Affordably Fun Things To Do in St. Maarten

One of my greatest joys is traveling. When I was young, while other kids were reading comic books, Hardy Boys, and Goosebumps, I was reading maps, fantasizing what it must be like on another corner of the globe. I could name every country and their capitals, major cities, and natural geographic features. Hence it is not too surprising that I would eventually choose somewhere across the seas to live and study, here in St. Maarten.

Being on this island for two whole semesters so far, I feel that I have seen and done quite a lot, and there is still so much to do. Here I’ve made a list of affordable, relatively-affordable, and not-so-affordable yet fun things you can do on this island and beyond. These activities are perfect for the AUC student who’s strapped for cash but want to take a break from studying for a few hours, a day, or a weekend.

Disclaimer: Make sure you get your studying done first before you venture off to do any of these fun, stress-relieving activities. Remember, academics first!

Irene and I on Pic Paradis

  1. Free Activities Within Walking Distance of Campus
  2. Free Activities That Require Some Driving
  3. Relatively-Affordable Activities (less than $50)
  4. Not-So-Affordable Activities, But Fun Nevertheless (Definitely over $50)
  5. Events and Festivities
  6. Neighboring Islands Worth Visiting
  7. Some Practical Information

Free Activities Within Walking Distance of Campus

  • Snorkeling in Mullet Bay Beach — If you have your own snorkeling gear (like me), Mullet Bay has much to discover: sea urchins, crabs, octopus, colorful fish. In terms of coral, there aren’t so many, if any. Suggested trip: snorkel along the rocks on the right side of the beach, until you get to Cupecoy Beach. Then, go hang out at Cupecoy Cave. Stay close to the coast when you snorkel because sometimes catamarans and jetskiers come pretty close to the shore.
  • Volleyball on Mullet Bay Beach — The afternoon after every block exam, AUC students (and sometimes professors) go play volleyball at the volleyball net on Mullet Bay Beach. Phi Chi also hold a fundraiser beach volleyball tournament every year during the AMSA/PhiChi Beach BBQ every semester, and it is a popular event among students. I’m not much of a ball player so I instead wade in the ocean and watch.
  • Natural BridgeWalk to the far end of Mullet Bay Beach and you will find a trail leading to a rocky coast. Here you’ll find many interesting rock formations, whale holes, and natural bridges.
  • Jump off a Cliff — If you keep walking along the rocky coast from the natural bridge, you’ll reach a 40 ft. cliff. Here, you can jump off and have a blast. But please make sure you go with someone who knows where it is. Jump at your own risk and be safe.
  • Cupecoy Cave — There are three ways to get there. As the cave is located at a private beach belonging to Cupecoy Beach Club Apartments, you can either find a friend who lives there who could let you in. Or, you could go to the beach at Windham Sapphire and follow the cliffs on the left side until you reach it. The most fun way is to snorkel there from Mullet Bay Beach. Just follow along the rocks at the right of Mullet Bay Beach.
  • Maho Beach — Yes, this is the famous beach where Boeing 747’s land just above your head while you wade in the crystal-blue waters. Maho Beach isn’t the best beach on St. Maarten but it certainly is one of the most fun precisely for this reason. Check out Sunset Beach Bar if you’re hungry or just want a drink, and enjoy watching the planes land and take off. Maho Beach is located on the other side of the golf course from AUC, about 30 minutes away on foot. If you don’t like walking, I’d suggest taking the public bus for $1 each way.
  • Watching the Game at Atlantis Casino — Many AUC students go to the sports lounge in Atlantis Casino to watch the game. I’m not a big sports fan, but I went once to go watch hockey during the Olympics and it was filled with American students on one side and Canadian students on the other cheering their respective teams. It was fun.
  • Then of course, there are the casinos (Atlantis Casino just right outside of campus, and Casino Royale in Maho) and the clubs (Tantra and Bliss, both in Maho). It’s obviously more fun to spend money at these places but there are no cover charges. If you choose to do so, please gamble and drink safely.

Plane-spotting on Maho Beach

Free Activities That Require Some Driving

  • Marigot Market — Every Wednesday and Saturday mornings, fishermen from St. Martin and Anguilla come to sell their fresh catch at the outdoor market at Marigot. Get your fresh locally-grown fruits and veggies here or bargain for the usual tourist-targeted merchandise. Visit the coconut man for a sip of yummy coconut juice, or try some conch at one of the local food shacks.
  • Fort Louis Overlooking Marigot, For Louis offers some fantastic views of the island and beyond.
  • Fort Amsterdam — Overlooking Philipsburg, Fort Amsterdam not only offers great views but also is perfect for the history buff. There are lots of ruins, old cannons, and plaques that explain the history of the place. Drive into Little Divi Bay hotel resort, park, then follow the signs up the hill to walk there.
  • Pic Paradis — Pic Paradis is the highest point on the island and offers wonderful vistas of the island and the ocean in all directions. A hiking trail on top links mountain peaks to mountain peaks. A one-way hike would take about 2 hrs to complete, or 4 hrs roundtrip, if you please to go that far. As the trail winds through forest and meadows, you may see mango trees (or even pick a mango or two to try), banana trees, and if you’re really lucky, you may spot a monkey. Drive past Marigot and follow the signs for pic paradis. At the top, you’ll reach a radio station. Park somewhere on the side of the road and follow the sign for the hiking trail.
  • Island Hopping Adventure — Off the coast of Lucas Bay lies four little, uninhabited islands. As the bay is shallow, it is easy to wade across the water from island to island, exploring what each has to offer. The waters are very clear and you can see starfish, sea urchins, and conchs.
  • Snorkeling the Shipwreck at Simpson Bay Beach — On the far side of Simpson Bay Beach, close to the drawbridge, there is a small shipwreck that may be worth exploring by snorkel. I have yet to do this one.
  • Snorkel the Caves at Baie Rouge — I’ve been recommended this one by several people. There is much to see when you snorkel along the bluff on the right hand side of the beach. There’s even an arch in the water so I hear!
  • Shopping on Front Street — Front Street is the main avenue in downtown Philipsburg and is basically one big outdoor mall with cars and tourists. It’s the most lively place to go shop on the island in my opinion. Jewelry stores, boutiques, upscale fashion stores, and restaurants line the street. Go visit the Yoda Guy. He’s one of the key artists who designed Yoda from Star Wars (along with characters from other movies) and he now runs a museum/store selling genuine Star Wars memorabilia.
  • Shopping in Marigot — Downtown Marigot also offers a lot of great shopping places. There are lots of upscale clothing stores like Promod that feature the latest st
    yles from Paris. If you are hungry, have a nice lunch at Sarafina’s, a very popular French bakery among the locals.
  • Hiking to Petite Cayes — On the north side of the island by the French Cul-de-Sac lies the St. Martin Natural Reserve. This entire area is secluded, protected, and pristine, and offers great hiking trails. Drive to Grand Cayes and park at the entrance of the landfill. Walk along the coast, and you should see a sign that maps out the hiking trail. Within an hour and a half of hiking, you will get to a hidden, secluded beach called Petite Cayes Beach. This is one of St. Martin’s best kept secrets and rewarding to hike to.
  • Hiking in Guana Bay On the east coast of the island on the Dutch side, a single-file trail takes you along grassy slopes and rocky cliffs in this beautiful, popular, and easy hike.
  • Orient Beach — arguably the most famous and popular beach in St. Martin. The right side of the beach is a very large and famous nudist resort, Club Orient. Otherwise, jump on a water trampoline, build a sand castle, or just simply enjoy the sun and the water.
  • Explore the Ruins of La Bella Creole Resort — La Bella Creole resort was once a famous five-star hotel in French St. Martin, offering one of the most luxurious living on the island. It was designed to resemble an old French village and provided views from its cliffs and beaches. All this changed, however, with the great Hurricane Luis of 1995. Ever since, the hotel could not be repaired and fell to looters. Today, you can go explore the ruins of the hotel, and see the fallen grandeur of this hotel. To get there, drive to the entrance of Baie Rouge and there will be an abandoned private road leading to the ruins. To be safe, go with a group of people.
  • Night Photography around the island — This is a fun activity to do if you love photography. Vistas to check out on your night escapade: Fort Louis, International viewpoint (on “the Hill” between Cole Bay and Philispburg), the Boardwalk in Philipsburg, Fifth floor roof of the AUC dorms.

