There are many reasons to travel to St. Martin. The island of Saint-Martin is famous for its French and Dutch heritage and its cultural diversity, but also for its unspoilt natural sites and its status as the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean.
This island in the Lesser Antilles, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, is the world’s smallest territory shared by two sovereign nations, France and the Netherlands. The island is barely 60 km square, and there are no physical border controls between the French and Dutch sides. It is therefore very easy to move between the two parts of the island.
A paradise for sailors, the destination offers 37 beaches, natural reserves and mountainous landscapes. Here you can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities and even visit other nearby islands, including Saint-Barthélemy and Anguilla.
People also come to Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten for its sophisticated shopping and nightlife, fine cuisine, restaurants with live entertainment, piano bars and numerous concerts held throughout the year. St Maarten is also popular for its nightclubs and casinos.
The island was hard hit in 2017 by Hurricane Irma and more recently by the pandemic. But that’s now a thing of the past and the destination is looking forward.
During a presentation in Montreal, I had the opportunity to talk about this with Valérie Damaseau, President of the Saint-Martin Tourist Office.
We are delighted to see that things are picking up on Saint-Martin. Now we can say that we have the most renovated hotels! Even in terms of products, restaurants, activities, hotels, everything that is offered today is new and well thought out to better meet customer expectations.
How to get to Saint-Martin with points
There are no direct flights between Montreal (YUL) and Sint Marteen (SXM) with Air Canada.
According to Aeroplan’s points predictor, the number of points starts at 12,500 for a one-way trip. If you plan to travel during a period of high demand, such as December, you’ll need more points.
Activities and attractions not to be missed
In the heart of a hidden forest and at the foot of Paradise Peak, the highest point on the island, Loterie Farm offers several outdoor activities. It is home to many protected plant and animal species. On the program: zip line, swimming, hiking and lunch.
The Pinel island
The Pinel island, off Cul-de-Sac, north-east of Saint-Martin, is the pearl of the beaches among the 37 that shelter the island. You can get there by boat and there are restaurants on site.
Its name comes from the Spanish “tinta mare” which means “color of the sea”. With its ochre cliffs, turquoise lagoon and golden sand, the islet boasts two superb beaches.
Access is by boat for day trips and scuba diving, with a wreck submerged at a depth of 15 meters. During the navigation to the island, it is possible to meet humpback whales and bottlenose dolphins.
At Seaside Nature Park, you can go horseback riding on the beach and even swim with your horse in the sea! No experience is necessary. The park boasts 30 hectares of unspoilt nature.
Attend a festival
Several festivals are organized across the island. Here’s what’s in store for visitors :
Shopping in Marigot or Philipsburg
Located in the west of the island, Marigot is the Creole capital, worthy representative of France in the tropics. On the waterfront, the Marigot market offers local products every day except Sunday.
If you like luxury products, you can find your favorite brands such as Dior, Mont-Blanc, Fred, Rolex, Cartier, Omega, Chanel and Longchamp.
Don’t forget to bring your swimsuit when you come to Marigot, because you can go swimming. The beach of Galisbay is located at the exit of the city center. On the other side, you will find the large beach of Baie Nettlé.
In the Dutch part of the island of St. Maarten, Front Street is the most commercial street of the capital Philipsburg. You’ll love the colorful facades of the stores and cafes, with the sea in front of you.
In Grand-Case, the Tijon perfumery plunges you into the world of its refined fragrances made according to the traditions of the town of Grasse in France. You will have the opportunity to create your own perfume during personalized classes.
Contemplating wall art
The French and Dutch parts also offer stunning works of art. Several neighborhoods exhibit murals created by local and international artists.
For example, the work of Wallartstmartin, with its vibrantly colored frescoes, can be seen all over the island. These works will capture your eye, like this magnificent turtle.
Rent a car or mountain bike to explore the island
When traveling to Saint-Martin, the best thing to do is to rent a vehicle and go discover the many attractions of the island.
Driving is by French standards in the right-hand lane. A Canadian driver’s license is sufficient to drive anywhere on the island. The road network of Saint-Martin is made up of a main belt that surrounds the island and small roads that connect the neighborhoods and beaches.
Road maps are distributed free of charge at theTourist Office of Saint-Martin and in various shops and other tourist places on the island. You can also use the GPS applications on your cell phone, including Google Maps, which works very well on the territory.
Otherwise, cabs are at your disposal to move from Marigot, Philipsburg, or the main tourist sites.
Cabs do not have a meter, but rather follow an established fare schedule. Most cabs, especially those in the Dutch part, accept both dollars and euros.
For example, a trip from the international airport to your rental in the Maho district will cost you 15 euros, with four people and luggage.
Enjoy the gastronomy of Saint-Martin
Proud of its status as the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean, Saint-Martin has some of the best cuisine in the Caribbean. The island now has its Festival of Gastronomy which has been held in November for the past two years.
In Marigot, the “lolo” is a small, modest but picturesque typical restaurant that you will love to discover.
Grand-Case offers the widest choice of restaurants. Among the best establishments on the French side:
Accommodation : Good addresses to remember
A romantic destination, in Saint-Martin, people mostly sleep in villas and boutique hotels. Those who prefer all-inclusives can book at :
Saint-Martin has a majority of three-star hotels, as well as four- and five-star hotels, mainly located by the beach and on the coastal hills. It’s worth noting that Saint-Martin’s hotel stock has been completely renovated since 2017.
Among the good addresses to remember:
Pay for accommodation in Saint-Martin with points
Large hotel chains are not very present in Saint-Martin. But the Marriott Bonvoy’s Homes & Villas option is available to rent apartments or villas with Marriott Bonvoy points.
You can also use a travel credit from a credit card. Through Amex Travel, choose any accommodation in Saint-Martin and apply your credit to the account.
Like with these American Express credit cards:
With a credit card like the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card, use points to deduct your lodging expenses!
Some useful information about the destination
- Currency currently used: euros on the French side. The US dollar is widely accepted
- Languages spoken: French, English, French Creole
- The time is slightly different: AST (one-hour difference in winter)
- The population is around 90,000, with 150 different nationalities.
- The temperature is around 27 degrees Celsius all year round
When is the best time to visit St Martin and St Maarten?
The dry season, from December to April, is the most pleasant. It’s also peak tourist season.
What is Saint Martin's Day?
Saint Martin’s Day is celebrated on November 11 in the French and Dutch parts of the island. This date corresponds to the day the island was discovered by Europeans in the 15th century.