The Complete Guide to Saint Martin (What to Do, Where to Stay, What to Bring, and When to Go)

Saint Martin’s quirky and unique draws have earned it a very reputable name among the travelers’ circle, making it one of the top holiday destinations on this side of the world. The island of Saint Martin, split between French Saint Martin, and the Dutch Sint Maarten, offers double the excitement, and twice the vacation.
The Complete Guide to Saint Martin
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With its own draws, the two sides, each controlled by two different European states have given every traveler all the cultural highs they have been looking for. French Saint Martin offers a laissez-faire atmosphere to traveling and has certainly enticed many globe trotters and seasoned holidaymakers to its shores.

What Is Saint Martin Known and Famous for?

Saint Martin is known for many things, although it shares tons of similarities with other Caribbean islands. For it is, after all, an equally special and gifted island. But the curiosities and uniqueness of the island’s geopolitical situation make it all the more worth it of the hype.

French Saint Martin boasts many of the islands’ best beaches. As Dutch Sint Maarten embodies the cosmopolitan vibe of a developed country, the French side has its chill, laid-back, and relatively simpler life as its biggest draw. If you have gorgeous beaches, French attitudes, chic fashion and shopping, and the best food on the island, you have a perfect recipe for a must-visit island.

Other than cultural cues, and picturesque beaches, there are even nude beaches too! Saint Martin has a lot of other places to put on its best draws list. Places such as the Old Street of Marigot for a feel of the island’s history, the entire area of Grand Case is worth the stroll, and the Pic Paradis, where you can see the Orient Bay, the French Quarter of Orleans, and the Dutch Philipsburg to the south. This elevation gives you some of the best views of the island.

The Dutch-French control of the island is probably one of the most unique features of the island. It’s a territory split by two former colonial powers, the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the south, and France to the north. As both countries are in the EU, getting across either side of the island is a breeze, allowing for more places to explore and more curiosities to quench.

Is Saint Martin Beautiful?

To ask if Saint Martin is beautiful is clearly underestimating the richness the island has. Speckled with gorgeous beaches on each side, historical towns, a diverse population, and a bicultural landscape, thanks to the French, and Dutch, Saint Martin is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean.

You can check out the island’s iconic places like the Orient Bay, often called the “Saint Tropez of the Caribbean”, which is one of the island’s most famous beaches, if not the most. Fort Louis overlooks French Saint Martin, and just below the historical fort, the city of Marigot, the French side’s capital packs a ton of worthy landmarks as well.

What Else Makes Saint Martin Special?

If you stay in French Saint Martin, or Dutch Sint Maarten, chances are you can always visit the other side without the hassle of border controls and whatnot. Both controlled by EU-member states, borders are usually blurry allowing tourists to easily get in between. This has attracted visitors from different parts of the world, especially those coming from the US and Canada. You get to see and experience the contrasting cultures, which is in itself interesting. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone. And that stone, could either be Dutch or French.

Things to Do Saint Martin

One of the most popular things to do in Saint Martin, and is famous for it is Yachting and Sailing. If you’re on an island surrounded by gorgeous Caribbean waters, good winds, and sunny days all year long, sometimes the best thing to do is to get off it and get around. Several companies offering sailing, yachting, and other boat activities for the water-loving holidaymakers.

With a plethora of pristine beaches on every side, one of the best things to do in Saint Martin, or on any island for that matter is to conquer its beaches. Saint Martin will always boast its beaches with good reason. Start off in Orient Bay, the Caribbean’s “Saint Tropez”, then Grand Case with mild surfing, perfect for lounging and meeting locals, and Baie Rouge, or Red Bay, with reddish sands, and a stretch of beach with rock formations on both ends, this is an ideal beach for sunbathers and snorkelers.

Drive up to the Pic du Paradis, one of the island’s highest elevations. This 1,492 feet or 454.76-meter elevation offers expansive views of the entire island, where you can even see Philipsburg, Dutch Sint Maarten’s capital. With its height, you can see surrounding islands like Anguilla, Saba, and Sint Eustatius.

