Category Archives: St. Maarten

St. Maarten’s New Top Dining Spot

St. Maarten, regarded as the dining capital of the Caribbean, just got a new “top” dining destination:  historic Fort Amsterdam.  The promontory, on the grounds of Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, is now the backdrop for a special dining experience under the stars, hosted by a pirate costumed waiter, serving up history and memorable cuisine at one of the Caribbean’s most enchanting and exclusive settings.

By day, a hike to the summit of Fort Amsterdam, which dates to the 1600s, provides a stunning vista across the Caribbean, all the way to St. Bart’s and Saba.  No wonder the peninsula served as the island’s lookout, protecting valuable salt ponds from advancing navies and marauders.  Now, by night, the fort at Divi Little Bay Resort hosts Dinner Atop the Fort, an epicurean event that combines history, pirate’s tales and Dutch cuisine amid the native flora and stone ruins of the fort.

A waiter, dressed in pirate garb and well-versed in local facts and yore, welcomes just a few couples nightly.   Diners are driven to the top of the fort by golf cart, tiki torches illuminating the ascent. The specially conceived menu takes inspiration from long ago and includes Dutch stew with beer and vegetables, a true Dutch apple pie and an old-fashioned Dutch dessert called Dutch poffertjes.   Diners will also be enthralled with the twinkle of lights in the capital city of Philipsburg far below and ships sailing in and out of Great Bay Harbor.

The cost of the dinner is $350 per couple, $185 per person; wine is included.   Reservations are required due to limited seating. To ensure availability during your stay at Divi Little Bay, reservations are suggested at the time of booking by calling Divi Resorts at 800.367.3484 or 919.419.3484.

What’s Your 2013 Travel Resolution?

Did you make resolutions for 2013?   Did the list include:  Be a better person, work smarter, be more organized and take more vacation days? It might come as a surprise that those four resolutions are connected.  Workplace experts highly recommend taking vacations.  Yes, that was an “s” on the end of the word “vacation.”  Vacations recharge the batteries, replenish the creative juices and make a person more productive at work, according to those who study workplace behavior.  So, think of it this way: vacations are a good thing for you and your business.

Planning is key. January is a good time to sit down with the calendar and map out optimum times to be away from work and accommodate the whole family’s activity and school schedules.  There are also early booking specials that help stretch the vacation dollar.  (Was “find ways to save money” a resolution, too?)

Divi has a few vacation ideas for you in 2013.

  • Be part of the yachting set that will gather in St. Maarten-St. Martin for the island’s Classic Regatta, March 29-31.  Divi Little Bay’s Regatta Package gets you a discount on a room; a sail on a catamaran to watch one of the races and VIP passes to opening and closing festivities.  So party with the yacht crews during one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful sailing events. Ever done that before?
  • Or meet on the beach with “top chefs” at this year’s Taste of St. Croix.   Noted chefs from across the US descend upon St. Croix to cook up a party each night of the six-day St. Croix Food & Wine Experience.  The Thursday night event is the Taste of St. Croix, held under the stars on the beachfront of Divi Carina Bay Beach Resort. Planning ahead is absolutely crucial as tickets sell out to the Taste of St. Croix in less than 30 minutes (1200+ tickets gone in minutes).  Get a guaranteed ticket by booking a three-day stay by January 30th.
  • Need a photo for next year’s holiday card?  How about dressing up for the Carnival parade in Barbados in August during Barbados’ famed Crop Over Festival?  Last year, Divi Southwinds provided costumes for guests to join in the fun.  Watch the website for details of this year’s plans.
  • Is 2013 the year you learn to golf?  Make an tee time appointment with a golf pro at the Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort in Aruba.  Golf in the morning, relax at the beach in the afternoon, and fine dine at night at the resort’s gourmet restaurant, Windows on Aruba.  Is there a better way to spend a vacation day, or two, or ten?

