Will and I had the best time in Saint Martin. It was exactly the right amount of time to be out of the city and left us feeling totally refreshed and ready to take on the new year. It was also the perfect combination of being active, eating well, sleeping in, and time to do nothing but read and sip a margarita on the beach. That said, there were a couple things we’d do differently on our next trip that I thought might be helpful to share!

le shambala hotel grand case saint martin

We stayed at Le Shambala, not because I had heard anything about it but because it was literally one of the only places in the Caribbean that had availability that wasn’t exorbitantly expensive… And now I realize that was probably a red flag, ha. Le Shambala is really a great restaurant that seems like they had a few extra rooms and decided to convert into a hotel. There’s no check-in desk (you walk into the restaurant), no one to ask for help with activity booking or direction mapping (which was half our fault for not making concrete plans ahead of time), and approximately 90 seconds of hot water per day. Oh and the view was extraordinary but definitely more waterfront than beachfront, as in you’d have to drive to an actual beach to plop down on a beach towel and open a book because that archway above led straight into the water. In short, I’d definitely book a different hotel the next time around. I recognize some of this was poor diligence on my part and I hate to leave a negative review but, more than that, I’d hate for any of you to book a trip to somewhere I recommended and not enjoy every second! Anyway the neighborhood, Grand Case, was filled with amazing restaurants and we resolved early on to spend very little time at the hotel. If we went again, I’d probably look for a place in Marigot Bay, a nearby neighborhood also on the French side of the island where we boarded the boat to Anguilla. More on that in a second!

kate spade striped bow clutch

On our first day, we ventured out to Loterie Farm, a 135 acre nature preserve where you can zip line and eat up high in the rainforest. Walking the grounds was so peaceful and it was the perfect place to kick off four days of unwinding. Also, I’ve literally dreamt about it since.

orient bay st martin

That night we decided that we needed to rent a car. One of you actually suggested this when I asked for recommendations and it’s definitely the way to go. Case in point: we spent almost $100 on taxis the first night/full day and then rented a car for $29/day. Lesson learned! Once we had a car, it was way easier to zip around the island and not get hung up waiting on a taxi at each location. We capped off day one with a glass of rosé on Orient Bay and decided we needed to go back the next day for a little adventure…

parasailing orient bay beach st martin…parasailing! I had been a couple of times before but it was Will’s first go and we had so much fun. There were little booths all over the beach offering all kinds of water activities so you definitely don’t need to book ahead of time. We went up 600 feet which seemed crazy high and gave us an incredible view of the island. If you’re not afraid of heights, parasailing is actually really relaxing — a fun adventure without the adrenaline rush of bungee jumping, hang gliding, and sky diving. (Trying to talk Will into one of those next…)

pinel island view

That afternoon was probably my favorite part of the trip. A bunch of readers said we had to make the trip out to Pinel Island and I am so glad we did. What a hidden gem! We showed up at the dock just in time for a small boat to shuttle us over to the island — I think the trip took less than ten minutes and yet it felt like a totally different place. Gone were the legions of tourists and tacky souvenir shops — just pure paradise.

karibuni pinel island st martin

We rented two chairs and an umbrella and ordered lunch at Karibuni, which I could not recommend more highly. The service was some of the best we had on the trip and I had hands down the most delicious margarita of my life. And the water was crystal clear, bright turquoise. Seriously, do not miss.

pinel island st martin

Have I convinced you yet? Heaven on earth.

all white outfit for the beach

A few people commented on Instagram suggesting we take a day trip to Anguilla. Who could say no to an extra stamp in their passport? Another quick boat trip and we were on our way to Saint Martin’s English-speaking neighbor and home to one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world. (Wearing a J.Crew top from last summer, Sea Elise necklace, and J.Crew chino shorts.)

shoal bay beach anguilla

We took the boat from Marigot Bay in Saint Martin to Blowing Point in Anguilla and then a taxi to Shoal Bay (they drive on the other side of the street here!). It literally took my breath away: bright beach huts, the whitest sand, and the most striking blue water. It was also much less crowded than the beaches on Saint Martin, which was the perfect excuse to fly through Amy Poehler’s first book (highly recommend!) after a bite to eat.

shoal bay anguilla

Definitely could have spent more than an afternoon here!

anguilla shoal bay

After I finished my book, we reminisced on our favorite parts of 2014 and shared some of our goals for 2015. I have a feeling it’s going to be a really great year. How could it not be when it started with a view like this one?!

sunrise orient bay beach st martin

On the last day, we woke up at the ungodly hour of 6 a.m. (so not a morning person) to see the sunrise (which was #101 on my 101 in 1001 list!). It was awesome to have the beach to ourselves and feel like we were getting a head start on the rest of the island. Also, those colors — the photo really doesn’t do them justice! I tried to take a Hyperlapse but let’s just say I should probably stick to photos.

