St. Martin is one of the most balanced islands in the Caribbean. This balance is due to the fact that there are two countries on this small charming island. Saint Martin the Northern half of the country speaks French, and its southern Dutch side, Sint Maarten speaks English.
Language is not the only difference between the two sides. The English (Dutch) side is more what you expect of the Caribbean and is not as sophisticated as the French side. This is the side you actually want to stay on as the property tax and income tax is much lower on this side which results in lower priced accommodations.
The French side offers more of a European experience with fine dining, and boutique shops. The food on this side is quite impressive and is reasonably affordable. I would venture to say that it has some of the best food and the absolute best shopping in the Caribbean.
There are many things to do in St. Martin.
If you’re low on time this beach is literally 2 minutes from the airport and it is famous for how closely planes fly by the beach. This is a beautiful beach and it is worth stopping by for a few minutes to experience this. If you want to actually enjoy the beach, there are dozens of amazing beaches all over the island for you to experience that will be far less congested.
This is a “clothing-optional” beach with stunning beach and sand. This beach is great to experience a beach in your natural bathing suit. If you do want to enter the water to swim or snorkel I recommend other beaches as the undertow here has a reputation for being strong. Friar’s Bay is right around the corner and offers a safe option for swimming.
This is probably the undeveloped beach that you’ll find in St. Martin. This is a set of three beaches surrounded by limestone cliffs. This is a less popular beach but is also “clothing-optional”. I loved the views as it is quite different than the other more typical beaches that are found in St. Martin.
This is where to go for the best snorkeling on the island. The beach also offers stunning scenery and is great to spend a few hours in.
Pic du Paradis (Paradise Peak):
We were reluctant to visit this park as there is a bad reputation here for cars getting broken into. It also didn’t help that we witnessed a car getting vandalized earlier that day. Nonetheless, we decided to take our chances.
There’s a trail to the summit of the mountain/island with a peak elevation of 1,391 ft / 424 m. The summit offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding areas. I was unable to locate any information on the actual length of the trail but taking our time it took us approximately 90 minutes to reach the summit and return to the vehicle.
This was well worth the hike and is a great escape from the beach if you want to try something different.
Overall, I enjoyed my time in St. Martin but what I recommend more than anything in St. Martin is using this island as a transit point to the much more charming and unique island of Saba. Saba is a Dutch island that is off the beaten path, and while it has no beaches, it is charming, unique, and will offer a much more authentic and memorable experience than anything St Martin is capable of offering.
I fell in love with Saba which is why I recommend it so highly. Nonetheless, as can be seen below, St. Martin is a beautiful island.