The Blue Flag – Long May It Wave At Divi Little Bay Resort

Divi Little Bay Beach Resort gets lots of compliments on its beach. Newcomers and long-time repeat guests value the lovely arc of sand, but they rarely see the work that goes into maintaining it. If guests rise early, they might catch a glimpse of the new equipment that grooms the sand or observe work crews making sure the area is spotless for guests. Behinds the scenes, Divi monitors water quality, implements safety procedures and conducts environmental awareness training with its staff. In fact, there is a check list of 37 things members of the staff at Divi Little Bay Resort do routinely to ensure the beach is a winner, not only for guests but to earn the Blue Flag, an international eco-label. On December 7, the Blue Flag was raised on Little Bay Beach at Divi, signifying the second consecutive year the resort has been recognized for environmental management of the beach.

The flag was handed over by Tourism and Economic Affairs Minister Romeo Pantophlet together with local Blue Flag Coordinator Rueben Thompson of Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation and partner St. Maarten Tourist Bureau. Divi General Manager Celine van Meer was on hand to accept the flag. The flag will fly for one year, when the honor must be earned again. Little Bay Beach at Divi is the only beach in all of the Netherlands Antilles to be honored with the Blue Flag.

Van Meer spoke at the flag raising ceremony, noting that the clear water, clean sand and abundance of fish and sea turtles in the bay are a part of the Divi Little Bay experience. “To merit the recognition a second year in a row bears witness to the keen sense of purpose and inspired dedication all of us at Divi share in caring for this beach.”

Divi Resorts president EJ Schanfarber has often referred to the people working at Divi’s ten resorts across the Caribbean as “stewards of the land.” The Blue Flag is evidence that indeed they are!

Divi Little Bay announces a new check-in policy…for sea turtles.

Certain guests, those going by the name of Green Sea Turtles, when arriving by sea onto the beach at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort will receive special accommodations and an unlimited stay. The policy was announced when a female Green Sea Turtle “checked in” to the Divi Little Bay Resort the weekend of August 25, looking for a place to deposit as many as 200 Green Sea Turtle eggs.

Management at Divi Little Bay also announced 24-hour protection and, in addition, that any and all measures will be taken to ensure these guests total privacy for the duration of their stay, which could be as long as two months.

On August 25, a female Green Sea Turtle came ashore at the Divi Little Bay Resort in St. Maarten to lay her eggs.  She arrived at night, which is the custom of sea turtles. When the hotel’s regular guests spotted the turtle, it was apparent that she was having difficulty building her nest due to the rocks and debris left in the wake of Hurricane Isaac.  Staff at the hotel quickly summoned the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, which arrived to help clear the beach.

After about four hours of digging with her front and back flippers, the turtle laid her eggs, covered the nest with sand and returned to sea. Divi staff then cordoned off the area to keep human visitors from disturbing the nest during the incubation period.   The nest is about 50 feet from the front desk and the entire Divi staff is keeping watch.

Now the wait is on.  The incubation period for sea turtles is anywhere from 45-70 days, so the arrival of hatchlings is expected in early October.  Green Sea Turtles lay anywhere from 50-200 eggs at a time. When the hatchlings decide it is time to leave, they will do so under cover of night to avoid natural predators.

Green Sea Turtles are one of the largest species of sea turtles.  Females weigh about 120 pounds; males, 200 pounds and are as long as 60 inches.  Nesting season lasts from March until September The population of sea turtles has plummeted over the last century to the point that all sea turtles are internationally protected.

This is the first time that any member of the Divi Little Bay staff could remember that a sea turtle had nested on the beach. (Perhaps, the female turtle noticed the Blue Flag flying — the global environmental recognition accorded the beach last fall.)  But, once a turtle comes to a beach to nest, it often returns each year.  That’s not unlike a lot of other Divi Little Bay guests.

When In Rome..

It’s the motto of travelers ’round the world: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So, when in St. Maarten, have a guavaberry colada! Chances are you won’t taste guavaberry liqueur anywhere else in the world. These little wild berries – no relation at all to guava – grow high upon the hills in the center of the island and elsewhere across the Caribbean. But, no one has turned them into a cultural and tourist “don’t miss” event like the Sint Maarten Guavberry Company right in the heart of Phillipsburg.

