Sun and Sandblasting: A beach vacation for the AVGeek (Part 1)

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Some of you may have heard of Maho Beach when you first clicked a link with a Buzzfeed-esque name like “23 Terrifying Runways That Will Stoke Your Fear of Flying“, maybe your cousin took a cruise there, or maybe you’re like me and you fell in love with an AVGeek.

My husband absolutely loves planes. He likes to fly them, fly in them, read about them, watch them at airshows, talk about them with other pilots and AVGeeks, stake out places where they might be secretly developed and flown, and even visit them at their graveyards.  Needless to say, a place where you can get right up to the runway and feel the blast and smell the jetfuel of departing planes (and reach up and almost touch them as they come in) was definitely on his travel bucket list.

 

So, when we were able to score a great last-minute fare to SXM in September/October of 2014, we were on our way!
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Luckily, we’d already had our shots, kept our travel gear ready, pre-warned the catsitter, and determined that security/health issues in our goal destinations were at an acceptable level. That’s pretty much the standard we try to maintain when we know we have vacation time coming up.

Once the flights were in place, it was a mad scramble to register with the Consular Services and book accommodation on airport wi-fi between flights. Colin was keeping an eye on the gate agents for last call while I madly typed my credit card number into Booking.com.

When doing a last-minute holiday, I usually like to have 2-3 destinations in mind, and vet 2-3 hotels at each destination on tripadvisor in advance. That way, I’ve narrowed things down well enough that I know what I’m searching for when I am playing online travel agencies (OTA’s) and loyalty programs off each other looking for the best deal for my dates.

In this case, all worked out very well and we were able to get a Deluxe King Studio at the Flamingo Beach Resort for a little over $100 USD/night including the resort fee. If you watch the landing video, you can see it across the bay at around the 0:22 mark.

I really loved this resort. It was fairly true to its online marketing. The room we got actually felt bigger than the pictures. It was on the ground floor facing the “garden” (one step up from facing the parking lot, but not a beach view (I didn’t feel like splurging on that for this trip), and had a large deck complete with patio furniture and resident kitties.

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We were right on the end of the building, so it was only a few steps to the beach and easy to pop back to the fridge for a Malibu & pineapple juice refill in our full kitchen.

There were actually 2-3 separate beach areas. The one right out the door from us was mainly used by families and timeshare owners who wanted wide open space to float and splash. The beach bar/restaurant was right next to it and there were also kiosks selling dresses and wraps and a lady who offered to do corn-rows for people who like that sort of thing.

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There was a rockier, wilder, beachy area that faced the open ocean and had a bit more surf.

Simpson Bay Sunset

And my favourite beach that was a bit smaller and felt more intimate, where we spent the most time. This area had the best snorkelling and there were tons of little fish all around the breakwater rocks. Apparently, I don’t have any photos of it because we spent our time there in the water, not behind our cameras. You can sort of see it in the middle right of this photo.  I should also say that there was no area at any of these beaches (or even the pool) where we couldn’t find some beach chairs to stretch out on.

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The pool was quite nice for a dip but wasn’t very deep. The pool bartender made some pretty great frozen drinks, but unless you were ordering the daily special, the price was pretty steep (same result found all over the island).
Sunset on Simpson Bay
What more to say about this beautiful resort? They had a tour desk and were quite helpful in helping us arrange a rental car for our excursion to the other side of the island.

Scenes from Sint Maarten / St. Martin

Most things we wanted to do were walkable. There was a nice french restaurant next door where we had a lovely breakfast. The little Peli Deli market had most things we wanted to snack on and some interesting finds, like this wide range of condiments.

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And there was a bigger grocery store and liquor store near the Burger King (a major landmark when giving directions) at the bottom of our road.

When I say walkable, I mean easy enough for me (out of shape, injured knee, sunburned and whiny), and therefore easy enough for virtually any toddler.

Near the Burger King is where we caught the bus almost every day. For $1.50 USD each, we could get a ride in a mini-bus (12 passenger van) to Maho Beach. People just stand on the side of the road (I didn’t see any actual bus stop signs, but there did seem to be designated areas to get on/off), wait for a bus to come by with a sign in their windshield listing the destination, and flag them down. I didn’t see many other non-locals using this method of transport, but I thoroughly preferred trying to understand the accent of engaging in conversation with friendly islanders going about their day to shelling out for a taxi unnecessarily.

Without needing transport, we were able to eat a few memorable meals within 5 minutes walk of the Burger King (no, I don’t mean at the McDonald’s, that was just a quick stop in search of wi-fi).

Pineapple Pete’s was on the higher end of our evening meal experiences, in that I felt a tad under-dressed in a sarong and tank top over a wet bathing suit. The atmosphere was tropically romantic and included live music as the evening progressed, the service was quite good and the food was outstanding. I highly recommend the dark rum creme brulee.

While the Beach Bar at the Flamingo Beach Resort had food, drinks, and live entertainment, I preferred the Buccaneer Beach Bar just a couple minutes away towards the Burger King. We first popped in just for a geocache (I definitely recommend doing a geocache or two while on holiday) and a drink on our way to Maho Beach one day, but liked the menu enough to come back one night for dinner. The place feels very festive, and after the third round of their special shots, we couldn’t help but have a good time.

The other place we had a memorable meal was in our unit’s kitchen after we went just a little ways over the bridge to pick up some amazing BBQ chicken at this little roadside shack. We took it home and made a nice little dinner with some other food we had bought at the grocery store.  I highly recommend trying street food wherever you travel.

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So, now that you’ve read about getting there, staying there, and getting around, and eating, stay tuned to read the next posts in the series detailing what we did next!

 

**Have you been to St Maarten? Share your experience in the comments section here and remember to “Like” this page on Facebook to keep seeing posts like this and more. If you’d like to support this blog, please check out my referral links. Sharing is caring, so tell your friends!**

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3 thoughts on “Sun and Sandblasting: A beach vacation for the AVGeek (Part 1)

  1. Sarah Mitchell says:

    Great post with so many different elements to enjoy. Looking forward to part 2!
    I wonder what your husband would have made of my tiny turboprop in Kenya that landed on a strip of grass in the middle of nowhere and where we were required to stay aboard for 2 extra hours because a pride of lions had decided to sunbathe on the airstrip!
    I have to say a hotel with resident cats sounds amazing. I really miss my kitty when I travel so having ‘extras’ to cuddle would definitely make me happy.
    I’m glad you also enjoy the public transport part of travelling. I have to say I don’t really understand people who isolate themselves from the community they are visiting. Why shut yourself away in a taxi or private hire when you can get aboard with the locals and start chatting?

    Liked by 1 person

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