St. Maarten – Laid Back Calm, Luxury In the Caribbean

We’ve covered Barbados and Jamaica, so now it’s definitely time to put in a few words for St. Maarten. Some people like to hop around the Caribbean, but if you really had to pick a place in the Caribbean to start with, you definitely want to pick St. Maarten. The island is well known for its luxurious offerings, and while it’s possible to go on the cheap anywhere in the Caribbean, you will have a lot more fun if you make a little room in your budget for some of the luxury things.

Ready for your own little virtual list of all things St. Maarten? Great, let’s go!

One thing that you have to know about this island nation is that it’s actually based on two different countries. There’s Sint Maarten, which belongs to the Dutch, and St. Martin, which belongs to the French. Tourists can go to either side of the island and find plenty of things to do. The Dutch side tends to favor a lot of partying and wild fun, whereas the French side is a bit more laid back with more focus on its French roots than anything else.

The best time to go to the island is…anytime! You’ll find an annual temperature to be around 26 degrees C — about 78 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s pretty warm all year long, but there are times where the heat cools off. July through October is when you’re going to get a lot of heat and humidity. September is hurricane season and many businesses shut down to protect themselves. Being an island nation, hurricanes can be really brutal so it’s better to close and protect what you have than to just assume that you can weather hurricane season. Some years you might get lucky but other years, well… you get the idea.

So when do you need to go? November and December are great times, but it could get busy as people think about heading out for a little Thanksgiving fun, island style. May to June are great times for the weather and the whole Spring Break mentality is a bit less than you might expect.

While we’re on the subject of trip planning, you will want to make sure that you have a way to get around the island. Rental cars are really the name of the game, and there are deals everywhere. It might seem like it wouldn’t be intelligent to get a rental car for such a small island, but public transportation is a bit spotty at best. So if you don’t want to walk everywhere, make sure that you and your guests get that rental car!

One thing about St. Martin & St. Maarten is that you will need to make sure that you have proper identification on you at all times. No matter if you enter the island on the French side or the Dutch side, you will need your passport and a visa. Give yourself enough weeks ahead of time to get both. Yes, that means that you won’t really be able to do a last minute trip to the island — unless you enter on the Dutch side. For now, you don’t need a visa there, just your passport. By now you should know that if you want to leave your home country you’re going to need a passport to get into just about everywhere you want to go.

Flights are effortless as well — there are two airports to choose from, one on each side of the island. Juliana Airport on the Dutch side (SXM) is going to be your best bet for international flights. In addition if you wanted to check out other Caribbean nations from St. Maarten, you can through this airport. The connecting flights are actually quite cheap!

So let’s talk about things that you can actually do on the island. After all, you’re not going to just want to sit around all day while nothing happens around you. You’re going to want to actually be able to get a few things accomplished that you wouldn’t be able to do at home.

Can we suggest some guided tours? The Tijon Parfumerie & Boutique is a great one. You can actually check out the only working perfume factory on the island. It blends a little bit of the French perfume world with a unique Caribbean flair. Even if you’re a guy taking his girlfriend along to the island, this is something that your girlfriend really might enjoy. There are classes where you can even make your own scent and take it with you — how cool is that? Previous guests to the boutique have reported it’s definitely a very unique experience that they wanted to enjoy again and again.

What about if you’re a more outdoorsy type? There’s sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling and plenty of time to walk on the beach and collect shells. There’s also the extreme zip line at Loterie Farm which lets you get a unique view of almost the whole island. Of course, you don’t have to ride the zip line if you don’t want to — you can check out the nature reserve and take plenty of pictures — just don’t leave behind any trash!

We just couldn’t have a complete guide to things in St. Maarten & St. Martin without a few words on the food. As you might imagine you can definitely find both French and Dutch dishes on the island. The European influence is that strong, but that doesn’t mean that the Caribbean side isn’t represented at all. You can check out spicy West Indian Creole foods, which use scotch bonnet peppers to give you a lot of smoky, spicy flavors. Rum is the drink of choice on the island, but you can find non-alcoholic beverages too.

You don’t even have to miss out on great food if you want to go the private villa route. Villas are popular because they give you privacy where you want it, and the ability to interact with the public when you want to. If you plan on staying in St. Marten / St. Martin for a while, a villa provides a luxurious option that isn’t as expensive as you might have assumed.

Overall, it’s definitely a great time to start thinking about a trip out to St. Maarten & St. Martin — you will not be disappointed!

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