Hanging out with my friends in Philipsburg

Relatively-Affordable Activities (less than $50)

  • Kayaking in the Lagoon — Simpson Bay Lagoon is a great place to go kayaking — the waters are stable, clear, and the scenery’s beautiful. Kayak to one of the small islands in the lagoon and do some exploration. There are several shops you can rent kayaks, but at Tri Sport, you can rent a double and go with a buddy for $29 for 4 hrs.
  • Butterfly Farm — Hardly any locals come here. Most people who come here are cruise ship tourists. Nevertheless, if you like caterpillars and butterflies all around you, this is the picture perfect place. $15 per person.
  • Pinel Island — This offshore island is pure-joy to be. It’s a nice place to lay on the beach or go snorkeling, and offers a wonderful view of St. Martin. Ferries leave from French Cul-de-Sac every half hour until about 4 or 5pm. Tickets are $7 per person round-trip.
  • Go Kart racing — If you drive past Marigot right before you get to Grand Case, you’ll see a Go Kart racing place on the right side. I don’t know how much it would cost but I can’t imagine it being that much. One of the classes at AUC once had a fundraiser Go Kart racing tournament here.
  • Paintball — There are two places I know of on the island where you can go paintballing. On the Dutch side, in Simpson Bay, not too far from AUC, is Kookamanga’s. They have a paintball court up front, with a crashed airplane in the middle of the court, and a tapas bar and restaurant in the back. They also have live music on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays. If you are driving from AUC to Simpson Bay, look for the airplane on the left. It’s hard to miss. Another paintballing place is on the French side near Orient Bay by the Cadisco gas station. Here, cost is around 20 euros, which include all the equipment you need minus the bullets. They are open Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 5pm. Look for the signs.
  • St. Maarten Zoo — The St. Maarten zoo showcases hundreds of animals from all over the Caribbean and beyond. There is a bat house, a reptile house, and an enclosed aviary you can walk into. For the kids, there is also a petting zoo and a fun pirate-ship-themed playground. The most fun part about the zoo, in my opinion, is that you can purchase peanuts to feed the animals in the zoo, and that’s something you can’t do in most zoos in the US. To get there, drive to the north side of the Salt Pond in Philipsburg. Entrance fee is $5 for kids and $10 for adults.
  • Sunday Brunch — Have all-you-can-eat champagne, oysters, crab legs, sushi, Italian pasta bar, hand-carved roasted lamb, fondue, and more at the Westin in Oyster Pond for $48 (you’ll eat your money’s worth). Then spend some time relaxing on Dawn Beach (where the Westin is), one of the nicer beaches on the island.
Geneve Bay

Geneve Bay

Not-So-Affordable Activities, But Fun Nevertheless (Definitely over $50)

  • Scuba Diving — With clear, azure waters and diverse marine life, St. Maarten is the perfect place to learn how to dive. If you’re already certified, great! Some well-known sites include Creole Rock on the French side and Proselyte (a huge sunken ship) on the Dutch side. Join the AUC Dive club to go on dive trips (at an affordable price) with your fellow AUC students. Several dive shops around the island offer discounts for AUC students, most notably Octopus Diving. I got certified with Octopus and I highly recommend them.
  • Parasailing — You’ll be surprising how relaxing it is being 800 ft in the air on
    a parachute dragged by the boat. Parasailing tours are available at Bobby’s Marina in Philipsburg. It’s $50 for 400ft and $80 for 800 ft.
  • Jet Skiing — I don’t know how much this would cost, but I’m sure it’s pricey. Nevertheless, it looks fun. There are tons of places you can go jet skiing. Any touristy beach like Orient Beach or the one in Philipsburg will have them and they usually charge per 15 minutes. Some places offer jet-skiing tours around the island or in the lagoon.
  • Kite Surfing — If you go to Le Galion Bay on the French side, you’ll see tons of people kite surfing, or in layman’s terms, surfing over the water while navigating with a kite. Some people can let the wind take them several feet into the air before landing on the water again. Take a class or rent the equipment and have some major fun!
  • Zip Lining — Zip from tree to tree, criss-crossing a valley high above the tropical forest below. The only way to do it is at Loterie Farms on the French side. When you drive past Marigot, look out on the right hand side for a sign pointing to Pic Paradis. Take a right there and go up the hill until you see a purple sign for Loterie Farms on the right. The most exciting zip lining course (and only one you should consider doing) is FlyZone Xtreme. Tickets are $80 and lasts an hour and a half or so.
  • Mud Bathing in Tintamarre Island — Tintamarre Island is a small island just off the coast of St. Martin. Despite its size, it has a fascinating history. At one point, it was home to 150 people, had its own airport and airline serving the region, and even had its own “king” at one point. All this is gone, however, and the island is now uninhabited. Today, the island is known for its mud bathing, where people come and lather themselves in the mud and baking in the sun before taking a dip in the warm waters of the beach. Once rinsed, your skin will feel soft and smooth. There are many tour boats that can take you to Tintamarre, usually as part of a snorkeling package.
  • Deep-Sea Fishing Trip — There are many charter boats that offer half-day or full-day deep sea fishing trips. Fishing is a pricey sport, but you may catch your money’s worth! Or, you can buy a cheap fishing pole from Ace’s Hardware in Cole Bay and go fishing off the docks anywhere around the island.
  • Horseback Riding — Go horseback riding on the beach at sunset with your loved one or go explore the trails of St. Martin Nature Reserve with a group of friends. Horseback riding can cost anywhere from $70 to $95 per hour per person. Several places offer it: OK Corral in Oyster Pond or Bayside Stables at Le Galion Beach on the French side. The best bargain would be at Seaside Nature Park, with rides starting at $60.

Irene and I scuba diving in St. Maarten

Events and Festivities

  • Carnival — With concerts, festivals, street parties, band competitions, pageants, and parades, Carnival season came to St. Maarten this past month, a holiday celebrated throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, and New Orleans (where it is called Mardi Gras). A tradition merging the Catholic, West Indian and African heritages of the region, Carnival is the largest celebration in the Caribbean.
  • St. Maarten Day — St. Maarten and St. Martin may be two different countries with different traditions, but St. Maarten’s day, held every year, celebrates the harmony between the two sides and the unity of the people on the island. Every year during St. Maarten’s Day (or St. Martin’s Day on the French side), thousands of local St. Maarteners and St. Martiners come to the festival center where they come see different local groups perform drumming, dancing, and skits. Food vendors selling local foods surround the entire complex at a cheap price, and people play games like dominoes or egg-toss.  Every year, the two sides alternate in hosting the event.
  • Heineken Regatta — Every year in March, St. Maarten holds the Heineken Regatta, one of the largest boat races in the world. More than 300 sailboats and their participants and supporters from all over the world come to the island to compete in a series of races that last for four days on both the Dutch and French sides. The race is an all-island event, complete with festivals, concerts, and street parties, so there is something for everyone, even if you are not sailing.
  • Fish Day — This local festival on the French side is all about the islanders’ love of fish and good times.

Grand Carnival Parade in Philipsburg

Neighboring Islands Worth Visiting

One thing great about St. Maarten is that it is not only a destination for traveling, but also an jumping point from which to do more traveling. Having St. Maarten as a home base is an opportunity. Ever since becoming a Caribbean med student, I have already traveled to Anguilla, St. Barths, Saba, Puerto Rico, Dominica, and Curacao. Here, I’ve created a guide to all of these places in the Caribbean that I have been, with the student in mind!

  • Anguilla (UK) — Anguilla is a British territory located 30 minutes from Marigot by ferry. Anguilla is most famous for its world-class beaches, and its quiet, rural setting, away from the crowds. Shoal Bay East is the most beautiful beach I’ve seen in my travels, and I highly recommend it. To get here, take the ferry from Marigot Harbor. One-way tickets cost $15 + $5 international departure tax. Car rental on Anguilla cost $30 + $20 temporary Anguilla driver’s license. They drive on the left side on the road. As Anguilla is a different country, remember to bring your passport! One day should be enough time to see the island.
  • St. Barths (Fr) — St. Barths is a very beautiful French island, much nicer than St. Maarten. The landscape is rugged and the towns and villages are cute, clean, and traditional. I highly recommend St. Jean Beach. The water is calm, clear and the view is magnificent. St. Barths is the most expensive place I have been to. If you plan to save money, smuggle in your own sac lunch. Several ferries can take you to St. Barths. I went with Great Bay Express for $80 round-trip. One day should be enough time to see the island.
  • Saba (Neth) — If you are to go explore another island during your stay at AUC, go explore Saba, a volcanic Dutch island that rises dramatically from the ocean (you can see it from AUC!). Saba is for nature lovers, and famous for its breath-taking scenery. Hike to the top of Mount Scenery, a defunct volcano twice as high as the tallest peak in St. Martin. If you are certified, dive Saba’s world-renown pinnacles. And of course, as an AUC student, meet some of your fellow med students from Saba University. Round-trip tickets are $100 for a 2-hour ferry, or if you are adventurous enough, take a 15-minute flight into Saba with Winair, onto one of the shortest and scariest runways in the world, flanked by cliffs. Saba is so beautiful you would want to stay at least 2 days to see the island.
  • Puerto Rico (US) —  The flight between St. Maarten and Puerto Rico is only 35 minutes, so it is a great idea for a long weekend trip or a break trip between semesters. There is lots to see and do and taste in this American commonwealth, and even after staying 8 days, there’s still much yet for us to explore.
  • Dominica — Nicknamed “The Nature Island,” Dominica is an island country known for its stunning unspoiled beauty. It is 290 square miles (8x larger than SXM) and has a population of around 72,000 people. Highlights: Second largest boiling lake in the world, Valley of Desolation, hot sulfur springs, warm welcoming people, Champagne Reef, Waterfalls, Ross University School of Medicine. 5 days is a reasonable amount of time to explore Dominica.
  • Curaçao (Neth) — Curaçao is a Dutch island off the coast of Venezuela. It has a unique culture that blends Latino and Dutch characteristics. Geographically a part of South America, it is unique among the Caribbean islands for having a desert landscape, yet has gorgeous beaches and excellent diving. As Curaçao and St. Maarten are both part of the Netherlands, flights in between the two islands are considered domestic and are therefore very affordable, considering the distance between them.