Thanks for making it to the bottom of this post… I know it was a lengthy one! I hope you’ll keep it mind if you happen to be planning a Caribbean vacay sometime in the coming year. I already have my parents convinced that we should do Christmas abroad in 2015! Who else took a trip over the holidays? Would love to hear!


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  1. My husband and I have been trying to decide which island to visit in the Caribbean, so this was fun to read. Neither one of us has been down there before, so it’s hard to choose when there are so many options and they all look great!

  2. Beautiful photos Mackenzie! Gives me wanderlust! I arrived on St Martin 15 years ago, the first port of call after sailing across the Atlantic. It will always hold a magical place in my heart and it’s so lovely to see it again in your photos. 🙂

  3. The pictures are incredible! I am glad you had so much fun and thanks for the insight on the “hotel” 🙂
    I also like that you decided to still see the bright side of things. Looks like 2015 is starting out wonderfully for you and I hope that continues.


  4. Lovely photos, that pink and white striped wall is so pretty. I am trying to convince my parents to do Christmas abroad next year too! A friend of mine spent the holiday in Paris and said it was beyond magical.

  5. My husband and I went to Anguilla on our honeymoon and it was absolute perfection! We stayed at Cap Jaluca in Maunday’s Bay – the food, the service and amenities were incredible. We feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to stay at such a luxurious resort. We hope to return sometime soon!

  6. OK first off, DAMN. Can I book a ticket, like, right now? Also very impressed at how much you accomplished in three days!!! My only true tropical vacation was Mexico for a week for a wedding and I’m pretty sure I barely left the beach and pool, ha. Cheers to a wonderful 2015!

    Blonde in this City

  7. Oh, those photos are beautiful! I’m very well traveled yet have never taken a tropical getaway…these photos are making me yearn for one!

    I’m actually living in Châteauroux now, two hours south-ish of Tours (it’s the capital of the Indre department)–I’m the girl who interned in Tours/it made my 101 in 1001 list–and it’s really expensive to go home. I teach English so got a two-week break, so I spent it in Istanbul the first week and touring Belgium the second week! I know you didn’t have the most amazing Turkish bath experience, but I LOVED mine–very similar to the one I took in Morocco. And I loaded up in tons of Turkish towels (and other crap I probably don’t need, like lanterns…). 😉

    Happy New Year, and wishing you (and Will) only the best! Looking forward to continuing to read Design Darling this year.

    xoxo Chloe | Wanderlust in the Midwest

  8. i can’t say anything beyond how jealous i am of these photos!! my whole family was in jamaica over the holidays last year and a warm weather vacay is really what i need to get through the rest of winter!
    glad you had a wonderful trip, and were able to make the best of your accommodations!

  9. we are going to st martin in June, will be staying on the french side, but haven’t picked a hotel. Do you recommend the Grand Case area over the Orient Bay area? any hotels that you saw that you’d recommend?

    thanks! love your blog:)

    1. I didn’t remark any particular hotels but I think staying closer to Orient Bay would be great! It’s only a 5-10 minute drive from Grand Case though so you’ll be fine either way. Have a great trip!

    2. I can recommend Hotel L’Esplanade if you want to stay in Grand Case. We spent a few days there last March after a week on Anguilla. It’s on the hill above Grand Case, so a little walk to the beach. Lovely spot/very comfy room. Frankly, we preferred to be above the fray, so didn’t mind the walk. Not a huge, huge fan of St. Martin, though a few days there are nice and I always like to poke around Marigot. Anguilla is beyond compare, though it’s changed substantially since my first visit in 1974. For one thing the island now has electricity, paved roads and great restaurants.

  10. What a great getaway! My family and I went to St Martin last spring and it was one of our favorite vacation spots of all time! We stayed at La Samana (a Belmond property, like the Charleston Place Hotel) and it was paradise!