This post is the second in a series of posts I am writing about my first post-Irma trip to Saint Martin. I hope you can join me for all of them. Here is a link to the first post.
December 27, 2017 – Arriving in Sint Maarten is always a special event, particularly if you’ve been to the island before. The thrill of flying over Maho Beach is such a cool experience. This time was different, however.
Normally this time of year in Sint Maarten is high season. Maho Beach should be packed, shoulder-to-shoulder, with tourists posing for pictures with a commercial aircraft flying low overhead as it comes in to land at Princess Juliana International Airport. Of course, now there are only three daily flights from the United States to the island.
All the same, the thrill of flying into the island was still awesome, still familiar. What wasn’t familiar was the unknown element of what I would see on this trip. Sure, I’ve spent the last three and a half months writing about the island nearly everyday, so I had an educated sense for what I was about to experience, but you just never know until you get somewhere.
I want this trip to be great, I would love to have the best experience I’ve ever had on this tiny little paradise. And usually, that’d be something you’d know was possible as your plane soared over Maho Beach. This time though, I knew that wasn’t the objective. I’m not coming here to relax and vacation. I’m coming here to do, observe and, hopefully, help.
Our plane began to descend and my excitement grew. You know the feeling, flying into Sint Maarten, it’s always awesome. Well this time was no different in that respect.
As we deplaned the aircraft, things were starting to feel much more similar to past visits. The biggest difference was waiting for a shuttle. Normally, we’d enter into the terminal to go through customs. This time, a shuttle pulled up to drive us a very short distance to the far east end of the terminal, closest to Maho Beach.
When we arrived, there were a few white tents and a set of ropes set up to que passengers as we waited to go through customs. After exiting the customs line, you could walk about 10 feet to pick up any checked luggage. I didn’t check any bags, but the efficiency of the set up was actually a nice change. It feels more like arriving at a small island paradise, than a large island. That part was pretty cool.
There were Christmas decorations hanging inside the tent. Everyone I encountered met me with a smile. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure how to greet the locals. Part of me just wanted to be normal, but another part of me wanted to hug everyone I saw. Of course, I would’ve loved hugging everyone but I figured that might seem strange, so I played it cool.
As I left the clearance area I walked through the final security check and out onto the curb. There were several people standing with signs for whatever car rental company they worked for. I approached the man holding the Hertz sign and told him my name. Off we went, just along the outside of the terminal to the main drop off lane where the van was waiting.
As I arrived at the Hertz car rental facility it felt like everyone was there just for me. Normally, the place would be packed with tourists and their families checking in and then driving away with their cars to start their vacation. This time, I was the only one there. The man told me that normally they have a fleet of over 800 vehicles, but now they have less than 100. Most of the cars were damaged and are being sold or auctioned.
After I checked in and had my car, I hopped in to make my way to my hotel, The Azure Hotel located on Simpson Bay Beach. The Azure is the only hotel open in Simpson Bay that is directly on the beach. So if you’re looking for a beach-front place to stay, this is definitely the place.
Azure is a small boutique hotel with eight rooms, all located just steps from the beach. It’s just on the south side of the airport so it was extremely convenient too. It took all of three minutes to get from Hertz to the hotel. There is a small market just a half block from the hotel. And Karakter Beach Bar, one of the islands go-to beach bars, is in the same neighborhood.
After checking in I got settled and went to Buccaneer Beach Bar for a quick bite to eat. Once I arrived, I choose a seat along the bench overlooking Simpson Bay. It was at that moment that it all came back to me. I was in Sint Maarten, the sunset was stunning, the waves were softly lapping onto the beach. It felt so right. It felt like Sint Maarten.
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