If you are lucky enough to find yourself in St Maarten / St Martin for more than a day excursion, here are some itineraries I would suggest. Prices are estimates in 2017 (although most activities are free) and I recommend checking Trip Advisor for restaurant updates.
- Arrive from the airport, check into your hotel, and head to Marigot (the capital of the French side, St. Martin)
- Peruse the outdoor Marigot Market for beach cover-ups, bags, souvenirs, spices, seafood, rum, and local handicrafts (usually open daily in high season but open only Wednesday and Saturday in off-season, usually March through November, many stalls close by late afternoon)
- Shop or window shop along the main square through the fashionable boutiques, shoe stores, electronic stores, and find odds and ends like makeup or home goods. Make a stop at the West Indies Mall for more boutiques and just because it is so pretty
- Choose something delicious from Sarafina’s famous French bakery (nearby bakeries are also great for a quick sandwich or pasta of the day)
- Climb the 142 steps to the top of Fort Louis to watch the sun set and get panoramic views of the original settlement area
- Note that prices on the French side are usually listed in Euros (Dutch side is listed in Netherlands Antillean Guilders) but nearly everyone island-wide accepts U.S. dollars as well (bring cash, not everyone takes credit or debit cards). Don’t worry if you don’t speak French, they will still take your money.
- Relax, refresh, and then head out to dinner: beautiful views and fantastic French or seafood in Marina Porte Royale, or find a beach bar with music in Simpson Bay like Karakter Beach Bar
Beautiful Beaches Day
- Spend the morning on the secluded Cupecoy Beach lying in the sun, boogie boarding, or snorkeling around the shallow cliffs and caves to see a variety of fish and crabs, and often blow fish, lobsters or sting rays [no beach services so bring your own equipment]
- After a lunch break, head to another beautiful beach for some water adventures. Orient Beach offers parasailing ($65 one person, $90 2 people, $125 3 people), or water trampolines ($10), jet skis, mini sailboats, banana boats, etc. Beach chairs are $10, all of the restaurants are delicious and most have snack and drink menus to serve you at your chair. There are also public restrooms, beach showers, and lockers (rare luxuries). As is true on the French side, nudity is not uncommon
- For dinner on a Sunday, head to Kontiki for a beach party or drive around to Calmos Cafe in Grand Case for Reggae music
Jungle Retreat Day
- For people who like a little adventure in posh surroundings, a day at Loterie Farm provides both (10am-5pm). Hike to the highest point in St Martin, Pic Paradise ($5), through jungle foliage that is home to some curious monkeys (about 2 hours round-trip; or stop at the first lookout about 20 minutes into the hike). Be sure to walk to the right, following the lookout signs, to see some beautiful views at the top.
- Rent a cabana (holds 10 people) at the spring-fed pool and Jacuzzi, relax with the included bottle of champagne or order from a snack menu (200 Euros, includes discounts on other activities and towels) or reserve a single daybed (25 Euros)
- Try the zip lines (40 Euros) or obstacle course (25 Euros) through the jungle setting
- End your evening in their restaurant or have a BBQ on the Long Bay beach
Island Hopping Day
- At low tide, head to the Rotary Lookout Point in between Lucas Bay and Baie de L’Embouchure point to walk between three little islands with different characteristics, collecting shells and sea creatures along the way. The first island is made of coral and can be more easily reached, while the others are made of rock and require more wading (the third is often hard to get to in rough waters).
- Head to the ferry in Cul-de-Sac and take a quick boat ride to Pinel Island ($12) to relax in shallow waters, snorkel, and feed iguanas, or a longer ride to Tintamarre Island ($15) in the hopes of swimming with sea turtles (varies with time of year)
- Alternatively, book an around the island boat tour (10am-4pm) like the one hosted by Aqua Mania ($75) so you can be dropped directly at the best snorkel and swimming spots including Pinel and Tintamarre, as well as making a stop for lunch in Grand Case. Enjoy the boat, music, and drinks as you go.
- Watch a boat tour Promo Video here
- Tuesdays during January through March, head to Grand Case for Harmony Nights and start the night with a Mardi Gras or Carnival-style parade down the main street (6pm), then shop the local vendor and artisan stands and find a Lolo or gourmet restaurant for dinner
Ocean Treasures Day
- If you love dolphins, take the ferry to Anguilla ($55 round-trip 45 minute public ferry) and spend a few hours at Dolphin Discovery swimming with some new friends ($100+). Anguilla is largely undeveloped so if you are interested in rolling island scenery, a taxi tour will take you on a tour around the island with stops at the fancy hotels and give you time at a beach of your choice (or customize your trip) and return you to the ferry (about $90 and includes all passengers). Or take a taxi directly to a beach ($25 round trip), although I prefer the beaches in St Maarten
- Alternatively, spend the day or afternoon at Le Galion enjoying the shallow waters, rent a paddle board ($10 per hour) or play in the ocean pool and diving area. The Butterfly Farm is a beautiful stop on the same road ($15)
- On a Wednesday night, head to Sunset Beach Bar for Ladies’ Night (half price dinner then drink specials) or catch some Soul Music at Lagoonies on the Simpson Bay lagoon
- Around 10am, head to Maho beach for some close-enough-to-touch plane watching
- Walk the Maho strip to browse high-end boutiques or get some well-priced souvenirs from the jewelry store next to the pharmacy
- Spend a few hours in the Sonesta Ocean Point Serenity day spa enjoying the steam room, snacks and delicious frozen drinks, and a beach-side massage
- Prep and then model for a sunset photo shoot with your besties or other travel companions
- Enjoy some Karaoke (check for days) in Maho at Taco Macho or Simpson Bay at Topper’s or Connie’s
Farewell, Au Revoir Beach Day
- Head to Mullet beach in the morning to enjoy some of the softest sand and clearest waters in the world. The “tourist side” (where the umbrellas are) is more protected and often very calm while the middle and other end is good for boogie boards and lounging. Beach chair and equipment rentals are on the tourist side; no facilities.
- Catch a quick lunch in Simpson Bay before heading to the airport, like some delicious shawarma plates from Little Jerusalem or enjoy a ham and cheese croissant on the Lagoon at La Sucriere (you may want to order their sandwiches to go instead of eating airport food)
- Head to the airport and blow kisses to the tourists watching you from Maho beach as you depart. Bisous!
Disclaimer: These are my ideas based on living in St Maarten, catered to the friends who are visiting me – I do not have any connection to the businesses suggested nor can I answer anything more specific or make reservations for you. You can find these suggestions on the map and other St Maarten St Martin neighborhood and beach maps as well as directions on how to navigate offline here.