St. Martin-An Island Paradise
By Deanna Destito
East of Puerto Rico in the northeast Caribbean you’ll find St. Martin, the smallest island shared by two nations: The French Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
History says that Christopher Columbus himself named the island San Martin to honor his landing there on November 11, 1493, the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours.
Today, the island boasts sunny days, mild beautiful evenings, and sights and sounds only the Caribbean can offer.
Even the greenery is unique on St. Martin. Colorful tropical flowers decorate panoramic views.
Trees overflowing with succulent tropical fruits such as mangos and coconuts line your vision in every direction.
White, powdery sand between your toes soothes you as you recline on one of 37 warm beaches with the bluest water you’ll ever see that is also home to a colorful ecosystem of underwater creatures.
It is truly an island paradise. Visit Long Bay in the heart of the Low Lands on the western coast, a quiet refuge with calm waters and a gorgeous view of the setting sun.
For those looking for more excitement on their beach day, try Red Bay, one of the most popular and beautiful beaches on St. Martin.
The name comes from the slightly red-colored sand you’ll see when you visit.
Water sports are huge here. Whatever your preference, you will find it.
From swimming, sea scootering, and snorkeling to kayaking, windsurfing, and deep-sea fishing, the island has everything from water adventures and extreme sports to more calmer aquatic endeavors.
Many beaches offer water sport centers, making it easy to try any of the options available. Surfing is big, and the island is a popular spot for surfers of all ages and skill levels.
There are also diving clubs for those looking to explore the underwater haven filled with fish, turtles, coral, and other exotic sea treasures.
St. Martin is also known for its pleasure boating and cruise locations.
Its 10 marinas can house more than 2,000 boats, with some of the most luxurious yachts docked in its waters.
The marinas offer an array of amenities to boaters and cruise guests alike.
There are also many regattas throughout the year, including the Heineken Regatta in March.
There is more than beaches and lush vegetation on St. Martin.
The island is the culinary capital of the Caribbean, sporting a fusion cuisine of the many cultural influences in and around it.
Seafood lovers are in heaven here with some of the best fish, lobster, and shellfish in the world.
Locals and visitors enjoy spices and sauces inspired by Creole cooking.
And don’t forget a taste of the traditional barbecues of the area!
For activities on land, explore the island’s rich culture and history such as the many hiking and biking trails as well as the numerous landmarks and historic sites scattered throughout the country.
There are also quaint villages such as Grand-Case, a Creole fishing village that houses restaurants in traditional huts and wattle houses.
For a more metropolitan vibe, head to Marigot on the French side.
This area is home to government departments as well as boutiques, restaurants, and a local market.
Make sure you see Rue de la Republique, one of the main thoroughfares with 19th century buildings and authentic historical architecture. Stop by the Roland Richardson Gallery Museum while you are there, just up the road from the harbor and filled with an impressive collection of art.
On the Dutch side of the island, head to Front Street in the center of Philipsburg and see the Sint Maarten Museum.
The museum offers a thorough look at the area’s history including present day traditions.
Exhibits also include local crafts as well as relics and photos from past centuries.
History buffs will also like the Sint Maarten National Heritage Foundation, which tracks the island’s history and how it became divided into two distinct areas.
Other exciting activities to try on St. Martin include an 18-hole, par 70 golf course on Mullet Bay Beach and the Orient Bay Driving Range to improve your game.
If golf isn’t your game, try paragliding and skydiving, and see the island from a completely different perspective—high above!