[y] Saint Martin Visitors Guide
Sint Maarten, the Dutch side, is known for its festive nightlife, fun beaches, and plentiful casinos, while Saint-Martin, the French side, is known more for its world-famous nude beaches, jewelry and clothes shopping, exotic drinks made with native rum-based guavaberry liquors, and rich French Caribbean cuisine.
The island is served by many major airlines that bring in large jets, including Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s, the 2nd largest current Airbus aircraft, carrying tourists from across the world on a daily basis. This fuels the island’s largest revenue source, tourism. Princess Juliana International Airport is famous for its short landing strip -only 2,130 metres/7,000 ft, which is barely enough for heavy jets. Because of this, the planes approach the island flying extremely low, right over the beach. Countless photos of large jets flying at 10-20 m/30-60 ft over relaxing tourists at the beach have been dismissed as photoshopped many times, but are nevertheless real.
Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin is home to several world-class accommodations, including hotels, villas, and timeshares, many of which are privately available for rent or sale. Some properties have over 200 rooms, while others have fewer than twenty. Many are located directly on beaches and in upscale shopping districts. Villas pepper the coast, boasting private beaches. Some are private residences, while others are available to affluent renters.
Rental cars are the primary mode of transportation for visitors staying on the island. The island is served by several well-known agencies. If any driving is expected off the major roads (such as to some of the more secluded beaches), a 4-wheel drive is recommended. Traffic on the island, however, has become a major problem, long traffic jams between Marigot, Philipsburg and the airport are common.
The island occasionally is menaced by hurricane activity, especially in the late summer and early fall and tourism is usually down dramatically during this time. Many shops, restaurants, and other local businesses close completely during hurricane season. The island is widely known for its hundreds of gourmet (and more moderately priced) restaurants on both sides of the island.
Neighboring islands include Saint-Barthelemy (French), Anguilla (British), Saba (Dutch), Sint Eustatius “Statia” (Dutch), Saint Kitts and Nevis (independent, formerly British). With the exception of Nevis, all of these islands are easily visible on a clear day from St. Maarten.
Getting To St. Maarten
Princess Juliana International Airport (IATA: SXM, ICAO: TNCM) serves the island of Sint Maarten (also known as St Martin) in the Netherlands Antilles. The airport is famous for its short landing strip -only 2,130 metres/7,000 ft, which is barely enough for heavy jets. Because of this, the planes approach the island flying extremely low, right over the beach Maho Beach. Countless photos of large jets flying at 10–20 m/30-60 ft over relaxing tourists at the beach have been dismissed as photoshopped many times, but are nevertheless real. For this reason, as well it has become a favorite location for planespotters.
The airport was started as a military airstrip in 1942. It was converted to a civilian airport in 1943. It is the second busiest airport in the Eastern Caribbean, after Luis Mu’oz Marin International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was named after Juliana of the Netherlands, the former Queen. The airport serves as a hub for Windward Islands Airways.
St. Maarten Hotels
There are a number of top tier hotels to make your stay in Montego Bay special. Click on any of the hotels below to
Caribbean Princess Hotel
Location. Located on the French side of the island, the Caribbean Princess Hotel overlooks the Atlantic Ocean from the shores of Orient Beach, St. Martin. Divided between the Netherlands and France, the island is the smallest territory in the world shared by two sovereign states. The Orient Bay Village shopping center and the French capital of Marigot offer a variety of shopping and nightlife options. Marigot also has some of the best food options in the Caribbean, with a surprising number of stylish bistros and restaurants. Duty-free shopping has turned the island into a virtual mall and the lack of a local sales tax makes it even more appealing. There are over 30 white sand beaches on the island, and a wonderful array of recreational possibilities are available to visitors.
Princess Heights Luxury Boutique Resort
Location. Overlooking Dawn Beach on the eastern coast, the Princess Heights Luxury Boutique Resort is located on the Dutch side of beautiful St. Maarten. The resort is just over eleven kilometers from some of the Caribbean’s best shopping and dining in Philipsburg. The island is the smallest territory in the world shared by two sovereign states, France and the Netherlands. Philipsburg is the Dutch capital and tends to be more frenzied and bustling with tourists than it’s French counterpart, Marigot. Duty-free shopping has turned the island into a virtual mall and the lack of a local sales tax makes it even more appealing. Active pursuits include golfing, horseback riding, scuba diving, tennis and windsurfing.
