St. Martin has something for everyone! A delightful array of entertainment along with “crème de la crème” luxury villa accommodations for a group of friends, families, honeymooners, or couples needing some tropical R&R. During the day, aside from catching rays and relaxing on the beach with a good book, St Martin offers many different activities. Shopping, site seeing, horseback riding, golf, snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, kayaking, hiking, sailing and deep sea fishing are just a few of the popular family vacation activities to get your vacation senses excited! During the evenings, enjoy the exciting nightlife of steel bands, casinos, jazz clubs, open-air cafes and incredible fine dining in more than 300 restaurants. All of your tropical vacation dreams are sure to be fulfilled on St. Martin, so come and experience a whole island adventure! St Martin has it all!
Activities: Looking for something to keep you busy during the day? Look no further. St Martin has plenty to offer the adventurous visitor or resident. From day trips to sports and everything in between just select the type of activity, or area of the island you want to visit, and call our island concierge for free information. At night the Maho area comes alive with music, dining, and dancing… There are also a dozen+ casinos on the Dutch side for gambling entertainment.
Dinning: St Martin is widely known as the “Dining Capital of the Caribbean” and in 2005 a team of four chefs from St Martin proved that when they won a Caribbean-wide competition for a demanding panel of judges held in Miami, Florida. The variety of food offered by the islands chefs is truly overwhelming, whether your taste is for local food at rib-shacks or haute cuisine. With literally hundreds of international restaurants to choose from, guests can stay busy with a new and exciting dining experience every day.
Shopping: St Martin is a shopaholics Mecca! The huge array of stores is unrivaled in the Caribbean. Duty-free shops offer substantial savings - about 15% to 30% below U.S. and Canadian prices - on jewelry, electronics, liquor, cigars, and designer clothing and accessories. Marigot on the French side, and Philipsburg on the Dutch side, combine to offer just about anything your heart could desire, not to mention a plethora of local arts and crafts. It's no wonder that each year 500 cruise ships make Philipsburg a port of call.
Climate: The weather on St Martin is awesome. It is, on average, 80-85 degrees all year round with gentle trade winds which keep the humidity low. The only deviation is in the summer when water temperatures rise. This consistent weather with blue skies and clear waters bring smiles to the faces of St Martin visitors. Water temperatures range from 78-80 degrees in the winter and 82-84 degrees in the summer. The winds blow a fairly regular 15 knots from mid-November to mid-April, and in the summer thermal effects and tropical waves frequently bring a bit stronger drafts. As in all tropical environments, brief rain showers are to be expected. While there is no rainy season, hurricane season for the entire Caribbean is Jul - Nov.
Tipping: On the French side a 10% - 15% service charge is included in the menu price or at the end of your bill as required by law. A small additional tip is appreciated for good service. On the Dutch side including a service charge is optional for each establishment and will be clearly stated on the menu or on the bill. A 15% – 20% for good service is always appreciated. Maids and housekeepers in villas and hotels work for minimal wages and expect tips from $3 per day per guest served based on services.
Island Wear: The island is a recreational tourism island. Some places may request that you to wear a collared shirt and closed toed shoes in the evening, but for the most part, sandals, shorts and tee shirts are fine. If you are planning any special activities, don't forget to bring the appropriate clothing and footwear. In the winter months, it can get slightly cool at night (70-75 degrees) with the tropical breezes. You may want to bring a light cover up.
Languages: Dutch is the official language of St. Maarten and French is the official language or St. Martin. English is spoken by nearly everyone and Spanish is also widely spoken. Papiamento, a local language based on Spanish and Dutch is spoken on the Dutch side as well. You may also hear Italian, German, Creole, Chinese, Hindi and many others. Over 80 nationalities are represented on the friendly island of St Martin.
Currency and Banks: Both sides of the island have numerous banks and ATM machines. Banking hours are typically Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm and Saturdays from 8:30 am to 12:00 pm. These hours vary depending on the banking institution. ATM machines are located at every bank as well as many grocery stores and shopping areas. The US dollar and US travel's checks and most major credit cards are accepted and welcomed on both sides of the island. On the Dutch side, the official currency is the Netherlands Antilles Florin (N.A.F.). One U.S. dollar equals approximately $1.80 N.A.F. On the French side, the official currency is the Euro. The Euro is currently significantly stronger than the dollar; however, the rate of exchange fluctuates daily. Most prices will be listed in the local currency on either side of the island.
