Those travelers looking for a great vacation spot in the Caribbean should definitely consider the island of Saint Martin. Though small, it is a sun-drenched and extremely tourist-friendly place that has a number of exciting things going for it. Here are just a few:
While not unique, the political division of this small Caribbean island into a French half (Saint Martin) and a Dutch one (Sint Maarten) creates a tourist destination unlike any other in the world. Visitors will usually arrive in style aboard a large jetliner but after leaving the airport, the island provides a true shelter from the worries of the technological age. Here are just some of the things you should look forward to on this remarkable vacation isle:
As one would expect of almost any Caribbean island, the beaches of Saint Martin are truly spectacular. Visitors can enjoy every outdoor activity from simple sunbathing and snorkeling to scuba diving and sport fishing. Also be aware that the French side of the island does allow completely nude bathing in many spots while the more prudish Dutch do not. In any event, all 37 beaches on the island are open during daylight hours with special events being held at night in many of them. Some of the more popular spots include Nettle’s Beach, Plum Bay and grand-case beach on the French side with Pelican bay, Mullet bay and Cupecoy on the Dutch side.
Though dominated in the past by colonial powers, modern day Saint Martin has developed a interesting indigenous culture of its own. There are plenty of “fish shacks” where you can get a bite to eat with the locals as well as plenty of colonial architecture to keep you interested as you tour the island. The African roots of the native Creoles can most visibly be seen in the music that they play and the food that they eat.
With cruise ships and high-end yachts docking almost every day, the port cities of the island have developed well-stocked outdoor midways where the seasoned shopper can find everything from simple handmade island crafts to Vacheron Constantin watches. A word of warning to the shopper – everything is overpriced on purpose. Half the fun of shopping in Saint Martin is haggling with the vendors. If you are more comfortable in an indoor setting, you will find any number of shops, boutiques and galleries in the main cities of Philipsburg and Marigot.
Most of the larger resorts on Saint Martin that cater to the well-heeled traveler will have three-four restaurants on site that are usually included in a package price. Still, do not miss the chance to wander the island – it’s hard to get lost – and search out some of the native cuisine. On the French side, you will find a spicy Creole seafood is the
standard while the Dutch prefer a more traditional European preparation. Also, remember that you are in the Caribbean where fast service is almost non-existent. Arrive early, have a drink and take your time. You may even get to like the ambiance of a casual meal. For haute cuisine, high end restaurants do exist. Try the Bistrot Caraibes, Le Ti Buchon or the Tropicana.
Aside from the nightly festivities that are regularly hosted on the various beaches, the two main cities of Saint Martin have a bustling social scene. Care for a pint and some trivia? Try Bamboo Bernie’s. Prefer to dress up and hit the local hot spots – Le Moon and the Rainbow Club should serve nicely… and then there are the casinos. Every resort has one and the payout ratios are some of the best in the Caribbean.