The ‘Welcome to St. Maartin” sign by which tourists love to take their photos.

It’s good to be back!

Hey, I’ll be honest… I wasn’t at all sad to leave winter behind and come down here with Tanner to spend two months in the Caribbean with the girls!

In the months that I’ve been away, I’ve fielded a lot of comments and questions from people back at home about the island.  As a result it made me realize that I’ve not done a very good job of documenting in this blog what the island of St. Martin is really like.  I vowed that as soon as I got back here, I would take some time to drive around and photograph the inside of the island, away from the beautiful beaches, to show the parts of the island that you’ll never see on postcards and tourist brochures.

The following  photos were snapped mostly from the driver’s seat of our little island car. (We long ago ditched the huge, gas guzzling white whale we bought when we first got here and traded it for a compact Hyundai.  Saved us a small fortune in fuel expenses.)

Leaving Cupecoy and heading towards Maho…

We live in small neighborhood called Cupecoy.  It’s tucked in between the ocean and the lagoon, and consists of the University, a smattering of hotels, resorts, apartment complexes, a casino, and a half dozen restaurants. I began the day by exiting the Rainbow Beach complex where we live.

They do love bright colors.  I’m not sure what this truck’s purpose is, but it’s turning into The Cliff’s, which might just be the most up-scale and expensive resort on the island.  It’s right next to Rainbow (where we live).  Rainbow is pretty nice too, but it’s put to shame by The Cliffs.

This is a “bus”, and for many islanders, it is their only means of transportation.  For $2.00 they’ll take you as far as you want to go, so long as you want to go somewhere on the main loop that circles the island.  At any point, you can flag them down and they’ll stop traffic to let you on.

Leaving Cupecoy and heading across the golf course.  Straight ahead is Mullet, one of the many beaches on the island.  At this point, we’re still only yards from where we live.

Looking up one of the fairways towards some of the new construction on campus of The American University of the Caribbean.  As you can see, this golf course isn’t one of the world’s best kept courses.

Driving through the golf course. This rickety two-lane road, barely wide enough for two cars, is part of the main loop that circles the island.

Entering Maho, a popular tourist strip full of night clubs, shops, restaurants, and a casino.  This is also where the medical clinic is where our family has spent way too much time.

This is a pic I took a while ago of Maho at night.

Just past Maho is the entrance to Sunset  Beach… the famous beach where jumbo jets fly in just over your head, and take off only yards away from tourists who love getting blown into the ocean by the jet blasts.

Yeah, nobody really pays much attention to this sign.

This little shack selling cold drinks and touristy souviners is on one side of the beach…

… and this much larger Sunset Bar is on the other side.

Every day Sunset Bar posts all the incoming big jet flights so the tourists know when to have their cameras ready.

Tourists come in all different shapes and sizes.

 An island hopper getting ready to take off.

The airport is small, but nice

The amount and varying size of private jets at the airport is impressive.

Zee Best is one of the better (but not THE best) French bakeries on the island.

Loooong stretch of road that runs parallel to the runway.

At the end of the runway, where the lagoon is narrow, they are building a bridge which should  help ease some of the terrible traffic congestion.

Here’s the other end of the bridge.  The distance looks condensed because I’m using a high-powered telephoto lens.

During high season (winter), the lagoon fills up with huge, private yachts.

Simpson Bay… a collection of restaurants hotels and businesses that all cater to tourists.  Ok, we spend a fair amount of time and money here as well.

Gebe is the island’s government owned power and water company, and this is the office (now closed) where we come to pay our outrageous power bill every month.

With The Mailbox, you can rent a Florida P.O. Box, and anything sent to it will be shipped here… for a price, of course.

7… alive?

The Dutch Side jail.

Just past the jail is the Simpson Bay Bridge.  During  high season, getting stuck behind the bridge when it goes up means turning off your car and watching the yachts go by.  Just as I drove up, the light turned red and the arm went down.

Forty-five minutes later, the bridge is going back down.

One of the restaurants I’ve not tried yet, but want to.

Yes, sadly, we have eaten here…

.., and here, many times.  Mmmm… Gelato!

Not at all a great shot of Top Carrot, but, it’s a fun (and spendy) little coffee, fruit smoothie, gift and book shop.  They have some great local photography books that I enjoy thumbing through.

The only movie theater on the island.  It’s actually a really nice place.  And going to a movie with popcorn and pop is just about the ONLY thing that is less expensive here than in the States.

Once you pass the movie theater, you’re in the area called Cole Bay. And the overall quality of… well… everything…. goes down hill fast.  The following photos are were all snapped in and around Cole Bay.

Haircut, anyone?

I bought some bananas from these two just so they would let me take their photo.

A very typical island house.

Not what you might expect an Art and Frame shop to look like.  I guess I should have gone inside… you know… don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

A typical island residential neighborhood, and typical means of island transportation.

This is a “Super Market”.

A couple people getting off a bus.

These little lottery shops are everywhere.

One of the many street vendors.

Ok, in all honesty, Carl & Sons is an awesome bakery. It’s the only place on the island where you can buy true American style doughnuts.  And they make really yummy bread that is better than the imported American bread and costs a fraction of the price.

Stray dogs are everywhere, but I’ve never felt threatened by them. This is right across the street from Carl & Sons.

This is the building where we attend church every Sunday.  I wasn’t expecting anyone to be there, but Cecily Lew and Trisha Wright (two fellow med school spouses) were there with three young men, brothers Patrick and John and their friend, Kasnick (sp?). They were cleaning the chapel in preparation for church the next day. I gave the three boys a ride home.