Credit Cards: Most stores and restaurants accept Visa and MasterCard. American Express is not as readily accepted and very few places accept Discover Card. There may be a service charge associated with using a credit card at some establishments. Traveler's Cheques are usually accepted like cash with identification (passport recommended).
Electricity: The Dutch side runs on 110 voltage and the French side runs on 220 volts (European). Many newer villas and hotels on the French side have 110v electricity instead of or in addition to 220v. Transformers and converters can be bought at hardware stores on either side of the island. While most luxury villas and hotels have converters available if needed. It is always safer to bring your own.
Drinking Water and Health: The Island’s water desalination plants provide you with safe purified tap water. Bottled water is readily available and inexpensive. The island has a broad range of medical services available including emergency clinics, hospitals and pharmacies.
Get married in Paradise: Now couples from anywhere in the world can get married on Dutch St. Maarten. The law has now been amended and weddings and vow renewals are as popular as honeymoons. To qualify, couples must be 21 years of age, make a written request to the Lieutenant Governor for a temporary tourist permit (max three months). The couple must also submit birth certificates, valid return tickets to their country of origin or other destination outside the Netherlands Antilles. Divorced persons must provide appropriate papers indicating a valid divorce certificate (divorced women may remarry after 306 days have passed). An official sworn translator or notary public must translate all documentation into Dutch, then sign, stamp, and seal must be included. Although, legal matters must be handled on the Dutch side, the religious ceremony may take place on either side. The Island has a variety of churches; Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, Methodist, Adventist and Pentecostal. Get married barefoot on the beach, on a scenic hillside, at an open-air Caribbean style church, at a private luxury villa. What ever you choose, it is sure to be a day to remember! Registration with the office of Civil Registry is to take place at least 10 days prior to the planned wedding date. For all the short cuts call us at 800 480 8555 and we will refer you to our local wedding planner who can take care of all the details.
Driving: Foreign and International driving licenses are accepted when renting a vehicle on St Martin. Traffic is on the right with International signs. Patience and good humor are required while driving on island where locals still take time to stop and greet a friend or to drop off their delivery. Be aware of frequent stopping. It is common to use the horn or high beams (during the day) to greet another driver or to thank them for the right of way. Recently, the laws were changed to make DUI and using cell phones without a headset illegal.
Business Hours: Stores in Philipsburg are typically open 7 days a week in high season and closed on Sundays in low season. They are open from 9am to 6 pm. In Marigot, the shops are generally open from 9am to 7pm and tend to close between 1pm and 3pm. Most are closed on Sundays. Plan your activities accordingly.
Airports: Princess Juliana International Airport is located on the Dutch side. It is linked to 3 continents and most Caribbean islands. L'Esperance Grand Case regional Airport is located on the French side. It is for inter-island transfers.
Departure Tax: Saint Martin requires a departure tax when leaving the island. Airport departures from Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) are US $30.00 for all flights to non-Antillean destinations and US $10.00 for all Antillean destinations (Saba, St. Eustatius, Bonaire, and Curacao). Many airlines such as Air France, American Airlines and US Air include this tax in the ticket price. Ask when you check in to be sure. If you are departing from a ferry terminal the tax is typically US $3.00 or Euro 2.50 depending on the side of the island.
Beaches: Saint Martin is blessed with 36 white, sandy beaches. All of them are beautiful and each has its own special charm and atmosphere.
You can choose from isolated, romantic, little coves to long, expansive beaches where the action is going on day and night. You will find beaches with waves high enough for surfers and calmer ones for families with small kids. There are nude beaches where naturalists enjoy clothing optional beach life. There are busy beaches as well as deserted beaches. Tiny beaches snuggled between rocky cliffs and some with large stretches of white sand.
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy at the beach if you want to do more than relax in the sun. You can enjoy horseback riding, volleyball, snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, surfing, jet skiing, body boarding, surfing, sailing...you name it!
In general, the beaches to the east, or windward side, of the island have higher winds and the waters of the Atlantic are rougher. The leeward beaches to the west and southwest are calmer, facing the Caribbean Sea.
