Sint Maarten, Saint Martin, St Marten or St Martin…no matter how you spell it, there’s no question that this half-Dutch, half-French island is one of the great yachting capitals of the Caribbean. So, what to do during your time there?
1. For the world’s steepest zipline: Eco-Adventure Park (Dutch side)
If there’s one thing most yacht crews like to collect, it’s memories of crazy days. If this sounds like you, a day at the Rainforest Adventures Eco-Adventure Park will fit the bill. The park’s most famous drawcard is the flying Dutchman: the world’s steepest zipline, falling a stomach-dropping 1,050 feet (about the height of the Empire State Building) in elevation in only 2,539 feet. Multiple lines are running alongside each other, so you can race other crew to the bottom (as if you needed to up the ante.)
If you like the idea of the view but would prefer something more sedate, there’s also a chairlift, or you can hop into an innertube and wind down a mountain track on the Schooner Ride.
2. For beach clubs: Grand Case beach (French side)
After a busy charter, is anything more deliciously indulgent than lying on a beach club deck chair, sipping on rum cocktails delivered by beautiful people? Thought not. Fill a blessed day off at a Grand Case beach club with occasional dips into the aquamarine sea and adjourn to the restaurant for a long breezy lunch. As the afternoon stretches on, the party vibe builds, with DJs and dancing under an epic Caribbean sunset. Rainbow Cafe is currently the best of the Grand Case beach clubs, with its boho-chic feel, French-Caribbean menu, and heavenly rooftop lounge with swings.
3. For fun under the flight path: Sunset Beach Bar, Maho Beach (Dutch side)
How many photos have been taken of this beach bar overlooking Maho Beach and the airport runway? Countless! Pics of people partying on the beach as the planes land have become iconic images of the fun and sun in St Maarten. It’s crowded, loud and full of happy people. And the rush as the planes come down over the beach is pretty fantastic — there’s a reason everyone keeps returning to this place. Not a place to chill out for a quiet chat, but a place to be in the moment and enjoy!
4. For creativity: Tijon Parfumerie, Grand Case (French side)
Tijon Parfumerie is ideal for those looking to try something new while in the Caribbean. This perfumery has brought the practices of the great perfume makers in Grasse, France and created a stunning little outpost in the Caribbean where you can don a lab coat and create your fragrance. Spend a sweet-smelling and creative few hours creating your signature scent to bottle, and you can also get the aroma made into lotions and linen sprays. The smell is powerful; every time you spray your perfume, you will be instantly transported back to that fun day in the Caribbean.
5. For high-ropes adventures (and a treetop pool): Loterie Farm (French side)
This is one of the most iconic and (in our opinion) unmissable days the island has to offer. Don’t be fooled by the name of ‘farm’: trees are the only thing grown on this 100-acre rainforest property! There’s something for everyone here: will you get your adrenaline coursing in the high ropes course through the canopy, hike along jungle paths, or chill out by the blue-green pool, reading books, sipping cocktails and making the big choices about what to have for lunch? It’s a hard life at Loterie Farm.
6. For a quiet beach and a coastal walk: Friar’s Beach (French side)
Jump in the 4wd or go by tender to Friar’s Beach, a quiet, dreamy little arc of sand with shallow turquoise waters. Take some shade with you, or head to one of the two bars on the beach: the rustically beautiful Friar’s Cafe with wooden cabanas on the sand, or the more upmarket 978 Beach Lounge, where you can rent a deckchair with an umbrella.
When you want to stretch your legs, take the beautiful 15-minute coastal path to Happy Bay Beach, a glorious stretch of beach with no bars or restaurants (and sometimes no swimming costumes), as this is one of the island’s nude beaches.)
7. For island life: the choice is yours!
St Maarten may be an island, but there’s still something magical about boarding the tender or ferry to cast off to another, smaller island. of course, you have choices to make.
On the French side, will it be Pinel Island, where beach clubs and fun in the sun await? Or something calm and tranquil, like Tintamarre Island, an uninhabited nature reserve where you can snorkel with turtles and leave your footprints on the soft white sands of White Bay? On the Dutch side, the small volcanic island of Saba Island offers a superb marine reserve for scuba diving and some excellent hiking along jungle paths.
8. For windsurfing and kitesurfing: Orient Beach (French side)
Orient Beach is one of the great Saint Martin beaches, with softer sand than Grand Case and a selection of beach restaurants and bars. However, it is windier than Grand Case, making it a top spot for wind sports.
9. For hiking: take your pick!
There are lovely hikes on the tropical island of Sint Maarten —and even better views! Top walks include the Guana Bay to Point Blanche hike, with natural swimming pools at the end, Cay Bay, and Fort Willem. (Remember, if you’re spending the day at Loterie Farm, the Pic Paradis hike there is considered one of the island’s finest.)
10. For rum tasting: La Part des Anges, Grand Case (French side)
Enter the low-lit wood-panelled cosiness of the rum bar and sink into one of the couches. Be led through a rum tasting of the Caribbean’s most excellent rums, perhaps finishing with a cigar. Want to push the experience to its limits? Settle in for their rum-tasting degustation meal, with each course paired with a fine rum.
There is much to do in Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, and we’re just starting! Happy exploring.