Some Practical Information

  • St. Martin vs. St. Maarten: Basic Information — St. Maarten/St. Martin is an island shared between two nations, French and Dutch. Because of this, the island is unique in that two different standards of living coexist together on one small island, from language, to voltage, to currency. Please visit this link for more information.
  • Hotels —  St. Maarten have tons of resorts and hotels of all sizes and price ranges. As this guide is geared more towards students, the hotels that I have listed in the link are the more affordable hotels on the island. For those looking for nicer hotels, you may consider the Westin, or even renting a beach house on the French side. The most expensive hotel on the island is La Semanna, located on the French side.
  • Restaurants — With it’s Dutch, French, African, and West Indian heritage, St. Maarten is well known in the Caribbean for its food. From fine French dining in Grand Case  to traditional roadside barbecues known as lolos, there’s tons of great eateries to choose from, representing culinary traditions from around the world.
  • Grocery Stores — Here, I’ve compiled a list of some of the more popular grocery stores both near and far from AUC’s campus.
  • TransportationYou can get around the island with taxi, public bus, or rental car. Taxi is a rather expensive option so I do not recommend it if you are on a budget. The bus is the cheapest option, but often comes sporadically. Car rental is the best way to explore the island, relatively cheaper than renting cars in the US. A regular American or Canadian drivers license is all that is needed to rent a car.

134 comments to Affordably Fun Things To Do in St. Maarten

  • Merci Benji and Irene,

    We are going ( MY WIFE AND 2 SMALL CHILDREN ) for a family vacation in a studio at Simpson bay resort and Marina. i WAS LOOKING FOR TIPS ON GROCERY STORES, and affordable family activities.

    Mon dieu… you did a hell of a job. Thank you very much and we are excited to get down there on Dec the 24 2011 to Jan the 7 th 2012. We lost both grandpas in last february and are searching for a fun thing to do with our kids. EXPECTATIONS are High, ANS EXCITMENT TOO…

    • Benji

      Thanks for visiting Jean.. I hope you and your family have a wonderful and safe trip to the island! The whether will be amazing during that time!

    • jan

      The best stores are not the biggest unless you are looking for fresh meats, fish. You will pay more at the big supermarkets. Do not go to the brunch at the Westin if you are a fresh oyster lover. They were frozen and dry and not fit for human consumption.

  • Benji –

    Thanks for this write up. My wife and I are in SXM for the next few days and are seriously considering exploring the ruins of La Belle Creole…I actually found your blog from your YouTube video on the subject. Very cool, and I’m even more curious now.

    I’m a bit apprehensive since you mentioned travelling with a group. Would there be serious concern in regards to vagrants or vandals? Has there ever been an attack or robbery reported?

    • Benji

      Hi Courtny,
      I hope you and your wife are having a great time in St. Maarten! La Belle Creole is definitely an interesting off-the-beaten-path place to visit, and when I was there, we didn’t see any vagrants, and as far as I know, I haven’t heard of any crimes happening there. I mainly suggested traveling in a group simply because it is off the beaten path, and like anywhere else in the world that is remote, it’s just better to have a second hand there in case something happens. Otherwise there are many people who have visited La Belle Creole without any problems. Hope you have a good trip!
      Benji

  • Thanks for the quick response and all the great information you’ve provided. I’ve used your site to make our stay a little more enjoyable (restaurant reviews & grocery stores). We found out the hard way the US market was so NOT so “U.S.” haha.

    Hope you have continued success, and appreciate the knowledge you’ve shared with a fellow traveler. 😀

  • John Rusenko

    Benji –

    You provided great, insightful, information – thanks!

    My wife and I plan on a Caribbean, three week vacation, at one rental, during February 2013. I noticed you recommended St. Barts as being more beautiful then St. Martins.

    Are there other Caribbean islands, you would recommend for a scenic, quiet, three week vacation? We want to rent on the water, preferably a two bedroom place. We are retired professionals, in our mid sixties.

    Thank you, in advance, for your anticipated assistance.

    John Rusenko
    West Chester, Pennsylvania

    • Benji

      Hi John,

      Thanks for visiting my site! If you like clear, blue waters, St. Maarten, St. Barths, and Anguilla are the best islands for that.

      I’d say if you are looking for luxury, then St. Barths is a great place for that. Of the three islands I mentioned, its standard of living and cleanliness is probably the best.

      If you’re looking for quietness, Anguilla is the quietest and most rural, and they definitely have some really nice beaches like Shoal Bay East, Shoal Bay West, Rendez-vous Bay, as well as lots of rental houses to choose from like Cap Juluca. The people in Anguilla are also very friendly, probably because it’s a more rural place. Unlike St. Maarten and St. Barths, the island of Anguilla is very flat (no mountains), so if you like island mountain scenery, it’s not the best place to go for that.

      If you’re looking for fun activities and great food, St. Maarten would probably be best for that among the three islands I’ve mentioned, as St. Maarten is large, developed, and has more choices for restaurants and activities. Although there is more development on St. maarten, in terms of standard of living or cleanliness, it’s not as nice as St. Barths, and certainly not as quiet as St. Barths or Anguilla. There are, however, some spots on St. Maarten that are scenic and quiet. I’d look into the French side.

      If you’re looking for luxury, St. Barths is probably the most luxurious of the islands I’ve mentioned, and also the most expensive. You can look into Eden Rock Hotel, which is on St. Jean Beach.

      Hope you and your wife have a great trip!

      Benji

  • Tanya Wildman

    Benji,
    We have a group of 10 adults ( 5 couples) and will be arriving in St. Martin on July 7th. To say we are excited it definitely an understatement! We are staying in a villa in Terres Bassess. How is the grocery shopping on the island? What grocery do you recommend? The information you provided is so helpful! Thanks for sharing!
    Tanya

    • Benji

      Hi Tanya,

      That sounds like a really exciting trip and I wish you all the best time in St. Martin/St. Maarten! As for groceries, the closest one to Terres Basse would probably be Le Gourmet Marche in Porto Cupecoy, on the Dutch side. It’s a small grocery store, but nice nevertheless, and has all the basics you need, along with fresh fruits and veggies, meats, and wine sections. If you’re looking for a larger grocery store, I’d recommend Le Gourmet Marche in Cole Bay or Bush Road. I’ve written a post about grocery stores in St. Maarten. Please check out here: http://www.caribbeanmedstudent.com/2010/05/grocery-stores-around-auc/

      Bon Voyage to your group!

      Benji

  • Mark in Wisconsin

    So looking forward to our 2 weeks on the island coming in late May. Thank you for an unbiased review of things to do, excellent web site.

  • Laura and Ken from Missouri

    Benji-

    My boyfriend and I found your blog a couple weeks ago while searching for ideas and things to do on the Island. We are going there from My 6th-13th. You have a beautiful blog with so many interesting things. Unfortunately, we will not be able to do them all. We were curious what you thought were must haves for the week we are there. We are in our 20’s and up for anything and everything. If you have a chance and don’t mind, would you please let me know what you highly recommend we hit up?

    Thank you again for your awesome blog. Very helpful and we look forward to our trip!
    -Laura and Ken

    • Benji

      Hi Laura and Ken,
      Thanks for visiting my site! There are definitely lots to do on this island and it’s difficult to know where to start!

      Relax
      Most visitors come to the island for its beaches, which I have to say is some of the clearest and bluest I’ve seen, even in the Caribbean. A fun and unique beach I’d recommend going is Maho Beach, right by the airport, where you can see the airplanes land just above the beachgoer’s heads. I’d recommend spending some time at Sunset Beach Bar while you’re there. Simpson Bay Beach is also really nice. I’d recommend checking out the free-spirited restaurant/bar on the beach called Karakter. The waves at Simpson Bay and Maho can be big at times and the descent into the water can be steep as well. If you want a shallow beach with very calm waves, I’d recommend Le Galion Beach on the French side. Arguably the most famous beach on the French side is Orient Bay, and it’s super popular and nice too. However, to warn you, on the south end of the beach is a famous nude resort called Club Orient, and it’s all nude sun bathers there.

      Adventure
      If you’re looking for adventure, I highly recommend ziplining at Loterie Farms on the French side in some of the last remaining forests on the island. There are several courses available, but the only one worth doing is the FlyZone Xtreme, in which they take you up the mountain and you zig zag down across the valley. The views are breathtaking and you get some mountain fresh air as well. St. Maarten also has some beautiful coral reefs, and so I’d recommend exploring it through either snorkeling or diving. If you’re going to snorkel, I’d recommend Captain Alan’s Snorkeling Adventures. He also takes you to an uninhabited island called Tintamarre for some mud-bathing. Apparently it has healing powers and is good for the skin. If you are diving certified and looking into diving, I’d recommend Octopus Diving. The couple that run it are really nice and take you out to some great places to dive.

      Shopping
      If you’re looking to do some shopping, I’d highly recommend Front Street and The Boardwalk in Philipsburg. Also on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings, I’d recommend checking out the outdoor market in Marigot. They sell everything from fresh-caught fish to local fruits and veggies, to local music, art, and souvenirs. After you shop in Marigot, I’d recommend climbing up to the nearby Fort Louis for some amazing views of the island.

