Friday, September 18, 2015

Vacation Starts at the Destination Airport

Finally time off! Travelling is stressful. The destination airport is where your vacation should start (and pleasantly ends)! 

How does St. Maarten/St. Martin rank?
The island has two airports, one highly modern and heavily frequented airport on Sint Maarten ("Dutch" side) and a smaller, more regional airport on the French side near Grand Case. Let's talk about the St. Maarten airport, also known by its airport code SXM and its name "Princess Juliana Int'l Airport" (PJIA).

Airport Building Princess Juliana Int'l Airport
Not only has the terminal building been continuously updated to high comfort, also the runway has been extended and improved. Although the airport is known for its challenging approach and dozens of airplane watchers right next to the touch down point show their appreciation, it is a safe airport for passengers. See some of the videos and images, here.

Frequent past problems with slow immigration processing are overcome. As the island does not raise import duties, controls are restricted to immigration without regular customs checks.

Inside the Terminal
The airport is modern and well equipped with the usual services, such as chain restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, and an upscale 'Executive' Lounge for which you got to pay or be a member of one of the cooperating airlines. Email for membership requests.

One of my favorites is the free WiFi of the airport, which facilitates communicating with your family or friends waiting for you at home.

Despite the modern facilities, check-in can be time consuming. Come early to the airport.
The airport handles more than 1.6 mill. passengers a year. It is done better than at other overcrowded airports. The airport received multiple prizes for its good performance, see here.

Leaving or returning to the airport is by cab or rental car, for example this company. Cabs are usually passenger vans. Rental car offices are at the airport, but the cars are all in shuttle bus distance. Some hand over cars on the "fly" at the airport parking. No public transport available.

Some of the tourist centers are 5 minutes or less from the airport, mainly the Maho beach area. The Cupecoy area is about 15 minutes away. The French side popular area of Orient Bay is about 30 minutes away. Philipsburg and Great Bay are about 20 minutes drive from the airport.

Where to Stay
Although the island has a considerable number of hotel rooms, it is more common to rent a condo or a villa. This got to be arranged before arrival, usually months before high season (Xmas to Easter).

Websites with a verified range of quality accommodation are and The number of available, mostly privately owned accommodation is vast. Most rates are shown in USD, some French side properties are shown in Euro. Due to the strong competition, rates are rather low, when compared to other Caribbean islands.

My special tip: Look out for Happy Bay (see photo above). It is the last untouched, non-commercialized beach on the island.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is It Too Hot in Summer?

The Caribbean is a typical winter destination. Stable, mild weather with temperatures in the low eighties are common, almost guaranteed. But, what's about summer? Too hot?

Big Misconception
The month of August is the time, when people rush to the South of the United States or Europe. Here a few daytime high temperatures at any day in August at some tourist destinations:
Miami/Florida:  95 F./ 36 C.
Albuquerque/New Mexico: 100 F./ 38 C.
Marbella/Spain: 97 F./ 37 C.
Please, compare:
St. Maarten/St. Martin: 83 F./  28 C., low humidity

Summer Season on St. Maarten/St. Martin

The beaches are almost deserted, lodging rates are lower by 10% - 30%, the sea waters are calm and warmer than in winter season. As the destination is not so much requested, your choice of accommodation is much better and you can be more selective. Short term bookings are possible. Flight tickets and rental car rates are lower priced, too.

Think about these facts and forget, what you assumed about the weather, instead check the weather page on
A great selection of prequalified apartments and villas can be found at, starting at $60/night. Villas start at roughly $2,000/week, for example Villa Canoua.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Get the Full Picture - Don't Stick to Smart Phones

Smart Phones Suck

No, I am not against the use of smart phones, but they are not suitable for informing yourself about your next vacation destination. Web pages with plenty of photos, text, rate tables and videos do not fit into the small screens of iPhones and all the other miniature screens.

Get the Full Picture
The designers of one of the major vacation rental websites on St. Maarten/St. Martin, realized that people increasingly asked for information, which has been shown on the website. They just don't find it on their micro-displays.

A new mobile friendly website has been introduced, All web page information automatically resizes, horizontally placed photos are squeezed vertically one after the other, panorama photos are shrinked to tiny thumbnails, and tables are reorganized into vertical sequences. 
Do people now see better, what they are looking for? No, still the same redundant questions are asked because users just cannot find, what they are looking for. Would you watch TV on your IPhone? This is exactly what is happening. Take your time and the right tool, an iPad at least, or a notebook, or even better, a well sized laptop PC in order to get a real impression of your next vacation destination, vacation rental, or hotel. Your vacation is too precious to be decided by a reduced view at the equivalent of a Twitter Tweet of 140 characters. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Only Beaches? What else does St. Maarten and St. Martin offer?

