St. Maarten received seven distinctions in USA Today’s 2019 Ten Best Caribbean Readers’ Choice Awards. The Friendly Island and several of its stakeholders were acknowledged across six categories, including “Best Island for Romance,” “Best Caribbean Restaurant” (Bistrot Caraïbes and Emilio’s) and “Best Caribbean Attraction” (Rainforest Adventures). The island was nominated for each list by Melanie Reffes and Chelle Walton, two journalists who specialize in the Caribbean.
St. Maarten’s Topper’s Rhum Distillery received the first-place honor on this year’s “Best Caribbean Rum Distillery” list, beating out some of the world’s most famous rum brands such as Bacardi, Brugal, Appleton Estate, Angostura, Cruzan, Mount Gay and Barbancourt.
Topper and Melanie Daboul live on the Dutch or southern side of St. Maarten, where they started making all natural flavored rhums (the French spelling of rum) for their restaurants, so that they could give a complimentary after dinner drink to their guests. These rhums are based on Melanie’s concoctions that she has been perfecting since 1994. The customers fell in love with their creations and it instantly became a commercial success. This year, the judges also fell in love with the popular concoctions, awarding Topper’s Rhum Distillery first place for “Best Caribbean Rum Distillery.”
Rainforest Adventures won third place for “Best Caribbean Attraction.” The eco-friendly tourist attraction prides itself on creating unique and memorable experiences that inspire a sustainable use of the environment and an appreciation of the local culture while positively impacting their communities.
St. Maarten’s Director of Tourism, May-Ling Chun said: “These awards truly highlight the diverse array of fantastic activities, restaurants, and opportunities that our island provides. We are incredibly thankful for these honors and hope that these distinctions will prompt even more people to visit St. Maarten and experience everything our island has to offer.”
In other food and beverage-related honors, two of St. Maarten’s restaurants, Bistrot Caraïbes and Emilio’s, placed fourth and fifth respectively on this year’s “Best Caribbean Restaurant” list, making it the only destination to receive two acknowledgments in the category and furthering the island’s reputation as a gastronomic powerhouse.
St. Maarten’s Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic and Telecommunications, Stuart Johnson, stated: “These awards are a testament to the people of St. Maarten; whose determination and hard work continue to yield recognition and results. We often have the privilege of welcoming back visitors who visit decades in a row, and this array of acknowledgments truly speaks to that. The public, including those who have visited our island year after year, gave us these honors, and we are so thankful for their enduring support. Many thanks to everyone who voted for us.”
Other notable awards were St. Maarten/St. Martin wining third place for “Best Caribbean Island for Romance,” Grand Case Beach Club in sixth place for “Best Caribbean Resort,” and St. Maarten in seventh place for “Best Destination for Nightlife.”