      Food
      St. Maarten is a melting pot of cultures, and on this island, you’ll find food from all places. For French food, I’d head to the village of Grand Case. The main road is lined with fine French dining. For French pastries, I’d recommend Sarafina’s in Marigot. If you’re looking for something more down-to-earth Caribbean, local, and cheap, I’d recommend trying out one of the “lolos” (or outdoor roadside grills) in Grand Case. Also if you like seafood, I’d recommend trying Caribbean Lobster as well. Unlike Maine lobsters, Caribbean lobsters are much larger, have no claws (but have large meat-filled antennae), and have a sweeter tasting meat. Traditionally, in the Caribbean, they are also grilled rather than boiled/steamed. And the best place in St. Maarten to have Caribbean Lobster is at Johnny B Under the Tree. Not a lot of tourists know about this place, and most would characterize it as a hole-in-the wall, but Johnny B cooks up some mean Caribbean lobster.

      Off-the-beaten track
      There are tons of hiking trails in St. Maarten, like the hike up Pic Paradis or the coastal hike along Guana Bay, but my favorite is the walk through the shallow knee-deep waters to the little uninhabited islands in Lucas Bay. Here in the waters, you can find (and pick up) wild starfish, sea urchins, conchs, sting rays, and all sorts of wildlife. This place is definitely not on the tourist map but it’s a fun place to go explore, especially as a couple.

      So in summary, here are the top places I’ve talked about above:

      Relax: Maho Beach, Sunset Beach Bar, Simpson Bay Beach, Karakter, Le Galion Beach, Orient Bay Beach
      Adventure: Xtreme Zip Lining at Loterie Farms, Snorkeling with Captain Alan, Diving with Octopus Diving
      Shopping: Philipsburg Boardwalk and Front Street, Marigot Market (Wednesdays and Saturdays only), Fort Louis
      Food: French fine dining in Grand Case, Lolos in Grand case, Johny B Under the Tree
      Off-the-beaten track: Lucas Bay Island Hopping Adventure

      It’s so nice that you have a week on the island, and it should be plenty of time to do all this. I hope you both have an awesome time in St. Maarten!
      Benji

  • Laura and Ken from Missouri

    Benji-

    Thank you so much for your quick and extremely helpful response! We cannot thank you enough for all of the information. We are so excited for our trip and your blog will help us from being overwhelmed by all of the things the island has to offer.

    Much Love from St. Louis-
    Laura & Ken

  • melanie

    hi! i love your blog you gave us a lot of useful info! we already booked our trip to st. martin and we will be staying at the grand case hotel during the first week of september. how is the weather around september? i heard that there will be restaurants closing around that time. is that true? what restaurants will be open? any suggestions for bars and nightlife? thanks! 🙂

    • Benji

      Hey Melanie,

      Grand Case is a great place to stay! There’s tons of great places to eat there, whether it’s Caribbean or French, and the beach is nice too. The weather is nice around September. Actually, the weather is nice all year round. It’s a land of perpetual summer. Hurricane season starts around that time, but in my two years there, we’ve only had 1 hurricane pass by the island for a few days. Chances are, you’ll most likely not experience one (knock on wood).

      As for restaurants, most I’m pretty sure will be open. I’ve been there all year round, and never had any problems of not finding restaurants open. St. Maarten/Martin has tons of restaurants and I only know of maybe 2 or 3 that are open seasonally.

      As for bars and nightlife, I’d recommend Maho, on the Dutch side. If you’re into clubs, Bliss and Tantra are right there. If you’re thinking of bars, there’s Sky Beach (see my video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoweaAyDlOo&feature=plcp), Sunset Bar and Grill, Boat Bar (on Maho Beach). There’s also this party bus (Da Party Bus) that takes you bar hopping.

      Hope you have a great trip!

      Benji

  • Bryon

    Hi Benj:

    I am going on a Cruise in January with my mom and my 2 aunts. They are in their 60’s and 70’s. Do you have any suggestions for things to do and see the day we are in St. Martin? We would need to do something that does not require a lot of walking as they have leg issues. Maybe a good place to eat at for the day? Good places to sight see? Would like to find something really amazing to do that they would remember forever.

    I like your blog. Thank you for helping so many of us tourists out. You do a great job.

    Thank you for your assistance.

    Sincerely,
    Bryon

    • Benji

      Hey there,
      For an activity that doesn’t require a lot of walking, the beach is always a safe option, and this is something St. Maarten is famous for. One of the most unique beaches in St. Maarten (and arguably the world) is Maho Beach, where airplanes land right above the beach. It’s a lot of fun watching the planes land and take off, and the beach is pretty nice too.

      There’s tons of food options on the island, so whatever you’re in the mood for, they have it. There are lots of restaurants in Philipsburg (which is where the cruise ships dock), Simpson Bay, and Maho (which is where Maho Beach is). Philipsburg has great shopping, since everything is duty free. If you are into fine French dining, Grand Case (on the French side) is the place to go for that.

      Have fun on your trip!
      Benji

  • melanie

    benji,

    thanks for all your help!!! i am excited about our trip! we will definitely go to sky bar! we are not much into clubs, but we go to bars, great scenic spots and anywhere theres great food and drinks! :)i know st. maarten will be awesome!

  • Karen

    Hey Benji,
    My family (including my husband and 6 children are coming to st Martin via a cruise in December and I have a few questions relating to some of the info on your fabulous blog.
    1. We would like to do the zip line adventure but have kids ranging from 8 to 23, will the younger kids be able to do the extreme ride? We have heard it is for 18 and up only. You say that you’d only do the extreme ride, will my younger kids be bored with what is offered there?
    2. The hike to the uninhabited islands at Lucas Bay sounds right up our alley. Would it be suitable for younger kids(8 and 10 year olds)
    3. To do, these specific activities would we need to rent a car to get there or can we taxi or bus? What would be best?
    4. Last one I promise!— can we do both these activities in the 8 hours that our ship is at port?

    Thanks for taking the time to read this, I totally get it if you are too busy to respond! ( my husband is a pediatrician in his 20 year of private practice…!!)

    • Benji

      Hi Karen,
      Thanks for visiting my site!
      As for zip line, the FlyZone Xtreme is 18 and up whereas the regular Flyzone has no age limit. I think your younger kids would really enjoy the regular FlyZone, as they would still be flying through the trees, but just at a lower, safer height, and shorter course. I think the older kids would probably enjoy the Flyzone Xtreme more.

      I think the hike to the islands can be very safe for kids, especially the hike to Irene Island, which often times the water level is only ankle deep during low tides. For the other islands, the water can be stronger and knee to waist deep for adults, depending on the route you take, so I’d be a little more cautious for the younger kids. Lucas Bay is one of my favorite places on the island and I think your family would really enjoy it because you can see (and pick up) starfish, sting rays, sea urchins, and conchs in their natural habitat.

      The best way to get to loterie farms and Lucas Bay would be to rent a car. These places are in remote places and taxis or buses may not be accessible there. A US drivers license would suffice for renting cars. Both of these locations are on side roads, away from the main road, so make sure you have a map on hand, and take careful note of signs on the road.

      I think it’s possible to do everything in 8 hours, if we assume it takes 1.5 hour to pick up a car and drive to Loterie Farms, 2 hours at Loterie Farm, 1 hour to eat lunch, 0.5 hours to drive to Lucas Bay, 1.5 hours to see Lucas Bay, 0.5 hours to drive back to Philipsburg and return the car.

      I hope you and your family have a great trip to the Friendly Island (St. Maarten’s nickname)!
      Benji

  • Fran

    HI,
    Great info that your provided for everyone.
    My husband and I are going to St. Maarten in January for 8 nights. We are going to go zip lining and I also saw online a yacht/sailing race that I want to do. Have you ever heard of the 12 Metre Challenge? http://www.12metre.com/ It sounds really fun and has lots of positive reviews.
    I am also looking for a dinner cruise, do you happen to know of any?
    We are going to rent a villa near Oyster Pond with a private pool, sure hoping it is nice. We just returned from a trip in Jamaica where we stayed within the resort the entire time, I am really looking forward to exploring an island and seeing some of the culture St. Maarten has to offer.

    • Benji

      Sounds like yall are going to have an awesome trip! I haven’t heard of the 12 Metre Challenge, but St. Maarten is definitely a great place for yacht and sailing races. I don’t know much about dinner cruises, as I’ve never been on one. Oyster Pond is a great place to stay… it’s beautiful, quaint, and away from the hustle and bustle of Philipsburg or Simpson Bay. You’re gonna love it!
      Bon Voyage!
      Benji

  • Diomar

    Hi Benji,

    I wanted to thank you for such a complete guide of SXM, you have made a great job on this blog!

    My wife and I are going to Sr. Martin for the first time next month and the information you posted on your blog is gold to us.

    There is couple of questions I would like to ask you:

    – Would you recommend Shoal bay east in Anguilla over any beach at SXM? do you think it is worth a full day trip?

    – In your opinion, what is the beach with the warmest water in SXM? is the beach in Anguilla or St. Barths the same temperature as in SXM?

    – Finally, We have read several comments regarding security issues (robberies, car breaking-in, mugging on secluded areas of the island), Is it really that bad? do you have any special advice on this matter?

    We wish you all the best on your medical school program.

    Many thanks in advance for your answers.

    Kind Regards.

    • Benji

      Hi Diomar,
      Thanks for visiting my site and I hope you’ll have a great time in St. Maarten.

      Shoal Bay East is definitely one of the nicest beaches I’ve been to, and it’s worth checking out if you intend on spending lots of time at the beach. I feel the sand is whiter and the descent into the water is more gradual than many beaches in SXM. The beach is also well maintained and hardly has any seaweed or other debris on the sand. Anguilla has a different character than St. Maarten. It’s quieter, more rural, flatter,And of course, British. It’s an easy day trip, and doesn’t cost too much on the ferry ($15 each way, $5 international immigration fee once you land).

