Plane-spotting time; St. Martin is now open again
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One of our favorite destinations at The Points Guy is finally reopening fully, even for Americans.
We mostly love it 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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Here’s all you need to know to go.
What you need to visit St. Martin/ St. Maarten
May-Ling Chun, Director of Tourism for the Government of Sint Maarten told TPG:
“.. our entry protocols and on-island processes continue to offer a smooth and safe experience for travelers coming to enjoy the best of Sint Maarten, and we remain committed to staying on this path. With an abundance of nature-focused activities, adventure opportunities, an incomparable culinary scene and 37 beaches to choose from, there’s never been a better time – or destination – to rekindle our collective love for travel.”
According to the official St. Maarten Tourism Bureau, all inbound travelers are expected to adhere to the following safety measures that the local government is instituting:
- COVID-19 RT-PCR test with negative results for anyone above age 10, no older than 120 hours prior to day of travel (need to show at immigration)
- Travelers originating from the USA and Canada can do an FDA approved antigen test for the SARS-COV-2 virus obtained from a nasal swab within 48 hours of departure for Sint Maarten
- Travel Insurance — all visitors must buy mandatory COVID-19 health insurance prior to travel (https://www.sxmprotectionplan.com)
- Fill out a mandatory health authorization application through an Electronic Health Authorization System (EHAS) for every visitor (need to show confirmation at immigration)
- Facial coverings inside the Princess Juliana International Airport for all arriving and departing passengers
- Mandatory temperature checks upon arrival
- COVID-19 rapid test at an additional cost to the traveler if shown to be exhibiting symptoms
Do note that St. Martin is banning visitors from several countries, including Brazil, Panama, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Remember you will need to test prior to your return to the United States. As of Jan. 26, everyone aged 2 and older traveling to the U.S. from St. Martin must show a negative viral COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of departure before being allowed to board their flights; documented proof from a licensed healthcare provider of recovery from the virus within the past 90 days will also be accepted. St. Martin provides a list of testing providers here.
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 (Saint Martin) had been banning cross-border travel to and from the Dutch side (Sint Maarten), but that is no longer the case. The two countries share the island.
Related: Plane spotting at SXM
They began their phased reopening to foreigners in three stages, with mostly Caribbean neighbors at first. Now, most nationalities are again welcome.
How to get there
According to Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), European service began last summer with Air France flights from Paris (CDG).
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines have all resumed flights.
American Airlines flies to SXM out of Miami and Charlotte. Dallas service launches in June. Delta flies out of Atlanta and New York-JFK. JetBlue flies out of Boston, Fort Lauderdale, New York-JFK and will resume service from Newark in April. Spirit flies direct from Fort Lauderdale. Finally, United flies from Newark, Washington/Dulles and Chicago.
I found flights from New York direct on Delta from $436 round-trip in May. Using SkyMiles would cost you 26,000 miles plus $85 in taxes and fees in main cabin coach. First class would be 90,000 Delta SkyMiles plus $85 in taxes and fees.
American has round-trip flights from Miami starting at $507 in main cabin. Mileage redemption starts at 52,000 miles on main cabin as a “Web Special” with about $84 in taxes and fees. It’s 120,000 miles plus $84 for first class.
The cheapest seats seem to come from Spirit leaving Fort Lauderdale on May 1 for $235 round-trip (before any add-ons).
Where to Stay
Hotels.com shows more than 2,400 hotels and guest properties with availability during May.
The Sonesta Ocean Point Resort is lovely. It is literally down the street from the airport, but it’s pricey at $417/night. There’s the more reasonable Divi Little Bay Beach Resort starting at $169 a night. The Sonesta Maho Beach All Inclusive Resort Casino & Spa has rates starting at $243/night. 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.
There’s also the adults-only $500/night Choice hotel Secrets St. Martin Resort & Spa, Ascend Hotel Collection.
Many are offering discounts at this time. Simpsons Bay Beach Resort and Marina is currently offering discounted prices from $179/night (it had been as low as $85 last year), with a wide range of prices from other places at this time.
There’s not a ton of traditional points hotels on this island paradise. You can use American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) benefits at Belmond La Samanna, but rates start at $724/night or 72,000 Membership Rewards points. If you are paying cash, you could also definitely use the travel credit from the Chase Sapphire Reserve® card too!
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for somewhere else to go, check out our constantly updated country-by-country guide for more on when your destination of choice plans to welcome guests.
Featured image of AA plane landing in St. Maarten Jan. 2017 by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy
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