St. Maarten (St. Martin) was another stop that I was convinced I would love. It has been on my "must visit" list for a loooong time.
We decided to rent a jeep at the cruise terminal. Probably not the bet decision. When we (finally) got the keys and loaded up, we saw that the gas light was on. Niiiice. Did I mention that he guy we rented it from was totally sketchy?? Oh, and that it didn't have windows (this comes into play later...)? So, we pull in to get gas, noticing that it's pretty spendy, but the island is small and we figured it wouldn't be a big deal. We put $20 in...pull out, and realize that the light is still on. We drive a little ways, and I'm starting to get nervous, so we put another $15 and suddenly the gas gauge pops up. Oh yes, it was just stuck on E previously!! Grrrrr.
We had heard that Islet Pinal is a beautiful place to visit, with great beaches for the kids, so we park the jeep and take the short (crowded and $$) "ferry" over (which was just a tiny boat). We look around and head over to what looks like the best beach for kids (and it was!), get settled in...and got kicked off. Apparently you had to pay for that beach! Yeah, we have paid enough today, thank you very much. So we head to the "public" beach. Not good for kids. Steep drop off just a few feet out, lots of waves, lots of boats. And oh, wait...those look like rain clouds. And they moved in FAST! Torrential downpour, to which we rain for shelter in the little huts that were the only sheltered place on the island. And guess what?? Restaurant patrons only! So we had to buy drinks ($11 each!!!!!). We tried to leave, but the boats don't run in the rain so we were stuck.
Finally the rain let up enough for the boats to run (and this was not a fleeting downpour), and we rushed back to St. Martin. Did I mention that the top was down on the jeep?? Along with having no windows? Made for a fun drive!
Thankfully John persisted (I was ready to head back to the ship!) and we drove around and found another beach at Friar's Bay. It still wasn't perfect for kids since the waves were pretty big, but it was virtually deserted and we stayed there, dried off, and played for a while. After that, we continued our drive over towards Marigot where we found a cute little restaurant (where no one spoke English), and had a delicious lunch. The owners were so nice, and even gave the boys each a keychain from their little gift shop.
After we ate, and I was less grumpy, we drove around the remaining part of the island in the (dried off) jeep until we got back to Philipsburg. The day was salvaged, and we ended up having a pretty good time despite the rocky beginning! At the time I insisted that I never wanted to go back, but now I would rate it slightly above Aruba and it might be nice to give it another try. I really think they have capitalized on tourism a bit too much in some areas, and I was starting to get frustrated and was feeling like we were bleeding money. But apparently the whole island isn't like that since I didn't feel like that during the second part of the day.