The Quintessential Travel Guide To St Martin
6 April, 2022
26 April, 2022
At just 37 square miles, St Martin packs a whole lot of beauty into one island. Divided into two distinct sides - the French and the Dutch - and therefore also known as Saint Martin or the island St. Maarten, this idyllic oasis boasts some of the most incredible coastlines in the Caribbean. With temperatures staying around 27°C even in the winter months, it’s the perfect destination for a week of total relaxation.
A melting pot of cultures, St Martin has become a home to over 100 different nationalities. With miles of golden beaches and cerulean shores, it's no wonder that so many have been enchanted by this incredible island. For a real taste of the Caribbean, spend a day in the thriving town of Philipsburg. Lined with traditional beachfront bars and colourful storefronts offering everything from handmade crafts to locally-brewed guava berry liqueur, it offers an incredible introduction to island life. Ready to find out more? Let’s get started with our exclusive St Martin travel guide…
Discover sublime beaches with our St Martin travel guide
We couldn’t have a St Martin travel guide without mentioning the island’s abundance of beautiful beaches. Whether you prefer the peace and quiet of a secluded bay or perhaps enjoy the lively atmosphere of bustling beach resorts, there’s a gorgeous beach for every kind of visitor.
Sunseekers will fall in love with the quiet shores of Cupecoy Beach, a secluded bay protected by limestone cliffs on the southwest tip of the island’s Dutch side. With its hidden caves, golden sands, and gently rolling shores, it’s the perfect choice for a relaxed family day out. It can get a little windy so perhaps not the best place for a swim - but you can still snorkel along its crystalline shores.
Nestled on the Dutch side of the island, Maho Beach attracts a slightly more different crowd to the usual sun-seekers and beach bathers. Set across from the Princess Juliana International Airport, many visitors come to watch mighty aircraft land overhead. While it might not be somewhere you’d choose to have a snoozy day in the sunshine, it’s worth a visit if you are passing by.
Three miles of white sand, backed by an assortment of lively bars and restaurants - Simpson Bay offers the best of both worlds. Find a quiet, secluded spot for a day of uninterrupted sun-worshipping before heading into the village to grab a tasty bite to eat - accompanied by a cold, refreshing cocktail, of course.
Kim Sha Beach
A haven for watersports fans, the calm shores of Kim Sha Beach are perfect for a day of snorkelling and paddleboarding. If you prefer your activities a little more fast-paced, there’s always the option to hire a private jet ski. The lovely Simpson Bay is just over a mile away - so you can easily fit both of them into one day.
Great Bay Beach & Little Bay Beach
Other lovely beaches include Great Bay Beach and Little Bay Beach, although you’re likely to have to share those - lined with restaurants and hotels, they’re two of the most popular beaches on the island.
Explore the verdant heart of the island
We don’t expect you to ever tire of St Martin’s stunning sea views but if you feel like a change of scenery, the rural heart of the island is filled with emerald forests and picturesque farmland. While it has a more remote feel compared to the bustling coastal towns and resorts, there’s still plenty of attractions and landmarks to discover.
Less than a ten-minute drive from the town of Marigot, Loterie Farm is a beautiful nature reserve with more than 135 acres to explore. Scenic hiking trails are aplenty, as well as a choice of treetop adventure courses that let you enjoy the sights from above as you sail through the trees. If you’d prefer to take it easy, there’s the option of booking a VIP cabana beside the farm’s Jungle Pool - a cosy space for up to ten people, with the choice of white or rosé wine to sip while you soak up your peaceful surroundings.
The Flying Dutchman Zipline
If that isn’t enough for the thrill-seekers in the group, The Flying Dutchman Zipline in Cul de Sac is well worth a try. Boasting the title of the world’s steepest zip line, you’ll quickly plummet 1,050 feet - try to keep your eyes open though, as the views from the top are absolutely incredible. If that sounds a little too exhilarating, the Soualiga Sky Explorer chairlifts allow you to enjoy the same views at a slightly slower pace.
Emilio Wilson Park
A lovely place to enjoy a family picnic under the shade of its trees, Emilio Wilson Park offers over 100 acres of peaceful parkland to explore. It’s not without its historical significance, either - it was once a sugar plantation and one of the first settlements on the island’s Dutch side.
Explore the dense forestland of the island’s western slopes with a hiking tour to the top of Pic Paradis. Spanning over 500 acres, this picturesque part of the island has been recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA). Keen birdwatchers and nature lovers will want to keep an eye out for some of the rare and incredibly colourful hummingbirds who can be spotted zipping from tree to tree.
Unique experiences are just around the corner
You’ll soon discover deep forests, coastal lagoons, and white sand beaches as you explore this iridescent island, but there’s also plenty of unique experiences worth making a pit stop for along the way. From rum tasting in Cole Bay to catamaran day sails across the sparkling Caribbean Sea, there are so many ways to savour the best of St Martin.
Set on the French side of St Martin, the powdery sands of Pinel Island can be reached by a short ferry boat trip - or, if you feel like an adventure - your own paddleboard or kayak. Sheltered from the trade winds, it’s a lovely spot to make the most of the glorious Caribbean sunshine. It’s also part of the French Marine Reserve, so you won’t find many buildings here at all - just two excellent restaurants and a little gift shop.
