St. Martin/St. Maarten: 10 Reasons to Go

 

This dual-nation island is easy to reach, thanks to direct flights from numerous U.S. Cities. And once there, its friendly residents are oh so welcoming. Whether you’re coming to party or looking for a quiet family getaway, St. Martin/St. Maarten is an ideal destination for every traveler. The stunning natural beauty that Caribbean islands are known for, paired with St. Martin’s plethora of hotels, restaurants, and activities galore, ensures you’ll find the vacation you’re seeking.

1  A Combination of Cultures

The small 34-square-mile-island is part French collectivity, part Kingdom of the Netherlands; it’s the only place in the world where these two countries share a land border. The melding of these two cultures is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the melting pot that is St. Martin. Europeans, South Americans, East Indians, and immigrants from other Caribbean islands have all come to make St. Martin their home, resulting in a mix of cultures that permeates the tourism experience.

2  Eat Around the World

Come to St. Martin hungry. This island might be small, but it’s jam- packed with a collection of restaurants more diverse than you’ll find almost anywhere else in the world. With more than 365 dining venues, you could eat at a different restaurant every day for a year. During your culinary tour, you’ll find everything from fine French dining and unique Dutch food to classic Caribbean dishes. Lebanese, German, Indian food and more, with plates ranging from $5 to more than $100.

St Martin Grande Case Sweets

This tempting treat is typical of the culinary confections found at bakeries and cafes around St. Martin, where inspirations of a French heritage are evident. Photo: David Wallace/iStock

3  Get Naked

When in this French collectivity, do as the French do and forgo your swimwear. The official get-naked beach is the Club Orient section of Orient Beach, and whether you’re in the best shape of your life or you’re feeling the effects of eating too much of St. Martin’s delicious food, you’ll fit right in. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes flock here to feel the sun shine where it usually doesn’t. Full nudity is tolerated, though discouraged, at other French beaches; going topless is a safe bet.

St Martin Orient Bay

St. Martin’s Orient Bay is one of the island’s most popular beaches. Near the southern end, there is an area designated for those who prefer to sunbathe in the buff. Photo: Christian Wheatley/iStock

4  The Friendly Island

The people of St. Martin are well aware that tourism is their bread and butter, and nearly everyone—whether they work in the tourism sector or not—is accustomed to greeting visitors with a welcoming smile. From asking for directions to making dinner reservations to strolling the streets of the island’s main towns of Philipsburg and Marigot, you’ll be made to feel that your presence here is appreciated. The locals’ attitude of “live and let live” infuses the mindsets of vacationers too, upping the happiness and relaxation factor for all.

5  Guavaberry

Both a tourist attraction and something to sample at local bars and restaurants, this sweet flavored rum is an integral part of the island’s history and culture. Rum is steeped with sugar, spices, and wild guavaberries, which grow prevalently in the center of St. Martin’s high hills. You’ll find guavaberry featured in many different concoctions on island restaurant and bar menus, and Philipsburg’s Guavaberry Emporium is a must-see. Sample their rums, liqueurs, and hot sauces before deciding which bottle of deliciousness you’d like to bring home.

6  Turbulence

It’s rare these days to find yourself a stone’s throw from a plane in flight, let alone close enough to feel the immense jet wash as a 747 soars mere feet above your head. At Maho Beach on the island’s Dutch side, you can combine a day of sun and sand with the added thrill of watching planes buzz over beach-goers before landing safely at the Princess Juliana Airport, right across the street. The Sunset Bar & Grill will keep you hydrated and informed of the arriving flights, so you can have your camera ready to capture the thrill of getting up close and personal with incoming aircraft.

7  Island Hopping

St. Martin is a great jumping-off point for island exploration. Prickly Pear, Anguilla, St. Barts, and Saba are all easily accessible by day charter or ferry, and each offers its own unique experience. Prickly Pear is the ideal deserted island, while nearby Anguilla boasts powdery white sand beaches and brilliantly clear turquoise waters. People-watching is paramount on St. Barts, a well-known playground for the rich and famous, and Saba is pure paradise for nature lovers, hikers, and scuba divers.

8  Shoppers Delight

Retail therapists and bargain hunters, get your credit cards ready. Not only is shopping on St. Martin entirely duty free; each of the island’s towns offers their own unique collection of stores where you can find everything from high-end jewelry to souvenir t-shirts. Philipsburg is a shopping mecca, with its pedestrian-friendly streets neatly lined with shop after shop. In Marigot, the scent of buttery croissants and other delectable pastries wafts under your nose as you peruse this French island town’s stores. There’s even a new mall on the scene—Blue Mall in Cupecoy, where you’ll find top of the line jewelry and clothing stores in a comfortable, air-conditioned setting.

Shopping St Maarten

In the heart of Philipsburg, the 19th century architecture and cobblestones of Old Street provides a colorful backdrop for a range of specialty shops and unique sidewalk kiosks. Photo: iStock

9  Place your Bets

There’s a little bit of Vegas in St. Martin, whose Dutch side is home to several casinos. Some, like the Casino Royale in the Maho Beach area, offer everything you need under one roof—slots, roulette, craps, blackjack, poker, and of course, fabulous shows. Several hotels, like the Westin Dawn Beach and the Pelican Resort, have their own in-house casinos. Simpson Bay and Philipsburg are home to the majority of the island’s casinos, many of which also make great venues for taking in those can’t-miss sporting events.

10  Accommodate Yourself

Family-oriented all-inclusives. Budget accommodations for young travelers. Lavish villas with unprecedented luxury and a price to match. St. Martin offers all these, and many more. No matter what you’re looking for when it comes to accommodations, you’ll find it here. Small boutique hotels in the distinctly French city of Grand Case, hotel giants like Westin and Divi, luxury high-rise all-inclusives with perfect views of planes arriving at Princess Juliana Airport. Take your pick!

St Martin La Samanna Beach

At the western end of St. Martin, the white sands and aquamarine waters of Samanna Beach are sheltered from prevailing easterly trade winds and overlooked by rows of shaded cabanas. Photo: iStock

 

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