St Martin vacations

We have been to St Martin 5 times since 1990, always on the French side. We love the island but only discovered Grand Case on our third visit. What a treasure. A poor little village with 30 some high end real French restaurants. But it was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and recovery is slow.

 Quiet Beach Gourmet Cuisine Vacation 2007

We stayed at the Grand Case Beach Club Saturday to Saturday October 13-20, 2007.

Having spent our previous weeklong beach vacation at an all inclusive resort with black flag crashing surf that kept us in the pool, we were looking for a quiet white sand beach with transparent calm water and great local cuisine. We had been to St Martin twice before staying on the other side of Marigot, enjoying delicious French food in Marigot, but had heard about the restaurant scene in Grand Case that we had never tried, apart from lunch on the beach at the Calmos Cafe in the center of town several times on our previous St Martin trip. The Grand Case Beach Club was the obvious candidate for a food/beach vacation for a couple who are low maintenance: no water sports, no casinos or nightlife needed, and a beach we knew was right for us. And with a rental car to explore the island, taking in an occasional supermarket to see what local food products are like.

We had chosen a low-end nonbeachfront studio but mid-October is low season so they surprised us with an upgrade to a first floor ocean front, and it was nice to be able to sit in front of the room at sunset, which can be spectacular, or even during the day, taking an occasional dip on the smaller of the two beaches. The room was excellent, seemingly having been renovated in the not too distant past, and since we also watch TV during our beach vacations instead of nightlife, the LCD TV with lots of cable channels in English and French was nice, viewed from our King-sized bed. All the staff were polite and friendly. Our air conditioner had a noise upon arrival Saturday, and although the noise stopped a day later (the broken internal blades finally fell off in the cylindrical fan), a specialist fixed it first thing Monday morning. Sure their main beach is not a big one, but how much sand or water space does a person need?

The manager's party Monday night serendipitously introduced us to another foodie couple of roughly our own ages, and we were able to exchange some restaurant tips during the week as well as a wonderful evening of conversation drinking wine in front of their room nearby. We enjoyed very nice dinners at Blue Martini, Spicy, and Tastevin, where we also had a delightful lunch with a neat twist on escargot: served in small potatoes with melted Brie cheese over top, and their three flavor tastings of creme brulee. While all these venues were high quality, Spicy had exceptionally prepared dishes, and low season meant we got the full attention of the restaurant owner/staff in all of these places; Sophie at Spicy was very friendly and her husband's green peppercorn sauce was so tasty. Our food couple acquaintances liked our Tastevin recommendation (it has a wonderful dining room opening out over the beach) and went there for two dinners, where we found them by chance on our last night before leaving (our wedding anniversary). Isabelle from Blue Martini greeted us several nights after our dinner there with short conversations (remembering our names) as we walked the main street, making us feel almost like we belonged in this small town community, as did George the self-deprecating "terrible French waiter" who convinced us to give it a try. We even saw the guy from Lolo's who talked us into trying that spot our first night, while he was off duty in Phillipsburg, helping making us feel like we were almost locals; the food is much cheaper at Lolo's and also good, but not gourmet which was our vacation theme. We also had a very good meal at Le France in the back port restaurant center, again with friendly waitstaff/owners. While a few restaurants were closed both in Marigot and Grand Case because of the low season, most were open and anxious to have clients, making them especially welcoming.

In Philipsburg we were able to find a French bakery tucked down one of the cross streets off the main drag, where we had simple sandwiches and pastry with the locals two separate days, avoiding the beachfront restaurant bar lunches, and saving our food quota for the evenings. We also visited the guavaberry liqueur store, but still have 1.5 bottles left from previous trips. Definitely try the guavaberry coladas on the island if you like fruity drinks. We use the stuff to make our best cheesecake, combined with tart lingonberries for contrast.

Although the Euro was 1.4 dollars, many restaurants were still doing 1 dollar for 1 Euro pricing since their largest customer base is American, but usually (not always) in cash only and we did not bring enough of a cash stash to take full advantage of this, which was the one inconvenience of this trip. If only they could accomodate their American dollar clients more satisfactorily. The other inconvenience was the no-seeums: we had brought bug spray but not seeing any bugs, did not spray our legs. Maybe from lounging in chairs on the grass we picked them up. We ended up with multiple leg bites, but they were a minor annoyance. Next time we would be proactive on this point.

