My husband, sister and I went to
St. Maarten for the first time in late Sept 2007. We stayed at the Sea Palace. We always paid in U.S. dollars with no problem. My heart nearly stopped when I opened the curtains in our ocean-facing apt. Steep green hills sloping down to the turquoise sea, a vast horizon stretching out to nowhere and an absolutely beautiful beach with small ships sailing peacefully across the bay.
We found unit 103 clean and compact, the only irritation was the fridge door opening awkwardly and the shower stall in the first bathroom was tiny. We mainly ate in our unit (my husband is a severe diabetic) but tried a few restaurants, mostly local, and the prices were reasonable. We also shopped at the AFOO grocery store and got a taxi back the first evening.
After our initial visit to AFOO, we used to walk to AFOO and back to the hotel although we knew there was a bigger store via taxi. The prices were similar to those here in the Washington metropolitan area. It was wonderful to sprawl on the beach or on our balcony in the afternoons and read books or newspapers—then spend a couple of hours in the warm turquoise sea, and relax in the evening with television programs after our meals and walks.
We found the local buses went most places – it cost $1.50 to go to Marigot, the French capital. We checked out the shops in Philipsburg—but not on the days the large cruise ships visited. No way would we rent a car, that’s for the brave. The Sea Palace has a parking area not too far from the hotel/time share so those renting have a place to park their car.
I really enjoyed being right where all the shops were—many of the hotels, condos and time shares were much more plush but they were situated out of town and you had to pay for a taxi to go places, unless you rented a car.
We arrived on Saturday and on Monday, several of us took an island tour with Happy Harold, a local well-known taxi driver who has been showing visitors around for years and years. The front desk has his phone number. Happy Harold knows the island well and the half-day afternoon tour cost $25.00 per person. It was a great start to becoming familiar with the island.
Happy Harold drove anticlockwise up the northeast coast and then came down the French side – we were on the back roads so traffic wasn’t a problem.
I highly recommend this trip and also Happy Harold as a contact because he knows such a lot. We also took trips to Saba Island (don’t try and walk as it’s very steep, hire a taxi for a couple of hours to tour the island) and Anguilla and enjoyed both.
Sea Palace staff members were helpful and friendly. If you want a relaxed and reasonable holiday, I’d recommend the Sea Palace. It’s my first time but not my last. One tip – hire Happy Harold to take you back to the airport – and ask 6 or so other hotel visitors to go with you, it’s a much more reasonable price.
One unusual occurrence was that on the French side, we were stopped by the Gendarme and had to show our passports. Luckily we all had them because we were going to Saba Island and Happy Harold also had his passport (although he said it was the first time he had ever been stopped and had to show his passport). The gendarme were polite and I don’t know what the problem was but this is just to alert you as some visitors don’t carry their passports with them once they arrive on the island.
All-in-all, we had a wonderful time, it was informal and relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable.
Refurb just completed and the results are great. We stayed in a 1 BR, 2 bath unit. Everything was like new, the Front Street upgrade is complete, and the views of the blue waters and white sand of Great Bay are stunning. On the beach right at the end of the boardwalk. Our 1 BR, 2 bath unit had all new furniture, king size bed, freshly painted, and a super friendly staff.
If you want a resort with everything you can think of this isn't it, but if you want the best of an urban beach-front hotel in a great location you can't beat Sea Palace. It's like a better-grade South Beach (Miami Beach) hotel. The reviews we read were old, and we so impressed we decided we had to post an update. Great location, beautiful refurb, walk to everything that matters with views of Great Bay that will knock your socks off. Highly recommended
They now have a dedicated parking lot acress the street, and the charge is $5 a day. If you know parking in Phillipsburg you know this is a god-send - and a bargain.
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