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Belair beach club and St Maarten island question

rsonc

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We are looking at booking an RCI exchange for April to the belair beach club in St Maarten. We have never been to this island and normally only book all inclusive resorts.

Is there a variety of reasonable restaurants near this resort or are they all pretty speedy or far away?

should we get a car? is it easy to get around with a car? It would be our first time with a car rental in the Caribbean too, anyone have any issues with that?

Would anyone recommend this resort? This will be foour 30th anniversary and we wanted to do something different.
Other options were all inclusive in Aruba or Jamaica or check for something in St John.
Thanks Susan
 

rboesl

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St. Maarten is a wonderful island. I'm not familiar with Belair Beach Club. But when we visited St. Maarten we rented a car. Easy to get around on the island with it. Suggest you visit both sides of the island. Each has its own distinct flavor. Plenty of good restaurants on both sides.
 

CanuckTravlr

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We have been visiting St. Martin for several years. We have not stayed at Belair Beach Club, but it gets good reviews and is on a nice beach (Little Bay). There is an onsite restaurant, The Gingerbread Café, and each suite has a kitchen, so you can go to one of the local grocery stores if you want the option to prepare some of your own meals. It is located between the Dutch capital, Philipsburg (where the cruise ships dock) and Simpson Bay (the other main tourist area on the Dutch side where the big yachts dock). Both areas have lots of small shops, bakeries, and restaurants, as well as casinos.

Unlike Aruba or Jamaica, St. Martin is not really an AI destination, although it has a few AI resorts. Whether staying on the Dutch side (St Maarten) or French side (St-Martin), there are two things most regulars recommend for visitors staying on the island: don't go AI, and rent a car. The island has lots of great restaurants from inexpensive, local beach shacks ("lolos") to high-end, top-notch dining, and everything in-between. There is no real public transport on the island and taxis can be expensive if you are not just staying on the resort, hence the rental car recommendation.

Belair Beach Club is not really within walking distance of either Philipsburg or Simpson Bay, so having a car is definitely useful, especially if there are more than two of you, or you want to go out for dinner more than once or twice, or you want to tour the island. The island is small and relatively easy to get around with lots of great beaches. You can be just about anywhere on the island in about 45 minutes to an hour. Also, there are no border checks, so you can easily visit the French side, especially Grand Case and Orient Beach.
 

rsonc

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Thank you. Is it hard to drive around there and is the drive on the opposite side of the road?
 

Free2Roam

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Thank you. Is it hard to drive around there and is the drive on the opposite side of the road?
Not hard to drive around at all... driving is on the same side as U.S..

St. Maarten is the 1st non-U.S. location that I've been brave enough to rent a car and actually drive around freely. Aruba was the 2nd (and only other.)

Edited to add... the 1st time I visited I didn't have GPS. It was December and dark outside by the time we left the airport. We drove with printed directions (remember MapQuest?) from the airport to our resort. I recall being concerned because they didn't have street signs on all intersections. We still managed to make it to the resort... which is an indication of how easy it is to drive around (although I usually stick to driving during the day)
 
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stmartinfan

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We own at Divi Little Bay, the resort adjacent to Belair but stayed at Belair on our first visit. It's a smaller resort, with kind of a casual feel, and has a small convenience store and casual restaurant that has good food. The units all face the water, with a great view. The second bedroom is quite small, but it was fine for our young kids. The biggest downside for us was the pool, which is quite small, but the beach at the resort is very nice and Little Bay is good for swimming. I follow several St. Maarten Facebook groups and another chat group and owners at Belair tend to really like the resort.

Restaurants on the island are great, so it's not somewhere you want to do AI. You,'ll find everything from very laid back beach bars to fine French dining. There are many good restaurants (Mark's Place, the Greenhouse, and Chesterfields for example) a quick drive away in Philipsburg but you cannot walk to them. There are many more about 15 :minutes away in the Simpson Bay Area. A car is essential and driving is on the right side of the road, like in the US. Roads are only 2 lane and generally traffic is slow. The worst part of driving are the crazy young motorcyclists who pass on curves, doing wheelies and driving down the center line between the traffic! There are round abouts now at several of the busiest intersections so it helps if you're familiar with using those. Most people rent from one of the smaller, independent rental companies on the island.

