Golden beaches, crystal clear sea and an endless sun-kissed horizon. Welcome to Saint Martin, or if you prefer Sint Maarten. Hidden amongst the thousand wonders of the Caribbean, this island is the smallest territory in the world to be divided under two different flags. The French and Dutch share this microscopic tropical corner, where palm trees shade tourists and residents. This dual domination dates back more than 350 years and is therefore rich in history and anecdotes.
Legend has it that the Dutch and French had decided to divide the territory by entrusting the assignment, respectively, to a soldier. Unfortunately, they showed up drunk at the time of the execution: the Frenchman, drunk from red wine, while the Dutchman from jenever. The two, back to back, set off in opposite directions as they travelled the island until they met again. The Dutchman, unfortunately, was much drunker than French, and walked a smaller distance. But that wasn’t a problem, as the Dutch part of Saint Martin turned out to be also the most resourceful. This, of course, is the fictionalised version of the colonisation of the island. There remains just a few hints of this connotation of the city from the time of the legend. For example the Dutch area is particularly well known to tourists for its night life, casinos and, of course, rum. The French part remains more authentic and rugged, and retains a natural charm that expresses its full potential in endless beaches – even for nudists! – restaurants and shopping centres. If you want to get your fill of nature, you can also take a trip to the Saint Martin Zoo, where you can admire iguanas, macaques and many other species of animals.
Those who come to Saint Martin do so for the nature and the Caribbean beauty of a pearl beach overlooking turquoise sea; In the end, however, they are captivated by the folklore of the place, its culture made of good food and a centuries-old tradition of hospitality. Welcome, therefore, to paradise: we will be happy to be your guide amongst the main attractions of this wonderful place!
- Orient Bay
- Grand Case
- Pinel Island
- Simpson Bay Lagoon
- Happy Bay Beach
- Golden Eagle Catamaran
- Snorkelling on the reef
- Rockland Estate
- Emilio Wilson Museum
- Soualiga Sky Explorer Chairlift
- Princess Juliana Airport
- Maho Beach
- Harold Jack Lookout and Great Bay
- Great Salt Pond
- Front Street
- Sea Trek Diving Park
The magnificent Eastern Bay
The eastern part The island of Saint Martin overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, while the western one looks onto the Caribbean Sea. Orient Bay, as the Eastern Bay is called, is also known as the "Saint Tropez of the Caribbean," and as soon as you arrive you'll immediately understand why. In addition to being the favourite destination of a number of personalities and celebrities from all over the world, it's also the largest and most popular beach on the entire island of Saint Martin. In addition to the enchanting waters that lap a postcard beach, here you'll find everything you've ever dreamed of in a luxury beach resort: facilities, resorts, restaurants, shops and sports activity centres. Particularly popular is surfing, which can be practised at all levels of experience.
Orient Bay is famous for being divided into several sections, each particular and different from the others. Let's take for example the nudist area, But also Bikini Beach, full of lounge chairs, parasols and people who are not afraid to relax fully on the beach and... slightly more succinct swimsuits than we're used to seeing in other parts of the world.
The picturesque village of Grand Case
The small and picturesque village of Grand Case is located in the French part of Saint Martin and offers tourists a small glimpse of paradise not only in terms of dream beaches, but also from a strictly cultural point of view. Grand Case is the gastronomic capital of the island and offers the attentive tourist a large number of restaurants and bars that will be able to agree with even the most sophisticated and difficult palates. With its mix of French, Caribbean and Creole cuisine, it will be impossible to resist the temptation to stop for dinner here several times during your stay. A guarantee! At the end of the meal, many restaurants offer one shot of their own rum to give an even more unique touch to the experience.
From Grand Case you have a stunning view of the nearby island of Anguilla. Those who come here are seduced by the wide selection of restaurants and wonderful local delicacies, but Grand Case has a lot to offer. Take for example the Grand Case Beach Club, a seaside establishment where you can practice all kinds of water sports, from snorkelling in the Creole Rock areas to kayaking, paddle surfing, water skiing and more. The location is also well equipped for the reception of tourists, thus turning into an interesting place for those who seek comfort and relaxation without having to make too many programmes or trips.
Discover Pinel Island
To the northeast of Saint Martin stands a small islet called Pinel. It's one of the most popular destinations for everyone who comes on holiday here, and a great location for spending some time in peace, immersed in nature and a bit further away from the tourist traffic of Saint Martin. The island of Pinel is a treat for real travellers: it is easily reached by a 10-minute ferry journey from the Cul-de-Sac port in Saint Martin, an area with ample parking. Alternatively, you can rent a kayak and reach Pinel alone, following a series of routes recommended to tourists in order to enjoy the view. Those who arrive in Pinel are immediately overwhelmed by the somewhat wild beauty of the location: look for a beach and be enchanted by the mother of pearl sand, the turquoise sea and the blue sky. Despite being a tourist area, it is easy to find secluded places even in peak season. Even in Pinel there are several areas for nudist or for topless sunbathers.