Our final day we took the (Scoobi Too?) catamaran day trip to St Barth which was a pleasant excursion with a friendly crew, including lunch, snorkeling and a short minibus tour of St Barth that made us wonder what besides the primitive conditions there attracted celebrities.

The "Le Marche" supermarket just entering Marigot was a sad contrast for us coming from the liquor controlled state of Pennsylvania---it was full of economically priced seemingly good quality wines. We picked up a few munchies there and some mini-bottles of wine for the sunset vigils (much cheaper there than from the Beach Club, although the free bottle of wine waiting for us was much appreciated). We did not use the new kitchen facilities in our room other than the refrigerator. And we only had the free continental breakfast to minimize the daily contribution to our food quota, although we left a tip just the same for the service.

The weather was great. While we were apprehensive before leaving since the internet weather report said showers and partly cloudy all week, it only rained a few times during the night and once while we were dining, but we never needed our umbrella, and the sun was spectacular while the occasional passing clouds kept us from cooking.

While driving back to the airport for our midday flight, we stopped a moment to pick up a sandwich to eat on the way at the Cafe La Panama on the main drag in Grand Case where we had already eaten lunch previously after meeting Celine on the street earlier in the week asking us to try her place. Ani ran out to get a baguette while I stayed with the car and our luggage (never leave anything in the rental cars!) parked in front of a woman's home, who started up a conversation thinking we intended to leave the car parked there and not just wait a few minutes for the sandwich and pastry takeout. Once she understood, she was very friendly, a nice parting memory of the little town.

To summarize, the Grand Case Beach Club seemed to be the best location in the Grand Case area for enjoying both the beach amenities of a small resort and the small town restaurant center which is a comfortable 10 minute walk down the street, no driving necessary. We would go back in a second if it weren't for the restrictive American vacation constraints we suffer from (at least one of us).

[Since their own beach was pretty limited, we often went to the Calmos Cafe where we had lunch and used their umbrellas for sun protection in the center of Grand Case.]

The Quiet Beach Gourmet Cuisine Vacation website links:

Trip Advisor Reviews

Radisson Blu Resort: Hidden Bay Paradise 2013

Somehow we missed this place during our previous 3 visits to St Martin, in fact because it is on a isolated bay with access only via a little road over a pretty big hill. The calm waters and the fine white sand beach with natural shade from nearby palm trees was exactly what we had dreamed of finding on all of our Caribbean vacations, and this reality turned out to be our best find ever. It is only 10 minutes by cheap rental car from Grand Case, the food mecca of the island, and only 5 minutes by cheap rental car from the 7 buck round trip short boat ride to an even more incredible beach on Pinel Island, where an umbrella and two recliners is 20 bucks for the day, and you have a choice of 2 beach restaurants there. Marigot is about 20 minutes for other options. Our Hyundai mini rental car struggled a bit to climb the hills, but we got wherever we wanted to go. Since it was still low season just before mid October business would begin picking up, we had little competition for the natural shade of the palm trees at the edge of the beach, but movable umbrellas take up the slack when needed.

The stronger Euro compared to the dollar exaggerated the French restaurant prices, but since we had given up restaurants for years due to our reduction to one income, it seemed like for one week we might as well enjoy food we would not otherwise treat ourselves to. The food was really terrific. We returned a second time to L'Estaminet which we discovered by chance browsing TripAdvisor Grand Case restaurant reviews, and made a reservation through our hotel consierge and had a great meal that drew us back again. The front people in this really small French restaurant Ian and Carol welcomed us almost like old friends the second time we showed up without even a reservation (it was early October before high season takes off) and they put us right next to the opening to the street, a great table. That second meal was the best restaurant meal we can remember.

