I traveled here in January with a friend, fell in love with it, and came back 3 months later with Elyse before heading to Anguilla. In January, I was looking for somewhere that was sunny, easy to get to, and safe. Saint Martin fits all of those! Saint Martin is split into two countries – one side is owned by the French (Saint Martin) and one is owned by the Dutch (Sint Maarten). The border is open, meaning you can cross freely between the Dutch and French side without needing a passport. Check out our Saint Martin travel guide below!
How we traveled there
To fly to Sint Maarten from the US, you will likely connect in Atlanta or JFK and fly into Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). There are also a few flights that connect in Miami or Houston. Most major airlines fly into SXM including Delta, American, Spirit, Frontier, United, and JetBlue.
Where we stayed
Both times I’ve visited I’ve stayed at Tradewinds apartments in Simpson Bay on the Dutch side and have had great experiences. The wifi was pretty good, even for video calls but I wouldn’t use the washer/dryer combo machine if you don’t need to. Our clothes always came out soaking wet. There were about 8 apartments in the community with a pool while also being a 5-minute walk to the public beach. The owners and staff here are really helpful and welcoming and I plan to continue to stay here when I visit.
The first time I visited, I also stayed on the French side in Anse Marcel. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend staying there as there isn’t much going on. If you’re looking to stay somewhere on the French side, I’d recommend booking something in the Orient Bay or Grand Case area.
When deciding what side of the island to stay on, I’d take into consideration that the Dutch side is a little more lively and has more nightlife, and the French side is quieter. My first time in Saint Martin I split my time equally on both sides, and the second time I stayed on the Dutch side the whole time.
What activities we experienced
What I like about this island is that there are a lot of things to do, but it’s not overwhelming and you don’t feel like you are “missing out” if you want to spend the day at the beach.
If you want to browse activities, this website has a lot of helpful information and they will even help you with booking.
Here are some of my favorite activities:
Beaches (there are 37!) Here are a few favorites:
- Simpson Bay Beach – if you stay at the Tradewinds Apartments, this is the beach you walk to. I like it because it’s not too busy and great for swimming.
- Mary’s Boon – if you want some food and a chair on this beach, check out Mary’s Boon restaurant at the end of the beach
- Cupecoy Beach – has cliffs and caves, very beautiful and different from other beaches on the island
- Baie Rouge – named for having sand with a pinkish hue, has some cool painted colors and murals
- Mullet Bay Beach – long and open beach, popular with students from the medical school close by, 5 minutes from Maho beach
- Orient Bay Beach – more exposed than the other beaches so come here for water sports
Toppers Rhum tasting – $10 to taste about 20 rums. My favorite was the Mocha Mama.
Beach Clubs – make sure to get a reservation ahead of time
- Coco Beach – we were told this is the most upscale at Orient Bay. We reserved this through OpenTable. A chair rental in April was 30 euros and included a bottle of water and a towel.
- Rainbow Cafe – a very cool, Instagram-able spot in Grand Case. Text them via WhatsApp for a reservation (+590 690 88-8444).
Private Boat Rental – we used Blue Pelican Boat Charter and booked their 3-hour private snorkeling trip for 450 Euros (at the time this was $491 USD)
- Leave from Anse Marcel marina
- Snorkeled around Creole Rock
- Snorkeled around Tintamarre Island
Mural tour – a great way to see Philipsburg and learn about the murals and some of the history of the island.
Watching the planes land at Maho Beach – this is the beach next to the airport where planes land right over your head. Check the flight schedules, but most of the larger planes come in the afternoon between 1-4 pm. Don’t get too close – the jet blasts can be dangerous and are stronger than you’d think. You don’t want to spend the day at this beach – we’d recommend sitting at one of the beach bars next to the beach (like Sunset Bar and Grill), grabbing a drink, and watching the planes from there.
