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Tips on What To Do in St. Martin - St. Maarten

From Orient Bay to Simpson Bay, Cupecoy Bay and more, St. Martin and St. Maarten can certainly accommodate those looking to stay on the beach. But options away from the shore are also plentiful. Many suggest a day bargaining with street vendors and storeowners in St. Martin's Marigot, or an evening in one of the Dutch side's nightclubs or casinos. As with any destination that has a nightlife scene, visitors should be cautious when moving around St. Maarten at night.

  • From zoos to zip lines and working farms to forts, the array of diversions here suits history buffs, eco-geeks, and active types alike -- and despite the island's reputation as an adult playground, it's a very family-friendly place." -- Frommer's
  • The island does boast some of the finest beaches in the Eastern Caribbean, particularly at Orient Beach on the French side, as well as some stunning scenery, most notably in the interior around Pic Paradis, and many excellent restaurants and hotels on both sides of the border." -- Rough Guides
  • If secluded coves are more your thing, then head to Baie aux Prunes (Plum Bay) on the French side. The beach is perfect for what it lacks: no tiki bars with blaring music, no raucous watersports, no importuning vendors; in fact, no one selling anything." -- New York Times

Casinos

You'll find a smattering of casinos in St. Maarten where gambling is legal, but experts say the gaming is minor league at best. 

  • For all its self-promotion about a Caribbean Vegas, the scene is closer to Laughlin or Biloxi." -- Frommer's
  • You'll find a baker's dozen of casinos on the Dutch side. The Casino Royale is the largest of these. Several bars, including dance spot Boo Boo Jam, line the sands of Orient Beach." -- About.com

Nightlife

St. Martin and St. Maarten have a reputation as one of the liveliest Caribbean islands at night. As Frommer's notes, "Whether you seek a quiet sunset cocktail or after-hours boogieing, St. Maarten/St. Martin delivers." The Dutch side is more popping than the French side, especially around Front Street in Philipsburg, but beach bars and restaurants frequently hold nightly events and happy hours.

  • St. Maarten has lots of evening and late-night action. To find out what's doing on the island, pick up St. Maarten Nights, St. Maarten Quick Pick Guide, or St. Maarten Events, all of which are distributed free in the tourist office and hotels." -- Fodor's

Shopping

With the exception of some resort boutiques, most shopping on the island is centralized to Philipsburg in St. Maarten, located near the southern coast. Once you're there, head to the stores on Front Street.

  • Not only is Dutch St. Maarten a free port, but it has no local sales taxes. Prices are sometimes lower here than anywhere else in the Caribbean, except possibly St. Thomas." -- Frommer's
  • Try bargaining, especially in the jewelry stores. Maybe they won't give you a deal, but you won't find out unless you ask." -- Fodor's
  • Don't Miss: Taking advantage of duty-free jewelry shopping at Passions, in Marigot, which stocks well-known fashion designers such as Dinh Van, Girard-Perregaux, and Jaeger LeCoultre." -- Travel and Leisure

Sports & Leisure

Active travelers are encouraged to try sailing in the waters surrounding the island, or to head to the hills of St. Martin for mountain-biking or hiking through Pic du Paradis

  • Sailing is particularly popular with visitors and residents with a dozen or so marinas dotted around the island. … Mountain biking tracks are available for all levels of rider. For novices the Cay Bay and Mullet Bay coasts are particularly friendly, while more experienced reiders can try out more demanding routes such as Bellevue Loop, between Port de Plaisance to Marigot or Pic Paradis." -- Rough Guides

Beaches

If the beach is your main interest, many recommend St. Maarten's Simpson Bay for swimming, Plum Bay (St. Martin) for relaxing, and Orient Bay (St. Martin) for partying. Five miles off St. Martin's north side, the island of Tintamarre is a good location for snorkeling and diving. Keep in mind that some of the French side's beaches are swimsuit optional.

Vacationers visit Maho Bay for the atmosphere; but not a relaxing one. As it's located especially close to the Princess Juliana airport, visitors bring cameras to capture the planes landing close overhead.

  • The windsurfing and party crowd heads to Orient Beach on the Atlantic side of St. Martin. With cafes, tiki bars and crafts shops, there is always action." -- New York Times
  • If you're willing to go the distance for a more isolated beach experience, arrange a day-trip aboard a catamaran to the island of Tintamarre. … You'll feel like Robinson Crusoe on the island's deserted beaches lapped by clear blue water." -- Travel Channel

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