Saint-Martin: what to do, what to see…

Saint-Martin is currently being rebuilt. The “Friendly Island” suffered the full brunt of Hurricane Irma on the night of 5-6 September 2017. The island was left devastated by the weather event’s unprecedented power, but is starting to get back on its feet and doing all it can to be ready for visitors in 2018. For more details, please visit the Saint-Martin Tourist Information website or social media pages (links at end of article).

As you probably know, Saint-Martin has a French side and a Dutch side. This small island of just 86 km² boasts 37 white sandy beaches and 300 restaurants, making it the fine dining capital of the Caribbean. Saint-Martin is also home to people of 110 different nationalities. Ready for some amazing encounters?

WHAT TO SEE

• The Sentier des Froussards hiking trail from Marcel to Cul-de-Sac

Between Anse Marcel and the beach of Grandes Cayes, via the deserted beach of Petites Cayes, we traverse in 2:30 hours the 4.5 kilometers (2.48 miles) of the trail of the Froussards, the last unspoilt forest massif of the island.

• Fort Louis

Fort Louis was built in 1789 under the leadership of Jean Sebastien de Durat, then governor of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy, for the King of France. Its primary purpose was to defend the warehouses of the port of Marigot, where the crops were stored (salt, coffee, cane sugar, rum), often attacked by English looters.

• The butterfly farm

In a tropical setting, this 900m² sphere is home to hundreds of butterfly specimens from around the globe. Nature lovers and all the curious will not miss to visit this unmissable place, located on the Route du Galion.

• The village of Grand-Case

Becoming capital of the gastronomy of the island, the village of Grand Case has preserved all its authenticity, notably in the habitat. Many restaurants are located in the typical small traditional huts and in the last gaulettes houses, still present on the island.

• The Loterie Farm nature sanctuary at the foot of Pic Paradis

At the foothills of Pic Paradis, which stands at 424 meters (1391.08 feet), is the Loterie Farm, a former sugar refinery built in 1773 which ceased all activity in 1855. It is a true tropical jewel where plant and animal species are listed and carefully protected.

• The Spring sugar mill

Located south-west of Marigot, the Spring Sugar Mill, now in ruins, takes its name from a spring nearby. Sugar production was launched in 1772 by traders from Guadeloupe. For a century it produced a large quantity of sugar and rum.

• The islet of Pinel 

This islet included in the nature reserve Saint-Martin is a high place of tourism. Unfortunately this corner of paradise is often invaded. It becomes desert again at 16:30 every day, after the departure of the last shuttle... The circulation of the jet-skis and the fishing are prohibited there.

• Plum Bay

Located between the Cannonier Tip and the bird cliff, Baie aux Prunes is little visited because little known. Its magnificent wild beach covers two facets, depending on the weather: by calm sea, mask, fins and snorkel are needed and in case of swell, surfers are thrilled...

• Marigot

The main town of the French part, owes its name to the many swamps that once were there. With the sugar cane, Marigot knew a rapid rise during the 18th century and became the capital of the French part. A nice walk from the Fort Louis Marina to the cemetery, passing by the windward market.

• Orient Bay

The "Caribbean St. Tropez" is slowly recovering from the ravages of Hurricane Irma. The longest beach of the island and its turquoise water is ideal for lazing around or practicing many water sports. There is a cheerful atmosphere, both trendy and very friendly, which delight both families and lovers of wild parties.

WHAT TO DO

• Swim with the fish through the many coral reefs

Coral reefs protect the coast from the swell and serve as a larder, refuge and nursery for thousands of species. Scientific monitoring of the seabed has been set up in the Saint Martin Nature Reserve since 2007.

• Take a leisurely lunch on Red Bay Beach

It is the color of its pink sand that the Baie Rouge owes its name. Its lively and pleasant beach is one of the most beautiful in Saint-Martin. It is popular because it is possible to have lunch in the sand, in one of the small beach restaurants.

• Hike to the summit of Pic Paradis

Access to the summit of Pic Paradis 424 meters (1391.08 feet), the highest point of the island, offers a magnificent panoramic view of Saint Martin and the neighboring islands. By crossing it on foot, we can observe a lush tropical flora. This is the starting point for many hiking trails.

• Go window shopping in the colourful streets of Marigot

In Marigot, between sessions at the beach or at the end of the day, we come to walk around the marina to admire the yachts at the quayside, and we wander through the streets of the small town center to window shop, before nap or dinner.

• Live Saint-Martin life carnival style in February and April

In February / March each year, the carnival of Saint-Martin is a very festive moment where the inhabitants go out disguised, masked and made up, and find themselves to sing and dance in the streets, according to the folk music around a parade. On the Dutch side, the carnival takes place in April.

• Be amazed at all 5 of the island's protected ecosystems, from coral reefs to dry forests

The Saint Martin Nature Reserve preserves its 5 main ecosystems: reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, ponds and dry coastal forest. More than a thousand plant and animal species have been identified at this date and inventories are continuing...

• Enjoy traditional dishes barbecued in one of the many small traditional restaurants known as Lolos

The lolos of Saint-Martin are the small traditional restaurants very popular where one cooks on makeshift barbecues installed in the open air. This name comes from the lot, the sales unit that has always been used in these stalls.

• Seek out the secret Plage des Amoureux (Lovers’ Beach); it’s the smallest on the island

It's hard to find Lovers Beach accessible only by the sea and nestled in the rocky coast of Pointe Arago. It is the smallest beach in Saint-Martin, it cannot accommodate more than two people at a time! Hence its name…

• Explore the mangrove swamp in a glass-bottomed kayak

From Galion Beach, a 2-hour kayak tour will allow you to explore the mangrove forests of Saint Martin. This is the best way to discover the diverse ecosystem of the region with various plant and animal species, such as iguanas, egrets and herons...

• Windsurf in Nettle Bay

The island of Saint Martin offers ideal weather conditions throughout the year to discover or improve the various water sports: surfing, stand up, paddle, kite surfing, windsurfing). Make the experience!

Getting to Saint Martin 

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