Hotel Mont Vernon
Located on the secluded northeast corner of Orient Bay beach, Hotel Mont Vernon offers the perfect environment for a great active and relaxing vacation. Hotel Mont Vernon is an oceanfront resort located directly on the longest (two miles) sandy beach on the island. The resort offers 370 Junior Suites and Suites in ten buildings spread over a 70-acre garden over a gently sloping hill overlooking the bay and the ocean and designed with a local flair. This is the perfect environment for your vacation, whether you are a group of friends, a family, a couple or a single. The resort offers a full range of water sports. In fact, all non-motorized water sports equipment is free.
Belair Beach Hotel
Positioned on the southern coast overlooking Little Bay, Belair Beach enjoys a fabulous beachside location in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The resort is just minutes from some of the Caribbean’s best shopping and dining. The island is the smallest territory in the world shared by two sovereign states, France and the Netherlands. Philipsburg is the Dutch capital and tends to be more frenzied and bustling with tourists than its French counterpart, Marigot. Duty-free shopping has turned the island into a virtual mall and the lack of a local sales tax makes it even more appealing. Active pursuits include golfing, horseback riding, scuba diving, tennis and windsurfing.
The Wyndham Sapphire Beach Club & Resort
Located within walking distance to Cupe Coy Beach in St. Maarten. Once at the beach, opportunities abound for day sailing trips to nearby islands, scuba diving, boating, fishing, shopping, golfing, casino gambling, Caribbean dining and relaxing on two public beaches, Cupe Coy and Mullet Bay, both a few minutes walk away. A perfect escape for romantic couples and other travelers looking for unique tropical experiences, the resort stands on the Dutch side of the island but is just minutes from the French side. Staff members at the activities desk can help guests arrange excursions, dives and other activities, and get them to Princess Juliana International Airport three miles away
Sandals Royal Caribbean
In a class by itself, Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort is renowned throughout the Caribbean for its refinements and British traditions of a bygone era, such as high tea and continental breakfast in bed. And just offshore, Sandal’s has its own exotic private island, which features a pool with a swim-up bar, a secluded private beach and an authentic Thai restaurant where some of the best dishes are rumored to be aphrodisiacs. You’ll also be treated to the legendary “Royal Touch Service” at four gourmet restaurants and five bars while enjoying full exchange privileges at the neighboring Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Inn, thus giving you a choice of 11 world-class dining experiences.
Sunset Beach Resort & Spa
The Sunset Beach Resort And Spa Is Located Four Miles From Doctors Cove Beach. The 22-Acre Resort Features Wide-open Spaces, Tropical Gardens, Acres Of Beach, And All Facilities Necessary For Either Relaxing Or Active Family Holidays. An Immense Open-air Lobby Featuring Gardens, Potted Plants, And Lily Ponds Provides A Variety Of Seating And Conversation Areas And Includes Oversized Couches, Overstuffed Chairs, And Two-person Rattan Lounging Beds. The Sunset Beach Resort And Spa Offers Guests Concierge Services, 24-Hours Front Desk Services, Complimentary Parking, And Full Service Health Spa. To Cater To The Needs Of The Business Traveler, A Full-Service Business Center Is Available. For Guests Dining Needs, The Sunset Beach Resort Has Three Restaurants.
Wyndham Rose Hall Resort and Country Club
Location. The beachfront Rose Hall Resort & Country Club in Montego Bay, Jamaica, is located one kilometer from Rose Hall Great House, a historic dwelling situated on this 18th-century former sugar plantation. Guests are eight kilometers from famed Montego Bay and eleven kilometers from the casinos of Coral Cliff
St. Maarten Attractions
St Maarten offers visitors a multitude of fun and exciting options to make your stay here as exciting as possible. They include:
Lagoon Sailboat Rental Has 20-foot day-sailers for rent within Simpson Bay Lagoon for $150 per day, with a half-day for $110. Either explore on your own or rent a skipper to navigate the calm, sheltered waters from around Simpson Bay Yacht Club and miles of coastline on both the French and Dutch sides of the islands.
Random Wind offers half- and full-day sailing and snorkeling trips on a 54-foot clipper. Prices depend on the size of the group and whether or not lunch is served, but the Paradise Daysail on the Random Wind costs $80 per person. Departures are on the Dutch side, from Simpson Bay’s Kim Sha Beach.
Kontiki Watersports Located on the French side of the island (Northern beach entrance, Baie Orientale) offers parasailing rides for $40 per half-hour to $70 per hour on Orient Bay with aerial views of Green Key, Tintamarre, Pinel, and St Barths.
