St. Maarten – A Little European – A Lot of Caribbean
Two Nations Sharing One Island
Picture yourself sitting at an outdoor café with sandy beach and waving palms, while private yachts bob in the nearby marina, and the people passing by are speaking a mix of Dutch, French, Patois and various other combinations. Where are you? St. Maarten! Surprised? Well don’t be. Here you will enjoy the best of the Mediterranean with the best of the Caribbean. Think of it as St. Tropez without the expensive price tag and the transatlantic flight. That’s St. Maarten.
Today, Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin co-exist peacefully on one island. The island bubbling with flavors. A walk down Front Street in Philipsburg reveals a veritable a United Nations of choices. Try da Livio’s for Italian, Wayang Doll for Indonesian, L’Escargot for French. Antoines serves French dishes with a touch of Creole and Italian, and Old Captain for Asian. For great views and ambiance, check out Greenhouse or Chesterfields, both of which overlook Great Bay. A Caribbean island is nothing without conch soup, and it’s a fine one at Turtle Pier, where tables are set out on a jetty over the turquoise waters of Simpson Bay. And the creole snapper with rice and peas washed down with a Heineken (this is Dutch territory, afterall) and the Dutch apple crumble is worth waiting for. St. Maarten casinos are of the European style of casual elegance. All of the islands 12 casinos are on the Dutch side. Some casinos open during the day, but most come alive at night. After sampling the islands excellent cuisine and gambling, St. Maarten offers watering holes and dance spots to cap off the night. For a variety of nightlife, go to Maho Plaza and visit Soprano’s Piano Bar, Cheri’s O-Club and the Showroom Royale, offering Vegas style productions nightly from 8 p.m. Dance the night away at Amnesia Disco, the Greenhouse at Bobby’s Marina and Bliss at Carvanserai Beach Resort.
"St. Maarten/St. Martin" by Derek Hatfield, flickr is licensed under CC BY 4.0
St. Maarten is a truly duty-free port. Being duty-free means that no duties are paid on items going in or going out. While you don’t pay duty on the goods purchased, you still have to heed to Canada’s Custom requirements on your return, which is $750.00 after a seven-day absence. The best buys on St. Maarten include jewellery, electronics, china, crystal, linen and native crafts. Front Street in the Dutch capital of Philipsburg is full of shops. The Guavaberry Shop features liqueurs made from St. Maarten guavaberries. The Dutch Delft Blue Gallery offers a selection of authentic handcrafted Dutch delft blue china from Holland. The Heineken Store sells a wide variety of clothing and gift items associated with the popular beer brand. The Maho complex is a shopper’s haven. Chic boutiques selling high fashion, perfumes and health products have sprung up amid the restaurants, nightclubs and casinos. For local crafts, visit the open-air market located along Back Street. If you are willing to bargain (the merchants do encourage it), prices can drop by half on everything. Stop by one of the Back Street Shops and take advantage of low prices on alcohol, local crafts, cigars and souvenirs. St. Maarten is definitely a Shopper’s Paradise.
This is a great destination for a land holiday or a perfect port of call on one of the magnificent cruise ships sailing throughout the Caribbean.
Written By: Daphne Baggs
HERO IMAGE: "Beachy Keen. St. Maarten Island." by Jay Walt, Flickr is licensed under CC BY 4.0