Why the Island of St. Martin should be your Next Vacation:
Background of St. Martin:
The island of St. Martin is owned half by the French and half by the Dutch. The airport is on the Dutch side, but a taxi ride to the French side is only around a 20 minute drive. The beauty of vacationing in St. Martin is, while the island depends on tourism to survive, the overall vibe of the island is not overly touristy. Everything and every one is extremely authentic. Almost everyone we met said that they have been vacationing in St. Martin for 20+ years. So to me, that speaks volumes about the island and Hotel L’Esplanade.
Where to Stay:
We stayed at L’Esplanade, which is on the French side of the island of St. Martin (in an area called Grand Case). The entire trip was one of the most unique and rewarding trips that I have ever been on. As you will read more about below, the island was destroyed by hurricane Irma last year. I traveled to St. Martin to help celebrate and promote Hotel L’Esplanade’s grand re-opening!
L’Esplanade is a small, intimate boutique hotel in Grand Case. I 100000% recommend staying at L’Esplanade if you want an intimate, authentic, delicious, and breathtaking vacation that won’t break the bank. Rooms start at $265/night, so 5 nights only puts you around $1325 (plus, if you are splitting it with someone then it’s only $662.50). The hotel is not all-inclusive, but trust me – you’re going to want to go out and explore all of the dining options in Grand Case (which are also very affordable). You can read more about Hotel L’Esplanade and our stay here.
Hurricane Irma | SXM Strong:
On September 6th, 2017, the island of St. Martin was changed forever. Hurricane Irma, a category 5 hurricane, devastated the island and destroyed pretty much everything. As most Caribbean islands, the economy of St. Martin is made up of 84% tourism. And with almost all of the hotels damaged, the past year has been a tough one for the small island.
However, the people of St. Martin are extremely strong and resilient. And in just a little over a year later, most businesses, restaurants and hotels are beginning to open back up. So now more than ever, they really need the support of paying tourists.
The Dining Capital of the Caribbean:
The area we stayed in is called Grand Case and it is located on the French side of the island. Grand Case is known as the dining capital of the Caribbean, and now I know why! Every single thing that we ate was out of this world, from the local grills (that locals call Lolols) to the world renown French and Italian restaurants that line “Restaurant Row” in Grand Case.
Restaurants that We tried:
- La Villa – Five-star French/Seafood restaurant located on Restaurant Row. Excellent Fillet and wine selection!
- Au Coin Des Amis – A sit down “Lolo” style restaurant serving freshly grilled chicken, ribs, and seafood
- Piazza Pascal – Italian Restaurant located in a beautiful courtyard style setting. Outstanding Red Snapper special paired with the house Rose’.
- Auberge Gourmande – Intimate, French Bistro styled restaurant. Extremely friendly staff, offering a glass of champagne with mouth-watering food and desert.
- Spiga – Local Italian restaurant with an excellent bar selection and exquisite hand-made pasta dishes.
- Rainbow Cafe – A lively and bright lunch and dinner restaurant, featuring everything from burgers to Mahi-Mahi. Located right on the beach; and if you eat here, you can use their beach chairs for free.
- Blue Martini – When we were here, the inside/restaurant part was closed. However, it is the best spot for nightlife, after dinner drinks, and live music.
While I can only speak for the beach along Grand Case, the water surrounded by mountains on both side is absolutely breath-taking. One thing to note is that it is a public beach and beach chairs are not provided for free. You can rent a set of chairs at several different locations for around $20, or you can eat at Rainbow Cafe and use their chairs all day.
However, the nice thing about staying at L’Esplanade is that they have a sister hotel called Le Petit Hotel which is located directly on the beach. So between the two, you can use their beach chairs for free no matter which hotel you decide to stay at. Public beach access can be found at the beginning of Restaurant Row, which is only about a 7 minute walk from Hotel L’Esplanade.
The only thing I would change about our 4 night stay in the island of St. Martin would have been to stay longer and be able to explore more of the island. However, we were more than pleased with the entire experience and never felt unsafe or unwelcome (even with the 7 minute walk to town down the middle of the public streets).
As much as I have been to the Caribbean, I have never felt as emerged in the true culture as we did in St. Martin. And that is because we didn’t stay at a huge resort where you never want to leave. There are very few large resorts on the island of St. Martin, and I think that is what makes it so special. I truly 100% recommend staying at L’Esplanade.
If you have any questions about our experience or anything at all, please don’t hesitate to ask! I would love to be able to inspire someone to visit the island of St. Martin for themselves. Trust me, it’s worth the trip.
Until next time,