Sint Maarten is another tiny island (37km2) of the southern Caribbean, the kind of island that can be visited in one day. It is curious that this small island is divided in two: over half of it is French territory and the rest is Dutch. Technically travelling to Sint Maarten is going to Europe and the EU; the currency is Euro, the languages spoken are French and Dutch and they drive on the right. However the Caribbean influence can be felt everywhere; from the vibes on the beaches to the cuisine featuring freshly caught fish and seafood and the laid back lifestyle. Here are some places to visit if you are visiting the island for a day and want to explore both the Dutch and French side:
Rotary Lookout Point
This lookout over Baie de l’Embouchoure is absolutely spectacular. The clear seas are well worth the stop and along the way, you will be able to see some mangroves which are absolutely spectacular. While we were here we even met a group of local fishermen carrying their catch from the boat to the car. And guess what the catch included?! Huge live lobsters! These were the biggest lobsters I had evern seen. This was a sign and we were determined to taste this delicacy while on the island.
This is the most popular beach on the French side; a very long beach where a variety of water sports are available, as well as some nice bars and restaurants along the beach. We intended to swim here however it was very windy and opted for a nice beer in one of the bars instead. We stayed for a while and decided to go for a swim somewhere else on the western coast.
We decided to move to this beach for a nice swim and it was the perfect choice. Friar’s beach ended up being my favourite beach in the entire Caribbean, clear calm waters, and not very crowded. This beach lies on the north western coast opposite that of the nearby island of Anguilla. There are several other beaches along this coast, however this beach is smaller attracting less crowds. The cherry on the cake was the nice beach restaurant that had the lobster we were looking for. This was the most authentic Caribbean beach and I felt in paradise here 🙂
Marigot and Fort St. Louis
Marigot is the French side capital. The main attraction of the capital is St. Louis fortification which is set on a hill overlooking the south of the island. The fortification is nothing spectacular, however you can get a good view over the western peninsula.
This is the most popular beach of the island. It is situated on the Dutch side and the popularity of the beach depends on the fact that it is adjacent to the runway and people come here to watch the landing of airplanes from a close perspective. The beach is also very nice however it is too crowded for my tastes. Of course if you are on the island you must include a short stop here to see what the hype is all about. However I wouldn’t spend more than half an hour here.
If you have some spare time you can enjoy a couple of hours shopping in Philipsburg. The most popular type of shopping seems to be that for jewellery and the main roads are Front and Back Street. Shopping here is duty free and apparently you can find some very good deals. We are not big fans of shopping so decided to give it a skip. Make sure to plan your visit ahead to make most of your day on this island. The official tourism website can help you with this.