Sint Maarten had been on our bucket list for a long time – we heard so many amazing things about it. Since we are living in the Caribbean now ourselves, it was the perfect opportunity to visit. And to be honest, you can’t really go wrong visiting a Caribbean island because they are all spectacular.
It’s a small island full of mountains. The views from the tops are incredible. The beaches have white sand and the sea is so clear and blue. We hired a car on our visit (which is a must-do) and went to see all the best spots on the island. It was a wonderful trip and we fell in love with Sint Maarten!
We loved driving around the island and making stops at all the various different beaches and viewpoints. We like to explore and have a bit of adventure when we travel, and you can definitely find that on Sint Maarten.
Rich History of Sint Maarten/Saint Martin
Although we didn’t always pay attention in history class at school, we do like to learn about the history of the country that we are visiting. We ended up learning quite a bit about the history of Sint Maarten and we found out that it actually wasn’t always part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
A long time ago the Dutch, British, French and Spanish fought over several islands in the West Indies. In 1648, the French and Dutch divided the island into two parts. The French part is still part of France but the Dutch side has become an autonomous region (still part of the Dutch Kingdom).
You can easily travel between the two regions: the border is marked with flags but there is no hard border. There are differences though. On the Dutch side (Sint Maarten), people speak English and you pay with the Antillean Guilder. On the French side (Saint Martin), people speak French.
However, unlike in France, English is widely spoken. Saint Martin is also part of the European Union and you pay with the Euro currency. We ended up visiting both sides because we thought it was worth it – and indeed it was!
Sint Maarten is made up of many immigrants. Sadly, the indigenous people who once lived here – the Arawaks – were chased away by all the different people who wanted to take power over the years. Later on, the Dutch and French brought over African slaves – hence many locals have African roots.
But there are also many Dutch and French people who live on both sides of the island, plus other immigrants who come from surrounding islands like the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and from South American countries. Sint Maarten is a melting pot of different cultures.
Favorite Place in Sint Maarten: Maho Beach
We loved our time in Sint Maarten, exploring the island and taking many photos in beautiful places. One of the most famous spots is a beach called Maho Beach which is located right behind the airport. Here you can almost touch the planes from the beach when they fly over you to land.
It’s so impressive, especially from a white sand beach with clear waters. Maho Beach is a place you can’t miss because it’s the first thing you see as you arrive on the island. Make sure you book a window seat on the plane!
11 Best Things To Do in Sint Maarten
1. Spot Planes at the World Famous Maho Beach
One of the first things we did when we landed was to visit the iconic airport beach where planes fly super close overhead. Honestly, the pictures you see are no exaggeration of just how close these planes get! Maho Beach is adjacent to the Princess Juliana International Airport and you can enjoy taking some fun photos here as well as swimming in the blue waters.
2. Go Ziplining at Rainforest Adventure – Sint Maarten
Rainforest Adventure has the steepest zipline in the world and that fact should be the only reason you need to go! You will be harnessed in a chair and flung down the mountain on a ziplining ride that drops 1,050 feet in elevation over 2,800 feet. It’s such a fun and thrilling experience.
3. Enjoy a Sunset View at Fort Louis, Saint Martin
Located on the French side, Fort Louis is the perfect place to take in a gorgeous Caribbean sunset. This 18th-century fortress overlooks the lovely Marigot Bay and the hike up is a decent work out too (totally worth it)!
4. Discover the Art Murals of Philipsburg (the Capital)
You can either try to find the murals of Philipsburg on your own or you can join a mural tour with others. These murals are scattered throughout the capital city of Philipsburg, and each one has its own beauty and makes for a great Instagram photo. The murals also tell you a lot about the island’s rich history and culture. So grab your camera and start exploring!
5. Chill at the Nature Sanctuary, Loterie Farm
Loterie Farm is a nature sanctuary spread out over 135 acres. This place offers everything from hiking trails and ziplines for the more adventurous, to a bar and pool area for those looking for relaxation. Loterie Farm, as you can probably guess by its spelling, is located on the French side.
6. Take the Ferry to the Nearby Pinel Island
Pinel Island is located on the French side and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a day of adventure! Here you can hike to the top of the island and enjoy panoramic views, snorkel at North Beach, feed the iguanas, go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding and relax at the beaches.
7. Visit the most Beautiful Beach: Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach is a great alternative to visiting Maho Beach as it has soft sand and crystal clear waters with much less tourist crowding. Be sure to visit when the cruise ships aren’t coming in because when the cruise ships dock, Mullet Bay tends to fill up quickly with cruise ship visitors.
8. Head to Saint Barthelemy for a Day Trip
Saint Barthelemy (St. Barts) is another beautiful Caribbean island that is only a 30 minute boat trip away from Sint Maarten on a fast journey. If you love shopping then there are some luxury retailers to browse through – not to mention the wild and bewildering beauty on offer in the beaches, turquoise waters and red-roofed villas. St. Barts is definitely worth visiting!
9. Explore the Ruins of La Belle Creole Resort
La Belle Creole Resort was meant to be a luxurious little French hideaway in Saint Martin but it ran into some financial problems and ended up being abandoned. The resort was then further destroyed by Hurricane Luis back in 1995. Today you can explore the “ruins” of the resort and walk through the different buildings which have a ghost town feel about them.
10. Learn the History of the Island at Fort Amsterdam
Fort Amsterdam is one of the major forts of the island and it was built in 1631 near Philipsburg. The fort juts out between Little Bay and Great Bay. Visit the fort to take in some nice views and to learn a bit more history. The Spaniards actually occupied the fort until 1648 and then it was passed back to the Dutch after the Treaty of Concordia was signed.
11. Try the Fresh Seafood Cuisine of Sint Maarten
The food scene in Sint Maarten is more like a mix of different Caribbean cuisines. Since it’s an island, there is a lot of amazing seafood. You don’t really see many Dutch food influences here, as you normally find on other Dutch Caribbean islands. But you can certainly find Dutch cuisine if you go looking for it. The seafood is a must-try and so are some of the pizzas!
Tips for your Visit to Sint Maarten
We recommend visiting Sint Maarten for at least seven days so you can see it all. But if you are a beach person, you won’t get bored here if you stay for longer than ten days. It’s a paradise after all with plenty of things to do.
The island is small, so you can’t really go wrong location wise. We stayed in several spots around the island, but location wise we liked being close to Maho Beach. This is close to our two favourite beaches: Maho Beach and Mullet Bay Beach. You can also stay close to Philipsburg, a beautiful spot!
Another important tip is to organize a rental car. The island isn’t big but still the easiest way to get around is by having your own transport. Also, be sure to visit outside of the mid-summer season. During summer, it’s hurricane season and there is a big chance of hurricanes and bad weather. The best time to visit is between November and June. Enjoy your trip!