Saint Martin is a unique and diverse island. The already-mixed culture of the Caribbean has an added dash of French and Dutch with the island’s two halves spilling over into each other. This means the range and varied options of things to do on a Caribbean island gets bumped up a few notches.
Imagine touring a Caribbean island, then taking a stroll through the Netherlands and finally a rendezvous in France. Now imagine having all of that in one place, and voila, you have Saint Martin.
The island is packed with fun and adventure so we’ve decided to put together a list of the top 10 attractions and best things to do in Saint Martin.
- Best Beach in Saint Martin
- Best Hike in Saint Martin
- Best Diving Spot in Saint Martin
- Best Snorkeling in Saint Martin
- Best Fishing in Saint Martin
- Best Museums in Saint Martin
- Top Attraction in Saint Martin
- Unexpected Attraction in Saint Martin
- Best Historical Landmark
- Best Shopping in Saint Martin
Top-Rated Things to Do in Saint Martin
Wondering what to do when you’re in Saint Martin? Check out our list below and give these a try!
#1. Best Beach in Saint Martin: Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay beach has calm crystal blue water and soft white sand, perfect for swimming and a great place to spend your entire day. It’s quite an active beach with water sports from windsurfing, kite boarding and jet skiing taking place throughout the day. You can either get in on the action or enjoy watching and be entertained.
It is one of the largest beaches in Saint Martin and there are plenty of bars and restaurants around. You can hire beach chairs and umbrellas from the beach bars and meals and drinks are served right on the beach so you won’t have to move a muscle to be fed and refreshed.
Please be aware that this is the French part of the island, so the southern end of the beach is “clothing optional”; we advise the more conservative traveler to stay on the north side.
Category: Beach, watersports.
Neighborhood: Orient Bay.
Hours of operation: N/A
Best for: Sun worshippers, water sport junkies.
Time to spend here: All day.
#2. Best Hike in Saint Martin: Pic Paradis
Pic Paradis is a 4.5km loop trail found in the French half of Saint Martin. The trail actually starts in Loterie Farm, which has plenty of trails and activities of its own. It is a moderate climb but can be a bit challenging because of some overgrown brush in certain areas. It is worth the effort though; once at the top you will enjoy some spectacular views, not only of Saint Martin, but you will be able to see the neighbouring islands as well!
The trails are well marked and fairly inexpensive for the day. Be sure to charge up your camera so you can snap the amazing scenery. You’re also very likely to spot some monkeys on the way! If you start the trail at Loterie farm, it will loop back there when you’re done, and at Loterie farm you can enjoy the pool, zip lines and other activities, as well as enjoy a meal at the restaurant.
Hours of operation: 6am - 9pm.
Best for: Nature lovers.
Time to spend here: The trail takes roughly 2hrs with stopping to take pictures.
#3. Best Diving Spot in Saint Martin: HMS Proselyte
Built in 1770, the HMS Proselyte was a warship that sank in 1801 after hitting a shoal. Today is it one of the most famous dive sites in the world, and certainly the best in Saint Martin. Today it is covered with rich coral, with its canons, ballast and anchors lying on either side of the wreck. It lies only 15m deep and visible from 10m, which means even inexperienced divers will be able to enjoy this relic.
Apart from the wreck itself, the area is rich in fauna and flora and you can spot some amazing sea creatures too. Gray sharks, humpback whales, sea turtles, rays and barracudas frequent these waters.
Neighborhood: Simpsons Bay.
Hours of operation: Dependent on the dive tour you choose.
Best for: Diving enthusiasts, aquatic explorers.
Time to spend here: Allocate 3 hours with boat travel.
#4. Best Snorkeling in Saint Martin
With tons of beaches to choose from, there are plenty of snorkeling spots on the island, but here’s our top picks from either side:
On the Dutch side, we have Cupecoy Beach. There’s plenty of colourful fish and reef for you to explore here. You can find this spot near the Sapphire Beach Club, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can swim along Mullet Bay. The swim trail itself will give you plenty of great snorkeling along the way, so in this case, the journey is as good as the destination!
On the French side, try Creole Rock, a smaller island off the coast of Saint Martin. If you’re an experienced swimmer you can swim from Grand Case beach, if not, you can join one of the tour groups. The crystal clear waters are teeming with beautiful and colourful tropical fish as the area is environmentally protected.
Neighborhood: Dutch side: Cupecoy. French side: Grand Case.
Hours of operation: N/A.
Best for: Water babies, marine explorers.
Time to spend here: 3-4 hours.
#5. Best Fishing in Saint Martin
You have to hire a boat and go out deep sea, there is plenty of great inshore fishing to be done in Saint Martin, along its many beaches. Caribbean waters are rich in fish! Especially if you enjoy fishing for snook, they are in abundance in Saint Martin and they seem to have no set size. They are known as fighting fish and will give you quite a challenge to haul them out.
For the more serious fishermen who prefer deep sea fishing, you will be pleased to know that just off the coast of Saint Martin, there is a stretch of deep sea called Marlin Alley (also called the Puerto Rican Trench), which is known as the home of the largest blue marlin on the planet! Because this is such a popular fishing destination, there are plenty of charters available to take you out there.
