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Your guide to Saint Martin
All About Saint Martin
The Caribbean island of Saint Martin only spans 37 miles, but despite its small size, the island and its surrounding waters are teeming with natural and cultural attractions. You can snorkel or scuba dive to explore nearby coral reefs and shipwrecks. Back on land, travel through the rainforest, past ochre-colored cliffs and powerful waterfalls on foot, bike, or horseback. For the more daring, explore the rainforest canopy as you ride down the steepest zipline in the world.
Half of the island is under the sovereignty of France and half under the Netherlands — these two European cultures exist alongside the native West Indies culture. Among the vibrant red and blue huts of the French side, you’ll find Creole cuisine like conch and callaloo soup, whereas the southern city of Phillipsburg is characterized by traditional white European-style buildings that have been painted over with captivating murals by local artists. You can learn how the island became what it is today at historic locales like Fort Amsterdam and Fort Louis or view the exhibits at Fruits de Mer and the Heritage Museum.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Saint Martin
Winter into early spring is the peak season on Saint Martin, when warm but mild temperatures attract the most international visitors. Major events like the Salsa Festival, a major regatta, and a huge electronic music festival happen during this time as well.
There are a number of festivals and events held throughout the year celebrating different cultural traditions as well. For example, Carnival begins in January on the French side, with costumed parades and parties lasting until Ash Wednesday. On the Dutch side, Carnival happens after Easter, and parades in Phillipsburg take place in late April or early May.
Major cultural events like the Annual Book Fair, the Fête Nationale, and the Sandy-Ground Festival are held in the summer months — before hurricane season in September and October. The island slows down a bit during these months as it prepares for an intense rainy season and a high frequency of tropical storms.
Top things to do in Saint Martin
This free museum, located at the Old House in the island’s French Quarter, teaches visitors about the island’s unique wildlife and cultural history. While taking a self-guided tour here, you’ll learn about plants and animals that are only found on Saint Martin, the unique building methods of the island’s architecture, and how African, European, and Indigenous cultures have blended into Caribbean agriculture, medicine, and cuisine.
The final stop on many of the island’s backcountry hiking trails, Pic Paradis is the highest point on the island and arguably has the best views on Saint Martin. From this vantage point, you’ll be able to look over the colorful homes of the French Quarter and as well as the stunning white sand beaches on the shores of Orient Bay, all the way to the Dutch side of the island.
Located less than two miles off the island’s northeast coast, Tintamarre is a mostly undeveloped island — aside from one centuries-old abandoned cotton plantation. This island is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean in relative solitude.