The hurricane season (1) in fall has some windy and rainy days. It's time to explore the other attractions of the island. Here some ideas what to do:

Zip Line
The Fly Zone of Loterie Farm between Marigot and Grand Case has canopy/zip line tours for kids and adults.

The St. Maarten Park is a neat small zoo, although the biggest of the Caribbean, near the former Salt Pond. Some local, committed people work hard to get this zoo and park going.

The Yoda Guy
Nick Maley, the creator of the Star Wars characters, operates a small museum on Front Street in Philipsburg. He shows memorabilia from various films, where he had been contributing to.

About a dozen casinos on the St. Maarten side of the island offer their services at day and night time. The biggest casinos are in the Maho and Cupecoy area. A good casino guide is here at Fodor's.

Window front shopping or the special deal on jewelery, Philipsburg is the right place to do it. Marigot has some options, too, but is usually not so competitive due the exchange rate situation.

Pic Paradis
See the island from the top and walk from the Loterie Farm to the highest mountain of the island. You can also drive up to the top by leaving the main road in Rambaud between Marigot and Grand Case, see map.

Petites Cayes
Start at French Cul de Sac, walk around the Northwestern tip of the island to Anse Marcel and experience great scenary, amazing cactus plants, esp. the Turks head cactus, and a challenging path through scrub. More info on Petites Cayes.

Vacation Planning

If you consider returning to the island, now is a good time to look up a few potential places for your trip next year. This website shows the location of many properties on pop up maps and overview maps. Drive by and see, whether you like the area. Short term visit arrangements are more difficult to achieve. Still, a first impression from outside may already make up your mind, what you would prefer as your place to stay next year.

 (1) Although officially hurricane season is defined as between June 1 and November 30, higher risk of hurricanes exists and some rainy days are more likely in September. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

How to stay up-to-date with SXM

If you wish to to get the latest news about the island before your trip or just want to stay informed about what's going on, an amazing number of options exist about the island. The online editions of newspapers and online news sites are a valuable source for planning and understanding the island specifics. Most of the information refers to the "Dutch" side. The French side is less retrievable online and - of course - it is in French.  
  • The Daily Herald 
     is the most authoritative news source on the island. Crime and political turmoil are the most common headlines. Indeed, the island has its fair shares of problems. It is paradise for many, but it is not utopia!

  • SMN News is a website reporting primarily about Sint Maarten politics and local business.
  • St. Maarten Island Time is another website consolidating news from various sources about crime, politics, business, and other subjects.
  • Today is the other major printed newspaper with an online edition.
  • Everything SXM is a weekly newsletter and website mainly targeted to North American visitors.
  • Sint is a large website with plenty of island information including some more links to News, Weather, and Activities.
  • Faxinfo (French) is a daily printed leaflet and online edition covering the news on the French side of the island.
  • Barbara Talks is a mindful blog about the environment, nature, and daily things on the island from the perspective of an expat living on St. Maarten for many years.
  • Sint is a large website with plenty of island information
including some more links to NewsWeather, and Activities

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tips and Tricks

Getting the most of your St. Maarten - St. Martin trip!

Knowing the vacation rental business for 15 years+, I want to share some tips and tricks for getting the most from your trip to the islands, and especially to the popular island of St. Maarten (former Dutch part) and St. Martin (French part). 
  • Understand the seasons! Xmas to April is high season, rates are higher for air tickets, for car rentals, and for accommodation. Little chance for deals!
  • The other months are times, when customers are kings.September is extremely quiet. No tourist business as it is hurricane season. Stay away in September.
  • Look for air seats first! You can save the most by getting your flight tickets first. If possible by any means, take the popular routes from NYC or Boston, which have the most competition. Accommodation is not restricted to Saturday/Saturday cycles at most condos and villas. Go for the days with the lowest flight rates.
  • How to find a vacation rental! Here is a good summary for more on this. Click!
  • Compromise for a block to the back! Beachfront properties are rare. If you are not a big spender, you may want to reduce your accommodation cost by 50% to 75% by accepting a property, which is not beachfront.
Dreams can become reality!

More tips to come! Enjoy your island time!