      I don’t think there’s much of a difference in the water temperature with the beaches. I think the temperature probably varies more according to the time of day and weather rather than the beach themselves. If its cloudy, it will be cooler, but never too cold.

      While uncommon, unfortunately crime does happen, like it happens anywhere else in the world. I’ve personally never experienced any crime, thank goodness, but I know a few of my classmates that have things stolen from their car, or their houses broken into. I’d say if you stay at a secure place, like a hotel, gated villa, or resort, you should be safe and have nothing to worry about. If you drive a car, make sure there is nothing you leave visibly in the car, and don’t leave anything expensive in the car either. Park in places where other people park, and walk in places where other people are. If you walk alone, make sure you are aware of who is around you. Follow the same precautions as you would anywhere else in the world, and you should have a safe trip.

      St. Maarten is a great place to visit, and I wish you both a wonderful time there.
      Take care,
      Benji

  • Diomar

    Hi Benji,

    Many thanks for your answers.

    We are already in this lovely island, so fare, everything just great.

    We will pay a visit to Shoal bay east based on your comments.

    Kind regards and good luck!

  • Shelly Schlegel

    Hello Benji, I have enjoyed reading your blog!! I have been to this gorgeous island 6 times, some day trip off the ship and also stayed on the island. It has been a while and we are staying at the Royal Palm Beach Resort and I was wondering where you would recommend going for groceries. Are groceries or alcohol expensive there? I don’t recall all those details and the couple going with us keep asking me those questions. Also looking for renting a jeep, do you have any insight on where our best deal may be? We are so excited and am so excited to come visit you university!! I was unaware there was a university there, my daughter is going to Michigan State University for pre-med and I am anxious to let her know about this university! Will be arriving on Halloween, does the island celebrate this holiday?

    Thank you and good luck with the rest of your education!

    Shelly

    Thank you

    • Benji

      Thanks Shelly for visiting my blog. As for groceries, there is a grocery store called Garden Market not too far from Royal Palm Beach Resort. Just take a right out of the hotel and go down the street. The store is on your right, and it’s large, so you can’t miss it. Groceries are about 1.5x more expensive but alcohol is cheaper. Often, it’s even cheaper than water! As for jeep rentals, I don’t know, as I’ve never rented jeeps before, but there are plenty of car rentals on the island. The island does not celebrate Halloween, but the students surely do! Every year, the student body hosts a school-wide halloween party and costume contest at Tantra where they bring in faculty judges. It’s so much fun, and people get very creative and witty with their costumes.

      Best of luck to your daughter on her pre-med studies! Come visit AUC if you get a chance! 🙂
      Benji

  • Linda

    Where is Lucas Bay? I was interested in your comments to wade to the four unihibited islands off Licas Bay but when I view the island maps I do not see any reference to Lucas Bay.

  • Hanna

    Thank you so much for all of the time you have invested in this very informative site! I will be staying at divi little bay in may. Do you know anything about this resort? I was wondering if my AT&T iPhone will work on the island? I have read that you can rent a phone there but it’s imperative that I have my own phone number in working order at all times. (I wish that were not the case but life has its trials and tribulations)

    Also. To go horseback riding, are jeans and sturdy shoes required?

    • Benji

      Hi Hanna! I’ve been to that resort before, but I’ve never stayed there. It’s nice since it has its own beach and bay, and it’s also right by Fort Amsterdam and Philipsburg. As for AT&T, I’d contact them to see what their international roaming charges are. Most likely it would be so expensive that it’s better not to use it. You can certainly purchase a Chippie SIM Card with prepaid minutes. However, you’ll need an unlocked phone for it to work. I’m not sure about horseback riding. I’ve never done it on the island before. I’d contact the company to find out. Bon Voyage!
      Benji

  • Lonnie

    My girlfriends and I (4 total) are looking into going to St Martin. We want to relax by the ocean but also want to be close to shopping and night life. Would you recommend renting a condo/house or staying in a hotel? I have been looking at several different hotels and or condos and I feel overwhelmed. Thanks for your help.

    • Benji

      Hi Lonnie, that sounds like a fun trip! I’d say if you want to be close to shopping and night life, the best bet would be to find a resort in the Pelican Key/Simpson Bay area or the Maho area.

      Maho has the Casino Royale, beach bars, great restaurants, as well as two night clubs (Bliss and Tantra). The main hotel in Maho is Maho Sonesta. Sky Beach is also there, which is a rooftop “beach bar” that has a cool ambience. Maho Beach is also where the planes land really close to the beach, so that’s always fun to go to. If you want a less crowded beach, Simpson Bay Beach and Mullet Bay Beach are also within walking distance.

      Pelican Key and Simpson Bay also has hotels, restaurants, and a few bars on the beach, one of which has a bonfire and crab races. The area is a little more spread out, however, so you may need a car to get to different places.

      There are other resorts around the island with really nice beaches (like Westin), but far away from shopping and night life. Your best bet for night life and nice beaches would be Maho.

      Benji

  • Brian Viveiros

    Hi there, i just wanted to thank you for all the very useful information as i am visiting st maarten on the 28th of feb 2013 😉 cheers.

  • Sumit Puri

    Hey Benji,
    So I liked ur video on cranial nerves.What app is that you used to create the beats and voice. I think that is a good way of remembering stuff.
    Sumit

    • Benji

      Hey Sumit,
      Thanks! I used Fruity Loop Studio to make the synthetic voice and beats. I then mixed it with pictures and made the video on Windows Movie Maker. It was fun making the video, and even more fun learning from it! 🙂
      Benji

  • Valerie

    Benji,

    We will be visiting St. Maarten the middle of May 2013 as part of a cruise and it was great to stumble upon your website, what a wealth of information. I hope May isn’t too far into the rainy period. My husband and I love to snorkel and bring our own stuff so which beach has the best snorkeling? You said Mullet Bay has no coral which is usually where you find the best fish. Thanks a lot for your blog, the anticipation of the trip is fun!

    Valerie

    • Benji

      Hi Valerie! That sounds like a fun trip you will be taking! Hopefully it will be sunny. If not, the rain is usually just intermittent, lasting maybe 10-20 minutes per time. As for snorkeling, the beaches in St. Maarten usually don’t have much, if any coral. A lot of people who want to see coral go on snorkeling tours that take you on a boat to places that have more coral, like near Creole Rock on the French side. A popular snorkel tour is Captain Alan’s: http://www.captainalan.com/
      Have a good trip!
      Benji

      • Lyn

        <Hi Benjy,
        I was so glad to find your blog. We have been to St.M before but are always looking for new things to do. I had a few questions you may be able to help me with. First, for the Flyzone xtreme, how strict are they on the 18 year age minimum. We did the regular flyzone three years ago when my daughters were 12 and 15 and they were a bit unimpressed. Now they are 18 and 15 and were hoping for something a big grander. Just wondering if they would let the 15 year old.
        Also, we snorkeled at creole rock last visit which didn't seem to have very many fish. Which spot do you think is the best?
        Oh, one more thing. What is the drinking age?
        Thanks and keep up the great work!
        Lyn

        • Benji

          Hi Lyn,
          As for the Flyzone Extreme age requirements, I would contact Loterie Farms to see what they say. I’ve only been on it with people my age. Flyzone Extreme is definitely a fun experience. I haven’t done too much snorkeling in St. Maarten, but in terms of diving, Creole Rock is one of the nicer places to dive. I’d check on TripAdvisor to see what people say. The drinking age is 18, but stores and restaurants often do not check ID. Have a good trip!
          Benji

  • Javier

    Hi Benji,

    Thanks a lot for your fantastic blog.

    I will be on St Martin next week for 9 days with my girlfriend and another couple for 9 nights.

    We are on our thirties and will be staying at a Condo on Orient Bay.

    Could you please recommend tbe best groceries there or on the island as we will be renting a car?

    Also we want calm and relax but maybe some night life there on Orient Bay? Any club or nigth option we can do.

    Finally if you could recommend me any actitivies while staying at Orient Bay will be really helpfull.

    Thanks a lot and congratulations for your blog.

    • Benji

      Hi Javier,

      Orient Bay is definitely a nice, beautiful beach to spend your time at. I’m not too familiar with that area, as it is on the opposite side of the island from where I lived. However, I do know that there is a large French grocery store on that side of the island on the main road called US Imports. It has pretty much everything you need and lots of French/European produce, bakery, etc.

      Around Orient Bay there is also the Butterfly Farm as well as a horseback riding place right next to it. There are a few bars on Orient beach where you can rent umbrellas, chairs, and a drink for a decent price. I’m not familiar with clubs on that side of the island, but if you go to Maho Beach (near the airport), there are two clubs: Tantra and Bliss. There is also a bar called Sky Beach, in which they put a beach bar on top of a building (above Bamboo Bernies’ in Maho). It has a nice ambience. There are also Sunset Beach Bar as well as Boat Bar on Maho Beach itself that are fun places to hang out and see the airplanes land right above the beach. If you are in the Pelican area, there is also a beach bar there called Buccaneer Beach Bar that has a bonfire on the beach every weekend night, as well as crab races. They also often have live music.