Spend a day in the Dutch capital
Make sure to spend at least one day exploring the Dutch capital of the island - Philipsburg. Stroll along its scenic boardwalk while soaking up the idyllic sea views, before heading across to its waterfront shopping street where the tantalising aromas of fresh Caribbean cooking will soon entice you into one of its many delightful eateries. After sampling some traditional cuisine, it’s time to enjoy some retail therapy among the town’s luxury jewellery boutiques.
Topper's Rhum Distillery
Set in the scenic surroundings of Cole Bay, Topper's Rhum Distillery is well worth a visit. Offering tours and tasting sessions in the distillery, you’ll get the chance to sample the island’s delicious rum - or rhum - while learning a thing or two about the blending process. With an array of flavours ranging from white chocolate to mocha, you might have a tough time deciding which one to sample first.
Want to unwind while still getting to see the island? Luxury catamaran day trips are a great way to discover the charming coastline in complete comfort. You’ll even get the opportunity to dive off and swim with sea turtles in the crystal clear waters of the tiny Tintamarre Island - a truly unforgettable experience. If you are lucky enough, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the schools of dolphins who often pass by this small yet remarkable island.
Explore St Martin's Seaside Nature Park
Craving a peaceful day out in nature? The Seaside Nature Park in Cole Bay offers over 30 acres of unspoiled forest, flanked by the crystalline shores of the Caribbean Sea. You can explore on foot, but the best way is by horseback. Accommodating riders of all skill levels, you’ll be taken along scenic winding paths through the forest with a St Martin vacation guide before having the chance to take a dip in the refreshing waters of Cay Bay.
Our St Martin guide to fine dining
Our St Martin visitor’s guide wouldn’t be complete without some insider knowledge on the best fine dining restaurants on the island. When it comes to dining out, you truly are spoiled for choice. Among French, Dutch and Caribbean cuisine, you’ll also find influences from Italy, Lebanon, Thailand, and Spain - a testament to the diverse range of cultures on the island.
Offering a delectable fusion of French and Caribbean cuisine, Rainbow Café sits on the pristine sands of Grand Case. Combining sea views with a casual boho vibe, it's a great spot to enjoy a relaxed breakfast or lunch. Tuck into fresh salads with mahi mahi and shrimp tempura, nourishing poke bowls, top-notch tapas and juicy handmade burgers.
In the heart of Orient Bay, L’Astrolabe Restaurant offers a delectable fine dining experience. A celebration of classic French St Martin cuisine, you can expect to find traditional dishes such as foie gras and escargot as well as island-inspired meals. Seafood fans will be in their element here - wild shrimp pasta, fresh sea scallops and grilled octopus are just a few of the delicious mains on the menu.
Lauded as one of the finest dining spots in the Caribbean, Mario Bistrot in Cupecoy Bay offers an array of innovative dishes. From pistachio-crusted mahi mahi to grilled lamb chop with plantain mustard, each dish has been carefully curated by the esteemed Chef Mario. It’s traditional French cuisine with a Caribbean and Asian twist - with every dish paired alongside a quality red or white from the restaurant’s carefully selected wine list.
As a delicatessen, wine cellar, and gourmet restaurant - Bacchus certainly knows how to please. Its executive chef, Arnaud Angeli, has carefully curated a menu that takes inspiration from classic French cuisine but with plenty of Caribbean influence. Foie gras ravioli, duck confit, and steak tartare are just a few of the delicious dishes featured on the menu. The restaurant itself has a real bistro-chic feel throughout - perfect for both a date night or family meal.
La Cigale Restaurant
Delight in the flavours of classic French cuisine while taking in breathtaking sunset views at La Cigale Restaurant. While the restaurant does offer indoor dining, it’s worth booking a table underneath the swaying palms of the bay. Among the many mouthwatering dishes on the menu are seared scallops, lobster ravioli, and veal escalopes.
The island’s finest beach bars
After dining out, why not make the most of your evening with a visit to one of the island’s beach bars? Most have a real low-key, relaxed vibe - but if you’re looking for something a little more special then we’d recommend the Baie Longue Bar and Laplaj on the western coast of St Martin.
Baie Longue Bar
Boasting magnificent views across the shifting blue of Baie Longue Bay, the sophisticated setting of Baie Longue Bar in Terres Basses is wonderful for enjoying a few after-dinner drinks. The bartenders are exceptionally skilled at creating unique and inventive cocktails - it’s worth asking for their recommendations before selecting your drink.
Part of the same resort complex as the Baie Longue Bar, Laplaj offers a relaxed setting for cocktails and nibbles. Grab a sun lounger or cosy up among the plush cushions of the sofas before eyeing up the extensive drinks menu. From passion fruit daiquiris to mango mojitos, each drink is packed with tropical flavours - the perfect accompaniment to the stunning ocean views that stretch before you.
The onefinestay experience
The onefinestay experience
Enjoy an unforgettable break in St Martin with our exclusive range of concierge services at onefinestay. After a busy day exploring the coast, your family can enjoy a full three-course meal from the comfort of your villa, beautifully crafted by a private chef. Or, unwind with a soothing in-house spa session - just what you need after a hike through Pic Paradis or a day of surfing at Le Galion. We can also arrange exciting excursions, pre-stock your refrigerator and have a rental car ready for you. Speak to our team of expert Travel Advisors to find out more.
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