The Caribbean island of St Martin/St Maarten that belongs to both France and the Netherlands (hence the two different spellings) is a popular port of call for cruise liners and vacationers in search for some fun in the sun.
However, like all Caribbean territories, this island is too at the mercy of the weather during the annual hurricane season.
In September 2017, the immensely powerful hurricane Irma caused widespread damage on St Martin/St Maarten. The hurricane damage crippled the engine of growth of the island, the tourism industry.
A year later the island is back, and most of its attractions and facilities are open for business. While the northern part of the island is French territory and hosts the capital Marigot, the southern half is Dutch and is home to the reopened Princess Juliana International airport.
If you are planning a trip to this enchanting island sometime soon, you read on to know more on what to see and do.
Planespotting on Maho Beach
Perhaps the most famous pictures of St Martin/ St Maarten show a huge aircraft flying low over a beach almost skimming the heads of beach-goers. The beach in these images is Maho beach, a small beach located on the Dutch side of the island adjacent to Princess Juliana International airport. The airport is the island’s main access point, which has reopened after being battered by Hurricane Irma. The airport no longer plays host to KLM’s gigantic 747 that features in most images of Maho beach but continues to receive Boeings and Airbuses belonging to many other carriers which have resumed flights to the island. Maho beach is a small beach, but it hosts several bars and eateries from where you can enjoy the final approach of these flights as they descend towards the airport.
Chill out on the stunning beaches
The island in the manner of its Caribbean siblings hosts several stunning beaches with powder white sands and azure waters. Orient Bay on the French side of the island and Mullet Bay on the Dutch side, are reputed to be the best beaches on the island. While Orient Bay is the bigger of the two beaches both these beaches are open to the public as are all on the beaches on the island and offer facilities like loungers and umbrellas for a nominal charge. Bars and restaurants line the periphery of Orient Beach, which also has an optional clothing segment while a golf course borders the quieter Mullet Beach.
Take a hike
St Martin/St Maarten is a beautiful island with lots to see and explore, and if you want to take a break from the beach, there are various hiking trails you can consider.
One such path leads to the lookout point Pic Paradis on the French side of the island. The lookout point is at the height of 1,391 ft or 424 meters above sea level and affords stunning vistas of both sides of the island. Another popular hiking trail on the island is Sentier de Froussards, which proceeds from Anse Marcel to Eastern Point on the French side of the island. This scenic three-mile route takes hikers past spectacular beaches as it traverses the rugged coastline of the island.
Try your hand at adventure sports
If you are the outdoorsy sort who needs a rush of adrenaline even on holiday, then attractions such as the 12-meter Challenge that enables you to relive the America’s Cup challenge aboard the yacht which won the 1987 tourney are bound to delight. Another heart pumping experience worth exploring is at the Rockland Estate on St Maarten. This locale is the home of the world’s steepest zip-line called the Flying Dutchman which features a heart-stopping drop of 1050 feet from the top of a mountain and a fast zip ride at 56 miles per hour over 2800 feet of cable.
Pencil in a day trip to neighboring islands
Day trips to neighboring Caribbean islands like Anguilla and Saba are popular excursions for visitors to St Maarten/ St Martin. While Anguilla is renowned for its stunning beaches like Shoal Bay, Saba is a favorite spot for diving enthusiasts.
Visit a distillery
The Caribbean islands are renowned for their various brands of rums. St Maarten/St Martin produces an alcoholic beverage called Guavaberry, which is a blend of rum, cane sugar and little guavaberries that grow on the hills of the island. The liqueur has a woody, fruity and spicy, bittersweet flavor. Once brewed in private homes on the island, several distilleries on the island now produce this liqueur and offering tastings to visitors. Another popular homegrown brew is Topper’s Rhum, which produces uniquely Caribbean flavored rums. The brand operates two restaurants on the island and offers tours at its distillery located on Sint Maarten.
No vacation is complete without a shopping expedition. The best shopping street on the island is Old Street on St Martin, which is lined with candy-colored townhouses that house chic boutiques offering jewelry, watches, bespoke clothing, local textiles andl foods and wines of the region. St Maarten/St Martin is a duty-free island so savvy shoppers can pick up bargains on high-end wares here. Another favorite shopping spot is the lively Phillipsburg boardwalk on St Maarten that hosts a busy bazaar featuring vendors of local arts and crafts.