Things To Do, Sights, and Activity Guide for St. Martin Vacations
St. Martin Places of Interest
Nestled between verdant hills and a stretch of crescent shaped beach, Grand Case is one of the prettier towns on the island, located at the northern tip. As you approach this town, a sign claism “The Gourmet Capital of St. Martin”, and it's certainly true, with over twenty restaurants lining the main street, Boulevard de Grand Case. Choose from French, Italian, and Vietnamese fare, with both elegant and casual options.
The capital of the French side, Marigot is a charming town of brightly colored buildings with gingerbread-trim and wrought iron balconies. The town has some of the best bistros and boutiques as well as a waterfront crafts market. Enjoy the slower pace here, and a night, linger in the open-air cafés.
Traverse the northern tip of the island to reach Orient Bay, one of the most beautiful stretches of white sand beach on the island. While well known as a clothing optional beach, it also offers all of the water sports you could ever wish for.
At Orleans, or the French Quarter, you'll find the oldest settlement on the island, with many of the West Indian style houses and native architecture. A scenic, windy road takes you from Orleans to Oyster Pond. A popular port for sailing yachts, Oyster Pond boasts several good hotels and restaurants along the horseshoe-shaped bay. Snorkelers tout nearby Dawn Beach as a favorite spot.
The heart of St. Maarten is Philipsburg, the Dutch capital. Activity abounds here and centers around Front and Back streets and the small alleys that run between them. Front Street runs parallel to Great Bay, and along it are restaurants, duty-free shopping, and historical and cultural attractions.
Pic du Paradis
On the road to Grand Case, there's a turn-off to Pic du Paradis, or, Paradise Peak. A bumpy, shaded road takes you up 1,278 feet to the highest point on the island.
The westernmost point of the island, which includes some of the prettiest beaches: Baie Rouge, Plum Baie, Baie Longue, and Cupecoy.
Half and full-day deep-sea fishing trips are available from Simpson Bay. Marlin, wahoo, dolphin, shark and sailfish abound in these waters - take the day's catch to Lee's Roadside Grill and they'll cook it up right there for you!
For those looking for some on-the-water competition, try the St. Maarten 12-Meter Challenge. Run out of Philipsburg, this exciting racing program provides team competition in a friendly setting. These boats were built for America's Cup races in the ’80s, but are still in racing tune and fun to sail. The Heineken Regatta is an annual event that attracts grand-prix sailors from around the world. Professional and amateurs alike look forward to this regatta in early March, which has become one of the top regattas in the Caribbean.
Scuba & Snorkeling
With water temperature generally in the 80s and visibility about 60 feet, underwater viewing is pristine for both scuba and snorkeling. Numerous dive sites - shipwrecks and coral reefs - can be found around the island. There are several diving operations available for certified scuba divers as well as for those who want to learn. For snorkelers, Dawn Beach is considered to be one of the best places, with a reef just offshore, as well as the western end of Maho Bay. Snorkeling trips for families and kids are available out of Pelican Marina in Simpson Bay. On the French side, Creole Rock at Grand Case is very popular, while Orient Bay is a designated underwater marine reserve. Take a ferry from French Cul de Sac to Ilet Pinel, a favorite destination of snorkelers.
With a steady trade wind of 15 knots, this is a perfect place to practice your gibe or learn how to windsurf - the warm water makes falling a bit more appealing! Little Bay Beach and Orient Bay are the beaches favored by windsurfing enthusiasts. Equipment rentals are available at both places.
Mullet Bay has an 18-hole championship course, the only course on the island. Several of the holes are along Simpson Bay Lagoon, and the back nine are considered quite challenging.
Hiking & Mountain Biking
Hiking trails crisscross the island, inviting exploration. La Lottery, a 1700s sugar plantation, has trails that lead to Pic Paradis, as well as through a tropical rain forest, and provides spectacular views. The island terrain offers good mountain biking for all levels - a loop from Port de Plaisance to Marigot offers advanced cyclists long climbs and descents, as well as a close-up view of local fauna.
Why walk when you can ride? On horseback is a fun way to visit the secluded beaches and enjoy some spectacular ocean views. Several stables offer beach rides, including the Bayside Riding Club and the OK Corral, for beginning and experienced riders.
St. Martin is one of the best Caribbean islands for duty-free shopping, both for the number of shops and the quality and prices, which can be up to 50% less than the U.S. and Canada. Marigot is a pleasant town for shopping: look here for French perfume, Swiss watches, European fashions, and cameras and electronics. The main shopping area in Philipsburg is along Front Streets.
Nearly every hotel has at least one court, and some of those are lighted for night play. If you need to improve some strokes, the island's tennis pro offers clinics and lessons at several properties.