Destination: St. Maarten! The Beautiful Island That Will Love You Back
There are few places in the Caribbean that can satisfy all that you desire on a true get away from your drab and dreary everyday life. If you are looking for a spot to vacation with cool out time AND turn up status, look no further than the Dutch and French split island of St. Maarten. Billed as the perfect place to get some rest and relaxation during the day, the Dutch side’s downtown area is like a baby version of Las Vegas at night. With casinos and street dancing by the sexy locals, St. Maarten likes to heat up the action!
I accepted the invite of a lifetime to run wild on the sun blessed land in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Check out some of the highlights of my six days in paradise and vision how you can do the same once you and your bae, Boo or sidething (Ha!) book that flight!
First Things First: Beach Betta Have My Sunny!
Upon arrival, I took that landing window pic that we all do to show off for Instagram. My plans were to get checked into my room, hit the sand and grab a cold Corona (like those TV commercials) and that’s exactly what happened. My trip team of Zach Simmons (artist developer/creative director/blogger) and celebrity globe trotter, Travelista Teri hit the beach at our first hotel, the Simpson Bay Resort and soaked in the setting sun and splashed in the warm wavy water. Relaxation at it’s finest.
Since we also lodged at the wonderful suites of Divi Little Bay Resorts for the second part of our six day stay. The spa treatments, dinner with the staff and Tourism Board President and the lounge loving environment made it exquistie. The water works at the family friendly hotel was top notch, as the jet ski team got us on some angry waves. Even with the rough sea trying to seaweed our shore to death, we found solace in jet skiing anyway. It was all fun and games until the waves said, “Not today buddy. Go get some lunch.” So I listened to the water Gods, and got some lunch.
Food, Fun and a Lil Bit of Freaky
After all of our days of activities, we would link up for dinner at some of the best grub spots you can try while there. The first night we hit up a downtown strip favorite, the wide opened Cheri’s Cafe. You can look right through the whole restaurant from the street, as there were no walls. The tourist’s fave was about to start a show where the house band covered pop classics from every genre. The humorous gang of guys did Michael Jackson hits and dressed like the glove one, Rick James was also covered with all out hilarity. But it was when the main singer emerged in a full body banana suit with his slick singing to the ladies that things got slippery: “I know you getting the feelin’/you want this banana to go unpeelin’!” So much fun while eating spicy shrimp and Mahi Mahi.
There were so many places to take in this festive vibe that also included great meals. From the hometown tastes of Spicy Salmon and Chicken at the St. Maarten Flavours booth in the Festival Village (they had a jerk sauce called ‘Mother In-Law’, trust it was just as hot as a mad wife’s Mom), to the delectable eats of lobster and shrimp at TK, where my group stuffed their faces with smiles on. Yet, one of my favorite finds was the local pastry called Johnny Cake. It’s a baked bun, similar to a donut just without the hole in the middle. Once I had one, I was looking for them all over the island. The best though was on the side of the road where we stood just as the j'ouvert parade was about to start at 3am. Our host committee’s Mom had a Johnny Cake stand that we all met up at. Wrong spot for me as I devoured...let’s just say more than one Johnny Cake. It was the snack of pleasure for me.
Festivals and Fetes
Party time was awesome and outrageous! Every night we went out on the town. The Dutch side knows how to party for real. After dinner, we would hit the World Festival Village arena. What looks like a huge circular open stadium, would soon fill up and become like one big house party as main attractions like Reggae stars Mr. Vegas, Shurwayne Winchester
and even ATLien and Hip-Hop superstar Future rocked the stage. I was amazed at how the crowd knew every word of Future’s big hits and mixtape gems.
The days long festival had different themes each night, like a local talent show event which spawned a winner, Ricky da Fox who did a song called “Pots and Pans”, the soca pulsed riddim was all over the radio and blasting from cars everywhere we went. There was a Latin night where the minority hispanic community came and salsa’d the night away to the spicy sounds of Miriam Cruz (who looks and sounds amazing) and many others.
On the day before the big carnival I got to experience the best part of carnival season in my opinion, which was j’vovert! It’s when an island starts to party from early morning, say 2 or 3am until whenever the party route ends or the authorities shut it down. Big mack trucks with live bands and djs play soca, reggae, dancehall, calypso and all types of jump up music at ear splitting levels to get everyone dancing and whining on top of each other. It’s the most freespritied and awe inspiring feeling, as you can dance ‘pon your preference for a song or two then move on to the next light footed or heavy bottom person you choose. While dancing you can randomly be hit with paint and power of any color that will stain hair, clothes and skin...and you don’t even care. At times I was hit with water and happily so, as it cooled me down from the morning heat. People, some in chicken outfits, dressed as old fat women and big dragons...all costumed up, dancing in the streets, chanting and drinking and letting the music guide their next move was so exhilarating, especially when done with thousands of people in unison. Nothing compares to the joy. St. Maarten really showed out with trucks that had free Hennessey, a swimming pool and one that shot water from a cannon. I’m definitely hooked on the j'ouvert energy.
St. Maarten Carnival of Colors
Waking up and knowing you have to hit the streets for the main Carnival is a glorious feeling. Excitement builds for the creative concepts you know you’ll see. Big feathered costumes with rainbow colors of every spectrum could be sighted and were. The carnival took place on one of the main streets in downtown St. Maarten. Side streets gave way to spectators and participants alike, as people lined the narrow blocks to see the big band trucks trail each other and belt out the music of the country. Once again, that hot song of the moment was “Pots and Pans”. Every age under the sun was in attendance. Even the European tourist got in on the dance and fan motions everyone was doing to enjoy the festivities under the blaring sun. The best look was a heavy set woman who danced around like Ciara with tons of energy. She totally set the turn-up volume back to 10,000! With so much music and food and sweat and heat and yelling and drinks and smiles and hips and....let’s just say the carnival was a hit. The people are good sports too.
Getting To The Business
St. Maarten’s main attraction is the tourist market. Getting folks from overseas, mainly the Dutch and French, to visit isn’t that hard to do. It’s everyone else that they are looking to have jet down for a great time. So to keep people occupied this business of the land If you make it to the island, you have to try Topper’s Rhum. The rum of choice is the first natural export from the island in decades. It goes down smooth and has a sweet aroma. Definitely something to mix with your favorite chaser. Yet, while you are drinking and sunbathing, you should chuck the sunscreen you brought with you from the states and purchase the all natural lotions by St. Maarten Nectar. They hand make all of their oils and sunscreens that protect and preserve your island tan. For such a diverse island with water all over, there is one experience that’s exclusive to the island, that you can’t get anywhere else, which is the wave jumping machine called a U.F.O. aka Unbelievably Fun Object. If you love jet-skiing, then this water sport is that on steroids! It’s a powerful orb shaped water glider that makes you feel the full force of the wind and g-force while riding the waves with vigor. It’s a business that affords fun for the family and will surely grow through the Caribbean islands.
So, overall...I had a ball. Will I go back...you damn right I am. Will you enjoy if you go...trust me, you will. Just hit up the St. Maarten tourism board for more info and book your flight!!