The island of St. Martin – St. Maarten is a true PARADISE! I absolutely love love love this island! And not to mention the famous St. Maarten airport ….
First time we went there for vacation was in 2012! This was the year that we both ( me and my lovely husband) fell in love with this Caribbean Beauty!
We are the outdoor kind of couple. Most of our vacations we take- we travel on a self-catering basis. We like to rent a house/condo, rent a car and off we go exploring the island!
So…where do I start. Let me start from the beginning 🙂
St. Maarten manages to pack a lot into just 87 sq. km., including 37 beaches, two distinct cultures and some of the Caribbean’s best dining and duty-free shopping.
St. Martin, which makes up the island’s northern half, is part of France. Small, low-rise hotels overlook serene beaches and candlelit restaurants run by Paris-trained chefs. It’s the perfect setting for a romantic dinner for two. Marigot is the main town and capital on the French side of Saint Martin.
St. Maarten, the island’s southern half, is an autonomous country within the kingdom of the Netherlands. Livelier than the French side of the island, it’s the sort of spot where high-rises, casinos, nightclubs and glittering boutiques compete for your attention. Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch St. Maarten.
It is the world’s smallest island, which is divided between the two countries – France and the Netherlands.
We stopped at the French side.
We rented a studio, which is located at the Le Flamboyant resort. On arriving, Stephanie ( the owner of the studio) prepared a refreshing fruit punch for us. It was such a relief after all the flight and travelling.
We rented from here
Our studio had a kitchen right outside, on the balcony. It was such a pleasure to have breakfast, or enjoy the sunset to the sound of the sea, sitting on the balcony and sipping our fruit punch or a fragrant tea.
After waking up in the morning (not too early! :)), we started with getting a car rental and visiting local grocery store to stock up our fridge. The store we visited had mostly organic produce, so it turned out a bit too expensive for us. We ended up renting a car from the local renting company, which was also very close to out stay.
French side is a bit more expensive, compared to Dutch side. The main currency in there is Euro. But from our experience, everybody accepts US dollars. Most places equate 1 euro to 1 usd.
City Marigot ( French side) has many shops, boutiques, restaurants, etc. It is simply a paradise for shopaholics and wine lovers. Just be careful, because they have lunch break from 1-3PM, and at 5 PM they close down …. On Sunday, all shops (almost) are closed :).
If you climb up to the Fort Louise, it opens extraordinarily beautiful view of the city:
If you will be buying food or beer somewhere close to resorts or any tourist areas – you will find out that the prices tend to be much higher there. But once you move away from tourist area – you might be surprised that prices will go down.
For example, you can see many grills with cooking chicken on the roads around the island, and the chicken is very tasty by the way. Once on the beach , you can find the same grills, but chicken will cost you more.
For a nightlife go to Maho or Simpson Bay. Casinos and clubs, restaurants + shops in there are open until late.
And now lets talk about the most important attractions of this wonderful island – the beaches.
St. Martin has a lot of different beaches (37 to be exact). And all of them are so different, they will satisfy any taste. We visited some of them. Here are some of my favorites.
Orient Beach is the most developed, the most popular and the busiest beach on the island.
A major attraction of Orient Bay is of course the nude beach and the world´s famous Club Orient, the island’s only naturist resort at the southern end of the beach.
Clothing is optional in front of the Club, and it is publicly accessible. The other parts of the beach has more clothing, but in fact you may encounter nude sunbathers anywhere.
Orient Bay is the only beach on St. Martin with a large number of beach bars and restaurants directly located on the beach.
Water sport activities available, such as jet skis, sailing boats, paragliding, and some kid’s activities.
I advise you to visit Orient Beach and Mullet Bay. Both beaches have big waves ( sometimes) , blue water and a lot of people. Especially Orient Beach is very busy with tourists.
Mullet Bay is a large white sand beach, with slow rolling curls of waves coming in the beautiful, moon shaped bay. Its active surf makes this an attractive spot to local surfers. It is located next to the only island golf course and a resort destroyed by a hurricane many years ago. On the left of the beach, there are a few snack bars, where you can get food & drinks. There are many shaded areas, so you can enjoy cover and privacy, or just enjoy a picnic.
Happy Bay lies to the Northwest of the island, between Friars Bay and the Bay of Grand Case. It is still a rather unknown, almost undiscovered beach of St. Martin. This may have to do with the fact that the beach is not easily accessible. You have first to take a walk of 10-15 minutes up and down a footpath through the underbrush. And your walk would start at the last beach bar at Friar’s Bay. The beach is also frequented by naturists, which is tolerated at this beach. Your effort to get there will be honored with viewing one of the most breathtaking beaches of the island.
