St. Martin is part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea and is the smallest land mass in the world to be shared by two different nations. At only 37 square miles, the island is divided between its northern French side (Saint Martin) and its southern Dutch side (Sint Maarten). The southern Sint Maarten is one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The northern French part of St Martin is an overseas collective of France. The island is home to busy resort beaches and secluded coves. Visit St. Martin for days filled with sunshine, velvet soft nights, and breathtaking scenery. These are only some of the ingredients that create the unique feel and taste that reflect St. Martin/Saint Marteen.
A Brief History of St. Martin
On St. Martin’s Day, November 11th, 1493, Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, on his second journey into Antillean waters, landed on the island, naming it “Saint Martin” and marring a new discovery for the Western World. In the heyday of 16th-century corsairs and buccaneers, the Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, English and Flemish coveted the island for its protected waters and salt deposits, earning it the name of Soualiga, Land of Salt.
Over the course of the sixteenth century, the remaining American Indian populations on the island were enslaved and deported to neighboring islands. Now too small for the conquistadors, the Spanish started to lose interest in the island and began to desert it. Today, St. Martin is a highly sought after vacation destination for Americans and Europeans alike. Here, vacationers can explore the island’s colorful scenery, white sandy beaches, and exquisite local cuisine.
What to See and Do in St. Martin
Marigot is the capital of the French side and is full of shopping, markets, bistros, beaches and a marina. Stroll the promenade along the water front. Wind through the central streets to discover old Creole houses. Explore the Marigot market when you visit St. Martin for guaranteed local charm and spiced scents. Immerse yourself in the history of Saint Martin with a visit to the island’s museum “sur la trace des arawaks”.
At 424 m (1,391 ft.), Pic Paradis is the highest point on the island. The summit offers sweeping panoramic views over the entire island and neighboring islands, too and is a ‘must-do’ when you visit St. Martin. Pic Paradis is also the starting point for many walks, and can be accessed on foot or by car. On foot, nature-lovers will love the lush tropical vegetation here.
The village of Grand Case has retained all its authenticity, particularly in its housing. Having earned a reputation as the gourmet capital, many of the village’s restaurants are located in traditional huts and the last remaining wattle houses on the island. This village also has plenty of beaches, snorkeling, bistros, nightlife and shopping.
Located at the foot of Pic Paradis is Loterie Farm, a former sugar plantation that was constructed in 1773 and ceased activity in 1855. Today, the Farm is a real tropical gem, where plant and animal species are carefully protected. The Farm also offers zip-lining, a cafe, and a free form multi-level swimming area called “L’eaulounge cabana club & piscine de source”.
Overlooking Marigot Bay and with views across to Anguilla, Fort Louis was built in 1789 by the people of Marigot under the command of Jean Sébastien de Durat, then French governor of Saint Martin and Saint Barths. The primary purpose of the fort was to defend the warehouses at Marigot port, where salt, coffee, sugar cane and rum was stored.
Day of Sailing
Highlights include a 5-hour sail aboard the Random Wind yacht, snorkel or stand-up paddle board, trapeze into the water, cruise along the coastline to beaches on both the French and Dutch side of the island, and a spa quality mud bath.
Orient Bay Beach
Known as the “Saint Tropez of the Caribbean”, Orient Bay beach, situated in the north-eastern part of the island, is one of the island’s largest and most popular beaches. The beach offers a full range of amenities, including restaurants, hotels, shops and watersports. Orient Bay is also a favorite celebrity hotspot!
Nestled at the foot of dramatic ochre-colored cliffs, Cupecoy is a succession of small beaches, gently lapped by the waves. Sunsets are breathtaking at Cupecoy. Its beaches are the last on the Dutch side before the northern border with French Saint Martin.
Culinary Capital of the Caribbean
St. Martin/St. Maarten is lauded by many as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and for good reason. With some serious French-Dutch flavor, there are likely more bistros, cafés, and eateries per capita here than any other island in the world.
This bustling bistro is great for a scenic view, romance, and local cuisine. With an extensive steak and seafood dinner menu and a varied lunch menu, any time is a good time for a meal at Le Tropicana. This restaurant has both indoor and outdoor dining. Call for a reservation and ask to be seated by the water.
Restaurant Le Soleil
With fabulous food, exceptional service and a gorgeous view of Grand Case Bay, this is the spot to be for good food with a view. Here, gourmet dishes are prepared French-Caribbean style. A great small off-the-beaten-path option in Grand Case.
Blending simplicity with chic design, this French restaurant mixes in tastes of the sea. Located on the water, flavors will entice you in the quaint village and Caribbean culinary capitol, Grand Case.
One of the top restaurants in Grand Case, this charming restaurant provides an exceptional dining experience, both in taste and in service.
Hidden Forest Cafe
Dine like you are in a tree house. This café is located at Loterie Farm. A piece of paradise in an ‘off the beaten path’ location when you visit St. Martin. Stop in for a drink or a delicious meal amongst the forest.