      Have a good trip!
      Benji

  • Betsy

    Hi. My 19 year old daughter and myself are going for our first ever week long mother daughter trip to St Maarten staying at Sonesta Great Bay, Philipsburg, leaving Saturday. We have never been and are very excited for our trip. I have enjoyed your comments and if you have any recommendations for the two of us girls we would appreciate it!!! Thanks. Betsy

  • Betsy Morrison

    Hi!! My 19 year old daughter and I will be traveling to St Maarten and leaving Saturday. Will be staying at Sonesta Great Bay in Philipsburg. What are the 3 must dos? Also any tips about taxis would be helpful.

  • Adam

    Hi Benji. I agree with everyone else here, fantastic guide. I’m coming for 2 weeks in May at Mont Vernon condos in Orient Bay. I can’t wait! Who knows what a young single guy such as myself will get up to haha
    I don’t have touristy questions after adding to my already large list of things to do after reading your blog. But just wanted to say thanks for the effort you’ve put into this.
    Cheers.

  • Jil

    Hello,
    Great information. Sorry if this was already covered- there’s a lot of info here! My boyfriend and I are coming on a Carnival Cruise in July and we want to hike. I don’t know the geography of the island very well, but a lot of hiking places seem to be far from where the boat will be. Is there anything close and not super touristy (aka crowded)? We don’t really want a guided tour or a group hike. Just somewhere we can get to easily and not get lost 😉 Thanks!!

    • Benji

      Hi Jil,
      Unfortunately there aren’t any places I can think of close to where the cruise ships dock where you can go hiking, at least not in walking distance. For most hiking spots, you’d more than likely have to rent a car, or hire a taxi to get there. The closest one I can think of is Guana Bay: http://www.caribbeanmedstudent.com/2011/08/hiking-in-guana-bay/ which offers some nice scenery. St. Maarten is a fascinating place. Hope you have a good trip!
      Benji

  • Renee

    This page is a great find! I’m planning a day trip to the island in a few weeks (arriving via plane from Nevis) and your blog has been a great help in narrowing down the hit/miss list. Thanks for all your hard work 😉

  • Liam

    Dear Benji,
    Hi is there any cool facts you know about Saint Martin French side my friend was wondering he is going there in 2 weeks.
    Brett

  • Hi Benji
    Amazing – how you got time to study I do not know:)
    I don’t know if you are still up-dating your info, if you are, under “Free Things to Do” you could list that we hand out a Free Snorkel Guide to the island – no purchase necessary. The guide has details on 12 different sites around the island – all with info on how to get there, where to park, facilities and of course info about what to see. We have personally snorkeled all the sites and return to them on a regular basis.
    Best of luck with the rest of your studies, and I hope you get to enjoy SXM again when you return for your graduation ceremony.
    Kim

  • Ray

    Hi. I’m staying at the royal islander la plage. I’m looking for a gym to work out that’s within walking distance. Do you suggest any? I’m looking for free weights and a bench press. Thanks.

    • Benji

      Hi there, I’m not familiar with the gyms around that area. I’d contact your hotel for better information. Hope you have a good trip!
      Benji

  • ben

    Hi Benji, thanks for the great insight! I have two 17 year old twins and we are going to the the Sonesto Maho all inclusive resort. How strict will the bars be with letting my boys have alcoholic drinks?

    • Benji

      I’m not sure. The rules inside a resort may be different from those at the local package store. Please keep your boys safe when drinking underage, and hope you have a great trip to SXM.

  • Mark

    My wife and I went to St. Maarten a couple of years ago. We are going again in a couple of weeks & staying at the Westin Dawn Beach Resort. Any recommendations for return visitors?

    • Benji

      The Westin is a great resort with a beautiful beach! My class had our Fifth Semester Party there. I’m not sure what you’ve seen or what you’re interested in, but you can’t go wrong with lounging by the beach in St. Maarten. Check out Pinel Island.

  • lori

    You web page is fantastic. So many wonderful tips and lots of information. I was wondering if you could help me. I am traveling to St. Maarten in an month and I have 2 teenage children. They like fun and adventure. We are doing Dolphins in Anguilla but other than that I am still not sure what are the best things to do. Do you have any suggestions for the best things for them to do? they love water sports, trampolines, banana boats…stuff along those lines. Also we are deciding where to stay. The flamingo, the royal palm or something in that area. Do you have any better recommendations?

    • Benji

      You’re kids will love zip-lining at Loterie Farms on the French side, where you zip across the valley down the mountain. It’s not cheap (Flyzone Xtreme — $80), but it’s fun and memorable. Make sure to go down to Maho Beach (Sunset Beach) to catch the planes landing right above your heads. Definitely memorable and great photo opportunities. As for places to stay, Maho or Simpson Bay are good areas to stay because it’s more developed and there’s more stuff to do around there. While Royal Palm is affordable and has comfortable accomodations, they don’t have a good beach (not enough sand). I’ve never been to Flamingo but from pictures it looks like it has a slightly better beach than Royal Palm. I’d also recommend looking into Sonesta Maho Resort, or somewhere in Philipsburg.

  • Shelia

    Hello Benji,
    My friend and I will be staying at the Oyster Bay Beach Resort which is in Philipsburg. Do you know if this is a nice resort? We will be there for a week and want to have fun and relax. The information you have given so far is absolutely the best

    • Benji

      Hi Shelia! Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you and your friend will have a great time in St. Maarten! The Oyster Bay area is nice and quaint, away from the hustle-and-bustle of Philipsburg, and the beach there is beautiful. I’ve never been to the resort, so I can’t comment on it. You’ll have a great time!
      Benji

  • Brian J

    Hi Benji, great job on the site. It’s quite gracious of you to take the time to share your experiences and answer questions. If I may, I’d like to ask one of my own?
    My wife and I are coming just after Christmas and plan to explore the island and visit places like the forts, beaches, pic paradis etc. I’d also like to do some photography at sunrise/sundown. Some of the comments I’ve read about safety have me curious. I’m about 50 yrs old and in good shape. Is it mostly senior citizens concerned about crime or should I be as well?
    Your thoughts as a young resident are most welcome!

    • Benji

      Hi Brian,

      St. Maarten is a great place to visit, with photo opportunities everywhere. However, crime can certainly happen not just to senior citizens but everyone. I would take your normal travel precautions whenever you visit a new place. Always keep an eye out on your surroundings, and do not walk in non-populated/non-touristy areas at night (like some of the back streets of Philipsburg or the Maho golf course). Touristy, populated areas that have nightlife like Maho, Simpson Bay, or Grand Case are generally safe at night. While the beaches and forts are generally safe to go at sunrise and sunset, I would only go to pic paradis during the daytime. If you are renting a car, do not leave anything visible in the car, not even something as simple as an umbrella or bag. Leave your valuables at the hotel.

      I hope you and your wife have a good time in St. Maarten!
      Benji

  • Dennis

    Can you rent scooters in Phillipsburg? If yes, where and how much do they cost

    From cruise pier, how far is Marigot. What would the taxi fare be?

    • Benji

      Hi Dennis. I don’t recall seeing any scooters around, but this doesn’t mean there aren’t anyone who rent them out. Nevertheless, I don’t recommend them either as the roads in St. Maarten aren’t the best, and with the traffic, can be dangerous. Marigot is about 30 minutes driving by car, assuming traffic isn’t too bad. I don’t know how much taxi would cost between these two cities since I don’t have much experience with taxis on the island.

  • Adrianna

    Hi Benji! me and my hubby are visiting the island in January. Any ideas of what we should hit up? We are in our early 20s and looooove the outdoors. We are looking into visiting Antigua and St Barts if time allows. Also, we were thinking of renting a car for a day or so to visit the island by ourselves. Where can we rent a car? I see some places require you to be 25. I am 23 and my husband is 24, any idea where we cant rent one? We are staing at a resort at the Maho Beach.

    Thank you for all your help!
    Adrianna

    • Benji

      Hi Adrianna,

      Definitely consider any of the activities I’ve listed in the article. You can rent cars at the airport. There will be plenty of car rental companies vying for your business once you exit baggage claim. I know in the US the age requirement is 25, but I don’t think this is so in St. Maarten, and if it is, I don’t think they are that strict in abiding by this rule. Try renting one anyway. Maho Beach is a great place to stay because of the night life and plane-spotting. Have fun on your trip!

      Benji

  • Heather

    Island hopping at Lucas Bay sounds awesome! We are visiting St Martin on a cruise ship in March- what would be the best way to get there and is it difficult to find?

    Thanks,
    Heather

    • Benji

      Hi Heather, it’s one of my favorite activities on St. Martin! It is a little difficult to find if you are not familiar with the island. Just get really familiar with a map and follow the road along the coastline, then you’ll probably see it. The best way to get there is by renting a car, as I don’t know of any buses that get there, and since it’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s not likely you can flag down a taxi. Have a fun trip!
      Benji

  • donald wolfe

    Can you take a bus from airport to Philipsburg? If not, what does a taxi cost?

    • Benji

      Yes, you can take a public bus (looks more like a van) to Philipsburg. It should cost around 4 bucks. Taxi is expensive in St. Maarten, and would probably cost over $15 bucks if I had to guess (I’ve never actually taken the taxi to Philipsburg before). With that price, you’re better off renting a cheap car for $25 during off-season, or $35 during busy season.

