Have Baby Will Travel’s trip reports for St. Martin are organized alphabetically by city or region within the country. Simply scroll down to read them all. Each trip report has been provided to Have Baby Will Travel in hopes of giving other parents a clearer picture of what to expect when traveling to St. Martin with a baby or toddler.
DUTCH SIDE: CONDOS AT GUANA BAY & BELAIR BEACH
S.C. & Family (Babies 2.5yrs & 7mos.)
We just got back from a 2-week trip to St. Martin. I was with my husband, my father, my 2 ½-year-old and 7-month-old. Since I was terrified to travel with 2 young children, I thought I would share my experience. We brought the Sit ‘N’ Stroll along for the baby, which doubled as a car seat for the plane and rental car and a stroller for the airport (I can’t say enough about this product…people stopped us in airports to ask about it. It is a great combo item but not the greatest stroller or car seat.) Hertz set us up with car seat number 2 for the 2 ½- year-old. The information I found said that both of my kids need car seats on the island. As a practical matter, we saw lots of people holding their babies as they drove around. It seemed to be more a of “you make the call” type of thing than a hard and fast rule, but I was more comfortable with both kids in car seats.
We spent week one at the condos at Guana Bay. We stayed in a two-bedroom condo which was nice because it gave the 2 ½-year-old an upstairs loft which worked perfectly for quiet naps. Max, the manager of the condos, bought a pack and play for the baby which was fantastic (apparently the European pack and plays are crib sized which was refreshing). We gave him a tip and took the pack and play with us to condo number two (which also was nice) and then dropped it with him before our departure. This condo is very isolated, which is definitely my style. There is a small beach at Guana Bay next to a rarely visited restaurant/bar. The bar became our hang out for a week. The bartender was wonderful to us and kept the 2 ½- year-old in pineapple juice while keeping mom and dad happy with rum punch. The food was excellent and they were always open to working late if we said we would be coming over.
Week 2 was at Belair Beach. My father has had a timeshare there for many years so it was not my first visit. While the rooms are dated from the exterior, once you get inside they are very nice. My husband and I shared a gigantic king bed in the master bedroom and put the 2 ½-year old in room number 2. Cruelly, we put my dad on the fold out couch, but he reports it was really comfortable. There was plenty of room for the pack n play in the master bath, which gave the baby some darkness and us some privacy. Belair is a bit on the crowded side. People on the whole were extremely friendly and the 2 ½-year-old loved the pool (just shallow enough that she could “swim” and show off). The Gingerbread Cafe was o.k. for a close by meal, but the staff was not particularly attentive. The Divi (next door) has a sandwich shop, which was the closest thing to fast food we could find and great for the toddler.
What to do with kids on the island… Be prepared to adapt. We stuck to restaurants with other hooks. Turtle Pier has parrots and monkeys. We ordered food and then visited the animals until it came. Jimbo’s has a pool. I didn’t really want to get in, but let my daughter splash in the pool with her Crocs while I drank margaritas and waited on excellent shrimp fajitas. We came back to the same area the next day to eat at Zee Best breakfast (careful…they put a basket of pastries on the table that are far from free and very tempting to little hands) and walked around looking at giant yachts and feeding the neighborhood chicken while we waited. Almost everywhere we went had high chairs whether they were free standing or attached to the tables. I think I only had to hold the baby in one restaurant.
When you aren’t eating–We went to the butterfly farm. I was tremendously bored and felt it was overpriced ($14 a person), but the toddler loved it and asked to go back nearly every day (you can return as many times as you want during your stay on the island for no additional charge). We went to Friar’s Beach a couple of times. This has always been my favorite beach on the island and that opinion has not changed. There are not any big waves, so it is good for the little ones. Also, the men working at the Friar’s Beach Bar (there are two…it was the fancier looking one) were wonderful with the kids. They pulled out plastic cups for the toddler’s juice and gave the fussy baby straws to play with. Finally, we snuck into the Westin pool. We didn’t go until about 4:00 p.m. After spending some time on the beach, we sauntered into the pool (recently purchased cocktails in hand). There is a 6-inch section of the pool with bubbling fountains that the baby just loved. The toddler pretty much loved the whole pool.
My husband and I snuck away for one night for a grown-ups only meal at Le Cottage in Grand Case. Great staff, great food. Something to keep in mind, bring cash to the French side. We would have been much better off if we had paid for our meal in cash under their estimated conversion rate (some places do $1 U.S. to 1 Euro…I think they were more like $1 U.S. to 1.3 Euro) than paying with credit and getting the true conversion rate. Live and learn.
Overall, a wonderful trip. Don’t be scared to bring the kids. I found everyone to be very accommodating and open to having kids around.
DUTCH SIDE: WESTIN DAWN BEACH RESORT & SPA
DP & Family (baby 2yrs)
We just completed a week’s vacation at the Westin Dawn Beach from May 6th – May 13th.
After reading scathing reviews from earlier this year, we had some reservations about choosing St. Maarten / Westin Dawn Beach for a week with our 27 month old daughter. But having gazillion Starwood Preferred Guest points, we figured that, having to use the points sometime, we would give Dawn Beach a try with modest expectations.
We were more than pleasantly surprised with the quality of our experience. We booked two adjoining rooms (with points) and were pleased with their size, quality of amenities, and comfort. Obviously, a Westin room is not a St. Regis room or a Four Seasons room, but the fact that all the furnishings are brand new raised the quality of the room quite a bit in our view. The fact that each of our rooms were filled with 6-8 fresh bath towels every day was nice.
