If you are lucky enough to find yourself in St Maarten / St Martin for a long weekend, here are some itineraries I would suggest. I recommend checking Trip Advisor for restaurant updates.
- After you arrive, eat a baguette sandwich, unpack, and rest, head out to look at the ocean
- Relax lying in the sun on the secluded Cupecoy Beach, or try 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]
- At about 4pm head to the 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
- End the evening with your toes in the sand as you watch the sunset, listen to music, and eat some delicious food on the Simpson Bay at Karakter Beach Bar
- Head to Marigot (the capital of the French side, St. Martin) to start your day with a delicious crepe brunch at La Croissanterie
- Peruse the outdoor Marigot Market for shirts, 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)
- Choose something delicious from Sarafina’s famous French bakery (nearby bakeries are also great for a quick sandwich or pasta of the day)
- For people who like a little adventure in posh surroundings, Loterie Farm provides both (10am-5pm, closed Mondays). Try the zip lines or obstacle course through the jungle setting
- Relax in the tree lounge with drinks and appetizers before making your way back to the city center
- Climb the 142 steps to the top of Fort Louis to watch the sun set and get panoramic views of the original settlement area
- In February, catch some Carnival action with a Marigot street parade
- 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.
Caribbean Flavors Day
- Take a tour of the Topper’s bottling facility where the famous Caribbean “sipping rum” is hand flavored – after learning about the history, you will taste their best-sellers as well as some creative concoctions made that day
- Pick up a plate of delectable Caribbean BBQ from Tek Away (I recommend the chicken, ribs, au gratin potatoes, and beans and rice).
- Head to the ferry in Cul-de-Sac and take a quick boat ride to Pinel Island to relax in shallow waters, snorkel, and feed iguanas on your “vacation from your vacation”
- Wind up the evening with dinner at Kontiki on Orient Beach and stay for an upbeat but casual beach party
Ocean Adventure Day
- Start your day on beautiful Orient beach where you can lounge, go parasailing or kite surfing, or rent almost any water equipment you can imagine like water trampolines, jet skis, mini sailboats, and banana boats. 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.
- Head south to the Rotary Lookout Point in between Lucas Bay and Baie de L’Embouchure for a panoramic view of the north side of the island and neighboring St. Barths.
- Choose a local favorite restaurant with a view for lunch in Oyster Pond like Mama’s Pizza or Dinghy Dock.
- Head to the capital of the Dutch side, Philipsburg, and explore the many shops on the pier
- When you are done window shopping, take the boat shuttle at Bobby’s Marina to the Sea Trek adventure where you can helmet dive 20 feet underwater, see the sunken helicopter and submarine, and experience the sea creatures that inhabit Divi Little Bay up close.
- If you are ready to relax, get some takeout for dinner from Little Jerusalem or try the Fondue’s House for a fun Swiss-French dinner.
Farewell, Au Revoir Morning
- Enjoy the scenery and delectable dishes of St. Maarten one last time on your last morning. Dine on the Simpson Bay Lagoon at the Yacht Club, or try a quick and casual breakfast of ham and cheese croissants and coffee 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!
Notice: 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.