August 01, 2009

Honeymoon Series: St. Maarten!

My favorite island of all time is St. Maarten so it was the obvious choice for the first honeymoon location feature.

St. Maarten is located in the Lesser Antilles, about 150 southeast of Puerto Rico. The island is half Dutch, half French. The French side is spelled St. Martin, the Dutch side is spelled St. Maarten. English is spoken throughout the island, but you'll hear both Dutch and French spoken on their respective sides of the island. The 37 square mile island has 37 white sand beaches.

Getting to St. Maarten has never been easier. You can now take direct flights to the island on Contintal Airlines, American Airlines, US Air, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and Jet Blue Airlines. It's a three and a half hour flight from New York City.

Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino

The Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino is a three star resort located on the dutch side of the island. It is a quick 25 minute drive from the airport and a short ten minute walk to downtown Phillipsburg where you can find shopping, dining, and nightlife. There are 257 rooms as well as a casino, spa, tennis court, activity center, and one mile beach. Prices start at $205 per night. All Inclusive and Honeymoon Packages are available.

The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort & Spa

The Westin is only a 20 minute drive from the airport. The 308 room hotel has a casino, fitness room, spa, and scuba shop. It also features the island's largest freshwater infinity pool with a swim up bar and hot tub.

St. Maarten is called the "culinary capitol of the Caribbean" so food is a main focus. If you didn't want to, you wouldn't have to even leave the hotel property to experience the incredible cuisine. The resort has two oceanfront fine dining restaurants, a poolside cafe, lobby and pool bars, as well as room service.

Rooms begin at $149 per night and do offer a Honeymoon Package.

Restaurant Le Cottage

If you do want to venture out and experience the amazing food, you must check out Restaurant Le Cottage. My personal recco? Anything from the Local Lobster Tasting Menu. The restaurant is known for it's foie gras and wine list, so don't hesitate to ask the experts to help you pair a wine with your meal.

The Butterfly Farm

One of the most popular attractions on the island is the butterfly farms. It is an enclosed farm that you can walk through at your leisure as the butterflies fly around. The best time to experience the butterfly farm is in the morning when the butterflies come out of their cocoon and take their first flight.

Phillipsburg Shopping

My favorite thing to do in St. Maarten is shop. Old Street in Phillipsburg is filled with local shops, outlets (such as Tiffany's and Coach), and small cafes.

The islands are a great place to buy jewelery. Ballerina Jewelers are the best jewelers on the island. If you're in the market for something sparkly, don't go to any other shop. Go straight to Ballerina Jewelers and ask for Michael. You'll get the best, most reputable deals on the island.

Another can't miss stop is Last Mango In Paradise. It has all-things Jimmy Buffet. You won't miss it - there is a huge 7 foot shark out front that's perfect for a unique photo-op.

Liqueur is made right on the island. Head in for a free sample. It's the perfect stop to get out of the heat, try something new, and get some really unique souvenirs. It's the perfect thing to bring home and break out on your first anniversary to re-live your honeymoon.

Guavaberry Colada

Put ice in a blender. Add 2 ounces of Sint Maarten Guavaberry, 1 ounce of Cream of Coconut, 3 ounces of pineapple pieces or juice. Blend well. Garnish with Pineapple, toasted coconut, and fresh nutmeg.

You'll know you have arrived in the right place when you see this courthouse, which is often the main star of local artwork.

You do need a passport to get onto the island and to get back into the United States. There is a departure tax of $30 per person for international destinations ($10 per person for Netherlands Antilles destinations) which you can pay at the airport or at your resort. Ask the front desk for assistance. Average temperature in the winter is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and 84 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Visit the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association website for more details.

Have you been to St. Maarten? Please share your experiences and any recco's that you have!

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