Club Nathalie Simon (Northern beach entrance, Baie Oriental) offers rentals and lessons in both windsurfing and kite surfing. One-hour lessons are about EUR40. W
Windy Reef (Galion Beach, past Butterfly Farm) has been provided windsurfing lessons and rentals since 1991.
Attractions in Grand Case
Orient Beach: The island’s most popular beach features a clothing-optional area on one end.
Cupecoy Bay Beach: If you’re looking for a beach that’s quiet but not totally secluded, Cupecoy is a good choice. Its white sands are backed by low sandstone cliffs that have been eroded in such a way that they provide a run of small semiprivate coves.
12 Metre Challenge: Visitors can participate in a mini America’s Cup boat race in actual boats from the 1987 competition, including Dennis Conner’s famous Stars & Stripes.
St. Maarten Park: Home to many animals and plants of the Caribbean and South America, a bat cave and many birds from the former aviary. The souvenir shop that sells Caribbean and zoo mementos.
St. Maarten Beaches
St. Maarten is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Beaches on the Dutch Side
Although at first glance a combination of sandstone cliffs, white sand, and shoreline caves, this is actually a series of beaches that come and go according to the actions of the sea. the surf can be rough at the time, it’s popular with gay locals and visitors. It’s very close to the Dutch-French border. Cupecoy, between Baie Longue and Mullet Bay, St. Maarten.
Dawn Beach-Oyster Pond
Dawn Beach is a great place to take in a sunrise. Residing on the Atlantic side of Oyster Pond, just south of the French border, this is a first-class beach for getting some sun and snorkeling. Not usually crowded, but there are several restaurants nearby. To find it, follow the signs for either Mr. Busby’s or Scavenger’s restaurant. South of Oyster Pond, St. Maarten.
The easiest bach to find, it has been recently widened, the bustling, white sand curves around Philipsburg and is just behind Front Street, shopping, and eateries. Because of the cruise ships that travel nearby and the salt pond, it’s not great for swimming, but if you must, do it west of Captain Hodge pier. Philipsburg, St. Maarten.
Popular with snorkelers and divers as well as kayakers and motorized water-sport enthusiasts, Little Bay isn’t as crowded as some beaches, but the sand is also somewhat gravelly. What it does have are panoramic views of St. Eustatius, Philipsburg, the cruise ship terminal, Saba, and St. Kitts. The beach is west of Fort Amsterdam and accessible via Divi Little Bay Resort. Little Bay Rd., St. Maarten.
Mullet Bay Beach
Many believe that this mile-long, powdery white-sand beach near the medical school is the island’s best. Swimmers like it because the water is usually calm. When the swell is up, the surfers hit the beach. It’s also the place to listen for the “whispering pebbles” as the waves wash up. Mullet Bay, south of Cupecoy, St. Maarten.
Simpson Bay Beach
This secluded, half-moon stretch of white-sand beach on the island’s Caribbean side is a hidden gem. It’s mostly surrounded by private residences, so there are no resorts, jet skiers, food concessions, or crowds. It’s just you, the sand, and the water. Southeast of the airport, follow the signs to Mary’s Boon and the Horny Toad guesthouses. Simpson Bay, St. Maarten.
Beaches on the French Side
Baie de Friars
If its peace and quiet you need, this is the place to be. Popular with locals, Europeans, and shellers, this white stretch of sand has a couple of simple good-food restaurants, calm waters, and a lovely view of Anguilla. To get to the beach take National Road 7 from Marigot, go toward Grand Case to the “Morne Valois” hill, turn left on the dead-end road; it’s signposted. Baie de Friar, St. Martin.
Baie de Grand Case
A stripe of a beach, its sandy shoreline borders the fishing village of Grand Case Village. The sea is calm, water sports are available, and if the sun becomes too much, you can stop sunning and have a bite to eat at one of the lolos (barbecue huts that serve inexpensive local fare), or explore the charming little hamlet with its gingerbread-style architecture and its renowned restaurants. Grand Case, St. Martin.
Though it extends over the French Lowlands, from the cliff at La Samanna to La Pointe des Canniers, the island’s longest beach has no facilities or vendors. It’s the perfect place for a romantic walk. To get there, take state road National Road 7 south of Marigot. The entrance marked La Samanna is the first entrance to the beach. Baie Longue, St. Martin.
