- 1 St Maarten – One island two nations one French and one Dutch.
- 2 Why We Chose Amigo Tours
- 2.1 History Highlights of St Maarten
- 2.2 Our Amigo Tours Itinerary for St Maarten
- 2.3 Philipsburg
- 2.4 Meeting the Locals With Gavin
- 2.5 Is there a ‘bartender’ on board our mini bus?
- 2.6 The Local Iguanas Get To Meet The Travelers
- 2.7 Beaches
- 2.8 Driving Through Grand Case
- 2.9 The Lady of Liberty
- 2.10 Fort Louis
- 2.11 Marigot
- 2.12 Getting Blown Away At the 5th Craziest Airport in the World
- 2.13 And one more Guava Rum Punch For The Road
- 2.14 Our Verdict:
St Maarten – One island two nations one French and one Dutch.
Our arrival at the largest cruise port in the Caribbean was stunning! We were on a Repositioning Cruise with Pullmantur Monarch and it was our first sighting of land for 9 days after leaving Bilbao, Spain. The Port known as the A C Wathey Port and Cruise Terminal was named after the man who had the vision to make St Maarten a first rate cruise destination. 2 million passengers could not be wrong, this was the arrivals figure in 2014 and it is increasing year by year. Harbour Village is a few minutes walk from where the ships berth and offers the traveler shops, cafes and market stalls.
Why We Chose Amigo Tours
With great reviews on TripAdvisor and the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2015 and 2016 Amigo Tours were the company that we wanted to travel around St Maarten with. We had only a few hours and their Highlight Tours fitted the bill.
We thank Wellington our guide and driver who had a challenge to get us back to the ship earlier than normal due to Hurricane Matthew causing havoc in our path. He did it with time to spare!
History Highlights of St Maarten
In 1493 Christopher Columbus sighted the island and called it Isla de San Martin after Saint Martin of Tours because it was the 11th November and the holy day of St Martin’s. The French wanted the islands between Trinidad and Bermuda, the Dutch thought it was a great halfway point between New York and Brazil.
The Spanish did not settle on the island straight away. In 1630 after the French and Dutch had created small settlements, the Spanish realised that the two nations were now a threat and drove both of them off the island. In 1644 the French and Dutch achieved their aim to drive the Spanish out and in 1648 the two nations re-established their settlements. Over the next few years, the boundary between the two nations changed hands 16 times and eventually in 1817 the French secured the larger portion of the island.
The island covers 93 km2 – the French side being the largest at 59 km2 and the Dutch side 34km2.
Our Amigo Tours Itinerary for St Maarten
Meeting Spot: Car and Bus Carpark at the road entrance to the Cruise Terminal
The capital of the Dutch side of the island and the first city you travel through with Amigo Tours. The city was built in 1763. Duty-free shopping draws the traveller to this city which is 4 streets deep and 1 mile long filled with jewellery, electronics, perfumes and alcohol shops etc.
The concrete boardwalk is lined with some of the oldest and finest restaurants on the island with French and Creole cuisine sharing the limelight with Indian and Chinese cuisine.
All of the supermarkets on the island are run and owned by the local Chinese community and the jewellery, electronics and souvenirs shops owned and run by the local Indian community.
Meeting the Locals With Gavin
We pay a visit along the way with Gavin where we get to meet Lionel Richie (a black sea urchin) and Sponge Bob, a sea star. Such a passionate local character who shows us his other sea-faring friends and gives us some information about their habitats. Some of the other passengers were not too keen to touch the slimy slippery locals.
Is there a ‘bartender’ on board our mini bus?
Wellington explains it could be quite thirsty work traversing the island and would there be someone willing to play the part of the ‘bartender’ to serve out Cokes, Sprite and water from his cooler (esky to us Aussies!) No takers! Until – he mentioned there were beers and a rum punch! One brave traveler put his hand up and he was kept busy throughout the journey! He did a great job by the way! Ohh! The Guava Rum Punch really hit the spot! Not to mention the local beers! Wellington was right, it is thirsty work sightseeing!
The Local Iguanas Get To Meet The Travelers
A few kilometres further and a short ten minute stop we get to meet some more locals – green scaly ones this time! To keep them from getting too friendly with us Wellington feeds them with a head of iceberg lettuce. The bravest amongst us get to eye-ball them up close as they attack the lettuce we held in our hands.
There are 37 beaches on the island and we were heading to the #1 Orient Beach to cool off for 30 minutes. It is one of the most popular beaches in St Maarten and the only one with lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. Due to Hurricane Matthew, the waters were a little on the rough side and there was quite a strong wind blowing onshore. Luckily Wellington dropped us off at the right beach, the other was ‘clothes is not an option’ type of beach!
Driving Through Grand Case
If we were going to spend more than 1 day on the island this is where we would stay and eat. With plenty of accommodation to choose from and many local seafront restaurants to enjoy the local seafood, Grand Case has it all.
The Lady of Liberty
On the way to Marigot the capital of the French side of St Maarten we passed by the Lady of Liberty at the Agrement roundabout.
She was unveiled in 2007 to mark the 159th anniversary of July 12, 1848 when slavery was finally abolished.
The largest Fort on the Island and was built in 1789 to originally defend the island’s warehouses of rum, salt, coffee and sugar cane. The Fort fell into disrepair and then came to life again to defend the French against the attack from the British who were out to raid the warehouses from the island of Anguilla.
The views are stunning from the top.
A creole style city and the capital of the French side of the island located on the Caribbean Sea.
Ferries are available from Marigot to the nearby islands of Anguilla or St Barthelemy. We stopped close to the local market in the middle of town for 30 minutes. Wellington recommended a great pastry and sandwich shop called Serafino’s and those who ate there recommended it highly.
We wandered around looking at the market and strolling through the back streets to get the local vibe.
Getting Blown Away At the 5th Craziest Airport in the World
We missed experiencing the KLM 747 aircraft landing here by 2 days and within a month of visiting Maho Beach, we have heard that KLM has stopped the 747 landing and replaced it with a A330, it will not have the same effect we believe.
Want to experience the force of a plane taking off. (check out our youtube video)
And one more Guava Rum Punch For The Road
All good things must come to an end! Even the Rum Punch!
Amigo Tours run a professional tour company in St Maarten. If you are visiting via cruise ship and you have one day, their Highlights Tour is a must. If you have more time on St Maarten reach out to them for transfers and many other tours that they offer. We thank Wellington for his safe driving and his knowledge of the island of St Maarten and for keeping us all on time. Wellington is a character and we did not stop laughing all day, we can’t even blame the laughter on the Guava Rum Punch which was delicious.
We were hosted by Amigo Tours for the day and as always our opinions are our own.
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