With its endless stretch of tropical white sands, verdant mountains, and vibrant, inimitable atmosphere, the island of Saint Martin is one of the Caribbean’s top vacation destinations. The island spans just 87 square kilometres, but its natural beauty and laid back atmosphere are truly world class. The island offers the perfect blend of allure and luxury, and no matter what kind of traveler you are, it’s sure to satisfy all your vacation desires.
What’s the Difference Between Saint Martin & Sint Maarten?
The island is distinctly split into a French side and Dutch side, each offering a totally different vacation experience than the other. The French side known as Saint Martin is full of European charm and style with its focus on local culture and traditions. This side is quieter than its Dutch neighbor and offers a more peaceful, slowed down vacation experience. The Dutch side is home to some of the best beaches on the island and offers incredible dining options and nightlife.
Although Saint Martin is split between two separate governments, the island’s culture, cuisine, and landscapes are an incredible blend of both the French and Dutch influences.
13 Must Try Experiences in St. Martin/Marteen
With breathtaking beaches, delicious restaurants, fascinating history, and fun activities for your entire travel group, Saint Martin has something for everyone. Here are the top 13 things to do in Saint Martin!
1. Soak Up the Sun at a Beach
St Martin offers the perfect beach for every activity, preference, and group size. There are beaches with great restaurants, quiet coves for snorkeling, wide expanses of sand to hold your volleyball tournament and private beaches to sunbathe without a passer-by in sight. No matter what your travel group is looking for, St. Martin has the beach for you.
To help you narrow down which beaches you should visit, click here to check out the best beaches in St. Martin!
2. Watch the Close Landings
Everyone loves a good plane spotting experience, and for those on vacation in St. Martin, it is a must! Maho Beach is the perfect place for watching the planes taking off or landing on Princess Juliana International Airport runway. This is one of the only places in the world where you can actually watch the planes touch-down just feet above your head.
This is an experience you’d have to see to believe and not only will you be able to watch planes almost land on top of you, but you get to do it while sitting on the beach with a drink in your hand!
3. Visit the Butterfly Farm
The Butterfly Farm is one of the best things to do in St. Martin for a nature lover. This was the first greenhouse dedicated to a butterfly sanctuary in the Caribbean. Hundreds of butterflies call the 900m room home, and fly freely amongst a tropical garden, waterfalls, and ponds. The soundtrack of Japanese music creates the ultimate soothing experience.
The Butterfly Farm offers daily tours that last roughly 15-20 minutes and are informative, fun, and the perfect way to learn all about butterflies! The knowledgeable keepers will tell you everything you need to know about the evolutionary cycle and are prepared to answer any questions you may be curious about!
*Note: Due to Hurricane Irma, the Butterfly Farm is temporarily closed, but keep an eye out for a potential reopening date in the near future.
Recommended Accommodation Nearby: Turquoze Villa
4. Zip Around Using Zip Lines
It’s hard to put into words the exhilaration you feel taking to the skies on a zip line, one of the coolest ways to experience the island. At Saint Martin’s Rockland Estate, Rainforest Adventures offers the world’s steepest zip-line and other exhilarating activities. This 1050 foot zip line drops you at a speed of 56 miles per hour; it’s called the “The Flying Dutchman” and it is described as a pure adrenaline rush.
5. Enjoy the Local Cuisine
Delicious and authentic, with intense local flavors and influences, Saint Martin is a culinary escape for adventurous and discerning foodies. Food is always at the heart of any happy holiday, so naturally the island’s best restaurants are spread over both sides of the island.
Dining out in Saint Martin is truly an experience. Think panoramic views, exquisite local cuisines, funky beach bars, hidden gems… the list goes on! From gourmet Creole to traditional French cuisine, you’ll be sure to find something that suits your taste buds. The fresh seafood is reason enough to visit any of the restaurants on the island. Whelk soup, crab backs, and conch and dumplings are must-tries.
6. Visit Fort Louis
If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to take a visit to one of the largest historical monuments in Saint Martin. Set just above the city of Marigot, Fort Louis has been there since 1789. Originally designed as a French military fort to defend Marigot Bay, it now offers visitors who are willing to climb the steep trail, a stunning panoramic view of the island and beyond.
As you tour the ruins, each plaque you read will provide a bit of additional information on the history of the fort. It’s fun to read all the plaques, so take some time to enjoy the experience!
Recommended Accommodation Nearby: Maison de Reve
7. Check Out the Wildlife
The gorgeous local nature reserve is located on the island’s east coast. It’s an utterly breathtaking place covering over 3000 hectares of land and sea. The onshore portion of the reserve features beaches, cliffs, and coasts that are home to lots of wildlife. Rare tropical birds, iguanas, and sea turtles are just a few of the species roaming this beautiful haven.
