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Plane-spotting in St. Martin

Oct. 30, 2021
6 min read
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Plane-spotting anyone?

One of our favorite destinations at The Points Guy is St Martin/Sint Maarten which has updated its health and safety guidelines along with COVID-19 vaccination requirements for travelers.

We mostly love St Martin because of the incredible plane-spotting opportunities at Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). Well, that and the beaches. You can literally sit on a beach or at the famous Sunset Bar and Grill and watch planes land over your head at Maho Beach.

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St. Maarten Jan. 2017. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

What you need to visit St. Martin/ St. Maarten

Cupecoy Beach. (Photo courtesy Sint Maarten Tourism Bureau)

Starting on Nov. 1, all travelers who are fully vaccinated will be exempted from a COVID-19 test, according to St Martin's Tourism Board. The completed vaccination date cannot be older than one year unless a booster shot has been administered before the ending of the year.

According to the tourism site, all inbound travelers are expected to adhere to the following safety measures that the local government is instituting:

  • Beginning on Nov. 1, 2021, all children five years of age or older are required to have a negative COVID-19 test in accordance with the required type of test for the risk status of the country of origin.
  • There is a mandatory health authorization application through an Electronic Health Authorization System (EHAS) for every visitor arriving by air including transits, Sint Maarten and St. Martin residents. Without the health pre-authorization, boarding will not be possible. Processing time can take up to 12 hours.
  • Travel insurance — all visitors must buy mandatory COVID-19 health insurance prior to travel (https://www.sxmprotectionplan.com)

If you do need a COVID-19 test, St. Martin provides a list of testing providers here.

(Screenshot courtesy St Martin Tourism)

What’s open?

St. Martin no longer has a curfew in place, it was lifted back in June. Most hotels and attractions are open again. The French side of the island (St. Martin) is no longer banning cross-border travel to visitors to and from the Dutch side (Sint Maarten) as it did in 2020 at the height of pandemic concerns. The two countries share the island.

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From sailing and island tours to day trips that include snorkeling and jet skiing, most restaurants, shops and attractions are open for visitors, as regular safety measures of masking up and sanitizing stay in place.

Related: A country-by-country guide to reopening in the Caribbean

How to get there

Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, JetBlue and Spirit Airlines all have service to Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM).

American Airlines flies to SXM out of Miami (MIA), Charlotte (CTL) and Dallas (DFW). Delta flies out of Atlanta (ATL) and New York (JFK). JetBlue flies out of Boston (BOS) and Newark (EWR). Spirit flies direct from Fort Lauderdale(FLL). And United flies from Washington/Dulles and Chicago (ORD).

JetBlue flight lands at St Maarten Airport (SXM) Jan. 2017. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

A direct one-way flight from New York on Delta on Jan. 10 started at $123 for basic economy and ranged from $168 for main cabin and $257 for Delta Comfort+. First-class seats are $919. Using SkyMiles would cost you between 8,000-12,000 miles for basic economy and main cabin seats and 20,000 miles plus $6 in taxes and fees in Comfort Plus. First class would be 87,500 Delta SkyMiles plus $6 in taxes and fees.

Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines
Screenshot courtesy of Delta Air Lines

American has one-stop flights in January from Dallas (DFW) at $269 for basic economy and $310 for main cabin seats with layover options in Miami and Charlotte.

JetBlue has one-way flights from Boston (BOS) to SXM on Jan.3 from $230 to $270 for Blue Basic seats and upwards of $308 for Blue seats, $358 for Blue Extra and $501 for business class seating. There are layover options in New York and Fort Lauderdale.

The cheapest seats seem to come from Spirit out of Fort Lauderdale in mid-January 2022 for $45.29 one-way (before any add-ons).

Screenshot Courtesy of Spirit Airlines

Related: How to use Google Flights to plan your next trip

Where to Stay

Divi Little Bay Resort. (Photo courtesy Sint Maarten Tourism Bureau)

The Sonesta Ocean Point Resort is literally down the street from the airport, but it’s pricey at $561/night in the first week of January 2022. There are more reasonable options such as Divi Little Bay Beach Resort starting at $249 a night and the Sonesta Maho Beach All Inclusive Resort Casino & Spa has rates starting at $215/night in January. It’s a short walk to Maho Beach or you can do plane-spotting from your hotel room — that’s how close it is to the airport.

Sonesta Ocean Point and Maho Beach Resort. (Photo courtesy Sonesta)

There’s not a ton of traditional points hotels on this island paradise. If you are paying cash, you could also definitely use the travel credit extended until the end of this year from the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card.

If you’re looking for other warm destinations else to escape to, check out our constantly updated country-by-country guide for more on when your destination of choice plans to welcome guests.

Additional reporting by Liz Ramanand.

Featured image by American Airlines flight lands in St. Martin. (Image courtesy Clint Henderson/The PointGuy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

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  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees