There’s two sides to the island of St. Maarten, a French side and a Dutch side. Both take American dollars, but Euros are preferred on the French side, and on the Dutch side, which is where I was based, they prefer the dollar or the Netherlands Antilles Guilder, and some places will take Euros if that’s all you have.
You don’t need to get your passport out to cross between the French and Dutch sides of the island (unless you’re on a big boat). There’s a funny (although no one knows if it’s actually true,) story to about how the island was divided, because honestly, it’s not at all equal. Apparently, the French had settled in the North, the Dutch in the South. The decided to have a little friendly competition to “properly” divide the island. The French side grabbed a bottle of wine, the Dutch grabbed a flask of gin. They each started from their respective ends, and where they met is where they would divide the island. Well, as I’m sure most of you know, gin will get you a little more drunk a little more quickly than wine, hence, why the French now has most of the island of St. Maarten! Wine for the win!!
Simpson Bay is geared toward yachties. A ton of yachts hang out here from November to March. The waterways surrounding the marinas are lined with bars, most of which are accessible by dinghy. Some of the yacht marinas even have an employee dedicated to shuttling yacht crew to and from the bars back to their boats late at night.
The bars I frequented the most were Buccaneer’s, because on Thursdays it’s $3 Pinot Grigio day…all day, Lagoonies, Pineapple Pete’s, St. Maarten Yacht Club (THE place to watch large yachts come through a tiny bridge), The Soggy Dollar (a yachtie favorite), and Dirty Sanchez.
On the French side, near the airport, I also liked Karakter’s because it had chairs and umbrellas on a beach that wasn’t crawling with locals trying to sell you stuff every five minutes.
My captain and crew who have been here before warned me several times about locals and the fact that they know that all of us yachties have a lot of disposable income… and that we like to get very, very drunk after we do a trip, therefore making us easy targets to get mugged or roofied. I made sure to stick to bottled beer when it got late at night, and to only accept drinks from people I knew for a while.
The rest of my yacht crew doesn’t go out much, so I’m usually out trying to meet new people, but I hate going to bars alone because eventually you’ll get hit on by a creepy old dude. Well, one day after work, I went to the Yacht Club by myself because I had a bad phone call earlier and I was pretty sad. Eventually a guy came over asked why I was alone. He could tell I was holding back some tears. He told me to tell him what was up, and as soon as I started, the tears started flowing. He got up and walked away. I thought I had scared him off, but he came back with a handful of tissues. I told him my story, and felt a lot better talking to someone that didn’t know me. Turns out, he was sitting where I was a few weeks prior, doing the same thing and he wished someone would have come up and talked to him. He told me I have to pay it forward if I ever see anyone on the verge of tears at a bar. I will!!
Anyway, this “old dude,” Bruce, became a very good friend of mine. He lives on a catamaran and has been here for a while, but will soon be sailing across the Pacific. He likes to go out and socialize as much as I do, so as soon as 5 o’clock hit, we were in his dinghy, heading to happy hour and then bar hopping all over the island. He introduced me to a bunch of his friends, which is nice. I usually only meet other yachties, so I was excited to talk to people who don’t always talk about boats. (More on this “old dude” later.)
I feel like I didn’t venture out too much in St. Maarten for the 2.5 months I was there. But hopping on a bus for $1.50 is the way to get around! I did take a bus over to Phillipsburg, which is the place to shop for clothing and other goods, and it’s cheap! This is where the cruise ship drops everyone off for the day, so food and drinks are a bit more expensive.
One of the first beaches I visited was Orient. It’s lined with bars and restaurants and it’s clothing optional.
I went over to Marigot on the French side because the shopping is a lot better quality than the Dutch side. Same with the food. But it’s also a lot more expensive, so I was usually in and out within a few hours.
One of the most touristy things I did was over at Maho Beach. This is where a small runway is and the planes come in low, over the beach. They also take off right next to the beach. There’s only a fence and road that is between the airport and the sand. Bigger planes used to come in and blast everyone, but I think the last of the 747’s ended back in November. There’s still some decent sized ones that come and go. There are signs everywhere warning you to not hang onto the fence and telling you that you will get blasted by debris. But it’s become such a tourist attraction, no one enforces the rules. I almost think it’s worse to be on the beach rather than the fence though!
Another day, I went out to the French side to a place called Loterie Farm. It was such a hidden gem. It had pools, hot tubs, cabanas, hiking trails, a DJ in a treehouse, and zip lines. Oh yeah, and a bar. Why else would I go?
“Old dude” Bruce, told me he’d go with me one day. I took him up on the offer. I said I’d pay half of a cabana ($200 and includes a bottle of champagne) if we could fill it up. Leave it to Bruce to round up a bunch of cool ass chicks to party with! He looked like such a pimp hanging out with us. Pretty sure every other dude there was very jealous of him that day.
At the end of the day, the place was crawling with drunk yachties (so don’t go on weekends if you don’t want to be subjected to that!). Also, call ahead for a cab because this place is a little off the beaten path. We called our cab driver ahead of time, but by the time we got to him, our cab was full of other people!
I went to Loterie Farm again the following week, without Bruce and the girls, and it just wasn’t the same. But the employees bragged to everyone about how fun the weekend before was. I looked at them and jokingly covered my eyes. Then they realized it was my group that made it so fun. Way to go!
Toward the end of my stay, I found a place called the Dinghy Dock. This place is the most dangerous (alcohol-wise) because when you order a drink, they hand you a cup of ice, your liquor and your mixer and you pour it yourself. Needless to say, I only needed one drink when I went there.
After my one drink, I started to chat up a group who all had on Domino’s Pizza shirts on. They all looked American to me… none of them were. But I was telling the guy next to me about how I was craving pizza today and I wish they could deliver it to the sail boat I was staying on. This lovely gentleman looked at me and my crew of misfits and was like “what kind of pizza do you want?” Our eyes lit up. He called Domino’s, and within 10 minutes we had two large pizzas… for free! Turns out, the guy I was talking to owned the Domino’s store in town! Just my luck!