A Day Trip To Caribbean Hot Spot – St Barths

When it’s only a 45 minute ferry to St Barths from St Martin it would be rude not to take the journey across and check the infamous island out. I had been pretty excited to get to St Barths. I’ve read about it in trashy magazines for years and seen pictures of the idyllic paradise. Unfortunately our trip wasn’t quite so exciting and didn’t live up to that hype.

We caught the ferry ($110USD) from Simpson Bay (near our hotel) with the Edge ferry line. We checked in at 8am and then had to wait an hour in the heat (approx 30 degrees Celsius already) until we boarded at 9am. Little did we know a storm was going through and we were in for some very rough seas. The 45 minute trip took an extra half an hour trying to manoeuvre the huge waves. People were being sick all around. The crew really had their hands full.

Thankfully I had enjoyed scrambled eggs and some ginger ale before the trip and while I did feel a little average I was fine. The whole boat was rocking, we had to shut all the windows to stop the waves coming in and people had to be escorted (physically held up) by the staff to get out the back to relieve themselves of their brekfasts.

Anyway, we made it! Yay! Island! Ahhhh… no. Our dreams of an idyllic paradise were soon dashed.

Apparently it was the end of the season (thanks for the heads up y’all) so most of the shops and restaurants were shut and the streets were barren. There was nobody around. We walked about the island, had a gelato and ran undercover for a quick passing rain storm.

We negotiated an island tour for an hour with a drop off at a beach and pick up just before our ferry for $80USD (70€ – they mainly use euro there and everything is in French) with one of the many men bartering to take the tourists around, Claude.

Claude showed us around half the island and explained that the island is very safe and clean. They take great pride in a well kept island and somewhere that guests can relax completely.

We had a lunch at little cafe where the menu was in French and euro (luckily I can still read a little) and I ordered a fish cheeseburger. The mahi mahi was fresh and the burger was nice, if a little heavy. Service was very slow though and the table water was a surprise at 5€ (water is not drinkable on St Barths). We gave up waiting for the waiters to bring our bill and then again to collect so got up and paid and left.

The beach where we spent our afternoon was absolutely lovely. Clear, calm and warm turquoise water. We swam for a bit and then napped on the shore. It was very relaxing and some of the only down time we had on the trip.

Claude picked us back up, dropped us at the ferry and it was time to head back. Thankfully it was a much smoother ride this time, I slept most of the way and spent the rest of the time on the back deck.

I’m sure St Barths is great fun during high season when there’s lots of restaurants open, people about and yachts in, but in low season (especially the day before everything closes) I don’t think it’s worth the trip.

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!

How & Where to Party in St Martin like a Pro

While it looks like a relaxing tropical paradise (and it certainly is), St Martin is also party central! Those Caribbeans certainly know how to have a good time.

We literally had not even left the luggage collection point when a promoter approached us with free entry and bar tickets for two of the clubs. There’s always something going on.

There’s happy hours every which way you look on the island but all the clubs are in Maho. So if you want to just party, I suggest you stay around there. I met some girls who go there every year just to party! A cab from Simpson Bay is approx. $15-20USD each way, unfortunately the buses stop running late.

You don’t want to even think about going out to the clubs until after 11pm. They don’t even open until then. We went out at 12am and nothing really picked up until approximately 1am. When it did pick up though, it was awesome! The music pumps and it’s Caribbean party time!

Here’s my ideas of where to go to party in St Martin:
Tuesday nightSoggy Dollar Bar
Wednesday nightTantra
Thursday night3 Amigo’s
Friday & Saturday night – anywhere in Maho or Simpson Bay goes. Dirty Sanchez and Sky Bar are popular.
Sunday night – Sunset Beach Bar for an afternoon pool party session

Jab Jab’s party boat was super fun, a shuttle boat leaves from Simpson Bay between the Simpson Bay Suites and Royal Palm Hotel. There’s a sign on the sand and a the ferry takes you over to the boat where the music is pumping and the drinks are flowing! There was a huge amount of locals on the boat as well as a few tourists. Other boats pull up, there’s a BBQ and a dance floor with a DJ rockin’ out the tunes – what more could you want?! Great place for sunset cocktails and pre drinks before the clubs.

Ladies (Men too I bet) I’m sure you’ll be happy to know there’s a lot to swipe through on Tinder! There’s a large doctor’s college on the island with a steady flow of American students ready and willing to party every night. They’re a great local source of knowledge for where to go and where to eat too. That’s how I found out about the boat party.

So pack your party clothes and get ready to drink that rum punch, baby!

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!

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