When you visit the glorious Caribbean isle of St. Martin/St. Maarten, you’ll get two vacations in one! Governed by both the Netherlands and France, this dual-personality paradise is a 37-square-mile wonderland of classy resorts, white-sand beaches, secluded coves, vibrant nightlife, enticing duty-free shopping and world-class fusion cuisine.
It’s easy to visit both French St. Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten, but ultimately you’ll have to choose a side to stay on. Here, we’ll drill down what side is best for various travel interests … think dining, nightlife and shopping. In general, St. Martin is home to the best restaurants and bustling beaches, while slightly more sophisticated St. Maarten shines in its casinos and nightlife.
St. Martin Is Best Known For:
Incredible Beaches. Want to lounge all day on the white sand while beach attendants bring refreshing drinks and delicious snacks directly to you? St. Martin is the place. It’s also the place if you prefer lesser-known, more private swaths of sand, where you can hide away for the day. We love crescent-shaped Happy Beach, accessible via a short walk along a narrow, rural pathway. Insider Tip: Most of the beaches on St. Martin welcome nude sunbathers. Get yourself some of that effortless confidence and joie de vivre and join them at Baie Orientale.
Foodie-Focused Dining. Bring an appetite to the French side of the island, where your day can start with croissants, continue through a beach picnic of freshly baked baguettes and creamy cheeses and culminate with French-Caribbean seafood specialties. Don’t forget the incredible Parisian-style desserts! The dining capital of the island is Grand Case.
A Boho-Chic Vibe. Feel the southern French influence throughout St. Martin, where dreamy villas, narrow streets and romantic cafes manage to be both boho and chic at the same time. Join the locals at Harmony Night on Tuesdays in Grand Case, where you’ll find a bustling open-air market-turned-block-party where you can eat, drink and shop the evening away.
St. Maarten Is Best Known For:
Shopping. Bring an extra carry-on to cart home all your duty-free shopping finds on the St. Maarten side of the island. Start your search for high-class jewelry along Philipsburg’s Front Street.
Boating & Yachting. If you love to spend a Sunday out on the water, Sint Maarten is where to satisfy your seafaring side. Visit for the Heineken Regatta, drawing sailors to the largest warm-water regatta in the world. Check out the mega-yachts in the Dutch harbor on Simpson Bay and drop by the Sint Maarten Yacht Club.
Diving. Prefer your Caribbean Sea from below the waves rather than on top of them? The dive sites off Sint Maarten are staggeringly beautiful. Stay close to the Friendly Island, as it’s affectionately named, or take a charter or ferry to Saba, a dormant, volcanic island boasting some of the best diving in the Caribbean.
Ready to go? There are non-stop flights from DFW to Sint Maarten/Saint Martin during the high season, so there’s no excuse not to jet off to paradise. Let’s chat!
- Lisell Travel