Those who choose Pinel for excursions, can instead devote themselves to trekking. An activity that, in this location, really suits the whole family! The climbs here are very gentle, and walking is a pleasure even for the little ones. Although there are not many laid-out trails, it is difficult to get lost. It takes just over 10 minutes to cross the island on foot! Pinel is also a popular location for snorkelers: bring your gear or rent it on site to enjoy a truly breathtaking underwater spectacle.
If you decide to stay in Pinel all day, you can take a packed lunch with you or stop at one of the local bars/restaurants, where the menus offer the best of Creole, Caribbean and French cuisine at quite affordable prices.
Simpson Bay Lagoon
Welcome to Simpson Bay, one of the main centres of interest on the island of Saint Martin. Despite its near total destruction in 2017, from a hurricane, many activities were reopened within a few weeks, renewing themselves to offer tourists an even better service. A few years ago, the Simpson Beach lagoon was dotted with sandy beaches that served as the port for fishermen, the main inhabitants of the place. Fishing continues as usual, but with the arrival of mass tourism most of these enchanting locations have passed into the hands of beach facilities, which have been able to make good use of them. Now the Lagoon is one of the landmarks for island entertainment, and identifies that area of amenities, bars, restaurants and casinos that go all the way to Tropicana casino. The area is full of rum distilleries that offer guided tours to curious tourists.
The area of the lagoon is protected, offers a perfect habitat for mangrove proliferation and seaweed and is home to an ideal ecosystem for fish that then go to populate the reef. Despite being just a few kilometres from Princess Juliana International Airport, it is a destination perfect for a day at the beach to finish off with, and why not, with a romantic ride on horseback at sunset.
Happy Bay beach stop
Golden Eagle Catamaran
Snorkelling on the reef
The Caribbean island of Saint Martin offers a number of exclusive locations where you can snorkel at all levels of experience. The warm and calm waters of the Sea of Caribbean offer the tourist a unique underwater panorama. Whether you're on the Dutch side or French of the island: the waters surrounding Saint Martin are rich and varied, and while some areas are more suitable for experts, there are plenty of island facilities that offer very effective courses for improving techniques.
If you're on the Dutch side, check out Mullet Bay to admire the reef, or go to Cupecoy Beach or Dawn Beach to admire the incredible colourful fish. Snorkelling here is easy, but you have to pay close attention to the currents at a distance. If you're on the French side, snorkelling awaits you at Baie Rouge, so called for its reddish-hue beaches; Great locations are also Creole Rock (from where many organised tours start to reach some of the most beautiful spots) and, of course, Pinel Island, which we talked about above. Even the famous Orient Bay is a perfect location for snorkelling: just book a tour and go to the small islets and cliffs along the coast, like for example Tintamarre, Petite Clef and Caye Vetre, where you can enjoy an underwater visit worthy of such name.
In the Caribbean, Saint Martin has been synonymous with fun for many years now. But since the inauguration of the Rainforest Adventure's Rockland Estate the level has risen again, and greatly so. This extraordinary nature park offers not only guided tours, but also a number of adrenaline-pumping attractions that will increase your blood pressure. Try the Flying Dutchman and you'll have every right to add it to your resume of daring activities: it's the steepest and fastest zip line in the world! All this, of course, immersed in the most unspoiled nature of a Caribbean paradise like Saint Martin. To try there is also the "Pirate Sky Ride", a four-seater chairlift suspended in the air that offers simply breathtaking views. The rockland estate's attractions are breath-taking, and not all of them require an act of courage to be able to savour the beauty of the place.
Emilio Wilson Museum
After the adrenaline rush, you can enjoy a short moment dedicated to knowledge at the Emilio Wilson Museum. Here you learn the story of the land that houses the Rockland Estate. It starts with the slave Trace Wilson, who gave birth to Emilio, the future owner of the entire plant. The museum is located in an old villa in the heart of an 18th-century plantation and tells the world the story of the Wilsons, pioneers in the preservation and protection of the territory. This is also the right place to immerse yourself in the island traditions, and customs, the same ones that have earned Saint Martin the name of "Friendly Island".
Soualiga Sky Explorer chairlift
Whoever comes to the Rockland Estate must experience the thrill of Soualiga Sky Explorer, a favolosa chairlift suspended over the forest that, in 25 minutes, leads directly to the highest peak of Saint Martin, Sentry Hill. With its 68 four-seat chairs, the show is truly assured and offers a privileged view of the island's wonders, in safety.
Princess Juliana Airport
Those who go to Maho Beach do so only for one reason: to observe aeroplanes landing or taking off from Princess Juliana Airport. In itself the beach has no noteworthy aesthetic features: tourists stop here to relax in the water while they await the great miracle of aviation. Maho Bay is one of the few places in the world where the aircraft runway can be admired quite closely and allows great leeway to plane spotters. The activity here is so well established that many of the bars and restaurants on the coast display a board or a bright display with timetables of departures and arrivals, so that tourists can prepare well in advance.
