Special Edition – First Hand Report of CaribbeanDays – St. Martin/Sint Maarten, St. Barths and Anguilla

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CaribbeanDays visits St. Martin/Sint Maarten, St. Barths and Anguilla – June 11-20, 2018

The anxiety builds as the plane lands on St. Maarten, as you are unsure of what you will see after the storm when you visit for the first time since. The news reports and photos seen prior make you very curious. The airport is wonderful, even though it is a large tent. It has a/c and fans and you really don’t feel like you are in a tent. Everything is well organized and the locals are happy to see you and the airport’s workers know exactly what they are doing. Instead of finding your car rental booth inside the airport, you will see people holding signs when you exit for your car rental agency and just the same as it was, you will be taken back to their office to do paperwork and pick up your car. I do suggest requesting a car that is not in perfect condition, as the potholes and roads are worse than before the storm. I always ask for a beat up car. All you really need is wheels and a/c.

On your journey you will immediately see many boats ashore, damaged and abandoned, much like after Luis. Touring the island, especially the French side around Orient Bay, makes you realize that something devastating happened. The sites are jaw dropping and in some places you wonder how can they ever recover from this….but they will, they are !

I was both amazed at how well they are doing when in the Simpson Bay area and shocked at how bad the devastation was when in the Orient area. Irma certainly treated this island like there were two sides and went after the French side for sure.

Simpson Bay Beach is still just wonderful, as it always was. Abundant sand, beautiful water. There is some construction going on. The new roof to Cocos Beach Club is almost finished. Mary’s Boon and Karakters are fully functional. Beachside Villas open and looking good. The Palm Beach Club, Las Arenas, La Siesta, all looking great. Some painting going on, more cosmetic stuff than anything else.

Pelican Cove is looking great, as is Coral Shore. The pool needs attending at Coral Shore but the grounds are gorgeous as always.

The Sunset Beach Bar is open and fully functional. The beach is smaller but that did not stop the huge crowds from the cruise ships coming to see the KLM land. They have a lovely pool area also.

Disappoint comes from Skip Jacks, The Boathouse, Lee’s and Jonny under the Tree not being there and ready for me to enjoy my favorites from each of them. Grocery stores are open. The one in Maho by Sunset Beach was getting ready to open but not quite there yet. Even though it is low season, I would still recommend making a reservation where you want since there are so many restaurants not open, the ones that are…are busy. IZI – open and still the best Italian I have ever had.

Casinos – I am not a casino goer but there are many open. The one in Maho is not open
I did find that it felt a bit like Times Square in New York City driving through Simpson Bay with large TV screens outside with flashing lights everywhere.

Lots of construction in Beacon Hill, mainly to rooftops.

Maho…coming back. A few stores are open. Cheri’s and the casino are not. It is not the great spot it used to be for nightly entertainments and strolling yet but the ice cream store is open. No parking garage available as of yet.

Cupecoy – the high rise condos and the Blue Mall have some cosmetic damage. Porto Cupecoy looks great and is fully functional. Cupecoy Beach is looking good. Very strong current the day I was there so swimming or snorkeling around to the caves was not possible.

Mullet Bay – I did see golfers playing and the beach is beautiful. Snorkeling was a bit murky but the sand, the sunset views and the water are all perfect. The parking lot potholes are very bad, so go slow and be kind to your rental car.

Baie Rouge – the steps are there and you can get down. The beach bar/restaurant is open and chairs and umbrellas are available for rental. The beach has a huge drop off, it always had a small one but now it is huge. The water was calm the day I was there and we swam over to the small tidal beaches around the corner and through the archway. It is a great swim/snorkel if you have the chance and the energy on a calm day. Up above you can see the damage to the houses that use to be nice to look at on the points of coral rock. You can see in the distance the rooftop damage to the private houses that sit along Baie Rouge.

La Samanna was seen from a sunset cruise from the Lambada. Some cosmetic damage can be seen but it did not appear to be anything major from my viewpoint. The beach looked great. I can’t say enough about the Aqua Mania Adventures and their Lambada Sunset Cruise. It is so much fun. It is only running on Thursday nights right now so don’t miss it.

Phillipsburg is fully functional. The boardwalk is intact and open, the restaurants are open, shops are open, people are happy to be there, cruise ships coming in and parking just as crazy as ever.

I cannot report on the Dawn Beach/Oyster Pond area as I did not make it to that location, however along the outskirts of that area, the damages were many.

Orient Beach is the most shocking of all. Now you can simply drive your car almost all the way down to where Club Orient used to be and park on the sand where all the gorgeous restaurants used to be and lovely little shops. There are probably 2-3 places that are open for drinks and some food now. You can still rent chairs and umbrellas. Watersports are open and you can parasail. The beach itself is not pristine, there is lots of construction going on as people are trying to rebuild what once was. Club Orient is totally gone, but their guests are still hanging on for hope and visiting that part of the beach. I did not see any evidence of rebuilding in the Club O area at all.

Pinel Island – The boat is running. The strongest smell of fish as you wait for the boat to take you over to Pinel and very friendly island dog we named Bella, who we promised to bring a treat back for. But once you get over to Pinel you forget all of that. 2 restaurants up and running, fully functional, iguanas galore, beautiful sand and water, awesome rum punches, tables in the water, fresh lobster. $ 12 round trip for a gorgeous day. We brought Bella some fries and she was very fulfilled.

