St. Martin Island Tour Excursion Reviews
We took a trip over to the French side. The dutch side was totally jammed as there were 7 ships in port.Marigot Bay was rather undeveloped 11 years ago when we were last there. Now it's all "touristy". We did find a nice resturant & had a great lunch Al Fresco. It would have rated 5 stars,if not for the huge crowds.
St.Martin/Marteen is split between the French and the Dutch side and gave off a super "KEEP OUT" vibe. When you arrive in port, you have to walk about five mins down the pier to the shops and pickup area for tours/excursions. Beautiful views of the mountains and crystal clear amazingly blue water. The stores are again reasonably priced, but the Euro is used in some areas, but everywhere we went took the USD to their disadvantage. The markets all accepted USD, no cards, so the exchange rate favored us and not them, which was bad, for them, good for us! There was just a large sense of poverty.
First we had to literally hustle for a taxi tour of the island. We did not book through the ship and spontaneously decided to go on one. They accepted only cash. The more people you have, the less it is. Why one group of tourists said they wanted to ride alone for $40ea for a 3hr tour when I just tapped a stranger and said "hey, are you guys doing a full tour,too?" and we all just paid $25 ea. The signs posted tell you this, but it's super hectic. Elect a spokesperson for your party to talk to the vendors. It's like an auctionhouse and showroom all at once. But we setoff with our group of 10. Maria our driver took us to both sides of the island and pointed out a bunch of stuff. She was also very clear about us having time to "just get out and take a picture," or "you have ten mins" or "you have 45mins (and it flew by)."
It was like a history lesson being on the tour. I saw my first statues referencing the Middle Passage of the African Slave trade in my life. There are no lights we stopped at on either island, just rotaties everywhere. Also, drivers WILL drive around you on the road, no matter what kind of road it is. I'm glad we were in a van, because pretty much every home on the French side had tall gates and barbed wire fences around them and there was just a LOT of poverty on the Dutch side, which explained the KEEP OUT feel of the French side. If you are going to do an excursion here, it's at your own risk. I am from a huge major city here in the US and I was glad to do the taxi ride with close to a dozen people in our van. Safety in numbers!
We visited a few beaches, including Princess Juliana Airport/ Maho beach where the planes fly over you. We had 10mins there and saw two small planes go over us. Scary stuff since the beach, the rotary, the road and the airport all cross each other. Our tourguide said its one of the top most dangerous places in the world. I wonder why.
All in all, St. Martin/Marteen from what I saw was very picturesque in areas and very The Wire- Caribbean style in other areas followed by Gated Home Central in other areas.
The roads are so narrow & windy that you can't see much from in the bus. We liked the stop on the French side at the flea market.
Found on TripAdvisor Bernard Tours and booked a day sight-seeing tour of the island via email. 22 people on the van included a great tour and history of the island by “mailman.” He was very informative and lead a great 5 hour tour of the entire island (Dutch and French). Beer, rum, soda and water were included in the $45 price. 1 1/2 hours stop at Orient Bay Beach. (bring sun screen and water with you for the beach stop) 45 minute “timed” stop at St. Juliana International Airport viewing planes landing and taking off.
It was a national holiday on St. Martin, so, nearly all the stores were closed, and the "major" highway from the Dutch side to the French side was closed for a formal ceremony, so we got to see a little more of the countryside bypassed on other cruises. The "Butterfly Farm" was small, but educational. Definitely not built for wheelchairs with the "cheap" solid rubber tires. The path was compacted sand and the viewing area was outdoors. There's a small souvenir shop/bathrooms at the entrance, and a small covered area with a few tables. From there, we went to one of the highest points on the island where there is a large souvenir shop and home to the "original" banana daquari(sp). Nice view from the back deck, which we were told, had been recently reopened. An enjoyable excursion if you don't have a wheelchair with cheap rubber wheels.
We did a sight seeing tour with a beach stop at Airport beach. My advice is to skip any tour of the island. Why? The island has had a lot of hurricane damage and it not visually pleasing to look at, its dry, lots of traffic, dingy and run down. Some of the most beautiful beaches were next to where the cruise ship docks and only a 10 min. walk away. Airport beach is the “go-to” spot for 90% of the tourists and it is ALWAYS crowded. The beach here is thin and you’re literally towel-to-towel with everyone else. Its not handicapped friendly, due to the retainer wall, rocks and Narrow Street. Seeing the planes come in is a neat treat, getting sand blasted when they take off is less than appealing for this tourist. There is a casino/bar/and three restraunts very close by which is a plus for our wheelchair bound relative. NO snorkeling to be found on this beach.
Our tour was a combination of an island tour with long beach visits.
We took the island tour which included both the French and Dutch side of the island and included Maho Beach also known as Airport Beach.
We saw several planes land and take off which was quite amazing to see while being so close to the end of the runway.
Our tour driver was very knowledgeable and made the tour interesting.
Unfortunately like most things on this cruise, there were inconsiderate passengers who arrived back at the bus late each time causing us to not be able to stop at some of the designated stops because we ran out of time.
We chose to hire a taxi for a tour around the island. It was much cheaper than booking through the cruise line and according to what we've been told, a much better value since you get to see a lot more of the island in a van versus a big bus. Our tour guide was very friendly, knowledgeable and funny. He took us to all the points of interest on both the Dutch and French sides. He initially bypassed the 'fun beach' which is clothing optional, since a child was on this tour, but after we stopped at Bikini Beach, he took only the grown-ups over to the 'fun beach' and we later rejoined the child and his parents and resumed our tour. This is truly an amazingly beautiful place and the native people are extremely friendly.