  • donald wolfe

    Thanks for the information Benji. You have a great blog. Will the bus driver complain about my luggage. I will have one suitcase and a small carry on bag with me. I am suppose to leave for me trip on January 21. Should I be concerned with the outbreak of chikungunya virus during my stay on St. Martin? Best of luck with your medical career.

    • Benji

      Hi Donald,

      If you are coming to St. Maarten for the first time with luggage, I wouldn’t recommend riding the public bus. The buses are actually vans and can become crowded, without much space for luggage. They run on specific routes and may not stop at your hotel. Taxi or car rental would be most convenient. If you go by taxi, make sure you agree on a price before you board.

      There are certainly lots of mosquitos in the Caribbean, and Chikungunya and Dengue fever are real risks. I’d recommend either wearing protective clothing or spraying exposed areas of your body with mosquito repellant whenever you go out. From my two years living in St. Maarten, I’ve never gotten sick. I’ve only personally known one student who had contracted Dengue, but even in her case, she wasn’t even aware she had Dengue, and just thought she had a mild case of the common cold, despite her blood test showing otherwise. Of course, severity may vary from case to case but I’d imagine most cases of either disease to be relatively benign. Fatality or permanent disability is extremely rare in either disease. Nevertheless, take preventive precautions I’ve mentioned above to lower your risk of exposure.

      Have a safe and fun trip, and thanks for reading!

      Benji

  • donald wolfe

    Thanks Benji for your help and your provided information. You are a great help for people who love to travel. On there way to enjoy St. Maarten. I will pack some bug spray for sure. I look forward to enjoying a wonderful holiday, visiting the friendly island! Donald

  • Rajni Patel

    Great blog with a lot of information on various topic. We are a group of 8 adults on a cruise and St Maarten is one of the port along with St Thomas and others that we will be stopping at for a few hours so wondered how much of the island we could see in about 6 hours as that is all that we would have time for before we would have to board the ship againg. Thank you Benji in advance for your reply and keep up the blog.

    • Benji

      Hi Rajni,
      That sounds like a lot of fun. I think it all depends on what you want to do. If you want to see the whole island, both Dutch and French sides, I think it’s very doable to rent a car, and drive the road that encircles the whole island, choosing a few key points along the way, like Front Street Philipsburg, Maho Beach to see the planes land, International Viewpoint, Marigot Market/Sarafina’s/Fort Louis, Grand Case, and Lucas Bay. It’s possible to drive around the entire island non-stop in 1.5 hours, if there is no rush hour. Have fun!
      Benji

  • Rajni Patel

    Hi Benji

    Thank you for a quick response we probably hire a taxi or do a deal with someone local for a 8 seater so we can stay together. We dock at Philipburg 8:00am till 5:00pm so from what you are saying we would have about 4 hours to se some of the sights you mention above. I like photography so Fort Louis, Maho beach and Lucas bay seem good to stop off at, the market and Front Street would probably be on interest to the ladies.
    Thank you and hope your studies are going well wise all the success.

    Rajni

  • Nancy Landsman

    Hi Benji,
    I’m considering staying at the Atrium Beach Resort and Spa in Simpson Bay next month. Are you familiar with it and the surrounding area? If so, can you tell me what there is to do there for adventure and fun (besides eating and shopping)?
    Thanks very much!
    Nancy

  • Cari

    Hey Benji, love your blog. My husband and I are going to St. Maarten for our 25th anniversary in April. Staying at Sonesta Maho. I want to go out for dinner on our anniversary, someplace special. Our age group is 45+. (the Keg to me is my speed, if you know what The Keg restaurant is). I like the idea of zip lining as well at Loterie farms. Any particular boat cruise you would recommend? Not much of a snorkeler or drinker though. Thanks for any info.

    • Benji

      Thanks Cari for reading, and congratulations on you and your husband’s 25th anniversary! That is indeed something to celebrate! There are plenty of nice restaurants in St. Maarten, and plenty of French cuisine too, given that half the island is French. For steak, you could try Rare or Temptation, which are technically two restaurants, but have the same chef and are next to each other. I’ve never been, but it is a local favorite, and frequently visited by celebrities who come visit the island. http://www.rareandtemptation.com/EN/temptation/

      There are also many food choices in Simpson Bay, as well as many french restaurants in Grand Case to check out.

      I’m not familiar with boat cruises off the island.

      I hope you have a great trip!

      Benji

  • Debbie

    My husband and I have been coming to St Martin for years and stay in Cupecoy. This year my daughter is coming along and wants to cliff dive. Do you know of any safe places to cliff dive?
    Thanks

    • Benji

      Hi Debbie,
      Yes, just behind Sonesta Maho hotel, there is a cliff that people like to dive from. Many people I know have jumped it without any issue, but please be careful, as any extreme activity has its risks.
      Benji

  • Luke

    Benji,

    This is a really cool site that you’ve put together. Thanks for the ideas! In particular, I will probably be snorkeling in the area you suggest in Mullet Bay (to Cupecoy Cave) and I would really like to go to visit the ruins of La Bella Creole, though I may not have time and I am traveling solo, so I’d have to talk someone else into going. Do you know if the ruins are still accessible?

    • Benji

      Hi Luke,
      Thanks for visiting my site! Mullet Bay is a nice beach, and especially popular among students, since campus is just a few steps away. La Belle Creole is a unique place to visit, and definitely off the radar. I don’t think the ruins have ever been officially “accessible” since it is an abandoned area, but yes, you can certainly go there without an issue. Have fun and stay safe!
      Benji

  • Ivon

    Hi Benji. thanks for all the information. My husband and I are taking a cruise this May and our first stop is at St Maarten(8am-.6pm). We are taking our 6 yr old son with us. The ship excursions are expensive so I was wondering if you can help us find some stuff to do that day besides hanging out at the beach. Are there local ferry trips or feeding stingrays which I read from another website?

    • Benji

      Hi Ivon! That’s exciting that you are going to St. Maarten. You could always go explore the island on your own by renting a car for the day. There are some fun things that you can do with a 6 year old:

      St. Maarten Park is a small zoo on the island with many different types of animals, like parrots, monkeys, capybara, ostrich, etc. The best part of the zoo is that you can buy peanuts to feed the animals, something they don’t really allow you to do in zoos back in the states. Your son may enjoy feeding the animals.

      Maho Beach (Sunset Beach) is also a fun place to go that I think your son may enjoy. It’s not your typical beach experience. It’s fun to see airplanes land so close to the beach above you.

      Another family-friendly attraction is the Butterfly Farm, where you see many different species of butterfly flying around you.

      I haven’t heard of feeding stingrays on the island. There are ferries that go to neighboring islands, like Saba, Anguilla, and St. Barths, but they are a little expensive, and would only be worth going if you could stay at least a day there. Another ferry you could take is to go to Pinel Island, just off the coast of St. Maarten. A lot of people come here because they have a nice beach that has a great view of St. Maarten, as well as snorkeling and some restaurants.

      Have fun!

      Benji

  • Joanna

    Hi Benji!

    Your blog is SO helpful! My fiance and I will be doing our honeymoon in St. Maarten and I found your blog to be so informative.

    Few years back, my family and I stopped at St. Maarten as part of our cruise trip, and I recall this shack, literally a shack that was situated right on the beach! The owners were two french men. It was the BEST fish sandwich I’ve ever had and I know it’s probably a far fetch to ask you if you by any chance know or heard of it? If you do, please share the name!

    I’m so excited about your blog, I forwarded your site to a gf of mine who’ll also be in St. Maarten in July!

    Thank you!

    Blessings,
    Joanna

    • Benji

      Hi Joanna, congratulations and hope you both will have lots of fun in St Maarten. I’m not sure of a shack with awesome fish sandwich. There’s several shack restaurants on Orient Bay Beach as well as on Pinel Island. There is an outdoor restaurant on Simpson Bay Beach as well but I don’t remember the name. Sorry, wish I could be more helpful, but it’s been a while since I’ve been on the island myself. Have fun!
      Benji

  • Jeff

    Hi Benji,

    I am quite impressed with your website, it has a lot of great information. As it turns out, I am going to be visiting St Maarten with my wife as a celebration of our anniversary as well as finishing med school in the states, so I was quite interested to hear that there is a med school on St Maarten! Also, we call our youngest son Benji, so yet another connection that drew me to your site.

    Anyway, I was just curious about your comments about hiking to Petite Cayes – is the 1.5hrs you said it would take to hike a generous and leisurely timeline? We had hoped it would be closer to 30-40 minutes from some other comments we came across.

    I do hope residency is going very well for you.

    All the best!

    • Benji

      Hi Jeff! Congrats on your anniversary and I do hope that you’ll have a great time in St. Maarten with your wife! Yes, St. Maarten is an unlikely place to find a medical school, but it was an exciting place to study, and I had a wonderful time there. As for the hike to Petite Cayes, I went with a group of friends and I say we had a relatively leisurely walk since we stopped a lot to take pictures along the way, and it took us 1.5 hours to do that. If you started hiking from Grandes Cayes, like we did, I’d say 30-40 minutes is really rushing it. Perhaps it would be shorter if you started hiking from the Radisson (Anse Marcel). Hope you have a great time!
      Benji

  • Coulson

    Your site has been awesome, thank you for all the wonderful info! My wife and I will be visiting St. Maarten on Sunday and our tour unfortunately got canceled due to Fish Day. I am trying to decide if we should book another excursion or if we should do something that you have listed on your site. I have a couple questions if you could help me out.