Marigot is looking great. The Marina was packed, ladies selling their island dresses, hats and shirts, taxi’s aplenty, ferry service to Anguilla and St. Barths and other locations running, shops open, traffic not so bad either.

Nettle Bay area – nothing seemed to be open there and the area was heavily damaged. I did not see any construction or rebuilding going on when I passed through. It looked deserted.
Grand Case – The beach is still gorgeous but small. Don’t plan on dining there yet, as the construction is major just as the damages. I was there during the day so I could not really tell if any restaurants were open but from what it looked like, I would have to say that if they were, I would wait to go there in the evening. The airport is open in Grand Case. We took a flight over to St. Barths from there.

All is all, I was very pleased with my findings on the island. Some places worse than I expected or could have imagined and most places doing just wonderful. I stayed at the Simpson Bay Resort because I had to teenage girls with me and not knowing what to expect, wanted to the feeling of security. I can tell you the Resort and the Villas at Simpson Bay are wonderful and fully 100% functioning. The beach there is fair right in front of the resort. There is a huge feeling of security there, multiple security guards around the clock. I never once felt anything but secure and safe.

If you have been to St. Maarten/St. Martin before and you loved it, I would strongly recommend going back. You will not be disappointed and the island can use the tourism. If you have never been to the island before and are going, I would suggest going with an open mind as to what you heard it once was and what it will be again.

A day in St. Barths

We flew St. Barths Commuter out of the Grand Case Airport, which is up and running.

The 9 seater plane is so much fun and the landing into the St. Barths airport is something to remember as you feel like the plane has come to a stop and is hovering in the air only to drop down between to mountains and land on a very short runway that ends on the beach at St. Jean.

We rented a car with Turbe and explored the island’s very steep and winding roads.
There really is not much damage to this island. Some rooftops being worked on or getting ready to be worked on, cosmetic damage to places but no areas where total devastation was seen.

Shell Beach a gorgeous spot between two cliffs and the restaurant Shellona is open. Shellona had undergone renovation since the storm and is gorgeous but you will pay $33 for a burger.

Only there for a day trip so not many beaches were visited, it was more a driving site inspection. We did stop at Grand Fond and Toiny Beach. The hike from Grand Fond to the tidal pools was taken passed the famous washing machine . This hike cannot be taken in flip flops. You at least need water shoes. The first part of the hike brought a strong smell of fish and brown water with seaweed. After a certain point closer to the pools, the water cleared and smell was forgotten as the beauty of the pools was apparent.

If you have visited the island before you know that there are really no signs to help you find your way and a map is not going to help that much. Brush up on some simple French before you go, it will help if you need directions. Driving is on the right, but the roads are steep and windy so a 4WD is recommended and if you are not good with a standard transmission ( like me) than rent an automatic.

We took the Voyager ferry back into Marigot. The trip is about an hour and so relaxing as you exit the port and watch the island of St. Barths and the rock formations slip away into the distance.

A day in Anguilla

A short ferry ride from Marigot to Anguilla, about 20 minutes. The one way cost is $ 20 plus the departure tax of $ 5 per person. It can be a bit rough and you must sit inside, there is no outside seating on this ferry.

We rented a car from Monsel’s for $ 30 for the day and $ 15 for the Anguilla driver’s license as this is a British Island and they drive on the left. The license is good for 3 days. The island is flat so that was a relief after driving on St. Barths. The roads are good, the signs are good, the map is easy to follow. It is hard to get lost on this island. Once again, for being so close to St. Martin, the island of Anguilla looks amazing. I did not see any signs of devastation just some minor cosmetics being worked on. We had time to drive the entire island only being about 15 miles long and 3 miles wide. A stop at Shoal Bay East for snorkeling was fun. The beach is gorgeous and you can rent chairs and umbrellas and find food and great snorkeling, but we did not see the turtles we hoped for.

Crocus Bay, although not very visually inviting right now by DaVida on the outside, had the very best snorkeling of our entire trip to all 3 islands. Ample parking here and a great snorkel adventure, I can’t say enough about it.

We moved onto Rendezvous Bay and ate at the Sunshine Shack. OMG, they have the best ribs I have ever eaten in my life. It is this tiny shack with license plates and signatures all over it, great Caribbean music and cornhole right on the beach, not to mention great cocktails. Garvey makes his own special sauce which he now bottles and sells and I have already ordered two bottles to be shipped home.

A day in Anguilla and you just do not want to leave, it is really that special. They have a make shift departure tent at the dock. The trip back is $ 20 plus $8 departure tax per person. If you have never gone, it is a must do. If you were worried about going back after the storm, DO IT !

We had a layover in San Juan on our way back home. Flying over the island I did see many blue tarps covering rooftops. The airport in San Juan gives you the feeling that nothing ever happened there.

Although my trip was short and I fit in as many islands and areas that I could, if you are curious about a place that I have not mentioned please inquire.

We had a layover in San Juan on our way back home. Flying over the island I did see many blue tarps covering rooftops. The airport in San Juan gives you the feeling that nothing ever happened there.

Our next destinations to do site visits is in January. We are headed to St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and the BVI’s. If there is somewhere in particular you want us to check out, let us know !



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