 We also had a nice lunch at the Marigot Marina at La Croissanterie, a small breakfast and lunch place with cross-ventilation for the sea breezes, and a nice crepe, sandwich whatever menu, we had both savory and a sweet crepe and some rose wine for our lunch. The older French couple Sylvain and Colette were very friendly, which was facilitated by the few customers in low season. We also had a nice lunch at the Arawak across from the Marigot wharf market area with a terrific rose wine---the very friendly older Frnech guy JeanPaul warned us against the higher wine prices at the local Simply Market supermarket (a French chain we were familiar with from our Roman summers)---better to go to the big supermarket in Philipsburg. It turned out the nice rose was 2.50 Euros a bottle, the cheapest wine we saw on the  French side, and the Philipsburg supermarket prices were all decidedly higher than the French side---perhaps he did not want us to realize this. No matter, we enjoyed it and bought another to enjoy at our hotel. There is a big supermarket right at the right turn for Grand Case coming from the Radisson, only minutes from the hotel. One evening we just did cheese based appetizers and wine in the room instead of dinner. Grape wine is a small wine store next door to that supermarket with a friendly French guy for wine advise and some tasting. We brought back 2 bottles of French red wine, and the first we just drank for ani's birthday meal (chef bob offered: saffron cream pappardelle with baby shrimps and mushrooms, baked Chilean sea bass, and sauteed baby spinach "in padella"), it was terrific.

Another evening we ate at the Calypso restaurant across from the entrance to Radisson because they had a French woman singer "Lawrence" on Wednesday nights, quite talented it turned out. [bought out by Riu inc: Riu Palace]

Trip Advisor Reviews

Expedia Reviews

dr bob from philly burbs:

Paradise Bay?

Radisson Blu

Posted Oct 20, 2013
Pros: This was our best beach vacation in several decades---we are low maintenance guests, just needing shade on the beach and beautiful waters to cool off.
Location: St Martin is a food destination and its food capital Grand Case is only 10 minutes away. The ultimate combination of beach and dining for foodies.
We were looking for calm crystal waters on a fine white sand beach next to the hotel, yet close to the excellent French food St Martin is known for (the reason that this was our 4th visit to this island). We were totally enamored by this hidden bay paradise (Hotel Riu Palace St Martin), renamed from Radisson Blu), only 10 minutes by cheap rental car from the little village of Grand Case where the great restaurants are found. None of our previous destinations on the Island can compare to this resort in any way and the friendly staff made us feel like we had a human connection to the place. And the multigenerational US/French families there were fun to watch, especially the toddlers on the beach. Too bad it was bought out by another chain and converted to all-inclusive after our second visit in 2014, eliminating the value of its nearness to the gourmet food capital of the island. Our best meal was at L'Estamine; We finished our terrific meal there with some complementry tiramisu shooters: Kahlua, Bailey's, heavy cream in successive layers in a shot glass, cocoa powder over the top . Yum! [See photos below]

We also spent the day at the island and rented an umbrella and hand lunch at the Karibundi Restaurant lunch spot on Pinel Island just a 5 minute ferry ride from the parking lot of the port at Anse Marsel. Incredible crystal calm water and white sand beach! We returned in 2014. Another restaurant we tried several times over the years and liked was Tastevin.

Riu Palace

October 2014
We returned to the same French resort in Anse Marcel one year later under a new name, happy to see all the familiar faces from the year before who had made our stay so friendly, but a tropical storm hit the island on Monday turning into a hurricane as it hit, taking everyone by surprise. Watching the roaring wind and rain bending the palms from our side wing open porches (wind parallel to the outside wall) was amazing, but everything was calm the next day and our beach returned to its delightful state, but in subsequent days there was a lot of vegetation in the water and coming up on the beach so we did our water immersion in the beautiful pool. Most of the Grand Case restaurants were knocked out for a day or so, but we managed to find L'Estamine open a few days later and they welcomed us again. We also tried another up the street the night before which opened sooner (Bistrot Caraibes) and had a terrific dinner as well, the most memorable together with L'Estamine.

2013 Facebook photos

2014 Facebook photos

Unfortunately this hotel resort was hit badly by the Hurricane Irma in 2017 and shut down permanently! Many Grand Case restaurants were destroyed and many did not recover.

Next door: secrets resort spa.
The photo of the cove shows why we were so happy there. Protected from the wavy open sea.

Riu Peninsula Cancun 2018

Direct flight from PHL, 4 days in food heaven, never left the grounds, stayed at the pool and skipped the beach, took advantage of the best buffet we have seen on the planet, and then specialized restaurants (optional) in the evening. Really beautiful hotel.

Riu Plaza NYC 2020

Brand new building one block west of Times Square, January fire sale prices! Wow, we couldn't turn it down. Very comfortable, a block or two from the subway line entrance, walking distance to Lidia's Felidia Restaurant near Bloomies!