    Is Fish Day something that would be worth seeing? What does it consist of?

    How far is the swim from Mullet Bay to Cupecoy Cave? That sounds like a blast!

    Thanks for you help!!

    • Benji

      Hi Coulson,
      I hope you and your wife have a good time in St. Maarten. I’m sorry to hear your excursion was cancelled. I’ve been to the Fish Day festival before, and it is a fun, local festival dedicated to seafood. There are tons of local food vendors there that sell fish, lobster, whelk, etc. cooked Caribbean-style. Not a lot of tourists there, so it’s a great if you want to see something more local and less-touristy. Here’s a post of my Fish Day experience: http://www.caribbeanmedstudent.com/2010/05/its-fish-day/

      If you are going this Sunday, Carnival is also going on this whole week, definitely a colorful, Caribbean tradition. http://www.caribbeanmedstudent.com/2010/05/carnival-2010/

      The swim from Mullet Bay to Cupecoy Cave is quite a swim, but the only way to get there publicly if you are not a Mullet Bay Beach Club resident. I’ve never done the swim myself but I’d say it would probably take about 30 minutes one-way to get there.

      Hope you have a good time!
      Benji

  • Alie

    Hello Benji!
    i am looking to visit with a girlfriend or 2.
    We are 30-somethings, but we dont want to get too rowdy, but we also dont want to feel like old 6o year olds
    Any suggestions?
    I have read up a lot of places close shop after sunset, but the ones that dont, seem to be more nightclub oriented.
    We’d love to hear some good reggae, get a great view, some good rum, white sand and crystal blue water with other people our age all while having a good time.?

    • Benji

      Hey Alie! I’d recommend Sunset Bar and Grill on Maho Beach, where you can see the planes land over the beach… Always fun to watch no matter what age you are. Also there are some places in Maho with live music, like Soprano’s piano bar where you can request songs on piano and have a drink. Not sure where to hear reggae… You don’t really hear reggae all that much on this side of the Caribbean, at least not as much as Calypso. Here it’s all about Calypso. I’m not a big fan of calypso (I actually can’t stand it haha) so I’m not too familiar with good place to hear it. Hope yall have a great time!

  • Kalie

    We are looking to rent a boat with a captain for the day to take us to St. Barth’s and possibly some other islands. Do you have any recommendations on a company?

    • Benji

      Hi Kalie,
      I am not familiar with any captains in the area. When my friends and I went to St. Barths, we took the Great Bay Express Ferry Service. It was about 60 euros and took about 45 minutes each way. If you want a private captain, I’d suggest contacting a travel agent. Have fun on your trip!
      Benji

  • We are going to St. Maarten for a 3 day visit soon. My flight arrives at 10pm and I need to get to the Westin. Is it pretty safe to drive from the Airport to the Westin at night? A lot of places seem to indicate it is dangerous.

    BTW: your blog is awesome!

    • Benji

      Hi Grabamile,
      I haven’t had any issues driving at night in a car. As long as you don’t walk around in strange places at night, you’ll be fine. Have a great trip!
      Benji

  • Darla

    Hi Benji,
    Thank you for all the wonderful information! My family will be staying at The Royal Islander Club next week. We have children ages 16 and 10 and have a few questions:
    1. Can you suggest any fun, night-time activities that are family friendly? (shows, etc.)
    2. What is the closest beach that doesn’t have steep edges, rough waves/currents to us?
    3. Can you recommend a few “must try” restaurants close by?
    4. Where is the closest place to snorkel (with our own equipment)that has coral reefs?
    Thank you so much and best wishes in your future career!!!
    Darla

  • pinky

    Hi Benji, were planning to go there on SEpt 2 to Sep 6 2014. but i heard about
    the “chikungunya virus”. i just want to know it is safe to go there right now? coz
    were so scared. thank you very much.

    • Benji

      Hi Pinky, Chikungunya is certainly a concern, however death and major complications from Chikungunya are very rare, and mainly occur in people who already have chronic medical issues like those with HIV or the elderly. Otherwise, if you are young or a middle aged adult who is healthy, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I’d recommend spraying lots of bug spray to prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of transmission. Otherwise, St Maarten is a fun place and I hope you enjoy your trip.
      Benji

  • Alisa Griffin

    Hi, Benji – I hope this finds you well! Your site is a fantastic resource. We will be in St. Maarten 7 a.m.-4 p.m. October 2. We have visited a few times, customarily use buses for transportation. We generally prefer to do things somewhat off the beaten path. We were wondering whether the information about island hopping off Lucas Bay is current (we plan to bring our snorkel equipment) and, if so, whether you would recommend us securing a driver for the day, so as to have someplace to leave our valuables/passports? It sounds as if Mullet Bay would be an ideal alternative. If you think getting a driver is the best option, is there one you would recommend? We lucked out our first visit there with no arrangements whatsoever and met a man named Lionel, who dropped us off at Orient Beach and came back a few hours later to take us back into town. Along the trip there and back he made sure to stop and have us get out for pictures and sight-seeing. Would love to find someone like him again! Thank you for any information you can provide! 🙂

    • Benji

      Hi Alisa,
      Lucas Bay is a great place to go! I can’t imagine the information being different, as roads hardly change in St. Maarten. I don’t know of any drivers. I usually just rented a car to drive myself. Sounds like Lionel was a great guy to make sure you see what you want to see on the island. Hope you have a fun time again!
      Benji

  • Kanch

    Hi Benji,

    We are coming for a week in November and are already looking forward to this trip after reading your excellent blog. Thanks for all the effort you put into creating this blog!

  • Candace

    Fantastic overview of all things St. Martin/St. Marteen – thank you!! Really looking forward to our visit in February!

  • Lena

    hi Benji

    I will come to St Marten by cruise ship, can i go for a couple of hours to Anguilla without passport, with ship card , or with passport copy?

    • Benji

      Hi Lena,
      If you go to Anguilla, you must bring a passport or else they will not let you in. You will be crossing international borders and through customs, so passport is checked.
      Benji

  • Lena

    thank you, for St Barth the same?

  • Michel

    Hi Benji, found your website through TripAdvisor forums and I’m glad I did. This will be our second visit to St-Martin. We will stay in a studio at Mt-Vernon and meet some friends who will pick us up at the airport since they are already there for 3 weeks.

    Been reading a lot as usual before the trip since I hate to miss things and the information you provide will be very helpful.

    Thanks for the time you take.

    Michel

  • Michael Anne

    We will be in St Maartin for one day coming off of a cruise ship. I have 5 boys ages 15-5. What are the MUST SEE places with kids? Thanks so much.

  • Nikita

    Hi !!
    We are landing at St. Maarten and would love to go and visit St Barths for a day or maybe overnight..
    I have a US visa, just wanted to know whether I can enter St barths ??

  • Chet Kolbasov

    Hi, I came across your website while searching for things to do in St Maarten. My husband and I will be there in November as its one of our ports of call on Carnival cruise. Do you happen to know if there are any boat tours from Maho beach that’s going to Tintamarre Island? We would love to do a plane spotting first in Maho Beach then try the mud bath in Tintamarre.x

  • Michele

    Benji: You’ve done a great job here with your recommendations, reports and replies! My son and I have been exploring one or two different beaches each day – and took an all-day snorkeling tour today. We plan to hike in the nature preserve to petite cayes tomorrow. Thanks for the detailed information! We’ve discovered that not all attractions/destinations are very well-marked. It’s a bit of an adventure just getting to our adventures!

  • Sheila

    Hi Benji,
    I found your site searching for what my husband and I will do in saint maarten in July 16-23, 2016 when we are celebrating our wedding anniversary. I really want to understand the culture better and perhaps be hosted by and hang out with a native family or person. Do you know of anything like that?

  • Katie Jordan

    HI Benji, I will be traveling to this island soon and have found your insight extremely helpful so THANK YOU! I’m curious about exploring the culture and noticed you mentioned renting a car would be the best route to go. In your opinion, what is the best place to rent from and preferably the closet to Princess Juiliana Airport?

    • Benji

      I usually used Empress Car Rental while on the island, because they offered student discounts. However, it’s easy to rent a car in St. Maarten, and inside the airport there are many different car rental companies you can rent from.

  • Brockster

    WOW! Much appreciated info and in awe of you keeping such an informed blog, your studies and family! You made our decision to choose St. Maarteen over other Caribbean islands!

    How is the threat of the Zika virus affecting the island? I think if we have enough spray we will be fine.

    Our neighbor is looking into becoming a radiologist and may look into the AUC for study.

    Looking forward to vegging on the island soon, just need to decide which area! Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and many blessings for your continued success!

  • Mich

    Hi Benji,

    Very nice blog and great info. You’ve covered a lot and I am sure that many AUC students will appreciate it!

    I saw that some people were asking about chartering boats and so forth.

    I thought that I should mention SXM Deals ( http://sxmdeals.com/ ) which are essentially the tour specialists on the island with +100 excursions. They offer lots of private charter options on various kinds of boats. So they are a good place to find stuff to do as well. Check it out and see for yourself 🙂

  • Nancy

    Hi,,, My daughter and I will be visiting for a week.. I have been doing some reading on the island and looking for things to do. Would it be better to purchase the excursion tickets here before we leave, or should we wait till we get there?

    • Benji Ho

      Hi Nancy. Wait til you get there. You may change your mind. Weather might be bad. You may run out of time. Lots of things can change. Have fun on your trip!

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