This was the one disappointing event of the whole trip. The local "tour guide" was not professional. Also there is almost nothing to see in St Martin.
We booked an independent excursion through Bernard’s Tours after doing our research on the Cruise Critic boards. Our tour included stops at Oyster Pond, Orient Beach, Marigot, Maho Beach and also small stops along the way for photo opportunities. It was a good way to learn about the island and to see a good deal of it in a short time. The bus was air conditioned, clean, and the driver provided both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Oyster Pond was fun, there was a man there who had different sea creatures for the kids to hold and learn about.
We stayed at Orient Beach for almost 2 hours. We were taken to La Playa – you could rent chairs for $5 each and it came with a free rum punch or fruit punch. If you wanted chairs in the first row they were $10 each with the same free drink per chair. They have food there as well, a pretty good sized menu, but we were not ready for food. The beach was beautiful – not too many vendors – and the water pristine. The restrooms were clean. They have free wifi but you need to be close to the bar for it to work. We enjoyed our short stay here.
Marigot was a short stop – enough time to get a quick glance at the shops and something to eat if you were hungry. At the suggestion of many on the boards we went to Sarafina’s to get French pastries. The prices were reasonable and the food was good.
Maho Beach is the reason we booked this tour. My kids wanted to go so badly, while I did not want to spend all day on a tiny crowded beach. We got to Maho around 1:30pm and the beach was jam packed, the beach bar/restaurant was jam packed and it was HOT! The street runs right up against the beach so you need to be careful with your kids. We were there long enough to see a few small and one large plane land – and then began our journey back to Philipsburg. I was not particularly a fan of Maho but it was neat to see. I wouldn't spend a full day here, but would suggest to see it if you can as part of a tour.
I had arranged a tour through the internet with Jo Junie Tours, http://www.jojunietours.com/ . He came highly recommended and I was not disappointed. The tour went around the entire island with a 2 hour stop at Orient Beach, lunch at Marigot(on your own), and a final stop at Simpson’s Beach to watch the planes come in. Had a great driver and great view of the island.
This was our second tour with Bernard's. It was just as good as the first time. DJ was our tour guide. He was a very good guide. We did tour 2 this time. A little more beach time at Orient Beach. There wasn’t anyone at the iguana farm so we didn’t get to feed them. It was sad to see all the work they put into it only to have to move it across the fence to the Dutch side because the French side said it wasn’t permitted. The beach club at Orient Beach was good, chairs very comfortable. For $10 we got two chairs and two drinks. Serafinas in Marigot was closed on Monday but we did get some pastries at the place next door. Don't miss the Soursop juice in Marigot. It was another wonderful tour.
St. Martin is my favorite Caribbean island. The people are super friendly. Their cruise port is very nice and well maintained. And at their shops I never felt pressure by the shopkeepers like I do on other islands. I would definitely plan a full vacation on this island.
We had been there before and we wanted to go to the French side this time. That being said I did not see a detectable difference from the Dutch side. I will always wonder why Island nations like these did not do more to develop infrastructure and mandate beautification to promote tourism. The island does have some beautiful natural settings and let's hope that they remain so. They may not be third world countries, but still fall into a "second world" ranking to me
I arranged a private tour and got 3 other couple to join from these message boards and it worked out very well. We arranged a great guide that was recommended in here and she was wonderful. We toured the island at our own pace. We were never stopped at tourist traps and high pressure sales areas. We enjoyed the beach, the city for a quick lunch, and other sites. We odd stop at maho to see the planes, too. I enjoyed it, but read up on it first...were some issues on other tours.
We signed up for an excursion that would have us stop at a beach on the Dutch side, and a beach on the French side of the Island--St Martin Sensational SM125. We also got 1 hour of shopping in Marigot, and had a BBQ lunch provided. Total excursion was 6.5 hours. They ended up stopping at only 1 beach--Orient Beach. There were several Locals at the beach trying to sell things to us. We could not even relax or see the beach itself because we constantly had people standing in front us trying to sell us things. Whether you told them kindly or more forcefully to leave us alone--they never went away!!! I am submitting feedback to RCL. Hopefully, they can send a cruise line shore excursion employee in disguise as a cruise passenger to investigate this excursion. I felt like we were ripped off!
We used Bernard's Tours and did the beach intensive tour #2. We spent an hour and a half at Orient beach after visiting an iguana farm and a couple other scenic stops on the way. After Orient Beach we went to our meeting spot and found out our van had broken down. Bummer! But Bernard's quickly hired a taxi cab and had us transported to our next location, which was Marigold, while they repaired the van. We got about 20 minutes extra shopping time but that caused us to lose some time at Maho Beach. We arrived just in time to see a Jet Blue flight land. What an experience. It is their slow season so I'm not sure whether we missed any other flights coming or going. Overall I thought Bernard's handled the situation very well. Our guide was Sexy(his name :-P )and he was very knowledgeable. We were back to the ship in plenty of time to do a little shopping near the ship.
A pretty little port and the tour gives you an insight into what the island have to offer.
St. Martin is one of my favorite ports. This time was not my best time in St. Martin, but only because it was raining and we could not do everything we wanted, still a great visit. One thing we did that I think is really fun was Airplane Beach, you can lay on the beach or be in the ocean, and see planes go directly over your head. You have to check it out what a great experience.
hands down the best tour ever, best opperator, I wanted to visit Maho beach and watch the planes take off, we found a tour that did this as well as a lot of other venues. we spend a little extra time watching the planes and even was able to hang on the fence while one took off. we visited the banana daquirti tour and ended up at Orient Beach (the nude beach) 5 hours for $25 was the best money spent on the whole trip
avoid unless you want to see burger kings and backroads closest beach was 10-15 miles away