to settle my poor stomach. I watched the beautiful iguanas again (it’s like a mini Jurassic Park) and lay on the shore, thankful to have no rocking for a moment but before long it was back to the boat for our next stop for lunch. I was starting to feel better and looking forward to food after getting rid of everything in my stomach.

We pulled in for lunch in Grand-Case, on the French side at Rainbow Café. The water was gorgeous and sparkling, the sand light and inviting and colourful umbrellas led the way to the restaurant where we had lunch. This was up there in my top three meals on the island! The Mahi Mahi (local fish) was caught that day and bought in at 4am – it hadn’t even touched ice. The fish was succulent and juicy, the garlic butter complimenting the flavours perfectly. Caribbean rice and a side salad went alongside it – delicious. Perfect island meal.

We partied on the way back home (all drinks are included, most people had been drinking beers for a few hours) with rum punch, crazy dancing – particularly on Chris’s behalf – and great music. Chris really creates this awesome atmosphere, it was like being on a party boat that was also a snorkelling trip. We all had so much fun, it was one of my favourite days on the island.

I highly recommend Billy Bones Boat Charters in St Martin and remember, ask for Chris! Tell him hungover Rachael from New Zealand sent you and you’ll be in for even more of a roasting!

What and Where You Should Eat in St Martin

Mmmmm an island paradise, full of fresh and tasty Caribbean food! I couldn’t even decide where to start. Luckily our taxi driver gave us some local hints on the way in for our first meal, which leads to my first tip: talk to the locals!

There’s a few things you should really try while you’re on the island, regardless of where you eat. These are all best washed down with a local island rum (rum punch is delightful) or a refreshing, ice cold Carib beer. You’ll find happy hours everywhere so you can try every variety of rum!

What you should eat on St Martin:

  • Conch – fritters, soup – whatever. You just have to give it a go
  • Fresh fish. The fish of the day is always a fresh and safe bet for something delicious
  • Jerk Chicken – it is a flavour sensation! BBQ chicken and ribs are damn good too
  • Most places have fresh lobsters you can choose from a tank
  • Plantain – green banana usually served fried as a side
  • Local fruits. Papaya, pineapple, coconut
  • Caribbean rice. It’s super tasty and different everywhere you go. Comes as a side with most meals at restaurants

Where you should eat on St Martin:

Rainbows Café
I visited this café in Grand Case on my snorkel tour and low and behold it was one of my best meals on the island! It looks our over the gorgeous and sparkling water. The Mahi Mahi (local fish) was caught that day and bought in at 4am – it hadn’t even touched ice. The fish was succulent and juicy, the garlic butter complimenting the flavours perfectly. Caribbean rice and a side salad went alongside it – delicious. Perfect island meal.

Caribbean Blend
Oh my life!! We stumbled across this popular spot in Philipsburg and thank god we did! Mouth watering, full of flavour BBQ and jerk chicken. It was busy with locals so we knew we were in a good place. I got the BBQ, Merica got the Jerk, we both preferred mine. Caribbean rice and side salad with some plantain as our sides. Soooo good.

Lee’s Roadside Bar & Grill
This was our first stop and right across from our hotel In Simpson Bay. We started with their BBQ Chicken and ribs and some crab balls. We shared a fish sampler plate for our main with sides of Caribbean rice and plantain – a fab first meal! Washed down with frozen strawberry coladas made with coconut cream. Mmmm.

Palapa Grill
I pulled in to this Simpson Bay restaurant simply because I thought it had a gorgeously styled interior. Luckily for me the food was damn good too. They serve fresh, warm, homemade bread that melts in your mouth with the garlic butter as a starter. Divine. The local ceviche here is served in a coconut and works well with a bottle of Moet. They grow some of their own herbs and it has an elegant but cool vibe. Apparently, their burgers and steak are very popular.

Pizza Gallery
Cute little spot on Airport Road – voted best pizza place by locals! I must admit, I was partial because there’s a big spot in the middle to watch the fish swimming!
Went for a classic and Margherita half and half with pepperoni – hit the spot. Would be a lovely venue for some bevvies too at Happy Hour. $13 for a 12″ pizza. We had ours take away at the hotel with some bubbles.

There was a BBQ pop up, which didn’t even have a name (that I knew of) up the road from the Royal Palms Resort in Simpson Bay that was super popular with the locals that I would have liked to have eaten at.

I ate at a Chinese restaurant (Hang Fung) which was good if you want an Asian fix.  I also ate at Skip Jacks but I wasn’t overly impressed, nor at Sunset Beach Bar.

I fully recommend speaking to as many locals as you can to find out where they eat and what’s good for that time of the season. Everything that was delicious was recommended to us by a St martin local. Go make some friends!

St Martin – An Island Paradise in the Caribbean

The beaches are gorgeous – crystal clear, sparkling water in coves lined with palm trees. It’s just what you would expect for a tropical paradise. There’s waterfront bars everywhere, all serving up rum punch, delicious Carib beer and island snacks, pumping out bouncy Rastafarian tunes. You definitely feel like you’re on holiday from the moment you arrive.

Top Tips for exploring St Martin:

  • Hire a car for at least a day to sightsee. Make it the smallest car you can hire! The roads are tiny and the drivers are crazy. Like, really crazy.
  • Do a boat tour around the island – I loved Billy’s Boat Tours.
  • Spend $12 on a ferry to go to Pinel Island for a day. It’s a stunning island and it’s a great place to spend a day relaxing, meet some iguana friends and enjoy the tropical vibe.
  • Do your research for where on the island you want to stay. I think where we stayed in Simpson Bay was perfect for us. If I wanted a quieter holiday I would have stayed in Grand Case by their stunning beach and if I just wanted to party I would have stayed in Maho.
  • The buses are fantastic for getting around the island easily. They’re either going one way around the island or the other and cost approx. $1.50 each. You just hail them down anywhere on the road and they come about every 5 minutes. They’re actually just Vans with signs in the front indicating which way they are heading.
  • If you’re looking to buy some diamonds, the Caribbean is a great place. I did some research so you don’t have to. Blog coming soon!
  • Happy hour is very happy! Be prepared to fall in love with Rum Punch and Carib beer. It’s just so damn refreshing.
  • Supermarkets are your friend. There’s a high chance you’ll need after sun and more sunblock. Maybe some afternoon beers. We bought eggs, toast, bacon and berries and made a delicious breakfast at the hotel every morning.

St Martin, also known as SXM or St Marteen depending who you talk to is a fun filled island in the Caribbean. There’s a Dutch side and a French side so there’s a few different ways of saying it’s name. It’s pretty tiny – only approx. an hour to go around the entire island by car. Most of the locals speak French and have also learnt English however I found myself pulling out the basic French I knew a fair amount.

The island is right next to St Barth’s and there are many direct flights there from different parts of the US, although it took us three flights from Vancouver.

We stayed in Simpson Bay at the Royal Palm Beach by Diamond, not far from the airport and Maho on the Dutch side. It was the perfect location for us, not too far from the nightlife, a bus away from Philipsburg and surrounded by restaurants and bars with a supermarket in walking distance.

My favourite part of travel is always the people I meet (and the food if I’m honest – read about what I ate here) and St Martin was no exception. I love their accents and relaxed way of being. They’re truly on island time and are happy to sit and chat and share stories and tips with you. Most of them have lived there their entire lives although we did meet a few from Jamaica and surrounding islands. It’s a safe place, there’s security everywhere as a preventative and we always felt looked out for.

I would absolutely head back to St Martin for another holiday!

Brisbane-based lifestyle and travel blog image featuring mountain and sea scenery

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