Because we were bringing our 27-month-old daughter with us, we made numerous calls down to the property prior to arrival to double and triple check the availability of cribs and babysitting. We probably talked to every concierge at least once at some point – they ranged from ‘still learning the job’ to ‘obviously experienced and willing to run down any issues.’ But the end result was that we 1) got competent babysitting every night, allowing numerous dinner trips to Grande Case, and 2) frequent calls from experienced staff members making sure we and our daughter were enjoying our stay. No complaints there. For example, room service was willing to put together special ‘combination meals’ to satisfy our picky toddler.
While the resort literature is vague about a ‘kiddie pool,’ the main pool has two large areas only six inches deep. We recommend renting the $25 ‘Blue Bubbles’ for shade on the beach over the much higher cost of renting a beach or pool cabana.
Restaurants on premises are decent if not spectacular. A 20-minute drive to Grand Case is highly recommended, there are several worthy examples of classic Continental and ‘modern’ French cuisine that should be explored. For a high caloric ‘American breakfast,’ we recommend Busby’s just up the beach from the Westin.
We thought the Westin beach was clean and enjoyable. For children, we highly recommend Le Gallion beach 15 minutes away towards Grand Case. Very shallow, almost no surf at all.
I am confused by some of the negative reviews. Perhaps the property is more ‘stressed’ in the high season, leading to service lapses. We certainly didn’t notice any and appreciated having run of the place when we were there in mid-May. We would recommend the Westin Dawn Beach, a particular value if using points.
FRENCH SIDE: GRAND CASE BEACH RESORT
Wilbur & Family (baby 9mos.)
My wife, our 9 month old baby, and I just came back from the GCBC and had an excellent visit. This was our first major trip with our baby (we have traveled with him before – this was his 4th round trip flight (and the longest)). Before our son arrived we traveled moderately (Europe, Vietnam/Cambodia, Australia, Patagonia) usually seeking active vacations (hiking, cycling, swimming). Of the many places we’ve been, the GCBC is one of the very few that we would go back to (and we’re planning to go back soon).
With a baby we had to change the way we vacation – specifically, we wanted to stay in one place that had enough space for baby to toddle around and nap in a separate room. He loves the water but hates driving, so we wanted to be on the beach. Also very important was the need to have food options close at hand; as new parents, we find keeping ourselves fed challenging even at home – so a decent restaurant on the property (with room service) was critical for us. We also wanted to have some exercise options close at hand.
The GCBC met and exceeded all our expectations. We had a 1 BR, which allowed baby to nap in the BR during the day. Our unit was older, but recently renovated – with new appliances, cabinets, and granite counters in the kitchenette and new tile, vanities, and toilets in the bathroom. There were modern split-unit ACs with remotes in both the LR and the BR which kept things very comfortable when we closed up during the day for baby’s naps.
There were two beaches. One was very calm and easy for baby to toddle and sit in. The other had more waves, but we still had our baby in on that side as well.
The restaurant (Sunset Cafe) was great. It overlooks the second beach, was no more than 100 paces from most rooms, and had very decent food and service. We ate dinner at the Sunset Cafe most nights and were pleased with the wine and food options, which weren’t extensive, but considering the remote location on a small island… Yes, the included breakfast is only a couple croissants, half a baguette, and a glass of orange juice, but the other a la carte breakfast options weren’t too expensive. After the first day, to supplement B and L, we bought groceries at the main supermarket. We walked – only 10 minutes walking (with baby in a carrier/sling). We had initially considered renting a car to get groceries before arriving in St. Martin; you definitely do NOT need a car to go grocery shopping. The other good option with baby are the “lolos” (local BBQ); they’re outside, you order, the food arrives a couple of minutes later. Best night for lolos probably would be Tuesday, when the streets are closed for the weekly street fair.
Exercise wise, the ocean right outside your room is beautiful. You can swim down the beach toward town (Grand Case) and back. The snorkeling right outside your room rivals places we’ve been in Hawaii (where you almost always have to drive somewhere). My wife is a diver and I finished my dive certification with a dive shop just 150 yards down the road (Octopus Diving). It’s a small, two person operation – with a 8 diver boat. The owner/operators were very friendly and accommodating. They also take people snorkeling who want something more exciting than what’s close to the beach.
A couple of other baby related comments…
With a baby, electric transformers (it’s 220 volts) were critical since we needed to use our baby monitor and also a noise maker (in case other neighboring guests were noisy during baby’s nap time). As the GCBC website says, you need a transformer with a plug that can reach into a recessed outlet. We bought the “Franzus 85 Watt Step Down Transformer” ($15), which was able to reach into the recessed outlets and worked well for these low voltage appliances. Also remember to get a power strip or equivalent, because the transformer has only one socket (plug several 110volt appliances into the power strip and the power strip into the transformer). If you want to power both ends of your baby monitors you might want to consider a second transformer. Note, the Franzus 85 Watt, will NOT power a hairdryer (1200-1500 Watts), but you don’t need to bring a hairdryer since the GCBC provides one in each bathroom.
Also no need to bring a baby beach sun cabana. We lugged ours there without ever using it. There would be almost no place to put it (on the calm beach side, there is no space; the other beach is mostly filled with lounge chairs). When baby needs a break, it’s so easy to go back to your room since they’re so close by; and just come back out in half an hour if baby wants to go into the water again.
Having said how good the GCBC was for us, there were relatively few families. During the week we were there, there was one other couple with a 6 month old and a few families with younger kids. For the most part the other guests were more established, which was great… they liked seeing the babies, which was a way that we got to know quite a few of the other guests.