The Best of the Caribbean - Saint Martin
I have been fortunate enough to explore much of the Caribbean over my lifetime, which as a Minnesota-native, is extra awesome. Seriously, leaving the snow for the sand is the best feeling in the world. So, without further adieu, here is all about Saint Martin & what makes it awesome!
THE LAY OF THE LAND
You can head to Maho Beach to watch the planes landing overhead. It seriously feels like they are going to land on top of you.
This was hands-down one of my favorite tropical retreats ever! This little island is nestled north of Anguilla and east of Puerto Rico. Now, you may know it for the infamous airport where planes soar over the beach goers when landing, but what you might not know is that there is incredible culture to be explored.
THE DUTCH SIDE
We started our adventure in an airbnb condo on the Dutch side, which was actually in a resort. This is where we spent our days playing beach volleyball, doing water aerobics and relaxing under the sun. Near our hotel was a stretch of local shops hardly infested with tourists. I will admit, it’s a little more run down than you are picturing… I mean you had to essentially walk on jagged roads to get to these nearby restaurants, BUT that didn’t phase us one bit. This area offered us more of an immersive cultural experience than I think any of us anticipated. It is also home to more nightlife, casinos and discos than anywhere else on the island. Essentially there are two sides of the island; the dutch and the french, each with their own unique flare.
THE FRENCH SIDE
The second half of our trip was spent on the French side, notable for its colorful architecture and totally different vibe. I would HIGHLY recommend this if you are into a more luxurious experience. We stayed in another airbnb near Orient Beach, a famous nude beach hosting restaurants & clubs along the white sand. Haha yes, I said nude beach. It was definitely an entertaining walk every morning down the beach… I should also mention, this seemed like a very international destination, not just a hot spot for Americans which was really awesome. It wasn’t like Cabo packed with drunk spring-breakers, if you know what I mean.
Anyways, it’s amazing how driving across this small island can bring you into what feels like a different world, a mini-France even. The main attractions are along Avenue des Plagues, where you can enter the French Quarters with many mouthwatering restaurants. It is more expensive than the Dutch side, or at least along this street, but that might be because it seemed to be reaching an older demographic.
WHAT TO DO IN ST. MARTIN
First off, you definitely will want to rent a car if you plan on getting the most out of the island. This is an extremely mountainous place, with many miles separating the Dutch and French sides. So, having a car will make traveling a bit easier throughout the country.
making friends with the sealife
This was the most insane experience EVER. I was beyond terrified to hop in the water with turtles, but I quickly learned that they are maybe the most gentle creatures ever.
SWIM WITH TURTLES
I was SO terrified to do this because if you know anything about me, you know that I am terrified of fish. So much so that every time I snorkel, I cry. No joke, I have had people think I was drowning from crying so hard while trying to stay afloat…. Anyways, this was honestly the best thing I have ever done. I immediately felt such peace when I got in the water and saw how the turtles slowly glided up for air. It was almost scary how calm I was during this, I literally felt no fear at all. It’s also pretty incredible how close you can get to these dudes.
Philipsburg is the main port for cruise ships visiting St. Martin, which means this is where you will find the most tourists. Because of this, you will find overpriced beach lounge chairs being sold on along Great Bay Beach and several tourist-traps. We did enjoy spending the day wandering around the shops and eating at a beach front pub. It’s a great day-trip if you are taking a break from the beach. However, I would say that you shouldn’t travel here at night because once the tourists leave, it becomes much sketchier. My best advice is to be in a group, take any valuables from your car & be smart!
TAKE A BOAT RIDE
Whether it be snorkeling, scuba diving, or just taking a catamaran, the best way to see St. Martin is by water. Unfortunately I had to leave a few days before the rest of my family, which might have actually been a blessing because they went on another snorkeling trip that was more immersive once I left. They opted for the 8-hour sailing tour which included unlimited drinks/snacks and brought them to Anguilla, a neighboring island, for part of the day. The only cautionary advice they shared is to stay hydrated if you do this excursion because hot Caribbean sun + unlimited beer + dehydration = a dangerous combo.
St. Martin is honestly one of the best tropical retreats that I have ever visited. I know that you will quickly find the culture and landscape to be breathtaking.
If you want a closer look at the trip, check out my video highlighting our trip!
Cheers! xoxo - Katie