If you've been following our Island Runaways blog, you know that Zickie and I aren't exactly big fans of "tourist-y." Sure, we are often tourists ourselves but the word "tourist-y" can unfortunately translate into uncomfortably crowded beaches and cheese-y, fake-y venues. Not always, of course, but sometimes, yes. Since one of us comes from Jamaica, and knows the islands as a native-born son, we definitely value authentic island experiences. So, the reputation of Grand Case beach town in St. Martin as one of the most touristy spots on the island concerned me a little. But we bravely ventured forth to find:
(Ah, yes, Grand Case. Photo by Island Runaways.)
Soft aqua-colored seas and a long crescent of sand. How long? About two kilometers that ring around a placid inlet. Grand Case is known as the culinary capital of St. Martin/St. Maarten with refined French restaurants, but during the day, it's more laid back. How laid back? You can sit at a picnic table, kick off your flip flops, and eat a very nice meal of fresh fish or shrimp. The visuals simply don't stop:
(Another view from Grand Case. Photo by Island Runaways.)
Everywhere we looked, we found ourselves ogling the island beauty. It was possibly, just possibly our favorite beach on St. Martin/St. Maarten. Why? Because despite its strip of restaurants, really, the place wasn't nearly as developed as you'd expect. Sure, there are certain spots with rental chaises and tables, but then you'll find long swaths of lovely sand with...no one. Want a romantic little area all your own? Just wander a little ways and you've got it:
(A quiet section of Grand Case. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
Here and there we spotted a catamaran or a larger boat bringing a group of travelers to the beach. Some of them disembarked at a dock; others needed to jump in the water and swim -- or be brought ashore by dinghy. But Grand Case beach itself never felt crowded. Loads of room for everyone!
(Room on the sand. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
A few practical notes: we drove there in our rental car. Parking can be had (for free) but it may take some patience to find a spot. We found parking by the main strip next to Calmos Cafe. What surprised us was that the little town itself wasn't slick and touristy, but instead a mixture of more manicured facilities and some very simple (read: not manicured) properties. If you're thinking this is Ocean Drive on South Beach -- you'll be in for a surprise! But it's a pleasant surprise, once you hit the sand. The vibe is completely mellow, the people welcoming, and the scenery just out of this world. In fact, Zickie and I decided that Grand Case may just be the ideal spot to stay in a hotel -- or a rental apartment -- on all of St. Martin. You can walk to dinner. You can do a bit of shopping. But still feel like you've escaped to a paradise of peace and quiet.
(A random conch shell. Photo by Laura Albritton.)
By the way, look for rock formations just off the shoreline. Don your goggles or mask and you'll see Sergeant Majors, grunts, parrot fish, and other tropical fish. How cool is that? We loved Grand Case and were very sorry to leave. It made for a fantastic last afternoon on this stunning Caribbean island. Although it's difficult to say good-bye, all three of the Island Runaways team were thrilled that our last day was spent on this beautiful, tropical crescent of paradise.