If you’re more of a water enthusiast, take to the various Saint Martin beaches for snorkeling or diving and enjoy the variety of marine life you will discover!
8. Drink Local Rhum
Rum from this tropical island carries a lot of history, as well as a sophisticated taste that you’re sure to enjoy.
The Guavaberry liqueur is a light and refreshing Rum spirit with a refreshing flavor of guavaberry, the rare and wild fruit grown on the center of the island of St. Maarten. This island staple has been enjoyed for centuries and is part of the history and culture of Sint Maarten.
Another island favorite is Thoppers Rhum. A tour of Thopper’s Rhum Distillery is a great way to meet the distillers and learn about the island’s favorite spirit. Other lesser known rums to seek out are Ma DouDou and Busco Rhum.
9. Take a Boat Tour
What better way to get a real feel for the island than directly from the water? Boat tours offer a tropical breeze, relaxation, and a new perspective on Saint Martin. The best part is, there are so many different tours/excursions you can choose from that you’ll likely want to try to fit in more than one during your stay.
When it comes to boat tours, there are a plethora of options for you to choose! Book a boat tour to and around St. Martin that will provide you with a fast and easy way to explore surrounding islands like Anguilla or St. Barts and enjoy some beach hopping. Or you can opt to hop on the local ferry and take a day trip to Saba where you can climb the famous dormant volcano called Mount Scenery and take in all the breathtaking views. If you’re craving something a little more laid back, why not take part on a gourmet food cruise where you can drink and dine while sailing to some of the most beautiful beaches and discovering the island’s hidden gems!
10. Create a Custom Perfume
You can take home more than just memories when you leave the island. When you visit Tijon Perfumerie, located on the French side, you can create a custom scent that captures the spirit and beauty of Saint Martin.
The skilled perfumers at Tijon Perfumerie handcraft fine fragrances, colognes, and skin care items in their on-site lab selecting from their inventory of over 300 oils. The company also offers an hour long perfume making class which is where you will be able to learn all about the process that goes into making a perfume and leave with one of your very own! At the end of the experience, guests are invited to enjoy a delicious glass of Champagne. Best part is, Tijon keeps your formula on file so that you can even order more perfume if you like it so much!
Whether you want to bring the scent of the tropics back home with you or you want to treat yourself to a unique new fragrance, Tijon Perfumerie is your one-stop shop for tropical scents.
Recommended Accommodation Nearby: Petite Plage 5
11. Enjoy a Night Out on the Town
From bustling beach bars to high-energy nightclubs, Saint Martin’s nightlife has the ultimate entertainment every night of the week.
On the French side you can enjoy a more laid back nightlife vibe by spending an evening at one of the local beach bars in Orient Bay sipping on some island cocktails or delight in an exciting pool party at Loterie Farm.
If you’re in strict party mode, then the Dutch side is where you want to be. Long after sunset, Maho Beach emerges as one of the most vibrant scenes in St. Martin with discotheques, casinos, restaurants, colorful lights and entertainment that attracts tourists and locals alike.
Most of the restaurants on the island as well as its beach bars host live music concerts every week, not to mention exciting happy hours.
Cool breezes, palm trees, delicious cocktails, live music all set in a tropical paradise by the Caribbean Sea, what more could you ask for in a nightlife setting on vacation?
12. Visit Both Capitals (Philipsburg & Marigot)
Marigot is the capital of St. Martin’s French side and a visit here is perfect for a daytime activity. The town has a charming promenade along the waterfront lined with attractions. Many luxury boutiques have opened here, including some of the world’s famous French designers. After a day of shopping there are several traditional creole restaurants to enjoy where you can delight in locally prepared food.
Located on the Dutch side, you’ll find the other Capital of St. Martin, called Philipsburg. Not only will you find spectacular views here, but you’ll also discover great eats at beachfront restaurants with menus that highlight local seafood. One of our favorites is The Greenhouse restaurant with its lively atmosphere and fun entertainment like crab races and live music. It’s also a great place to shop til you drop as Philipsburg has some of the best duty free shopping on the island. After a day of exploring, head to the lively waterfront of Great Bay, where you can wander along the quaint waterfront and watch boats in the harbor or enjoy a sweet treat and some coffee at one of the beachfront cafes, or simply bask in the tropical surroundings with a guavaberry cocktail in hand.
13. Book a Beachfront Villa
For a luxury beach villa in Saint Martin that is truly an unforgettable experience — and just steps away from the sand and surf — we have just what you need. We are here to set you up with everything you require to enjoy your luxury villa rental in Saint Martin to the very fullest.