Carnival – we were lucky enough to be in town during Carnival 2023 on the Dutch side. It’s a month-long event with different activities every day. The most popular activities seem to be the last week of Carnival and include the Jouvert at 4 am and Grand Carnival Parade. I attended the parade which was an amazing experience, as well as the Reggae night in the carnival village. We heard these events are also fun: Bacchanal Sunday, Night of the Hitmakers, Second Day Parade, Burning King Momo.
Where we ate
The food on this island is amazing. I’ve never had a bad meal.
A few favorites in the Simpson Bay area:
- Pineapple Pete – large variety of food options, also has an arcade
- Skip Jacks – good seafood
- Beirut SXM – great for a quick lunch. It also does take out food.
- The Palms – local, Caribbean-style restaurant
- AL Pasha – is one of my favorites! Get the mango daiquiri. It also has some of the best salads on the island.
- Palapa Grill – restaurant and cocktail lounge with a great atmosphere. Try to make a reservation ahead of time.
- Pelican Bistro – great breakfast/lunch options here, also has great iced coffee
We got groceries from Carrefour (Union Road #53, Cole Bay). It is a very large store and has everything you could need. I have a variety of food restrictions (no gluten/dairy/meat) and there were plenty of options.
Any of the restaurants in Orient Bay were great (in the Orient Village Square).
Where we drank
Starting the night:
- Nowhere Special is my favorite bar on the island. It’s an open-air, casual bar with live music. Make sure to get a marker and write something on the walls!
- Roxxy Beach Bar and Restaurant – right on the beach, a great place to grab a cocktail and some food
Ending the night:
- Soggy Dollar – great place to end the night, usually open til 4 am. They have Latin night on Tuesdays with live music and dancing.
- Lotus (didn’t personally go but have heard it is fun)
- Mykonos (didn’t personally go but have heard it is fun)
What we recommend knowing/preparing
- People speak English and it’s easy to communicate/get around
- I felt very safe
- You can drink the water here
- I found it easy to eat here with dietary restrictions
- December – April are the best times to visit (the wettest months are July-Nov)
- Dollars are accepted everywhere, bring more cash than you’d expect to need
- Rent a car – we paid about $300 total for 9 days. It’s very affordable.
- They drive on the right side of the road (like in the US) so it was easy to drive there
- Tip 15-20% (some restaurants add this automatically so check your bill)
- You don’t need an adaptor for the plugs, but don’t bring hair tools. I’ve tried twice and ruined two curling irons.
- There isn’t any Uber/Lyft on the island so you should use the local taxis. There is a WhatsApp group titled “SXM Taxi Dispatcher” that is an easy way to get a taxi. You can join that group here. There are also some direct taxis I’ve used which you can contact through WhatsApp:
- Check out our travel tips page for general recommendations
What we didn’t do but looked into
- Loterie Farm – a private nature reserve that hosts pool parties
- Happy Bay Beach – a secluded beach that requires a 15 min hike
- Pinel Island – 7 min boat ride from Saint Martin. The small boats leave every half hour and are $12 cash each way.
- Saba (neighboring island) – known for scuba diving and hiking
- Saint Barts (neighboring island) – known for luxury shopping, restaurants, and accommodations
- Flying Dutchman zip line – this is the world’s steepest zip line
- Parrotville Bird Sanctuary – $10 to enter to see (and feed) 26 species of birds
- ATV tour of the island – a fun way to cover a lot of ground
- Jet ski tour – we looked into this one
- Custom tour – I contacted this company about putting together a custom tour of the island. They were responsive with good rates but ultimately didn’t work with my schedule.
- Davids hole – natural swimming pool
- Captain Frenchy – beach club and restaurant in Grand Case
Remote working tips
There are two coworking spaces on the island.
- Vandorp spaces – I have used this space multiple times. They have a great coffee shop, bookstore, and private rooms you can rent.
- Honeypot Reserve – I haven’t personally been, but this is a coworking space in Phillipsburg
Elyse and I have both worked from the Tradewinds apartments and the wifi could handle video calls. We have been told it is the best wifi you can get on the island.
What we packed
Warm weather clothes only – you won’t wear any pants or jackets, even in the winter months.
Check out our recommendations for travel clothing and essentials.