We invite you to discover Saint-Martin, an island known for its French and Dutch heritage, its preserved natural sites and its gastronomy.
There are many reasons to travel to St. Martin. We visit the island of Saint-Martin to experience the French and Dutch heritage and its beautiful cultural diversity, but also for its preserved natural sites and for its status as the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean.
The island of Saint-Martin is the smallest territory in the world shared between two sovereign nations, France and the Netherlands. The size of the island is barely 60 square kilometers 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. You can enjoy various outdoor activities and even visit other nearby islands, including St. Barts and Anguilla.
People also come to Saint-Martin for its sophisticated shopping and nightlife, with fine dining, live entertainment, piano bars and numerous concerts held throughout the year. The Dutch side is popular for its nightclubs and casinos.
Recall that the island of Saint-Martin had been hit hard 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.
And good news: the island will become more accessible again this winter with the arrival of new flights in the coming weeks.
How to get to Saint-Martin with points
Airport and flights
From Montreal, Transat will offer 2 flights per week starting December 21 to Princess Juliana Airport (SXM).
The destination is also accessible from Toronto:
- with Air Canada (1 flight per week starting December 19)
- Sunwing (1 flight per week since September 22 and a second one in November)
- WestJet (3 flights per week starting in November)
- and Transat (1 flight per week starting December 24)
There are no direct flights between Montreal YUL and St. Maarten SXM with Air Canada. According to the Aeroplan Points Predictor, the number of Aeroplan points required starts at 12,500 points for a one-way trip.
However, due to dynamic pricing, last minute booking or high season, the average number of points required can be as high as 35,000 to 40,000 Aeroplan points for a one-way ticket.
But, for winter 2023, there are still some good dates and deals to be done.
Already, for November 2023, you can pay less for your flight to Saint-Martin with Aeroplan 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 access it by ferry and find two restaurants worth visiting.
Its name comes from the Spanish “tinta mare” which means “color of the sea”. With its ochre cliffs, its turquoise lagoon and its golden sand, the islet has 2 superb beaches.
It is accessible by boat to spend the day and to snorkel and dive, to meet a wreck immersed at 15 meters deep. 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 has 30 hectares of preserved nature, located near the high density development that characterizes Sint Maarten.
Attend a festival
In the coming months, several festivals will be organized throughout the island. It is said that 2023 will be the year of events in Saint-Martin. Here’s what’s in store for visitors :
Grand Case Tuesdays (January – April)
Carnival of St-Martin (February)
St. St. Maarten Heineken Regatta (1st weekend of March)
SXM Music Festival (March)
St. St. Maarten Carnival (April-May)
Oualichi festival (July)
Love Days – weekend concerts (May-June)
Festival of Gastronomy (November)
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, Tijon Perfumery immerses you in the world of its refined fragrances made according to the traditions of the city of Grasse in France. You will have the opportunity to create your own perfume during personalized classes.
Contemplating wall art
The island also offers amazing works of art. Several neighborhoods exhibit murals created by local and international artists.
For example, the work of Wallartstmartin, which offers vibrantly colored murals, is very present all over the walls of the island. These works will capture your eye, like this magnificent turtle.
Rent a car, jeep or ATV 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.
The driving is done according to the French standards on the right 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 ride from the international airport to your rental in the Maho district will cost you 15 euros, with 4 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.
It is in Grand Case that you will discover the largest choice of restaurants.
Among the best restaurants on the island:
- Bistrot Caraïbes (internationally recognized as the best French restaurant in Saint-Martin)
- Restaurant La Villa in Grand Case
- l’Auberge Gourmande
- and the Spiga restaurant
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 :
- Secrets St Martin Resort and Spa on the French side
- and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort Casino and Spa on the Dutch side.
Saint-Martin has a majority of 3 star hotels but also 4 and 5 star hotels, mainly located on the beach and on the hills of the coast. Note that St. 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:
- $100 travel credit with the American Express Gold Rewards Card
- $ 200 travel credit with the American Express Platinum Card
Using Airbnb is a good idea, as well as with general booking sites like Booking.com.
With a credit card like the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®Card, use points to deduct your lodging expense!
In addition, this HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® card saves you 2.5% on conversion fees, on all your travel transactions. It’s a two-for-one.
Some useful information about the destination
Currency currently used: Euros on the French side; USD is widely accepted.
Spoken languages: 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 about 27 degrees Celsius all year round.