The beaches here are unparalleled in the Caribbean: They are clean, with white sand and crystal clear, warm aqua blue water. Whether you are vacationing on the island or are lucky enough to live here, try to enjoy the pristine waters of the island as much as you can!
Orient Beach is lined with colorful beach chairs, bars and restaurants. The sands of Orient are always full of action! Many compare Orient to the French Riviera with its pampering services and ambiance. This is one of the most developed and popular beaches in the Caribbean. From jet skiing to windsurfing, Orient offers the greatest variety of water sports. The surrounding aqua waters have been recognized as a marine reserve. The waters are calm, so this is an ideal spot to snorkel! At the south end it hosts the islands world famous naturist resort, Club Orient.
Friars Beach is known for its legendary "Full Moon" parties, Friars beach brings lots of color to its shores by day and by night. With three beach bar/restaurants, a day at Friars can be fun for all members of the family.
Happy Bay can be hard to find, but is worth it! It is picturesque, calm, and very private …this is the next beach over from Friars Beach.
Grand Case is lined with 35 of the best restaurants in the Caribbean. This beach has some nice snorkeling spots, and is also the perfect place for a sunset stroll. While enjoying your walk, you can also get a firsthand look at all the restaurants and make your dinner plans for the evening!
Baie Longue starts at La Samanna Hotel located in the French Lowlands, it continues on to the western end of the island. It is the longest white sand beach on the island. It is very secluded and there are no water sports or concessions so you will have no problem letting the natural charm of this beach keep you there all day.
Le Galion Beach is a super Caribbean beach for kids of all ages! Many local parents have rated Galion as the best beach for an afternoon of sun and fun for their children. Coral reef surrounds the shallow water of Galion. This serves as a protection, providing very calm waters throughout the day. This is also a very popular spot for the older kids who enjoy a good day of windsurfing! Rentals and instruction are available daily.
Mullet Bay... although the resort surrounding Mullet is closed, it has not affected its popularity! The white sands and active surf make this an attractive spot to local surfers and their friends on the weekend. Rocks line the shores of Mullet, providing its visitors with some nice snorkeling, and if you are up for a swim, there are some caves you can explore!
Dawn Beach is another famous spot for its sunrise and sunset views. This white sand beach is worth a visit! Surrounded by coral reef, the calm waters of Dawn beach make for some fabulous snorkeling. The new Westin Hotel and casino is located on Dawn Beach.
Maho Beach is a small, but its location is what attracts all of its visitors. Just off the touchdown point at Juliana Airport, this beach is the closest one could ever get to a 747 landing or take off! Bring your camera! The beach is lined with rocks and the waters can be rough at times.
Simpson Bay is a mile long white sandy beach. It has water sports, yet it is still a quiet and relaxing beach. The waters can be rough.
Cupecoy is a beautiful beach lined with cliffs and caves. As it has rough waters the amount of sand can vary, but the wind is blocked by the rocks.
Great Bay is another picture perfect beach located downtown Philipsburg and populated mostly by cruise ship passengers. Shop till you drop and have drink at one of the beach front restaurants.
Baie Rouge is one of the most breathtaking beaches on the island. It has calm waters which makes it great for swimming. It’s an ideal spot for a quiet afternoon! A local shack offers BBQ, cold drinks and beach chairs. If you are up for a challenge, take a swim to Devil's Hole - a steep hole in the middle of the cliffs that water flows through or walk the beach and see multi million dollar beach front St Martin villa estates.
Anse Marcel is a great family beach nestled in the Marina Port de Lonvilliers. It is a long white sandy beach with lots of shade and calm waters (ideal for children) near the port. The marina is lined with fine shopping, restaurants and hotels. You don't want to forget your camera for the breathtaking view at the hilltop above the Marina.
Island of Pinel is a barrier reef, located off the shores of French Cul de Sac, is a must see! The water is calm and shallow, creating beautiful beaches and great snorkeling. There are two restaurants on this island...you can pull your lobster for grilling directly from pots in the surf….this is paradise! Getting to and from Pinel: a ferryboat ($5) leaves frequently crossing from Cul de Sac to Pinel.
Petites Cayes is another secluded beach. The only way to this beach is by boat or a twenty minute walk along the coast.