Golden beaches, crystal clear sea and an infinite horizon kissed by the sun. Welcome to Saint Martin, or Sint Maarten if you prefer. Hidden among the thousand wonders of the Caribbean, this island is the smallest area in the world to be divided under two different flags. In fact, the French and Dutch share this microscopic tropical corner where palm trees provide shade for tourists and residents. This double domination dates back more than 350 years and is therefore rich in history and anecdotes.
1-The magnificent eastern bay
The eastern part of the island of Saint Martin overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, while the western part of the Caribbean Sea. Orient Bay, as the Eastern bay is called, is also known as the “Saint Tropez of the Caribbean”, and as soon as you arrive you will immediately understand why. In addition to being the favorite destination of a number of personalities and celebrities from all over the world, it is also the largest and most popular beach on the entire island of Saint Martin.
In addition to the enchanting waters that lap a postcard beach, here you will find everything you have always dreamed of for a luxury seaside stay: facilities, resorts, restaurants, shops and sports centers. Particularly in vogue is surfing, which can be practiced at all levels of experience. Orient Bay is famous for being divided into various sections, each very unique and different from the others. Let’s take for example the nudist area, but also Bikini Beach, full of deck chairs, umbrellas and people who are not afraid to experience the beach in full relaxation and … slightly more laced swimsuits than those we are used to seeing in others parts of the world.
2-The picturesque village of Grand Case
The small and picturesque village of Grand Case is located in the French part of Saint Martin and offers tourists a small glimpse of paradise not only in terms of dream beaches, but also from a strictly cultural point of view. Grand Case is the gastronomic capital of the island and offers the discerning tourist a large number of restaurants and bars that will be able to please even the most sophisticated and difficult palates. With its mix of French, Caribbean and Creole cuisine, it will be impossible to resist the temptation to stop for dinner several times throughout your stay. A warranty! At the end of the meal, many restaurants offer a shot of their own rum to give the experience an even more exclusive touch.
From Grand Case you have a splendid view of the neighboring island of Anguilla. Those who come here are seduced by the wide selection of restaurants and fabulous local delicacies, but Grand Case has a lot to offer. Take for example the Grand Case Beach Club, a bathing site where you can practice all kinds of water sports, from snorkeling in the Creole Rock areas to kayaking, paddle surfing, water skiing and much more. The location is also well equipped for the reception of tourists, thus transforming itself into an interesting place for those looking for comfort and relaxation without having to make too many programs or trips.
3-The two faces of a single island
We said it: the two sides of the island are different. Marigot, the French capital, is a town with a pleasant atmosphere, with a wide choice of curated restaurants and many traditional stalls, home to a lively market full of colors and smells. Philipsburg, on the Dutch side, is the capital of duty-free shopping (as also happens in other islands that were part of the Netherlands Antilles such as Aruba) Jewelers and souvenir shops line the main road and exhausted customers can stop in one of the seemingly endless restaurants and bars. The village of Grand Case, on the other hand, comes alive practically only from January to April for the Harmony Nights Festival, a traditional Caribbean-style party that blends gastronomy, music, art and crafts.
To fully experience the island of Saint Martin, you can also take walks in the green along an old slave path to get to Loterie Farm, what was once a plantation and where today you can walk among the island’s flora and fauna. Not far away there is also the Mont Vernon Plantation: sugar cane was grown here until the eighteenth century and you travel through time following the stories of rum. About 4 km from the coast then is the island of Tintamere. This islet is uninhabited is wild and rocky but offers excellent swimming and snorkeling spots while admiring the turtles. The place is splendid: but bring your own food and drink because there is nothing.
4-The beach where the jets roar
Finally, we conclude with one of the most famous attractions on the island of Saint Martin: Maho beach. If you think of a typical tropical beach all peace and serenity you are wrong. It is exactly the opposite: the beach on the Dutch side of the island is known for being flown over at very low altitude by airliners that fly so close to the ground that tourists risk being sent into the water by the power of the reactors. Princess Juliana International Airport is not only close to the beach, it also has an unusually short runway of only 2,180 meters.
To complete a landing, the plane must land as close as possible to the start of runway 10. Thus it ends up brushing the heads of tourists who take selfies with the background of a roaring airbus. Aerial spotting has become a business: the owners of the beach bars have installed signs with arrival and departure times so that people can plan their visit and one of the bars even broadcasts radio communications in real time between the airport and the pilots.