Even the quaint, colorful gingerbread cottage on Front Street where the liqueur is made is a must see. Once a synagogue, abandoned around 1785, the store serves up free samples of the liqueur and guavaberry coladas and sells a full line of liqueurs, rums and hot sauces. Yum.

The cottage/headquarters was one of the first stops on Angela Lawrence’s recent whirlwind visit to St. Maarten. Lawrence, a Toronto writer of Jamaican heritage, came to St. Maarten to write about this year’s Carnival festivities. Lawrence will tell you more about her first taste of the guavaberry liqueur on her blog, Cook like a Jamaican. She must have liked it enough to want to take a bottle back to Toronto. Sadly, there’s a cautionary element to her telling of her intro to guavaberry liqueur. (Pack it; don’t carry it on.)

Gizmo’s Bar & Grill right on the beach at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort serves up two guavaberry cocktails. Dylan from the Divi Little Bay food and beverage staff offers this recipe for Oldman Punch.

Oldman Punch

Drink Ingredients:
2oz. Guavaberry Island Folk Liqueur
2-3oz. orange juice
2-3oz. pineapple juice

How to mix the drink:
Mix ingredients well and put in tall glass with ice. Add dash of grenadine. Garnish with fresh flower, half a lime or freshly grated cinnamon.

Gizmo’s also serves the Guavaberry Colada. It’s a little sweet for my taste, but hey, I tried it. When in St. Maarten, I want to try everything! This following Guavaberry Colada recipe comes from the fine folks at Guavaberry. You’ll find lots of other recipes there.

Guavaberry Colada

Drink Ingredients:
2oz Sint Maarten Guavaberry
1oz Coconut Cream
3oz Pineapple Juice or Pieces
Ice

How to mix the drink:
Put ice in blender, add Sint Maarten Guavaberry, Cream of Coconut, pineapple pieces or juice. Blend well. Garnish with pineapple, toasted coconut & fresh nutmeg.

That Girl Gizmo

That gorgeous redhead over by the bar on the Divi Little Bay beachfront, her name is Gizmo. Why she’s called Gizmo is part of her mystery. It’s a word typically applied to gadgets, especially one whose true name cannot be recalled. But, once you’ve met Gizmo, she’s unforgettable. She’s been lending her colorful personality and presence to the Divi Little Bay property for twenty years.

Though she’s a daily fixture either at the bar or nearby in the new patio dining area, not much is known about her. She is indeed a girl macaw, sporting just about every color in the rainbow, from her crown that is the clearest red in any artist’s palette to her brilliant royal blue tail ending with long feathers of aqua and red.

What brought her as a young bird from her native South American rain forest to St. Maarten and then to Divi Little Bay in 1992 is anybody’s guess. She eats fruits and bird seeds. (No feeding, please. The maintenance staff takes good care of that.) Gizmo also has her own beachfront digs, and does not room with the resort’s other two macaws in the aviary across from the grocery.

The girl always draws a crowd. She is friendly, and the other bar regulars know she’s got a real liking for men. Jewelry, too. Something about the screw winder on watches. Take a bit of precaution if you decide to allow Gizmo on your arm. She will pose for pictures.

What makes her even more unforgettable is that she finally got a bar named for her. (That never happened for Cliff or Norm on Cheer’s.) After surviving Marilyn and Luis, the two hurricanes of 1995, Divi Little Bay underwent extensive renovation (and an expansion to its present size). It somehow seemed fitting to name the new beachfront dining establishment after Gizmo, whose penchant for that particular spot endured. Gizmo’s Bar & Grill got even better in 2008 with another renovation and today is a gathers all birds of a feather, who like simple grilled fish, homemade pizza and a favorite cocktail or an adventuresome guavaberry colada. (A bit sweet for my taste, but when in St. Maarten, why not?) The restaurant is open until 10pm every night, the bar until midnight. But, Gizmo is long gone to bed by then. A namesake needs her rest.