Thanks to an inexpensive bus system, we could explore as much as we wanted. Here are a few of the places that we visited.
We rented a car with Robert and Virginia on Honeymoon Forever and set out to explore the places that we couldn't go by bus. We made a quick stop at Oyster Pond. There wasn't much to see so we just grabbed a drink at the Dinghy Dock, waited for the rain to stop, and went on to Orient Beach.
Orient Beach is the most popular beach on the island, and there are several bars/restaurants and water sports to partake in. If you want to party, this is the place to go. It is also infamous because of the nudist resort that sits at the end of the beach. I have no pictures of Orient Beach because it was started raining again, and we didn't want to take out David's Olympus camera. We definitely don't need any more broken electronics! Since it was a rainy, overcast day that wouldn't be getting any sunnier, we didn't stay long at the beach and went to the Yellow Submarine to eat some yummy French sandwiches.
After polishing off our meals, we went to Grand Case, a small beach side town on the French side. A narrow one-way street runs through the town and is lined with small restaurants, little shops, and boutique hotels that are just steps away from the beautiful beach. On Tuesdays during the season, the street is closed and vendors set up tables with all kinds of goodies. There is also a parade with music, carnival dancers, and acrobats. Unfortunately for us, it was cancelled that day because of high winds. I loved the atmosphere in Grand Case so I hope we'll be back one day soon and have the opportunity to experience this exciting, one of a kind event, just not on a boat. After a little shopping and a drink at happy hour, we headed back to Simpson Bay. A great day with great friends!
Maho Beach is right next to the airport and is another popular beach where a lot of tourists go. It's great for one-time experience, and you can get awesome photos of jets coming in to land. There is a fence between the beach and the airport, and crazy (maybe a little idiotic) people stand behind the fence and hold on for dear life as the jet prepares for take off. They are hit with high velocity air that is being blown from the engines and could seriously get hurt if they can't keep a firm grip on that fence. You also don't want to be behind the jet on the beach because you will be peppered with sand and your stuff goes flying all of the place.
It is the main town and capital of St. Maarten, and it is also where the almost daily cruise ships come in. Everything on the island is duty-free so it is a shopper's paradise. There are two main streets - Front and Back Street - made up nothing but shops. You can pretty much buy anything there - from high-end watches and dazzling jewelry to the typical tourist T-shirts and keepsakes. Next to Front Street is the boardwalk with dozens of restaurants and bars. We aren't much on shopping these days besides grocery shopping, but we went for an afternoon trying to find a tank top with a St. Maarten logo for myself. No luck finding one I liked, but we had a nice time and I bought some cute, hand-made bracelets.
Marigot is about a eight minute dinghy ride from where we were anchored. We were leery leaving the dinghy locked up in Marigot for too long because we had heard about several recent dinghy thefts that were stolen in broad daylight and that had locks so we rarely visited Marigot. We walked up to the fort, checked out some booths along the waterfront, and snacked on pizza and croissants. The croissants were hot and flaky...delicious!
I saved the best for last. This is one of my all-time favorite beaches. Although it does get crowded, the sparkling, calm water and soft white sand is well worth sharing the beach with hundreds of people. I almost cried when we left the island because I wouldn't be able to go back. The first time we went, we were joined by Robert and Virginia, who are always fun to hang out with. It was THE perfect beach day! Since we still didn't have our new underwater camera, Robert was kind enough to let us copy and use his pictures.
We probably spent way too much money going out to happy hours and eating out, but we had an amazing time there. David even volunteered his Linux skills and helped out with the Heineken Regatta. For us cruisers, getting around was really convenient since there were lots of dinghy docks, and the other cruisers were very helpful and friendly. It was also fun experiencing the grocery stores there. There was a wide variety of food that you don't see in US supermarkets so we got to try some new stuff. On the French side, everything was in French so that was an adventure in itself trying to figure out you were buying. And I thought the Spanish grocery stores were difficult!
I highly recommend visiting this island!