Marigot, St. Martin
I've been in Sint Marteen/Saint Martin for three nights, and spent each one in a different location.
I walked off the airplane with a list of potential spots to stay, but needed quarters to start making phone calls. Chance pulled me into a tiny tourist-trinket store in the airport where I met Esmee Thomas (an outgoing woman of small-stature in her early 60's running the shop).
Generally familiar with the hotel scene, she took a look at my list and dismissed most as too expensive. Andy had paid $51 a night when he was here, so I knew about what to expect for first night rates. Esmee made a call to an acquaintance at Marge's Guesthouse, instructing him hold a room at the agreed upon rate, and even offering to drive me there if I waited around until she closed shop in an hour and a half (which I took her up on).
On the drive over (the long way with pleasant tour) Esmee mentioned a room at her home that she'd rent out to me for $25 a night if I was interested, but she needed a day or two to get it in order.
Friday night I paid a painful $50 for a spacious guesthouse room in Dutch Cole Bay with plenty of amenities, including a kitchenette. I woke up early on Saturday morning, compiled a new list from an Internet cafe, made some calls, caught a bus to the Dutch capital of Philipsburg, and started hunting. I only had a few hours to find a new spot, as leaving your gear in a room past the 11:00 hour typically implies paying for another night.
I ended up securing a bare room at the Spanish speaking Jose's Guesthouse (in the seedy part of town) for Saturday night. The lackluster room reminded me of the hole I stayed at in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic for $6 a night—except I was paying the posted rate of $35!
Aside from the guesthouse's excellent proximity to the Philipsburg beach, boardwalk, and shopping, it upset me that paying only $15 less for the night meant the sacrifice of personal security, working hot-water shower, A/C, television, kitchenette with mini-fridge, and toilet seat. What a rip-off (but the cheapest I was able to sniff out that morning).
Sunday night found me at Esmee's home in the French capital city of Marigot. The room, an offshoot from the porch, is about the same width and length as the interior of many SUV's, with space for little more than a bed, table, and floor fan. The bathroom (and everything else needed) is inside the house.
Even though it's at the sacrifice of some comforts and privacy, I would much rather give my money to Esmee and experience local life out of her home than an overpriced guesthouse.
If I wanted to spend another morning searching, I could probably find a place far outside of town for $25 a night, but it's just not worth the effort. At the moment I'm enjoying the local scene(s), and plotting how to best get to (the clothing optional) Orient Beach in the northeast part of the island.