For the 3rd Straight year, the party island of Sint Maarten has won an award for being the best “Cruise Ship Destination. But oh, my, is it so much more than that!
The half Dutch half French island of Sint Maarten / Saint Martin is known worldwide as the “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean,” and for good reason.
Since I have lived on Sint Maarten a good part of my life, I find myself unquily qualified to give you the “insiders scoop” on what is undoubtedly the most fun island in the Carribbean. Here is why:
1) The Restaurants Oh! My favorite part of SXM! Being half Dutch and half French, you get a wonderful array of amazing places to eat. I don’t really cook much at home, so to say I have taken advantage of these amazing spots is an understatement. To save you some time, here are my favorites:
For Fine Dining, Temptations at Atlantis Casino in Cupecoy features a Caribbean contemporary dining experience with the Chef-Celebrity Dino. The truffle dipping sauce is simply to die for.
My favorite steak joint is a spin off of a New York style steakhouse, with dark wood and killer martinis. Hard to pronounce, the “Bjatsu” Steakhouse in Maho hits the spot with the steak, the drinks, and the service.
If French is your flavor, the Best French on the island is L’ Auberge D’ Gormande in Grand Case, but you’ll need to make reservations, because this place fills up fast! And I would suggest going on a Tuesday night in season, when the Jump Up occurs. It is a street carnival full of dancers and live music. Not to be missed.
One of the island’s “hot spots” and institutions is a Sushi joint called Bamboo Bernies in Maho Village. The Sushi is good (not great) but the “whos –who” of the island frequents this hotspot.
For Indian, I love Indian Lal’s Curry in a Hurry in behind the Gourmet Marche in Simpson Bay by airport. Try the Navatarian Veggie Korma and Butter Chicken! But don’t let the name fool you – it should be rightly named, “Curry in No Hurry at All!”
The Best Breakfast joint in town is Zee Best in Simpson Bay. You must try Zee Best’s ham and cheese croissants. If you head past the golf course, you will find a $10 “Big Breakfast” at the Oceans Club. Park on the street, and walk toward the big building, it’s a great deal. (But its Closed on Thursdays).
A secret local spot is called Karakters on Simpson Beach which was a 10 Minute walk from where I lived on Simpson Beach – get the bacon wrapped dates and plantains.
And for the ultimate Sint Maarten experience, head to Sunset Beach Bar – watch the planes come in and land while you listen to live music. Try the mushroom swiss burger.
Salsa Nights have started again every Tuesday at La Bamba Beach Bar in Kim Sha Beach (other end of Simpson Bay. Bring your dancing shoes, because it’s a party! And every Thursday at Calmos Café in Grand Case, you will find the French side getting hot and bothered while they dance the night away on the beach with sand between their toes.
If you want to take a day trip to Pinel Island’s Le Karibuni – get the Fish Burger. Its amazing, and a beautiful way to spend a day!
As you make your way around the island, keep a few things in mind:
Tipping: About ¾ of all restaurants automatically add some sort of service charge. There is no consistency on what it is or where it goes, so the best policy is to ASK. If you receive good service on the Dutch side, a 15% tip is customary. On the French side, 10%.
The USD is accepted all over the island. Some places (like gas stations) may try and give you change in Antillian Guilders. This is the Dutch Caribbean currency. The exchange rate is about 1.80 Antillian Guilder to 1 USD, so make sure no one tries to rip you off. The gas station tanks are set to Antillian Guilders, not dollars.
The French side accepts both currencies, but charges your Credit Card in Euros. Taking cash can often get you a great discount if they offer US$ : Euro 1:1
People honk their horns to say “hi” “thank you” or “I am letting you in here.” Rarely do they honk when they are upset.
Kissing: Dutch do it 3 times on the cheek, French twice.
Terminology you must learn to enjoy the island:
“It Finish” means we are out of that, or we are closed.
“Hello” means pardon me, I need your attention.
“No Problem” means it is possible, and you are allowed to do it.
“Pass By” means you are going somewhere.