Saint Martin: By Land and By Sea

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Advisor - Maggie Pecorino
Curated By

Maggie Pecorino

  • Active Travel

  • Beaches

  • Boutique Travel

  • Couples Travel

  • Sightseeing

  • Island

  • Romantic

Beach with blue sea white sand and palm trees,
Curator’s statement

Saint Martin or St. Maarten (the French and Dutch sides, respectively) is the Caribbean paradise of your dreams. With no shortage of idyllic white sand beaches — 37 of them, to be exact — I am of the mindset that most of your time should be spent under the sun sipping your cold beverage of choice. However, what I appreciated greatly about my time on Saint Martin is that even amid its laid back island atmosphere, there is no shortage of activity to be found. With scenic hikes, quaint historical sites, water sports and several small towns to explore, "The Friendly Island" is truly a friend to all.

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Where to stay in Saint Martin

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Things to do in Saint Martin

Aerial view of green trees near body of water.

By Land

Loterie Farm: This 135-acre jungle sanctuary has something for everyone. Hiking trails, zip line obstacle courses, a pool, bar and restaurant. Rent a daybed or cabana by the pool for some privacy. They also host an all-day pool party on the last Saturday of each month — reservations recommended. The reserve has a deep history and passionate owners.

Philipsburg: SXM’s cruise port is most famous for being a duty-free shopping haven. Walk around and enjoy the colorful Dutch capital. The waterfront is lined with bars and restaurants, as well as hosting a nearby casino. Jet skis are available to rent directly on the beach. (Note: try to avoid cruise ship days unless you’re craving a crowd.)

Hike the National Nature Reserve or SXM Hillside Plantation: Sometimes you need an outlet for excess energy after days of lying on the beach. If so, head to one of the island’s well-maintained hiking trails. There are small fees to maintain the reserves. For a walk on the easier side, historical 17th century Fort Amsterdam offers some beautiful views for free.

Parrotte Ville Bird Park: Grab a cup of seed and get up close and personal with some colorful winged friends. The birds are free to fly and well-cared for; the aviary, spacious and clean. $10.

Get French in Grand Case: Boutique shopping, bakeries and brasseries, DIY perfume at Tijon. GC is the most stylish spot on the island — though expect to see some boarded up buildings from hurricane damage. Interesting juxtaposition.

By Sea

Boat Trip to Tintamarre: This uninhabited island is famous for its turquoise waters and sea turtle sightings. Even if the water is slightly murky, sailing around the island is beautiful in its own right. Most tours include lunch and an open bar — woo. (Rec: Scoobidoo is highly regarded. There are many tour operators; contact me for more suggestions!)

Maho Beach: One of the island’s most unique, and ultimately most famous attractions. While you’re welcome to swim and sunbathe at Maho, the real draw is the airport. Yes, really. The landing strip of Princess Juliana International Airport lies a mere minute beyond the bay, so incoming planes fly directly overhead - extremely close by. There are a number of beach bars to watch from if you prefer some shade and a drink in hand.

Let it rock at Orient Beach: French-side beach famous for its long-standing lack of bathing suits! One side is top-optional and the other completely nude. (Tip: Go early. Can get busy with vendors later.)

Day Trips

Anguilla & St. Barths: Pay a visit to SXM’s beautiful neighboring islands. Charter a boat with a group (CaptainJo, Boating Concept) or take the public ferry — one departs each side of the island at regular intervals. I recommend Anguilla for beach hopping and St. Barths for people-watching in luxury. (Note: You will have to clear customs and pay a departure tax — bring your passport!)

Isla de Pinel: $12 round-trip ferry to a tiny island off the western coast. Or, you can visit via kayak! On the Pacific side you will find calm waters, lounge chairs, and a couple low key restaurant/bars. Walking trails lead you to the rugged Atlantic. So many iguanas.

Getting Around

Following the devastation of Hurricane Irma in 2017, the island has undergone extensive rebuilding efforts, but they are far from complete. Be sure to step outside your resort and support the local economy. Car rentals are straightforward and easily the most cost-effective way of getting the most out of your sightseeing.

Places to eat & drink in Saint Martin

Three glasses with colorful margaritas.


Le Tropicana: Top notch French fare on the sea. Beautiful desserts. Reservations recommended.

Lolo’s (Cynthia’s Talk of the Town): Do NOT skimp on Creole cuisine! Not only will you be tasting some of the freshest and most flavorful food on the island. You will also be supporting local heritage and enduring family businesses.

Mezza Luna: Lovely, quiet beachfront Italian joint that would be easily missed from the road. Delicious homemade pasta. Kind staff. A nice switch from all the French food.

Lagoonies Bistro: Awesome vibes in a relaxed atmosphere with a view of Simpson Bay and the adjoining harbor. Historically popular with sailors. Live music several days a week. Delicious drinks and chips. Happy hour: 2 for 1 beer and $2 rum punch. Wholly great experience.

Rainbow Cafe: Recommended by a few good-looking locals, this lively beach club often hosts a DJ in the evenings. Fun and trendy.

Claquettes Chaussettes: Gourmet burger food truck, homemade fries… sign me up. Away from the coast, off-the-beaten path.


Juggie’s Place: "The Smallest Bar in the World” is literally a hole in the wall with bras hanging from the ceiling. Run by a local legend. Offering cheap beer, Cuban cigars and a chat. One of a kind spot.

Breweries: Every island needs its own local beer source. Saint Martin has three: Caribbean Brewing Co., Pelikaan Brewery and SXM Beer.

La Part des Anges: Rum lovers, unite! Attached to the stylish Le Pressoir, this cozy, wood-paneled spot is dedicated to the art of Caribbean rum. (Some tasting options are no longer in production.) For a full experience, try the five-course rum tasting dinner.

Advisor - Maggie Pecorino

Travel Advisor

Maggie Pecorino

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Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, The Magic of Medellín.

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Nature Escapes.