Best Things To Do in St. Martin - St. Maarten
Like most Caribbean destinations, St. Martin and St. Maarten is wonderful for relaxing in the sand or playing in the waves, but families take note: St. Martin's beautiful beaches are clothing-optional (especially the tourist favorite, Orient Bay). Vacationers will find bathing suit-clad sunbathers along Simpson Bay and Maho Bay on the Dutch side. Hurricane Irma had a big impact on the island, so repeat visitors might find some favorite places closed or with limited amenities, but the island has made great strides in renovating and repairing the damage. Make sure to set aside time for away-from-the-shore activities – hiking through Pid du Paradis, playing the tables at some of the casinos or shopping for duty-free deals along Front Street.
Updated May 9, 2018
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Orient Bay Beach was hit hard by Hurricane Irma and is one of the places on the island that recent visitors said was a bit shocking to see, with most of the businesses completely wiped out. That said, they still extol the virtues of the clear waters and fluffy white sand.
There are some vendors plying food and drinks and the popular Club Orient, a naturalist hotel, which was totally destroyed and is currently under renovation, is operating a few beachside concessions.
- #2View all Photos#2 in St. Martin - St. MaartenSightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Surrounded by the gorgeous Caribbean water on all sides, one of the more popular activities on the island is to get off it! Sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, snorkeling, diving and any other watersport you can imagine is easy enough to schedule, and many companies stand ready to take you out for the day. Since St. Martin is in the heart of the Lesser Antilles, it's also quite popular to visit other islands, such as Anguilla, St. Barts and Saba.
Day sails or specialty boat tours that offer everything from eco-snorkeling to party-in-the-sun itineraries are quite common. Daysailing companies that receive excellent reviews from past visitors include Soualiga Destinations Boat Tours and Captain Alan's Boat Charters.
- #3View all Photos#3 in St. Martin - St. MaartenBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Located on the island's southwest tip, Cupecoy is a set of three beaches surrounded by limestone cliffs. It's also the last beach on the Dutch side before crossing the northern French border. Travelers say the sunsets here have to be seen to be believed, with dramatic views of Saba in the distance. Consider enjoying the day's end in one of the area's beach bars, or by buying a cold beer from one of the local vendors walking along the shore. Cupecoy Beach is also noteworthy as a LGBT-friendly beach, and families should beware the clothing-optional section of the beach's northwest end. Recent visitors said the beach is stunning and romantic and suggest getting there early to claim a spot in the sand.
You can visit Cupecoy for free, but there are paid parking lots at the adjacent Cupecoy and Sapphire beach clubs.
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Visitors can hike, lounge in a pool cabana or even take a zip line through the treetops on the 135 acres of forest and farmland located near the foot of Pic du Paradis. The farm has made a nice recovery since Hurricane Irma, though recent visitors say that the vegetation is not as lush as it used to be. That said, visitors were impressed with the amenities, service and food and pleased with how fast the farm has resumed operations.
Adventurous types can still enjoy Loterie's zip line that soars through Loterie's forest, but the obstacle course for children, Ti-Tarzan, was destroyed during the hurricane. The popular Hidden Forest Café was also damaged during the hurricane, but lunch and snacks are served by the pool in the meantime.
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Many call calm and quiet Mullet a decent alternative to the noise and sand blasts of Maho Bay, or to the crowds of the French side's Orient Bay. Along with its clear waters, travelers were pleased with Mullet Bay's soft sand and surfer-ready waves.
Because of its proximity to the cruise terminal (about a 30-minute drive), you'll likely encounter crowds when ships are docked. Chair and umbrella rentals cost about $15 for the day, according to past visitors. You'll find few facilities here, so plan accordingly. Mullet Bay sits near the airport, just south of scenic Cupecoy Beach and is free to visit.
- #6View all Photos#6 in St. Martin - St. MaartenBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
Friar's Bay, or Anse des Pères, has a more family-friendly atmosphere than some of the other scantily clad shores of St. Martin. That's because its crystalline waters have gentle, swimmable waves that are easy for children to handle. You can watch your kids play from the beach bars that corral Friar's; Kali's Beach Bar offers food and drink if you get hungry. The secluded Happy Bay is a 10-minute jaunt away, and according to many, this tiny stretch alone is worth the trip.
You'll find both Friar's and Kali's Beach Bar between the towns of Grand Case and Marigot (at the foot of Pic du Paradis), but take caution on the snaking, bumpy road down to the shore. Though there are restrooms in the beach bars, there are no public bathrooms surrounding the beach.
- #7View all Photos#7 in St. Martin - St. MaartenBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Located just south of the Dutch/French border, Dawn Beach is famous for two things: One, the amazing sunrises that earned the shoreline its name. And two, clear water that's perfect for snorkeling.
The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa dominates much of this shoreline, so the beach receives a lot of foot traffic. Also keep in mind that Dawn Beach's Atlantic Ocean waves can sometimes be rough. If you have children with you, consider visiting Friar's Bay on the French side; it has calmer waves. Past visitors offered mixed reviews of Dawn Beach. Some called it clean and relaxing, while others described it as average with too much seaweed.
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Shopping is great throughout the island thanks to its duty-free status, but the best bargains on jewelry, china, electronics and more are found on Front Street in Philipsburg (found on the Dutch side). Should browsing turn to buying, make the Guavaberry Emporium – and its primo-potent liqueur – your first stop and purchase. Head over to Front Street's eastern end and the glittering slot machines of the Coliseum Princess Casino if you still have money to burn.
Travelers recount that shopping on Front Street can be intensely crowded, especially when a cruise ship is docked. You can temper the experience with some window-shopping on Back Street or a dip in the Great Bay, both of which run parallel to Front Street.
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Are you looking to relax in tranquility? Keep looking – Maho Bay beckons to amateur photographers, aviation fanatics and curious thrill-seekers. The southwestern beach's fame is due to its unusual proximity to the Princess Juliana International Airport. Every afternoon, travelers love to stand on the sands to take pictures of the approaching planes and feel their jet blasts.
For many travelers, Maho Bay was a must-see bucket list-experience. For others, the beach was too small and crowded to enjoy. If you're looking for a quieter afternoon along the shore, try the island's other beaches, such as Mullet Bay.
- #10View all Photos#10 in St. Martin - St. MaartenNatural Wonders, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
You can drive or take a taxi up Pic du Paradis mountain's 1,492 feet for a heart-stopping view of all of St. Martin/St. Maarten, as well as the surrounding islands of Anguilla, Saba and St. Eustatius. Also known as Paradise Peak, the mountain was a hit with recent visitors, who said it is worth the hike for the stunning panoramic views.
You can reach the peak two ways: You can pay to park at Loterie Farm (found at the base of the mountain) and hike up to the top, or you can drive your car to the end of the road and walk about 10 to 15 minutes to the summit (for free). If you choose to hike up to the top, heed the advice of past visitors and bring plenty of water, bug spray and stable shoes with good traction. Some reviewers also warned future visitors not to leave any valuables in their cars at the summit as theft has been reported. According to travelers, signage is also not abundant.
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