Many consider this the island’s most beautiful beach, but its satiny white sand, underwater marine reserve, variety of water sports, beach bars, and hotels also make it the most crowded. The conservative north end is more family-oriented while the liberal south end is clothing-optional and eventually becomes a full-scale nude beach. To get to Baie Oriental from Marigot, take National Road 7 past Grand Case, past the Aeroport de L’Esperance toward the Atlantic side of the island. Baie Orientale, St. Martin.
The sheltered Baie Rouge, in the French Lowlands, is considered one of the best snorkeling beaches on the island, it’s possible to swim the crystal waters along the point and explore a swim-through cave. The beach is popular with the area’s gay men. Red Bay is five minutes from Marigot, right off the main western road, Route 7 at the Nettle Bay turnoff. Baie Rouge, St. Martin.
A protected nature reserve, this kid-friendly island is a five-minute ferry ride from French Cul de Sac ($5 per person round-trip). The water is clear and shallow, and the shore is sheltered. If you like snorkeling, don your gear and swim along both sides of the coasts of this pencil-shape speck in the ocean. Food is available at the isle’s two restaurants. Ilet Pinel, St. Martin.
St. Maarten Restaurants
St Maarten has many amazing restaurants. Below is a partial list of great places to eat on both sides of the Island!
A fine restaurant in the Atlantis complex whose cuisine is very tasty modern eclectic type. Telephone 599 545 2254
A fun restaurant located in the Maho district. Cheri’s has sandwiches for lunch and dinner and a large menu of dinner selections. Cheri also features nightly entertainment and dancing until early in the morning.
An open air restaurant located by the airport and on Simpson Bay Lagoon. Wonderful selection of seafood entrees as well as traditional meals including steak, barbeque chicken and ribs. Telephone 599-545-2562.
Pizza Pasta Trattoria Italiana
A small restaurant located in the alley between Casino Royale and Cheri’s. It is a fine Italian restaurant and one of the island’s favorite. Telephone 599-545-4034
Sunset Beach Bar
Located just to the south on the airport runway. Excellent sandwich type meals including burgers and fries. It is a great place to watch the sunsets, the planes land and people’s reaction to alcohol.
The Boat House
A very popular steak and seafood restaurant located in Simpson Bay. No reservations or credit cards are accepted. Good food that is not fancy and more like an American steakhouse.
It is located out of the mainstream in Phillipsburg at the western end of Front Street. It is a short way on Front Street towards downtown, east of the Great Bay Hotel. Wonderful review saying good, wholesome food at reasonable prices. This one comes highly recommended by some very knowledgeable people.
A fine French style restaurant located on the west end of Marigot just before the bridge into Sandy Ground. They have a fine dinner menu and everything we have had there is of very high quality. If you reserve early enough, you might be able to get a table next to the water. One can sometimes see the fish swimming upstream. Reservations highly recommended. Telephone 590 87 06 36
A fine French bistro located on the Marina port la Royale in Marigot. It is not large but the food is very good and the view is wonderful. Reservations are a must. Telephone 590 87 79 07.
Another fine French bistro located on the Marina port la Royale in Marigot. A fine little restaurant offering fine evening meals and again, a wonderful view. Telephone 590 87 94 60.
A great Italian restaurant located by Marina Royale that is air-conditioned throughout for comfort and your pleasure. Excellent Italian food at reasonable prices. Service is great and is frequented by both locals and visitors. Dinner only. Telephone 590 87 52 88.
Located on the 2nd floor of the downtown Marigot hotel of the same name. Decent prices, good food and good service. Popular for repeat clientele. Telephone 590 87 70 37.
is an outdoor beach bar and restaurant located on the main road in Nettle Bay. Constantly changing menu but the food has always been terrific. We loved the outside atmosphere and the outside dining areas with shade provided by the terraces or the sea grape trees.
A very good seafood restaurant located in Grand Case. Excellent service and food with a great location overlooking Grand Case beach. Telephone 590.87 50 88
Excellent local eateries located on the beach and offer excellent food at very reasonable prices. Great place to go if you love BBQ chicken and ribs.
A fine French Gourmet restaurant also located in Grand Case with a wonderful atmosphere and excellent food. Very much in demand so reservations are highly recommended. Telephone 590 87 81 66
A French Gourmet restaurant in Marigot on la Marina port la Royale. Excellent food with wonderful deserts as well. Telephone 590 87 94 60.
A wonderful classical French restaurant with excellent food and service plus good size portions and reasonable prices. Located by the Marina port la Royale. Telephone 590 87 97 00.