St Maarten has been on our bucket list for as long as I can remember. And St Maarten with kids in tow was not going to stop us. We were scheduled to travel to this Caribbean island oasis in Christmas 2017. However unfortunately, Hurricane Irma had other ideas in mind and due to the island being completely devastated we had to postpone our trip. We rescheduled our family holiday in St Maarten just over 12 months later and it completely lived up to our expectations. This small island is actually split into 2 countries, France and Netherlands, and we spent our time on the Dutch side. Keep reading to learn all about our idyllic family holiday in the Caribbean.
GETTING TO ST MAARTEN
We travelled from London Heathrow to Miami (approx 8 hours) and stayed overnight at a Miami Airport Hotel. The next morning we caught a flight from Miami to Princess Juliana International Airport which was just over 3 hours. The island itself is very small and we hailed a taxi upon arrival. You could hire a car and drive yourself or ask your hotel for a transfer.
ACCOMMODATION IN ST MAARTEN
We booked to stay at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort but unfortunately received an email 2 weeks prior to our trip advising they would not be re-open and available to accommodate us. This is one of the only hotels which has unobstructed views of SXM runway so you can spend your days poolside watching aircraft approach over Maho Beach. Because we had to re-book last minute we were a bit hamstrung by accommodation options. So we decided to stay 3 nights each at two different resorts in slightly different areas.
We absolutely loved our stay at this hotel. It had only been open for a couple of weeks when we arrived and we were accommodated in one of the new wings. We had direct access to the pool and the beach was merely steps away. There were several restaurants on site as well as a shop which meant we could easily cook in our little kitchen. It was such a relaxed vibe, the staff were so friendly and I loved that I basically lived in my swimwear all day. They have multiple other resorts in places such as Barbados and Aruba. The only thing worth mentioning is that there is nothing else really within walking distance. Philipsburg was about a 20-30 minute walk and was not the easiest terrain with a toddler.
This resort was much closer to bars and restaurants which was great for exploring. There were children friendly pools and playgrounds which Mackenzie loved. I expected more from the room we booked, but then perhaps I was being a bit too fussy. I would recommend this resort if you want to be closer to the hustle and bustle with lots of bar and dining options available.
St Maarten with kids is the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. If you are looking for some activities to do whilst you are there, here are a few of my recommendations:
Guided Tour around the Island
As we had the little one in tow, we decided that a group tour was not the best option for us. So instead we hired a taxi driver to show us around the island for a few hours. We saw some wonderful parts of the island such as Orient Beach, Grand Case and Marigot. Each had beautiful beaches, naturally, and its own unique shops and restaurants.
A day at Maho Beach is an aviation lovers dream day and the entire reason we wanted to visit St Maarten. This was a bucket list item for us and I will always look back fondly on the time we spent there. Read the full blog post for everything you need to know!
Shopping in Philipsburg
The capital city is the port to which all cruise ships arrive and there are a lot of high end shops to enjoy duty free shopping. There is an abundance of jewellery on offer if that is what you are in the market for.
Some of the things I would have loved to do in St Maarten but were unable to this time around due to Mackenzie’s age:
I collected this brochure knowing full well that I would not be able to go, but wanting to share it with my lovely readers. Sipping unlimited Champagne, eating canapes and watching the sun set below the Caribbean Sea. I don’t think I need to say anymore to sell it to you!
I have never done this but it looks really fun, if not a little terrifying. And perhaps one of the steepest zip lines in the world is not the best place for me to start. However, the views are said to be incredible of the the island itself and surrounding islands.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
The crystal clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea are unlike any other and I imagine that exploring what is underneath the surface would be pretty special. There are a multitude of tour operators so do your research and choose your fave.
Unfortunately at the time of visiting St Maarten and when writing this blog post, both of these establishments are closed due to the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. I was really disheartened to read that many of the animals had been looted after the storms, and the Zoo is said to be permanently closed. From all reports they were excellent establishments so it is worth checking the websites when you visit to see if they have reopened.
FOOD AND DRINK
We had kitchenettes in both of our accommodations so enjoyed a combination of cooking and eating out during our holiday. Honorable mentions go to:
When you can choose your own live crayfish from a tank, you know you are in for a special treat. This restaurant had only been opened a couple of weeks as it too had been completely devastated by the hurricane. It has a super relaxed vibe looking out over the harbor and admiring all the multi-million dollar boats.
An uber chilled out bar on the beach with really long happy hours. We stopped here a few times for food and drink as it was en route back to the hotel. A great place to quench your thirst after lapping up the Caribbean sunshine. Be sure to try a Cocktail with the locally made rum-based drink, Guavaberry.
This is quite possibly my favorite bar in the world. Good food, cold beer, tunes pumping, sea, sand and planes approaching. It is what I would call my happy place, and I think it is essential that you plan a trip to this bar if you are on the island.
WHAT WE LOVED ABOUT ST MAARTEN
Everything! We honestly have such wonderful memories of this holiday and whilst we like to try new places, we really want to head straight back to St Maarten. The devastation that was caused to the island by the hurricane is unthinkable and heartbreaking. I couldn’t believe the amount of damage that was still apparent everywhere you went. Cars and boats overturned, homes with no roofs and windows left abandoned and all the vegetation which is fighting to come back to life. However you cannot deny the natural beauty of this island. I am so happy that we visited when we did and that we could support the local economy through our tourism.
KIDS IN ST MAARTEN
So, would I recommend St Maarten with Kids? Absolutely! It is the ultimate place to enjoy the sun, sea and just breathe. Personally I have found that the best kind of holidays with children aged 1-2 years are chilled out ones near the beach. City breaks are fabulous, but they are hectic. Mackenzie was so worn out from swimming that she enjoyed 2 long naps a day, meaning I could read my book and enjoy a cocktail in peace and quiet. You will not regret a vacation in the Caribbean with your young family!
Finally, I would highly recommend a stopover in Miami on the way home. Read more about our adventures in my previous blog post ‘Travel Diary | Miami, Florida“. And if you are wondering how to manage an upcoming flight with your toddler, check out “Flying with a Toddler | How to Survive“.