This quiet beach is like a dream! It is the right spot for romantic beach lovers, for snorkelers, and also for people dropped-off for a couple of hours during a boat excursion.
Cupecoy Beach is a small, clothing optional beach located at the Southwest corner of St. Maarten. It is lined with beautiful rock formations and caves. Several big condo developments in recent years changed the scenery above the cliffs. On the far western end of the beach clothing is optional, and over the past years, it seems that Cupecoy Beach has developed into a meeting point for naturists. We came back to St. Martin in 2015 and I felt this change myself.
Maho Beach is a small stretch of white beach right by the airport. St. Maarten airport attracts all the visitors. Don’t forget to bring your camera, because nowhere else a Boeing 747 will be passing as close over your head as on Maho Beach. The beach is located at the Western end of the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), thus providing you with a very special experience! For those who love the thrill, or just like airplanes, watch and see incoming jets gliding in and landing just a few yards above your head! This beach is also a great spot for viewing breathtaking sunsets!
Make sure to visit Pinel Island.
Pinel Island lies in Orient Bay, access is via boats that run from Cul de Sac. Some of the water sport concessions on Orient Beach also will drop you off on Pinel Island return at a set time to pick you up. There are beautiful sandy beaches on the island and it is also worth to take some hiking shoes and hike to the two deserted beaches on the opposite side.
Pinel is often called St Martins best kept secret and has always been popular with locals. The main beach is not clothes optional. Although it is a different story if you hike (only a 5-10 minute walk) over to one of the deserted beaches. So, don’t forget to take along some sneakers and snorkeling gear.
To visit Pinel from French Cul the Cac. Follow the road to Cul de Sac until you arrive at the end. From here you can catch a ferryboat over. The cost is $6 p/p. for a round trip. First boat leaves at around 9am and last boat brings you back at 4pm.
Take you time and visit Anguilla Island.
Anguilla is a British overseas territory in the Eastern Caribbean ( so do not forget to take your passports when booking and visiting), comprises a small main island and several offshore islets. A warm and welcoming island tucked away in the northern Caribbean. Embraced by white beaches and breathtaking turquoise seas, Anguilla is casual and easy, a unique blend of high style and low-key elegance, and the best of the good life set to a slow and casual island tempo.
While on the island, make sure to visit Anguilla’s most famous beach – Shoal Bay.
Shoal Bay Anguilla beach is beautiful, with its pinkish-hued white sand and intense turquoise water.It is a two-mile sandy beach, and you can walk from one end to the other.
It is the “busiest” beach in Anguilla for tourists. It is also the site of many peaceful water sports, including snorkeling, kayaking, diving, and distance swimming. Shoal Bay in itself is a destination. The beach is really divided into two parts: the lower half and the upper half.
You can also take a day trip to St. Barth’s island.
This arid, volcanic rock of just eight square miles is home to an eclectic mix of iguanas, night-blooming cactus, and fabulous beaches as well as luxury yachts, designer boutiques, and celebrities… Peopled primarily by descendants of the original French settlers and transplanted Europeans, this is an island with a strong, independent personality. Through the vagaries of its history it became a duty-free port and more recently liberated itself from the administrative yoke of Guadeloupe. It is certainly the most unusual of the French West Indies islands.
We rented a Jeep and just kept riding. A truly beautiful island.
No matter what you are looking for – St. Martin has a lot to offer. If you’re the outdoorsy type, choose from just about every warm-weather sport imaginable, including snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, mountain biking, sailing, golf, tennis, kayaking, zip lining and sailing. Families can enjoy everything from Segway tours and parasailing to visiting the Caribbean’s largest zoo, St. Maarten Zoo.
Here is a tiny preview of a Maho Beach from my last vacation there ( in 2015). It was a pretty windy day 🙂
Check out the dates to make sure you don’t miss any events:
- Every Tuesday night, from January to April, gastronomy, music and local arts and crafts are honored with the blend of a Caribbean atmosphere in Grand Case.
- In February or March, the carnival on the French side features parades and concerts for an entire week.
- In March, the Art Lovers weekend gives you the opportunity to meet local artists.
- In April, it is the Dutch side’s turn to celebrate carnival in an electrifying atmosphere.
- In June, the largest fishing tournament in the Caribbean, the “Billfish Tournament” gathers some thirty boats from all horizons.
- July 14th and 21th festivite holidays providing various entertainment and nautical activities.
- In December the Miss Caribbean Hibiscus beauty contest is one of the most popular ones.
If you prefer to relax, St. Maarten has plenty of beaches. It’s easy to find a lounge chair or hammock where you can spend days reading a book as the surf rolls in at your feet.