St. Maarten/St. Martin (half Dutch and half French) is one of the smaller Caribbean islands but it offers a world of experiences in one trip. The island has world-class spas and resorts, stunning beaches, intriguing nature, fabulous shopping, and delectable food, and it’s all within a short 3.5-hour flight from New York. If you’re considering a Caribbean getaway, read on to see why St. Maarten should be on the shortlist.
St. Maarten/St.Martin is the smallest landmass shared by two nations. The border between the two sides is open and while they share many similarities there are two distinct cultures.
On the Dutch Side – St. Maarten – you’ll find bright colorful houses, wide boardwalks, and fabulous beach bars. with an electric night-life and a vibrant atmosphere.
The French side – St. Martin- is the perfect complement to its boisterous neighbor, offering a quieter relaxed vibe. Bright boats in the harbor, houses built into the cliffs, and plenty of incredible French cuisine. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the Mediterranean.
St. Maarten’s capital is Philipsburg and their currency is the Dutch Florin. On the French side of St. Martin, you’ll find they use the Euro and the capital is Marigot. However, the U.S. Dollar is generally accepted island-wide so there’s no need to change out your cash when you explore the different sides.
When to Go
Like many Caribbean Islands, St. Maarten/St. Martin experiences near-perfect temperatures year-round. Generally ranging from the low 70s to high 80s.
Dry Season: December- May
Rainy Season: May- November
Hurricane Season: June through November
High Tourist Season: January- March
Best Months (low crowds & lots of sun): January & April
What to Do?
There are 37 stunning white sand beaches you can enjoy on the island. The soft sand and calm waters are perfectly relaxing and great for families. If you need a bit more activity there’s also all kinds of water sports, from sailing and windsurfing to kayaking and SUP!
The calm water is thanks to the reefs that surround the island which are, incidentally, great for snorkeling and scuba diving. Additionally, there are 50 unique dive locations from caves to reefs to wrecks. You can often see fish, sea turtles, dolphins, and even humpback whales.
[Photo Credit: Braden Egli via Unsplash]
Head out to the uninhabited Tintamarre Island just 2 miles off the French side of St. Martin. This flat island is small but with some of the most pristine beaches. Plus it’s a favorite location to see sea turtles!
Mullet Bay Beach– a mile long and great for swimming
Little Bay Beach – for snorkeling
Dawn Beach– for powdery white sand
Guana Bay Beach– for stunning views
Maho Beach– for the unique experience of having huge planes fly right overhead – so close you feel like you can touch them.
[Photo Credit: Alex van Besouw via Shared Adventures]
If you need a bit of adrenaline in your vacation, St. Maarten has you covered! The Rainforest Adventure Park boasts the highest peaks on the island, providing stunning panoramic views, tree-top activities, and the steepest zipline in the world! The Flying Dutchman drops more than 1,000 feet in elevation along 2,800 feet of cable for a heart-pounding experience with views of the whole island.
Outside the Rainforest Adventure Park, you can hop on an ATV off-roading tour of the island. Or head back to the beach for flyboarding and parasailing!
When you’re ready to take a break from the sun and sand, you’ll find an island full of wildlife and intriguing tropical plants. Head into the lush forests, on hiking trails for all levels. Explore hidden natural pools or hike up the two tallest peaks. The island boasts a wide variety of landscapes including volcanic, tall coconut trees, mangrove forests, and dense wetlands, making it a great location for bird-spotting.
[Photo Credit: St. Maarten Tourism Bureau]
The Seaside Nature Park is the best place for families. It’s a secluded spot to explore unspoiled nature with a private beach, a playground, and an interactive farm. Little ones can enjoy interacting with ducks, mini-ponies, goats, and iguanas. The park also offers horseback riding lessons, trail rides and sunset beach rides.
St. Maarten is famous for its duty-free shopping making it a shopaholics paradise. In both the capital cities on the island, you can find designer jewelry, high-end leather, name-brand perfumes, and hand-rolled cigars. From tobacco and wines to high fashion, there is a shop to fit the taste and style of every shopper.
In Philipsburg, the capital of St. Maarten, you can head to Front Street for stunning jewelry and watches. Or wander down Back Street to find electronics, clothes, and more. Enjoy the wide boardwalks and colorful streets looking for the perfect gift.
The French capital, Marigot, boasts the latest trends in European fashion with a Caribbean flair. You can find famous perfumes and local art galleries. Marigot is one of the best places to find fine liqueurs, wines, and tobacco. You’ll feel positively European as you wander the shopping streets lined with bistro bars, sidewalk cafés, and designer boutiques.
St. Maarten/St. Martin’s unique melding of cultures has made it the Gastronomic Capital of the Caribbean. This is the island to go to if you’re a foodie! With the widest variety of dining experiences out of all the islands, there are over 300 restaurants. You can find European French and Dutch flavors melding with Caribbean dishes for sophisticated and unique recipes.
There are over 100 different nationalities represented in the food. So, whether you’re looking for an upscale luxury dining experience or stopping at the local Lolos ( roadside barbecue pits), St. Maarten will not disappoint.
[Photo Credit: St. Maarten Tourism Bureau]
In addition to trying the delicious food, you can stop for a drink at Topper’s Rhum factory on the St. Maarten side. They make around 50 different flavors of rhum including some very unique combos. Take a tour to see how the rhum is made and then enjoy a tasting of your favorite flavors.
If you have time
St. Maarten has so much to do it’s hard to pack it all in! But if you have a longer vacation and are ready for a little change, it’s easy to take a day trip to a neighboring island. Anguilla and St. Barth are both just a short ferry ride away! Just remember to bring your passport as they still count as international travel.
This stunning little island has practically everything you dream of doing on your Caribbean vacation! If you’ve been inspired and would like to find out more about heading to this paradise – let us know!