Traveling to St. Maarten on Points (With Pictures)

After discovering some super-awesome rewards flights on American, we decided to traveling to St. Maarten sounded fun. Here's how we made it there!

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If you know me at all, you know that I absolutely love beaches.  Of course, not all beaches are created equal.  I love the soft, white sand found on the beaches of the Florida panhandle, for example, but I prefer the crystal clear water you find in the Caribbean.  Bonus Points for a soft, sandy bottom you can walk on, but Super Bonus Points for nooks and crannies where I can snorkel.

All beaches are different yet beautiful in their own way, and I truly enjoy any moment I can spend on one – anywhere.

Traveling to St. Maarten

Even though we’re extremely frugal, we are willing to spend some money on travel from time to time.  And it’s not just because I love a good Mojito, but because we truly love seeing and enjoying different parts of the world.  It’s a big planet, and I am interested in much more than the little corner I reside in.  Plus, I tend to think it’s good for the soul, and it certainly opens my mind:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”                  – Mark Twain

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Me. In My Bathing Suit. You’re Welcome

Of course, not every trip we take is a cultural experience.  In fact, some of our trips are just sit-on-your-ass beach vacations- the type where you only move when you need a new drink.  Our recent trip to St. Maarten was a combination trip- we did a little bit of exploring, but we also did a lot of ass-sitting.  And you’ll see why in a few minutes.

How We Got to St. Maarten

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Our trip to St. Maarten was mostly paid for with a combination of credit card rewards.  Here are the cards we used:


It cost us approximately 70,000 American Airlines miles to fly round-trip from Indianapolis to St. Maarten, plus around $167 in government-mandated taxes and fees.  To earn the miles, we both signed up for the card_name. For this card, you’ll earn a 30,000 mile sign up bonus for spending $1,000 in 3 months.


We own a few different businesses, each with their own TID number, which allowed us to apply for a few different card_name cards. On each card, we earned a $500 cash bonus after spending $4,500 in the first 90 days. So, we paid for our hotel stays using cash back from these cards. Again, keep in mind that offers are constantly changing and you should check the bonus before applying.

Trip Details (and Photos)

We left Indianapolis early on January 7th, the day after my birthday, and arrived in St. Maarten at approximately 2:00 p.m.  Our hotel was right next to the airport, so we only needed to grab our luggage and go.  Twenty minutes later, we were checking into our room at the Sonesta Ocean Point All-Inclusive Resort.  Here is a picture of the view off of our balcony:

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Not only did we have an awesome view, but our room was pretty swank as well.  But due to the reservations and the agreement we made before we left, we moved over to the other property on the compound, the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, on our third day.  We didn’t have much of a view in that room, but we had been upgraded to a suite with a living room.  Not sure what that was about, but I seriously enjoyed it!

We spent the next several days watching the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, watching the cruise ships saunter by, and of course, watching the planes as they landed at the airport next door.  Here are a few pictures from the first few days:

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After being lazy for a few days, we eventually worked up enough energy to get off of the resort.  First, we started by walking the half mile or so to Mullet Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life.  There, we snorkeled and saw all kinds of ocean life, watched really drunk people from the cruise ships jump off of giant catamarans, and continued being lazy.  Here are some pictures of Mullet Bay:

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The next day, we took a $2 bus ride into the capital of the Dutch side of St. Maarten, Phillipsburg.  It was honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been – even though it was practically crawling with tourists.  We didn’t do much in Phillipsburg aside from some shopping and people-watching, but I did take some really awesome pictures, including this one:

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After we got back from Phillipsburg, we spent some more time watching the planes come in:

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The next morning, we got up bright and early to go on a professional snorkeling tour.  It was the highlight of our trip!  Not only did we swim with the fishes and some beautiful sea turtles, but we also visited the amazing and breathtaking Pinel Island and drank at a bar that was literally in the water:

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Wrapping Up

We had a ton of fun traveling to St. Maarten, and I would definitely go back.  However, I would really like to bring the kids along and maybe even rent a condo instead of staying at a resort next time.

I loved both Sonesta resorts, and highly recommend them to anyone visiting the area.  The food was the best food I have ever had at an all-inclusive resort so far, as evidenced by my chipmunk cheeks in every picture.  And the drinks weren’t bad either – you can trust that because I taste-tasted nearly all of the alcohol on the premises.

