St. Martin – St. Maarten: Casual Luxury With a Multicultural Twist
At 37 square miles slightly larger than the island of Manhattan. Saint Martin/ Saint Maarten is two island colonies born out of a spicy, competitive but always loving marriage between the French and Dutch cultures. Slightly rebellious yet refined and cultured it is proof that opposites do attract. There is a unique joy in visiting both sides and falling in love with their geographic diversity: the island is as untamed as it is cosmopolitan with five-star cuisine, luxurious villas, unrivaled VIP nightlife, and more than its fair share of lush tropical landscapes, white beaches, hiking trails, and wildlife. With limitless options, St. Martin/St. Maarten still exudes a stress-free atmosphere – cultivated with how seamlessly one can pass across the border. Enjoy a morning run on a beautiful Dutch-side beach; next, take a leisurely afternoon stroll to a French-side cafe. Followed by more beach time where one can admire the quiet sophistication of the French beaches allowing time to enjoy cocktails. Next, a quick shower before traveling back over the border to enjoy casinos, clubs, and the delightful party atmosphere that the Dutch side of this vibrant island offers with unrivaled delight.
How to get there: Accessible by all major airlines the average flight time is about 4-hours and American Airlines, Qatar Airways, jetBlue, Delta, United, Air Canada, Frontier Airlines, and Spirit Airlines all fly non-stop daily.
Where to stay:
With so many possibilities to choose from accommodations fall into two major categories: resorts and villas. While Villa Beauvoir boasts 4 plus bedrooms and has stunning views of the islands of Tintamarre and Pinel, and a bird's eye view of Le Village de la Baie Orientale, an oasis of white sand beaches and colorful Caribbean homes. It is set slightly back from the beach and for those who want the luxury beachfront experience, La Sammana, aptly named "The sparkling gem of St Martin" is the perfect choice blending island glamour with a captivating cosmopolitan vibe. A destination to see and be seen.
On the French side, Les Jardin de Bellevue (Jennifer Vacation Homes)overlooks the city of Marigot, the French lowlands, and neighboring islands Anguilla and Saba. There are few villas that stand out from the crowd and this is definitely one of them. This luxurious villa rests on the top of a picturesque hill in Bellevue, St. Martin FWI surrounded by 25 acres of pristine secluded lagoon waterfront land. The villa consists of 2 levels and features a beautifully furnished living area with clean contemporary decor surrounded by glass French doors that open to stunning views of the sea and expansive terraces surrounding the large negative edge pool, jacuzzi, and children's pool. The exercise room is comfortable and bright and equipped with the best professional exercise equipment. The villa has both 110 and 220 Volt electricity throughout, SMART TV, wireless internet, and a gym (great for a work-from-home lifestyle!).
Another top stay, Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, is nestled on a private peninsula between Little Bay and Great Bay and offers its guests stunning beaches and close proximity to Phillipsburg, the Dutch capital. With over 200 hilltop suites and beachfront rooms, guests can spend their days in the island sunshine relaxing by one of three pools with sweeping views of the bay or take a more adventurous approach with kayaking, scuba diving, and boat excursions available. This year, the resort will debut a new wing with 98 additional rooms overlooking the beautiful resort grounds and the ocean.
What to eat:
St. Martin/St. Maarten is a gastronomical utopia so bring your appetite as you will not be disappointed. Fresh seafood is the focus, but variety is quite literally the spice of life here. On the French side, Le Télégraphe offers comfort and ambiance with a menu that is inspired without being pretentious along with L'Atelier where Alexandre and the staff work by the slogan: "passion for food and passion for people." Making you feel like a long-lost friend visiting this charming dining spot. Add to this Creole-inspired offerings utilizing the unique textures and flavors of conch, goat, and oxtail equally delight even the most refined palettes.
On the Dutch side make sure to visit Ocean Lounge, Located in the 55-room boutique Holland House Beach Hotel where you will be rewarded with a memorable lunch or dinner. Located in Phillipsburg, the inspired menu is complemented by gorgeous backdrops of Great Bay. Equally memorable is Pure Ocean Divi Little Bay adjacent to Fort Amsterdam. While the Dutch side certainly lives up to its reputation for the place to party. On the French side, you can enjoy an unspoiled nature reserve and access to one of the best views after a hike to Pic Paradis at Loterie Farm. With private cabanas, top-shelf spirits and inspired mixologists a live DJ throws down the beats as guests enjoy the stunning mineral pools and jacuzzies.
With private cabanas, top-shelf spirits and inspired mixologists a live DJ throws down the beats as guests enjoy the stunning mineral pools and jacuzzies. There is no shortage of some of the best wine and champagne from around the world. The island's national liqueur, Guavaberry, made from rum, cane sugar, and local, wild guava berries is a must-try during any visit to either side of the island. Not every meal needs to be so elevated as St. Martin/St. Maarten has mastered the art of casual dining with its or open-air restaurants on the beach. In the evening, live music is a staple of both sides with the bars and grills along Simpson Bay having some of the best music on the island.
Both St. Martin/St. Maarten offers luxury experiences that are worth the investment. Charter a private catamaran with Pyratz and you will experience the entire island being catered to by not only some of the nicest people but a crew that has taken casual luxury and hospitality to the next level. This private cruise offers a four-course gourmet lunch with no shortage of fine wine and craft cocktails from their open bar. Able to accommodate an intimate group of eight guests, this professional and gracious crew creates memories and elevates any trip to the island.
Lunch at La Villa Hibiscus: Chef Bastian invites visitors to discover his refined cuisine around a unique concept. Gourmet menus are offered regularly and private events if booked early are encouraged. The open area to the kitchen allows visitors to see the Chef in action all set against the backdrop of local flora and fauna.
Rainforest Adventures: A unique and memorable experience that inspires a sustainable use of the environment and an appreciation of the local culture while positively impacting our communities. The entire Rockland Estate covers 436,237 square meters with the focus to preserve its natural and built environment along with promoting education through adventure. Ride up the SkyLift and enjoy panoramic island views. If you're daring enough glide down the steepest zipline in the world with panoramic island views. If it's a clear day, you can see a 360 view of all the neighboring islands!
A Must See:
The Wall of Art of St. Martin is an outdoor museum that pays homage to the resiliency of spirit following the devastation of Hurricane Irma. First created by French Artists it has attracted talent from around the world including Bronx native, Hektad who flew to the island in November 2021 to offer his inspirational works as a gift to the island.
NOTE: This article was written during an exciting time for the Island. On the French side, November marked the "Festival de la Gastronomie" a taste of things to come in 2022 "The Year of Gastronomy in St. Martin".