Neighborhood: The area is a stretch of sea between Saint Martin and St. Kitts.
Hours of operation: Dependent on the boat company you hire.
Best for: Fishing enthusiasts.
Time to spend here: Fishing charters are usually 4 or 6 hours.
#6. Best Museums in Saint Martin
It’s impossible to pick the best museum since there are different types. Instead, here’s a list of museums you can peruse and see which one peaks your interest:
For art lovers, try:
- Tropismes Gallery (Grand Case)
- Roland Richardson Art Gallery (Marigot)
- Artcraftcafe Gallery (Philipsburg)
For historical museums, visit:
- St. Maarten Museum (Philipsburg)
- Amuseum Naturalis (Quartier D’Orleans)
- Museum of Saint Martin: On the Trail of the Arawaks (Marigot)
We highly recommend the last on this list for those wanting to learn the history of Saint Martin, especially the original inhabitants of the island before the Europeans arrived, the Arawaks.
Category: Museum, art.
Neighborhood: Given above for each museum.
Hours of operation: Dependent on each museum but general operating times are 10am - 9pm.
Best for: History buffs, art lovers.
Time to spend here: Half a day.
#7. Top Attraction in Saint Martin: Maho Beach
You’re probably wondering why another beach? Well, the beach is not the attraction, it’s what happens at Maho Beach… The beach is located directly opposite the Princess Juliana International Airport, and pictured above is a plane on its descent to the airport runway. Since the runway is so close to the beach, planes can fly as low as 30m above the onlooking sunbathers.
But that’s still not the main attraction! Between the airport and the beach is a double lane road, and a fence separates the beach from the road, with the airport opposite the road.When the planes are revving for takeoff, their tail end faces the beach, and visitors gather at the fence and hold on tight to feel the powerful blasts from the jet engines!
Caution is advised as the blasts are quite powerful. Children and older folk should avoid being too close to the fence, although you can still feel the blast on the beach itself.
Category: Plane spotting.
Hours of operation: N/A
Best for: Adrenalin junkies.
Time to spend here: All day.
#8. Unexpected Attraction in Saint Martin: Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit
Located among the duty free stores in Front Street, The Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit is named after Nick Maley, who created the character Yoda in Star Wars and got nicknamed “that Yoda guy”. He worked on several other movies and here you will see how those characters were created, including real life size displays of characters like Pinhead from Hellraiser, Darth Vader and Ridley Scott’s Alien. There are displays from 6 decades of movie making! Relics from The Terminator, Men in Black and The Maltise Falcon can be seen here.
There's also an incredible collection of lifecasts (the actual faces of Hollywood stars), including Bogart & Brando, Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jollie. Famous historical figures are included as well, the actual faces of Abraham Lincoln, (cast 3 months before his assassination), Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, and death masks of both Oliver Cromwell (1658) and Vladimir Lenin (1924).
You wouldn’t expect to see that on a Caribbean island, now would you?
Category: Movie exhibition.
Hours of operation: 9:15am - 5pm.
Best for: Movie lovers..
Time to spend here: Half a day.
#9. Best Historical Landmark: Fort Amsterdam
A short uphill walk from the Divi Little Bay Resort and you will arrive at Fort Amsterdam. This stone fort was built by the Dutch in 1631 to defend the seaport at Sint Maarten (the Dutch side of the island). It was captured by the Spanish 2 years later, and it was here, in one of the attempts to retake the fort, that Stuyvesant lost his leg.
The fort is on a peninsula about 2.5 km long and consists of several ruins, so there’s a lot to see here. It is also a popular bird watching site as many species of birds, most notably the Brown Pelican, nest here. From the highest point you will enjoy spectacular views of Philipsburg.
Category: History, bird watching.
Hours of operation: Open 24hrs.
Best for: History buffs, anyone wanting to learn more about Saint Martin.
Time to spend here: 2hrs.
#10. Best Shopping in Saint Martin: Front Street
Front street is the busiest street on the island because of the number of tourists bustling about. From exclusive designer jewelry stores to local street vendors, there’s a wide range of shopping for everyone. You can find emeralds, diamonds, gold, platinum and more at over 20 stores from international designers like Cartier, Gucci and Versace. Cheap clothing, cigars, liquor, perfumes, and more and are all available duty free!
The best thing about Front Street is that most of the prices are negotiable, so put on your poker face! Gadget freaks will also find electronics at good prices here. Be aware that parking can be difficult with the area being so busy, so it’s best to grab a taxi. Oh and wear comfortable shoes; you’ll be doing a lot of walking!
Hours of operation: Dependent on each store.
Best for: Shopaholics, anyone in need of retail therapy.
Time to spend here: Half the day.
And that’s our picks of the top 10 best things to do in Saint Martin.
Since Saint Martin is a fairly small island, this is one time where you can literally get through this entire list in one visit. With just a little planning, a whole lot of fun awaits you!