After breakfast on our final cruise day, we walked down to get our rental car. Several rental companies are set up right there at the cruise port. I'd chosen Hertz since I could book it all online, but they were still closed at 8:00am when their business hours say they're open and when I'd booked our reservation. The other companies tried to sell us a rental, but they backed off when we explained that we had a reservation already. We waited for about five minutes when a Hertz employee came around the corner. We thought we'd finally get our car, but he said the lady would be in to help us in a few minutes. She was taking a walk. We waited a bit more, then a bit more, and at 15 minutes Coastal Car Rental made us a good offer again, so we took it. It was Hertz's own fault losing our business for making us wait that long when they knew we had an 8:00am reservation. Unlike St Kitts, renting was far less in St Martin than a taxi around the island would have been, and it was right side driving. Hoorah!
By the time we were done it was almost noon, so we knew we wouldn't have time to hike up to Pic Paradis and decided to take the risk of going up there ourselves. We didn't leave anything valuable in the car or anything that looked valuable, and luckily, the car did not get vandalized. The view was absolutely lovely though very distant.
Our next stop was Fort St Louis. A sign on the gate said the fort was closed, and we nearly turned around, but then we discovered that the gate was still open and the grounds were accessible. There were spectacular views everywhere you looked! I actually preferred it to Pic Paradis because the view is so much closer.
I love this photo sphere I got of the 360 degree view around us.
You could not turn your head any direction without seeing a gorgeous vista.
After that we tried going to Maho Beach where the airplanes come in. I'd seen a snorkeling excursion for it on our cruise, but of course, it was super pricey like all the other excursions. I still wanted to go since I'd seen pictures online like the one on the right, and I assumed it'd be easy enough to just drive there ourselves. Unfortunately it was way too crowded and there was zero parking, plus I could not figure out where I could change into a swimsuit even if we did find parking. I think the only way to do it would have been to change on the ship beforehand and take a taxi. At least we found this bird when we were getting turned around and managed to pull over and get a picture just before it flew off.
Driving around the airport is stunning, but it's such a busy traffic area that there's nowhere to pull over and get pictures. We would have needed to be out on a boat to really take it in. I pulled these photos off the internet, with the one on the right showing the lagoon from an aerial view. I had my jaw hanging open the whole time just goggling at the sights as we drove around that narrow strip of land. I didn't even try to take pictures since they would have turned out terrible inside a vehicle in motion.
We found a few more pretty sights as we drove, but we missed one I'd had on my list - Fort Amsterdam. It would have required a crazy sharp turn to get into it directly from the highway, which was too difficult for our car to do at the speed we were going with cars on our tail. We thought about getting turned around for it, but it was going to take some time to backtrack, and we were crazy hungry by then (it was after 2:00pm). We decided the view couldn't be better than what we'd already seen, and we'd had more than enough historic fort sightseeing already. I also figured it'd be a similar view to what we'd get from the top decks of the cruise ship since it was directly across the bay from the Fort.
I was right. The view of Great Bay from the ship was still pretty darn great. I couldn't believe we'd circled the entire island, seen many beautiful sights, and done a ziplining tour all with two hours to spare before the boat left port.