As the airport is so close to the beach, the local government has determined that people enter Maho Bay at their own risk. jet blast from the close passage of the planes can reach up to 190 km per hour, causing serious damage to people and objects. To ensure the safety of the public, new fences have recently been installed to further protect plane spotters and filming enthusiasts. Attention: planes will pass very, very close to your parasol: a thrilling experience!
Harold Jack Lookout and Great Bay
City of Philipsburg
If you're planning a Saint Martin cruise, you are very likely to dock at Philipsburg, where the tropical beauty of the location meets a markedly Western-flavoured architecture. Before embarking on excursions that will take you to discover the island, take a moment to explore this delightful village. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the centre starting from the piers, and the walk will be worth every minute of your time.
The destination can be reached via a scenic route or an alley full of shops to discover. There's something distinctly Dutch about the beauty of Philipsburg, and you'll feel like you're back in Europe, at least until you decide to get out of the luxuries and comforts of one of Saint Martin's most important towns. Just a short distance from the centre is the Great Beach coastal strip, a spectacular tourist beach where the water is crystal clear and the sand feels like a soft cloud underfoot. This is the ideal location for a relaxing day in a well-organised beach resort, and also offers a safe haven for cruisers who do not want to stray too far and, at the same time, have decided to enjoy some time on the island.
Those who want to take a trip can instead select one of the many tours to discover the rum distilleries in the city. Many of these visits allow you to admire the production cycle of the distillate, from guava berries to the alcoholic symbol of Caribbean.
Great Salt Pond
The City of Marigot
Although Saint Martin is best known for its amazing beaches, anyone familiar with the island will recommend that you take a trip to Marigot town, located in the west of the island. Once a sleepy fishing village, Marigot then transformed into the capital of St. Martin in the period of Louis XVI, who built the fortified walls that can still be admired today in the hills. Whoever wants to familiarise themselves with this beautiful little town should close every map or guide and simply let your instinct be guided through the shopping-filled streets. This is the perfect place to buy a souvenir or do luxury shopping. If you're looking for the authentic flavours of the Caribbean, take a trip to the market instead: while open every day, the location really only comes alive on Wednesdays and Fridays, and is perfect for buying fresh ingredients or small masterpieces of craftsmanship.
History buffs need to go to Fort Luis, built in 1789 by Governor Jean Sebastian de Durat on a hill near Marigot Bay. Its purpose was to defend warehouses filled with export goods, such as coffee, sugar cane, rum and salt. Since its construction, unfortunately, the building has been ruined several times, but the archaeological association "Hope Estate" has recently started work on the restoration of the area.
Finally, the Roland Richardson Gallery, an art gallery that showcases the work of a celebrated local artist. Here you will find oils on canvas, watercolours and many other works that will help you understand the great dynamic of the island traditions of Saint Martin.
Come to Philipsburg for the beaches of Great Bay and you'll be dazzled by the Beauties of Front Street, one of the most exclusive shopping areas in Saint Martin. Here you'll find the best deals on the island in terms of clothing, electronics and more. And the moment you fancy making a true "island" purchase, all you have to do is go to the Guavaberry Emporium, where you buy the best rum spirits on the island. The whole area is completely duty free. Another good idea is to locate the product and try to haggle with the shopkeeper: This is a fairly widespread practice that will allow you to get great prices.
Sea Trek Diving Park
Are you fascinated by the idea of exploring the underwater fauna of Caribbean, but you have never dived in your life? No problem. In Saint Martin you'll find the Sea Trek diving park, an inexhaustible source of unforgettable experiences and emotions under the water's surface. All you need to do is wear a helmet and diving gear that you get at the start of the tour of about two and a half hours. You will be lowered into the water with a ladder and from there you can decide to explore the seabed by swimming or doing snorkelling safely. In this time, you will be guided by a team of experienced divers who will assist in every need and ensure a magnificent experience. The Sea Trek park is located in an area full of fish, algae and corals, and you can also admire a number of shipwrecks, including those of a submarine, a helicopter, an aeroplane and the cannons of Fort Amsterdam. During the tour, photos of you will be taken that will later be available on board for a possible purchase. Also on board is a small shop with T-shirts, souvenirs and, of course, delicious snacks.
Sea Trek is accessible with a short boat trip and also offers tourists a safety deposit box to keep their valuables safe while diving. It is a magnificent adventure to experience even with children, as long as they are over 8 years old.
Go to Saint Martin with Costa Cruises
Take advantage of the wonders of a Costa Cruise and set out to discover the Caribbean paradise of Saint Martin. Spend a day sailing to admire all the beauties of the island, then dive to explore the reef. Don't miss an adrenaline rush at Maho Beach, where you can watch planes land at Princess Juliana Airport. What are you waiting for? Saint Martin is the dream destination for a fun holiday!