This popular Caribbean island is part French and part Dutch, split by an invisible line that divides the two nations. Geographically, the North portion of the island is French, and the South is Dutch. While the French side offers peace, privacy and tranquility with a distinct European flavour, while the lively Dutch side is filled with snazzy resort, rows of shopping malls, casinos and nightclubs. Luckily for you, no matter which side you choose to stay on, you can easily drive around the island without restriction. Here are some recommendations for how to make the best of your stay on the friendly island of St. Martin/ St/ Maarten.
La Parisienne Patisserie Boulangerie French Bakery - $
This cute little bakery just might be the best on the island. The service is great and the bread is always baked fresh daily. If you're looking for a breakfast spot where you can find delicious pastries and some fresh coffee to start your day, do not skip this place. You may even want to return in the evening to try their pizzas, which are a favourite with the locals.
Paradise View -$$
Located just past the entrance to Orient Bay, this beautiful spot sits on top of the hill, over looking the sea. As the name implies, the view is amazing, but so is the food. For lunch, make sure you try the crepes. The menu is pretty impressive and they have anything from classic crepes, to crepes with a caribbean twist. Get there a bit before the lunch rush so you can find a seat close to the edge of the restaurant, with the best views.
La Petite Table - $$$
For some of the best seafood on the island, make your way to La Petite Table. Try the scallops, mahi-mahi or tuna tataki, which is a treat. The vegetables are always cooked to perfection and the desserts aren't too heavy. The restaurant itself is elegant yet understated, so don't feel like you have to get too fancy. This spot is perfect for a romantic date, but is also child friendly. Make sure you call in advance to make a reservation.
Belmond La Samanna - $$$
Perched on the French/Dutch border, this is possibly the most famous hotel on the island. You can opt to save a few dollars and stay in the hotel portion of the property or drop a bit of cash and upgrade to a secluded, private villa atop a rugged cliff overlooking the gorgeous Baie Long. This stretch of beach is never-ending and the water is crystal clear. Make sure you stay for sunset for one of the most spectacular experiences on the island. The views from La Samanna, no matter which room you're in, will be breathtaking. You'll also find onsite, two large swimming pools and one of the best restaurants in St. Martin, including a romantic wine cellar if you want a totally private dining experience.
Divi Little Bay Beach - $$
Tucked away on one of the prettiest bays on the Dutch Side, Divi Little is a beautiful sprawling resort that is great for families or groups of friends. The beach is powdery and offers great views of the other side of the bay. If you'd rather hang poolside, grab a seat and bask in the sun, while slipping in and out of the quite pool area. You'll even have access to the gym if you feel like sneaking in a quick workout.
Mary's Boon Beach Resort and Spa - $
For the money, this is a great little hotel. It's possibly one the least expensive options in the whole country, so if you're on a budget, make sure you consider Mary's Boon. The vibe can be described as Caribbean rustic, as it's a bit old, but that's really part of the charm. Opt for one of the beachfront rooms on the upper floor for the best views. You'll have a small cooking area and a fridge. The beach is pristine and the water is great for cooling off after laying in the sun.
We've all seen pictures of the low flying planes as they zip over the heads of tourists on the beach. But this attraction is not just another tourist trap - it really is worth the trip. Watch in awe from the water as massive aircrafts coming within what feels to be an arm's length of your body. Maho Beach might be the most popular attraction in the country, but you won't have experienced St. Martin without it.
With an interesting history, this attraction offers a whole day's worth of activities. Start by renting out a private cabana for you and your friends. You'll have access to the pool area, bar and restaurant, which are all fabulous, but the best reason to come to Loterie farm is the adventure tour. You can choose from a basic package, or go all out with the "extreme" option. Zip-line through the jungle, climb over obstacles and make your way across tightropes and hanging ladders. This is a pretty intense workout, so make sure you're properly equipped.
The Butterfly Farm
This is the perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon and a perfect day out for the eco-conscious and families. Even if you're not an insect lover, the farm's staff are charming enough to turn you into one. You'll learn all about the transformations of the butterflies, and about all of the different species. If you're lucky, you may have one perch itself on your shoulder for an amazing photo op.
A Boat Trip to Pinel Island
St Martin/Sint Maarten itself gorgeous, but the best way to view it might be from one of the tiny islands just off the coast. Charter a sailing boat for the day and make your way over to Tintamerre. The trip over to this small island offers breathtaking views of the rolling, green hills on the main island. Once you arrive, Tintamerre has one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, with soft, warm sand, and aquamarine, enticing water. Another short trip takes you to Pinel Island, where you can spend hours on the beach, eating lunch, drinking cocktails and swimming with rays and turtles. No trip to this destination is complete without properly exploring these surrounding islands.