The island has amazing beaches, all with a special feel, so it's fun to spend days at different beaches. Most have chair and umbrella rentals and choices of beach restaurants for lunches.

We've visited St. Maarten almost every year for the last 20+ years, so we love going there! We've been to Aruba, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Cancun and other beaches In Mexico but SXM is our favorite.
 

stmartinfan

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If you decide to book in St. Maarten, you can read other people's reports of their trips on the chat group, Travel Talk Online:

It's a good place to learn about restaurants, car rental companies, etc. if you just spend time reading some of the many trip summaries.
 

pedro47

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If you decide to book in St. Maarten, you can read other people's reports of their trips on the chat group, Travel Talk Online:

It's a good place to learn about restaurants, car rental companies, etc. if you just spend time reading some of the many trip summaries.
Thanks for sharing that website. Outstanding
 

rsonc

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Thanks for sharing the website and for all the information. I will look into it more before we make a decision. Thanks again
Susan
 

nerodog

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We are looking at booking an RCI exchange for April to the belair beach club in St Maarten. We have never been to this island and normally only book all inclusive resorts.

Is there a variety of reasonable restaurants near this resort or are they all pretty speedy or far away?

should we get a car? is it easy to get around with a car? It would be our first time with a car rental in the Caribbean too, anyone have any issues with that?

Would anyone recommend this resort? This will be foour 30th anniversary and we wanted to do something different.
Other options were all inclusive in Aruba or Jamaica or check for something in St John.
Thanks Susan
I didn't stay here either but I was nearby at the Divi Little Bay. I found you needed transportation to get around. Walking was an option but the neighborhood nearby was a bit rundown and this was years ago. We didn't have a car but relied on taxis to get to town and to visit the French side. It's a quiet area away from the hustle/bustle.
 
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pedro47

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I didn't stay here either but I was nearby at the Divi Little Bay. I found you needed transportation to get around. Walking was an option but the neighborhood nearby was a bit rundown and this was years ago. We didn't have a car but relied on taxis to get I to town and to visit the French side. It's aquire area away from the hustle/bustle.
What type of currency did you use on both side of the Island?
 

nerodog

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What type of currency did you use on both side of the Island?
I used dollars and didn't change money.from my understanding you can use euros also.
 
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CanuckTravlr

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The official currency on the French side is the Euro and the Netherlands Antilles Guilder (ANG), better known as the florin, on the Dutch side. Practically though, the US dollar is the primary currency used on the Dutch side, and is accepted readily on the French side, although the Euro is more common there. So as @nerodog experienced, there is no real need to bring anything other than US dollars.. ATMs are also plentiful and most on the Dutch offer you the choice of either guilders or US dollars. Even some of the ATMs on the French side will offer the choice of Euros or US dollars.
 

stmartinfan

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We use our credit card whenever possible because the exchange rate tends to be better. For cash purchases, like at restaurants and beach bars, US dollars are readily accepted on both sides of the island. Since the prices on the French side are in Euros the restaurant will do a quick conversion to give you the dollar cost, and the conversion rate will vary some from place to place. It's similar at places like grocery stores on the Dutch side, where prices are in the guilder. The cashier will usually do a quick conversion and collect dollars or charge your credit card in dollars. We don't usually bother getting Euros but do bring them if we have some left over from European travel,
 

CanuckTravlr

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Thanks for sharing the website and for all the information. I will look into it more before we make a decision. Thanks again
Susan
I also find TTOL - St. Maarten - St. Martin to be a good source of information from lots of people who are knowledgeable, long-time visitors to the island. Another good source is the St Martin / St Maarten forum on Trip Advisor. Hope it helps in your search!

St Martin / St Maarten Forum, Travel Discussion for St Martin / St Maarten, Caribbean - Tripadvisor
 

Laurie

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We exchanged into Belair Beach Club for 2 consecutive weeks back in 2013, and loved it! The view (all units are direct ocean-front), the balcony, the location, and the beach are all fabulous IMO, and these are all priority attributes for me. The staff was helpful and courteous. We had 2 couples, and our friends didn't complain about the smaller BR. We rented a car, and didn't even get to all the restaurants we'd wanted to; we ate at the onsite restaurant a few times and it was fine. This was during Carnival, which lasts about 2 weeks, so lots of fun and interesting culture and activity. If we were to return to St. Maarten, I'd choose this resort again.
 
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