We had a blast and will definitely be back.  I miss it already, but I’m glad to be back home with my family.

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  1. Hola sexy mama!!! :-). It looks delightful right there! You can tell you had an awesome time. Good for you! Could that plane be any closer? Yikes..might freak me out just a bit..Welcome back

    1. It was actually fun. The planes got crazy close!

    1. They have to come in right over the beach. It’s nuts, but really fun to watch.

  2. I grew up nowhere near the beach, but found myself in a popular beach destination for college. I loved the beach! I didn’t get to go much, but I found it to be the best way to relax and unwind. I’m partial to sandy beaches where it doesn’t get too deep too quickly.

    Years ago, we had planned to visit the Turks and Caicos but abandoned it in favor of purchasing our first house… Ten years later, I’m still hoping to go’

  3. I have credit card cash back rewards, but I’ve never been able to save enough to pay for a trip. After reading about your vacay and reading a bunch of posts about buying Xmas gifts wth reward points, I’m starting to think letting them pile up might be more fun!

  4. St. Maarten is on my list for places to visit and has been for some time. Super bonus points to your husband for his Canadian hat!

  5. Classic first photo! LOL. I’m assuming that was taken after tasting much of the alcohol the Island had to offer? We are working on our travel rewards skills. We took a cruise to Mexico and still is one of our favorite family trips.

  6. St Maarten was where I went snorkeling for the first time. It set the bar very high. =).

    Glad you guys had a great vacation and happy belated bday!

  7. Beautiful pictures!!!! Looks like a great time!

  8. Awesome trip! I love the beach… best vacation ever. However, we’ve been to the beach a couple times in the past several years, but no trips to the mountains – Mr. Maroon’s preferred vacation spot. The next trip must be to the mountains for us. And we would have been entranced by watching the airplanes fly over like that!!

  9. Looks like a fun trip. I’ve seen video of those planes landing there. Some people get knocked over…totally hilarious. Glad you got to go!

  10. St. Marteen looks gorgeous and lucky you to have escaped the winter weather!

    I plan to start earning rewards again later in the year to help for a possible trip to Milan in 2016.

  11. Looks like an awesome trip Holly! We’ve been to St. Maarten, though only as one of those drunk cruise-goers. 🙂 We have a few trips planned for this year all on points, but they’re all in the States…but we get to go to San Diego kiddo free in April so we’re looking forward to that. 🙂 We’re working on planning out something more tropical for next year as it’ll be our 15th anniversary.

  12. I am trying to plan a beach getaway for next November. Spring break and summer are already booked. I feel like the family travel agent, but we have the companion pass until the end of the year, so I hate not to take advantage!

  13. We loved St Maarten but Anguilla even more. That island was nice because it is small and therefore not a ton of tourists. You can just relax the entire time. Plus they have a lot of roadside BBQ places to eat at. Renting a car is super easy and driving the entire island doesn’t take long at all. Definitely our favorite island so far.

  14. Looks like a great time! I still can’t believe you cheaped out on the cab from the airport to the hotel.

    I’ve been wanting to book a trip to Amanpulo in the Philippines, but with oil prices in the toilet, now is not a good time […]

  15. I think I would spend all day watching the planes land too, they’re so low! Mr. Maarten looks beautiful. I’ve only ever done the Dominican Republic, but it would be fun to explore some more islands. Maybe when the Little Miss is a little bigger. Also, how cool is it that you were swimming with turtles!

  16. The best food you’ve ever had in an all-inclusive is pretty high praise 🙂

    I’m jealous that you went to Pinel, we didn’t make it there. Next time, next time!

  17. How fun!! I’m totally jealous of your trip! I really REALLY want to get into credit card rewards…I just haven’t done it yet. I’m such a “hoarder” with cash back points too. For example, I have more than $350 in cash back sitting on my Chase card… it’s been there for longer than I’d like to admit. I need to cash that in and at least invest it or something haha (seriously, I’m a money hoarder).

  18. Beautiful pics Holly! Glad to hear you had a good time. I could pass on the airplanes though…I prefer a much quieter location with less people. 🙂

  19. Great pictures! Looks like so much fun. I am dreaming about going to the beach right now.

  20. You’re rocking those travel rewards, Holly. We’ve never been to the Carribean, but maybe someday. 🙂 We’ve got a travel reward trip to Central/Eastern Europe this May, and then maybe Paris again for Christmas & New Years.

