In the heart of the Lesser Antilles, St. Martin is a popular stop on Caribbean island hopping cruises. The French Saint-Martin is more European with many natural attractions, while the Dutch St. Maarten has more high rises and waterfront communities.
Saint Martin is one of the top yacht charter destinations in the eastern Caribbean. Divided between the French Guadeloupe and the Dutch Netherlands Antilles, the island is one of the smallest land masses controlled by two countries. The French north, known as Saint-Martin, takes up two-thirds of the island or 53 square kilometers, while the more developed Dutch south, Sint Maarten, occupies an area of 34 square kilometers.
Situated between Anguilla and Saint Barthélemy (St. Barts), in the heart of the Lesser Antilles, St. Martin is a popular stop on Caribbean island hopping cruises. Even though there is no real borderline between the north and the south, the island offers two distinct holiday experiences. The French Saint-Martin is more European and contains more natural attractions, while the Dutch St. Maarten has more high rises, waterfront communities and a highly developed tourism infrastructure.
Saint Martin has a tropical climate with warm, sunny weather year-round. The average daily temperature is 25°C in the colder months from January to March and 28°C in the warmest period from June to October. February and March are the driest months, while the months from August to November get the most rainfall, with sporadic downpours and thunderstorms.
Tropical storms and hurricanes tend to hit from June to November, with the incidence of hurricanes increasing between August and October. The island is constantly cooled by easterly trade winds, which usually blow at 10 to 20 knots. The winds are lighter during the summer and stronger around Christmas.
The best time of year to visit Saint Martin is between December and April, when the weather is driest and temperature and humidity are not too high. June and July are the safest bets for a summer sailing holiday, with a lower risk of hurricanes and less precipitation than August and September.
Saint Martin has superbly equipped marinas which can accommodate a total of about 2,000 sailboats and its proximity to neighbouring islands makes it a popular destination for sailing adventures. There are about 10 marinas on the island and they all provide sailors with the amenities and facilities they need on a Caribbean cruise. The ports of entry at located at Marigot Bay, Anse Marcel and Oyster Pond.
The largest marinas are Anse Marcel Marina, also known as the Capitanerie, in Anse Marcel on the northern tip of the island, Marina Fort Louis and Marina Port Royal in Marigot on the western end, the Simpson Bay Marina and Bobby's Marina in Philipsburg on the southern Dutch side, and OysterBay on the island's east coast, near the border between the French and Dutch side of the island.
Saint Martin is a popular spot for water sports and offers numerous opportunities for other kinds of recreation, including golf and off-shore fishing. The northern side of the island harbours countless natural wonders and is ideal for long walks, with rocky coves, steep ridges overlooking cruise portsand sandy beaches providing the scenic charm.
The island's main attractions are its 37 beaches lined with cafés and beach bars that offer frozen cocktails and a wide selection of French and Caribbean dishes. Orient Bay is the most popular beach on the island. Located on the French east coast, the beach is reminiscent of the French Riviera, withnumerous restaurants and bars serving delicious French and local specialties and hosting a variety of music and fashion shows as well as parties at night. Visitors will also find a varied choice of activities, with recreation options including kite surfing, jet-skiing and parasailing.
Baie Rouge is one of the most stunning beaches on the French side, with an excellent view of Anguilla and passing sailboats, while Galion Beach is a favourite for families travelling with small children, as it is very shallow and protected by a reef.
Maho Beach, a popular swimming spot on the Dutch side, is situated next to Juliana Airport and offers a unique experience of seeing large planes taking off and landing a few feet above visitors' heads. The nearby Mullet Bay is one of the island's most beautiful beaches and a great place to spend a day relaxing and sipping cocktails.
The Great Bay Beach in Philipsburg is a good stop for those looking to do some shopping between various beach activities, while the Little Bay Beach is a top destination for snorkelling and scuba diving, with an artificial reef offering spectacular underwater sights. The Simpson Bay Beach, one of the island's longest, is a great spot to watch boats and superyachts anchored in the bay.
In addition to beaches, St. Martin offers a variety of historical and natural sights to explore. Fort Louis, the largest historical monument on the island, is situated above Marigot. Built in 1767 to defend the town from French invaders, the fort offers a panoramic view that stretches all the way toAnguilla.
Nature lovers can enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the Butterfly Farm, located in the seaside village of Quartier-d'Orléans, which harbours hundreds of exotic butterfly species in a beautiful tropical garden with a small waterfall and ornamental lakes. The St. Maarten Zoological Park in Philipsburg housescountless animals and birds, including a number of local species, and is a must-see. It is the largest zoo in the Caribbean.
Grand Case on the Anguilla Channel is the island's top dining destination. Nicknamed the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean, the town offers a variety of French meals in numerous eateries on its long main street and stunning views of fiery sunsets and the neighbouring Anguilla in the evening.
For sweeping panoramic views of St. Martin and neighbouring islands, travellers can hike to the island’s highest point (427m), Pic du Paradis. Loterie Farm, an 18th-century sugar plantation, is located at the foot of the peak. It is home to the Fly Zone Xtreme, a zip-line and obstacle course that sends visitors sailing over treetops and offers a day of adrenaline-fuelled adventure.
Marina port de Lonvilliers