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St Maarten-St Martin

Find Paradise and Plunder in Dazzling St. Maarten/St. Martin

The dual-island nations of Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin encompass 37-square miles of sugar-sand beaches, stunning sea views and green rolling hillsides. The Netherlands and France agreed to share this lovely territory in 1648 and residents have lived in harmony ever since. Visitors have easy access to both sides, as the border is marked only by welcome signs. As a result, they can choose from an interesting variety of recreational, cultural and culinary experiences.

Once quite wealthy from the fruits of its sugar, coffee and rum plantations, prosperity on the island returned after all import and export duties were removed in 1939. Soon after, an airport was built to accommodate tourists, and the cruise industry began coming to port and dropping off passengers—and eager shoppers—in the early 1970’s.

Now this tropical locale is rich with enough accommodations and activities for those who long for a lengthier port of call. Our guide will help you make the most of your time in this Caribbean gem, and we are certain you won’t soon forget the island’s unique history or natural beauty. Along with the memories, you are likely to discover a few treasures you can’t resist taking home with you.

A Tale of Two Capitals

Philipsburg is the bustling capital of the Dutch side and the place where the ships dock to unload. On the opposite side of the island charming Marigot with its traditional Creole architecture serves as the French capital.

The entire island of St. Maarten/St. Martin is relatively small, and there is only one main road that runs around the entire perimeter. For this reason, a driving tour is a great way to see all of the gorgeous scenery it has to offer. It is possible to make the loop in as little as a couple of hours, or it can be accomplished more leisurely though the course of a day.

Crystal Waters Beckon

More than 35 of the island’s stunning beaches are open to the public, and with some exploration, you will find that each one has its own distinctive personality. Here is a look at some of the more well-known options, but feel free to search for your own secluded spot.

On the Dutch side, Great Bay Beach is near the heart of Philipsburg and boasts a lively boardwalk that runs right up to the cruise ship pier. Closer to the Princess Juliana International Airport, Simpson Bay Beach hugs the Caribbean Sea and affords grand views of the Simpson Bay Bridge and the impressive yachts that sail beneath it. Beachgoers can also participate in a wide variety of water sports here in the midst of a visible shipwreck. At Cupecoy, the only clothing-optional beach on the Dutch half, you will find sandstone cliffs and some sheltered caves, as well as a beach bar and other amenities.

On the French side, you will find one of the most famous clothing-optional beaches in the Caribbean. Known as the St. Tropez of the Caribbean, Orient Bay is home to five different white sand beaches. There is no shortage of water fun, from parasailing to windsurfing, or simply enjoying cocktails at sunset.

Beautiful Baie Rouge Beach on the Atlantic coast is named for the sand tinted pink from tiny pieces of coral, while Baie Longue is the longest and perhaps most exclusive stretch of sand on the island. Both are also clothing-optional.

Offshore Excursions

If you have ever dreamed of spending time on a romantic, uninhabited island this is your chance. The French islands of Pinel, Green Cay, and Tintamarre are reached easily from St. Martin’s eastern shores by ferry, water taxi, a chartered boat or possibly even a rented jet ski. From Simpson Bay it is also possible to board a catamaran for a scenic sail to Prickly Pear for snorkeling in a regional marine park.

If you would rather not get wet, you can view the sea creatures from the panoramic windows of the Seaworld Explorer semi-submarine or enjoy a festive sunset sail or dinner cruise.

Live a Little History

Two military outposts are legacies of the colonial era and both provide dramatic views of the hillsides, the crystal-clear ocean, and neighboring islands. Near Philipsburg on the Dutch side, hike up to the site of Fort Amsterdam, or climb to Fort Louis to take in the view over the French city of Marigot and the tranquil bay.

Nearly restored to its authentic state, Mount Vernon Plantation provides visitors with a satisfying glimpse of life on a colonial plantation. Guided tours present a living history of sugar, coffee and rum production. Also, a former sugar plantation, the Emilio Wilson Estate, was home to the islands first governor and the Dutch capital’s namesake, John Philips.

Nature lovers won’t be disappointed in Loterie Farm a 135-acre preserve where you can hike several dedicated trails, including one to the highest point on the island—Pic Paradis. For a more extreme adventure attempt the exciting treetop zip line courses that run through this dense tropical forest.

Family Fun in the Sun

As if an array of water sports from snorkeling to kayaking is not enough excitement for the youngsters, there’s also the opportunity to travel the scenic coastline on horseback. There are plenty of other entertainment options to keep families busy during an extended stay from mini golf to first-run movies.

Don’t miss St. Maarten Park and Zoo, a fascinating sanctuary to more than 200 tropical animals, including birds, reptiles and monkeys. Kids will also love the playground and petting zoo. Nearby in French St. Martin, Butterfly Farm is an enchanting enclosure with flowers, waterfalls and ponds, as well as hundreds of colorful butterflies. If you arrive early enough, you can watch them break free from their cocoons and take flight.

A Shopping Mecca

An irresistible selection of duty-free goods is what really put this tiny island on the map. Front Street in Philipsburg is one place to go if you are in the market for gems, jewelry or watches, designer clothing and bags, linens, liquor, or tobacco. There also are plenty of first-class shops on the French side in Marigot and Grand Case.

You can sample local flavors and purchase authentic souvenirs and other unique products at quaint shops like the Guavaberry Emporium

The Lap of Luxury

After a day at the beach or serious shopping, enjoy a relaxing spa treatment at one of the many world-class resorts. You might even consider a nap before heading out to dinner. The culinary options are endless, and while many of the most acclaimed restaurants are said to be located near the Bay of Grand Case, it is easy to find a gourmet dish or some tasty island barbecue just about anywhere.

At the end of the day it will be difficult to choose from beach bars with live music, thumping dance clubs, or the thrill of gaming at one of the many glitzy casinos. For more specific information about these and a host of other activities, please visit the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association’s Experience St. Maarten/St. Martin website



» atlantisadventures.com
» stmaarten-activities.com
» loteriefarm.com
» thebutterflyfarm.com
» guavaberry.com
» experiencedestinations.com