  21. Amazing! I’m hoping for a trip to Nicaragua in November, mostly with points. I figure it’s more likely if I start telling people. Are you getting approved for the same spark card or different ones? I wasn’t even aware of those.

  22. We’re definitely beach people too. Nothing beats lazing about the beach! The views look amazing and I’m sure the girls would love it too. When Lauren and Taylor were smaller, we mostly took the beach type vacations (big fans of Sandals in Turks and Caicos) which makes some people laugh since we only live a few blocks away from the beach. 🙂 It’s different when people bring you free drinks! Right? Glad you had a wonderful birthday trip!

  23. Looks amazing. I can’t believe the planes fly that low! Travel rewards are something I need to look into more.

  24. I am SO envious right now Holly!! I have seen those airplane pictures before and seriously thought they were made up! It’s crazy how close (or seemingly close) the planes get to the beach. My favorite part of your trip, though, would have to be the bar in the water. I have NEVER seen that (other than a pool bar) and it looks fantastic!

  25. Looks like you had a fantastic time! I was wondering where that airport was.

  26. All you can eat and drink and gorgeous beaches and snorkeling, what’s not to love? I’ve never been to St. Maarten but I’d definitely love to go. We’re considering a trip to Bermuda using miles from my British Airways card. It will be our first travel rewards trip and I’m super excited.

  27. That looks like a great time! This time of year, it sounds especially good. The one location in the Caribbean I’ve been to is Aruba, and I truly enjoyed that – particularly since it was almost 100 degrees warmer (literally!) between there and home in Chicago at one point when I was there. Coming home was quite the adjustment.

  28. Looks like you guys had so much fun. I wish I was in your suitcase….Trust me I don’t mind being a third wheel. Thank you so much for sharing your vacation.

  29. Awesome! We were in St Maarten last year and it was excellent! We went to the beach by the airport and it is really crazy to sit there when planes come in. Looks like you had a great time! What a great mid-winter getaway.

  30. It sounds like your trip to St. Maarten was wonderful! I’ve never been to the Caribbean, but my husband went to Dominica when he was in high school and he still talks about how awesome it was.

    We both love the beach so much. It’s one of the reasons we moved to California. We’re currently saving up our credit card points for an anniversary trip to Mexico in November.

  31. Looks like it was an awesome trip! I like the underwater photos–when we snorkeled in Hawaii, I tried so hard to get good underwater shots, but they didn’t pan out too well. I remain extremely impressed with your travel rewards skillz!

  32. Damn you Americans and your awesome credit card rewards!
    Unfortunately there never seems to be any travel rewards opportunities quite so attractive in Australia.

    I am using some points from I’ve earned from work trips to book some nights at a Hyatt this year.

  33. If I saw the plane pics elsewhere Id think they were photoshopped for sure. I can\’t believe they get that close to the beach. You\’d think there would be some sort of safety regulation against it

  34. Hey Holly I have two questions about this:

    1) “Our hotel was paid for using cash back from one of my six Capital One Spark Business cards. I honestly cannot believe they keep approving me for those…but that’s another story.” I haven’t heard of this card, so I appreciate you mentioning it. Have you written a full post about it? I don’t think you have, unless I missed it. The other question surrounding it is do you use your business credit card for personal purchases or ONLY business purchases? Does it matter? Does it say anywhere in the fine print what the expenses can/can’t be for?

    2) You said it took you 70,000 AA miles to get there and back. Was that 70k each (i.e. 140k total) or 70k in total for two roundtrip flights? It sounds like a great deal and if it’s only 70k for both of you.


  35. Thanks for sharing this link with me Holly. We’re looking forward to our first St Maarten experience this Summer. You have some great suggestions here… looking forward to sharing our fun when we get back.

  36. Thanks for sharing your travel tips about St. Marteen. I found the link through Pinterest. My hubby & I are traveling from Fishers, IN to St. Marteen this November for our 5 yr anniversary. We are using flight vouchers and staying at the Westin Resort (westside of island) using credit card points. Good to know feedback on the island as we’ve never been there before.

    p.s. you have a new fan/follower from Indy area. 🙂 Thanks again!

    1. Awesome! We live in Noblesville, but are just minutes from Fishers! Feel free to email me if you have specific questions about St. Maarten. We LOVE it there!

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