Read our pocket guide to Saint Martin
Saint Martin: A pocket guide
St Martin/St Maarten is unique. Half French, half Dutch, the island combines a sensual South of France lifestyle with the commercial efficiency of Dutch traders. In 37 square miles, the island delivers an amazing travel experience including a world class international airport catering to commercial and private jets from around the world, outstanding mega-yacht and marine facilities, fabulous beaches, stunning villas, a brilliant food scene and a diverse array of activities to suit a variety of mindsets. Whether you are a billionaire mega-yacht owner or a multi-generational family on vacation, St Martin/St Maarten is filled with pleasures from simple and laidback to glamourous and glitzy; from relaxed to exhilarating.
The topography is stunning. Tropical forest covered mountains run the length of the island surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Coves, bays and lagoons edged with glorious beaches, dot the shoreline. Views are spectacular whether you are on land or seaside. Often available for vacation rental, luxury private villas in elegant residential areas, like Terres Basses on the French side, take full advantage of the views and beauty. The temperatures are relatively constant; it’s the humidity that changes. Late November to June is dry; July through early November is more humid, but beautiful.
Christopher Columbus discovered the island on November 11, 1493; it was St Martin’s Day, thus giving the country its name. From the 16th to 19th century, the island was an epicenter for transit of New World riches to European markets. Along with a lucrative sugar and rum trade, the island flourished, falling into obscurity after sugar values plummeted in the 1800s. You can still see vestiges of the island’s historical importance in the forts, plantations and old houses in Marigot, the French capital; Phillipsburg, the Dutch capital and Grand Case, a charming fishing village turned culinary destination.
In the 1930s, the island transformed from a sleepy, charming island to a booming vacation and shopping paradise with the introduction of tax free/duty free status. By the 1960s, merchants began to focus on luxury and prestige goods from fine watches to fashion to wines and spirits. Today, Phillipsburg and Marigot are the Caribbean’s prime shopping destinations for high profile international and local products.
Some visitors come for shopping, beaches and watersports; others come for the island’s amazing food scene. The quality and diversity of cuisines has earned the island its well-deserved title, “Food Capital of the Caribbean”. Chefs comment that “if it was in Paris or New York this morning, it is in St. Martin tonight”. Food styles run the gamut from Caribbean food to French culinary masterpieces. The range of ambiance is as unique as the food choices. Popular with locals and visitors are stylish, laidback beach restaurants with amazing food and beach service like Le Sand, Anse Marcel Beach Club, Calmos Cafe and Kontiki. Gourmet restaurants in offbeat locations, like Bacchus in million bottle wine warehouse, casino-based Temptation and the Loterie Farm’s rainforest ambience, all feature divine cuisine. Devoted almost entirely to restaurants, the charming old fishing village of Grand Case is considered the “Lyon of the Caribbean”.
St Martin/St Maarten also loves to party. After all, we are the “Friendly Island”. Live music jams at almost every restaurant, every day. Multiple annual events are devoted to fun, food, booze and music. Both sides have festive Mardi Gras Carnivals. The Heineken Regatta draws the global boating crowd. Every Tuesday night from mid-January through mid-April, Grand Case hosts the Mardi de Grand Case, a lively evening of culture, local arts and crafts, music and colorful entertainment.
After a full day or night of enjoying the beauty and activities of St Martin/St Maarten, the most perfect place to relax is in your own luxury villa, whether at the ocean’s edge or perched on a hillside. Just shut the door and immerse yourself in pampered service. Our villa specialists will help you select the right villa to suit your specific needs.