Another “Super Market”.  (photo by Patrick)

The street leading to the boy’s neighborhood.

After dropping off the three boys, I spotted this street vendor selling roasted chicken.  I was hungry, so I figured I’d stop and give her some business.  She was just as cheerful and friendly as could be, but only spoke the island Patois language.  She understood, however, when I showed her my money and pointed to the chicken, and she also understood when I held up my camera and pointed to her.

After my roadside lunch I headed up over the hill towards “Town” (which means Philipsburg) to one of my favorite lookout spots. (This isn’t it.)  This is a photo looking back from where I’d just come… Colebay in the foreground (the movie theater is the large blueish block building on the left), Simpson Bay in the middle with all the yachts, and in the way background on the upper left is Cupecoy.  The runway juts into the lagoon in the middle right, and the new bridge extends out of the frame.

Just to the left of the photo above is the Gebe power plant, the Dutch side’s very UNreliable source of power.  I’m not even sure how they generate the power, to be honest.  Mental note:  Find out.

THIS is the favorite lookout spot I was talking about.  You’ll need to click on the photo and view the large version for the full effect.  This is Great Bay, the town of Philipsburg is to the left behind the beach, and you can see a cruise ships docked just right of top center. After taking this photo I turned around and headed back the same way I’d come.

This side of the island, the south side, is sun drenched, dry and full of cacti.

Andi’s school, Learning Unlimited.

The road that cuts across the middle of the island between Cole Bay and the French town of Marigot is by far the nicest road on the island.

I’m not sure if these sheep are wild, or if they are owned by someone.


The other bridge into the lagoon, besides the one in Simpson Bay on the Dutch Side, is in Marigot on the French side. This photo was taken on the bridge looking out the canal into the ocean.

Once you go past the bridge you are out of Marigot and into the neighborhood called Sandy Ground, which is without a doubt the most Islandy neighborhood on the entire island.  The following pics were snapped while driving through Sandy Ground.  For obvious reasons, I was trying to be subtle with my camera. You’ll see why in a few photos…

Despite trying to be subtle with my camera, this guy somehow noticed me taking his photo.  He jumped on a motorcycle behind that car and started to chase me.  I decided that rather than run from him, I’d just have a conversation.  So I rolled up all the windows but the driver’s which I kept open just a crack, and pulled over.

Him: Why you taken da photo’s with dat camera, man?

Me: I’m just driving around taking pictures of the entire island today.  I’m sorry if I offended you.

Him: You police?

Me: (trying to laugh) No!  No! I’m a tourist!  (half truth, kinda)

Him: Listen to me, I tell this for your own safety.  You gotta stop taking da pictures and put away dat camera, boss. Okay?

Me: Ok. I understand.  Thank you.

He drove one way, I drove the other… and kept taking pictures, of course.

Cars will stop in the road, halting traffic behind them, to have long conversations with pedestrians.

After leaving Sandy Ground, the road winds for miles around the far side of the lagoon through secluded and expensive villas that are mostly hidden from view.

The road finally comes back into the Dutch side right by Porto Cupecoy, a resort / condo village with a strong French influence.

The Blue Mall is a massive obtrusion right next to Porto Cupecoy that has been in development for years and years, and still remains mostly empty.  There finally are a few open shops in it, including a frozen yogurt place that the kids love. (Interesting note: Right across from the Blue mall is Cupecoy Beach, which is known on the island as the “other” nude beach, after Orient.  Despite being so close to AUC,  students and their families pretty much avoid that beach.)

Just past the Blue Mall is the Saphire Hotel, and just past the Saphire, in the background, is Rainbow, where we live.

The front of Rainbow Beach.  Back home.

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    Jan Tindall commented

    Awesome tour, Casey! It’s 36 degrees (in Alabama!) right now. It was nice to get a little sunshine, even vicariously.

    March 3, 2013 at 2:44 am
      Casey Crookston commented

      Thanks Jan! Good to hear from you :-) How are the Tindall’s doing?

      March 4, 2013 at 12:44 am
    philip commented

    hey casey, i enjoy reading ur blog. where the french bridge is, is the beginning of sandy ground. sandy ground and french quarter are considered less safe for tourist because of the neighborhoods. after u pass FW Vlaun auto dealers you are in Low Lands area til u reach the border on the top of the hill bfore descending to porto cupecoy. the area where patrick lives is called Cay bay. 😉 :)) love the pics

    March 3, 2013 at 2:49 am
      Casey Crookston commented

      Cay Bay? Not Cole Bay? Or are Cay Bay and Cole Bay two separate areas?

      March 3, 2013 at 8:51 pm
    Rebecca commented

    Awesome tour! Thank you for posting! :)

    March 3, 2013 at 6:00 am
      Casey Crookston commented

      Thanks Rebecca. I got your FB message and I’m prepping a reply right now.

      March 4, 2013 at 12:45 am
    Cecily commented

    Casey, I’m so glad you wrote this post. I feel like I just ran/drove around the island again. (A lot of these pics are my old running route). Miss you guys so much!


    November 19, 2013 at 11:02 pm
      Casey Crookston commented

      Wow, how did this comment sit in the “Pending” box so long? Sorry!! Just saw this now. Thanks for the comment, and we miss you guys too. Wish we could have crossed paths again in Michigan. Hope you both are well.

      February 12, 2014 at 1:09 am

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