When you hear the phrase, “The Caribbean,” what’s the first picture that pops up in your mind? If you’re like us, you probably see a tropical island with picturesque blue waters and white-sand beaches. But did you know there are more than 7,000 islands there with 28 deemed as sovereign states? All of them are exceptionally beautiful but St. Martin is one that we couldn’t wait to highlight. It’s one of the tinier islands but don’t let that stop you from making a trip here. It offers plenty to see and do that will leave you wanting to come back again. Read on to see why St. Maarten is such a popular destination and what you’ll find when you visit.
What to Explore in St. Martin
St. Martin, “The Friendly Island,” is east of Puerto Rico. It offers something special that few other places can: it’s a dual-nation island with half (Saint Martin) belonging to France and the other half (Sint Maarten) belonging to The Netherlands. That means you get the benefit of enjoying two different cultures all in one place. The Dutch side is especially known for its architecture, luxury jewelry stores and drinks which are mixed with native rum-based guava berry liquors, and its casino. The French side offers shops with some of the best fashion options, indoor and outdoor markets, and unbeatable French and Indian Caribbean cuisine.
Regardless of which side you visit, you’ll enjoy postcard-perfect beaches (37 in total). What’s wonderful is that they are certainly not all the same. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Grand-Case Beach: Grand-Case Beach lies at the heart of a charming fishing village. Its restaurants have everything from gourmet meals to casual faire. It’s a favorite among scuba divers who go to nearby Creole Rock because its waters are fairly calm.
- Maho Beach: Located next to Princess Juliana Airport, this beach gives perfect views of the airplanes that fly low overhead. It’s an exhilarating experience to try at least once!
- Anse Marcel Beach: What is interesting about Anse Marcel beach is that it borders a protected bay. Like Grand-Case Beach, this also has calm waters and you’ll find most anything you’d need here to entertain kids and get an excellent meal.
- Orient Bay: Orient Bay is one of the most popular and biggest beaches here. You won’t find a shortage of restaurants along the beach plus many hotels and shopping options.
- Little Bay: Little Bay is a quiet beach that offers views of wildlife so it’s especially perfect for those who love to take many photographs on vacation.
- Mullet Bay: Mullet Bay has brilliant views so it’s one to visit especially if you are on a romantic trip. It’s a popular spot for surfers as well.
For those who love shopping, it’s worth pointing out that the entire island is duty-free. That means you can feel good about purchasing clothes, jewelry, electronics, souvenirs and more knowing that you won’t have to worry about customs fees. The Dutch side of the island is especially worth a visit for jewelry shoppers as Philipsburg, its capital, has many fine jewelry shops that you’ll love.
Restaurants, events and nightlife
When it comes to nightlife, you’ll find dozens of pubs, 13 casinos, bars, and night clubs here. Some are open-air establishments so you’ll enjoy the beautiful island breeze and lights at night. There are more than 300 restaurants offering everything from European to Caribbean cuisine.
Try to visit during the annual St. Maarten Carnival which goes from April to May. The most popular festival here is the SXM Festival. Pro DJs, more than 2,000 people, decorated stages and incredible sound systems make for an exciting atmosphere that no partygoer can resist. You’ll also want to see the Mardis de Grand Case festival that starts on the second Tuesday of January and each Tuesday thereafter for 12 weeks. Grand Case’s main street fills with a huge pop-up craft market, bands, dancers, acrobats, and parades.
If you love hiking, there are many peaks to see but we especially love recommending Pic Paradis (Paradise Peak). This is the highest spot here and the top offers excellent views of the entire island plus Anguilla, Saba, and St. Eustatius. Water lovers will especially love going jet skiing or paddle boarding here, too. Go on a boat trip here to experience the best views of the Caribbean sunsets. You can even take a ferry ride to neighboring Anguilla a perfect day trip.
St. Martin is also the place to go for diving as you’ll find over 55 dive sites here including cave dives, reef dives and wreck dives. Don’t miss the wreck site of Carib Cargo which attracts southern stingrays, coral and other marine life that make a visit to this underwater world feel especially magical. Another hot spot is The Fish Bowl reef that has a natural arch you can swim through as you marvel at the many species of vibrant coral and fish you’ll see here.
When to visit
Late fall (around November) and winter are especially good times to visit as it is the dry season here and the weather is most enjoyable. That’s why it is an especially popular place to come for those who want to escape cold winds and snow during this time of year. Tickets to St. Martin end up being a popular gift to give for this very reason.
Whether you are a couple looking for a place for your honeymoon or wedding anniversary, or a family wanting a tropical vacation, you’ll find it all in St. Martin. Offering two beautiful, rich cultures, delicious foods and fun activities to try, this is the place to see! It’s a tiny island but it offers so much to everyone who comes. We’re sure you’ll feel the same way too when you visit.
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