The city of Marigot itself is packed with curiosities worth exploring. From Fort Louis nearby, the many bistros and boulangerie, you can also experience both high-end shopping, and shopping for cheaper or affordable goods in the outdoor market of Marigot, where you can find a wide selection of purchases, from fresh fruits to spices and meats.

What Is the Weather Like in Saint Martin?

Just like all of the Caribbean, Saint Martin has a tropical climate with warm temperatures and sunny all year round, even in the supposed “wet season”. The entire island’s average yearly temperature is 27 C or 80.6 F, with average highs of 32 C or 90 F, and occasionally drops to 20 C or 68 F. You can easily tell that temperature is consistent, and the perceived heat during the hottest days are often regulated by the trade winds.

Despite Saint Martin’s seemingly consistent temperatures, the island experiences two distinct seasons: the dry season, usually during December to April, and the wet season, from May to November.

The dry season is the best time for touristy activities like tours, and temperatures aren’t too wild which makes vacationing more enjoyable, corresponding to the island’s peak tourist season. During these months, temperatures are cooler but don’t usually drop below 20 C or 68 F.

The wet season is arguably the hottest months of the year. The months of May to November will feel the hottest where average highs can get up to 32 C or 90 F, often accompanied by light brief rains during the day, or evening, but doesn’t have much contrast to the dry season’s sunny days.

Does Saint Martin Have a Rainy Season?

Despite being famous for its seemingly endless sunny skies, and warm days perfect for an eternal summer getaway, Saint Martin does have a rainy season. May to November is the island’s rainy season or the so-called “wet” season. During these months, during these months temperatures climb up to 32 C, and are usually consistent for the rest of the season.

The measured rainfall during the wet season is usually around 10.4 to 15.2 cm, with rain days averaging 10 to 13 days. Rain in Saint Martin during this season is characterized by short light rain mostly occurring late in the day. Most of the time, the island’s rainy season doesn’t have much contrast with the dry season. Saint Martin’s hurricane season also falls within the rainy months, around June to November.

What Is High Season Saint Martin?

Mid-December to April is Saint Martin’s high season. Due to the near-perfect weather conditions that make vacation ideal, these months usually see huge crowds, spiking occupancy rates, and businesses tend to thrive. However, if you decide to visit Saint Martin during these months you have to be ready for price hikes, and large crowds competing for that well-researched Instagrammable spot on the island.

Is September a Good Time to Go to Saint Martin?

September falls within the rainy season, so that could either be a good or bad time to go depending on your ideal conditions for a vacation. September also sees the highest average of precipitation among other months, with an average of 13 rain days. This month also falls within the hurricane season; however, Saint Martin hasn’t been directly hit by a hurricane since Irma in 2017.

The good thing about the low season is good deals on flight tickets, accommodations, and tour packages, cheaper prices make for an expandable budget as well. Despite September falling within the rainy season, Saint Martin’s wet months don’t have much difference from the dry season. It’s still sunny and warm on most days, however, temperatures tend to soar up to 31 C or 88 F in September.

What Is the Best Time to Visit Saint Martin?

If you want cheaper deals and affordable purchases, and maximizing your hard-earned budget, you can visit the shoulder seasons or any off-season in Saint Martin. You can visit either from May to June or from late November to Mid-December. May sees huge crowds waning down to give way to the shoulder season, where prices and deals are slashed fifty percent off, however, June will mark the beginning of the rainy season.

Late November to Mid-December will give you pleasant weather conditions as temperatures get mild making way to December’s cooler temperature. Outdoor activities from hiking, water activities and even just strolling around the city are enjoyable. You just might avail good vacation packages during this time as well.

Do Cruise Ships Go to Saint Martin?

Part of several cruise lines Caribbean package, Saint Martin is a famous cruising destination. Big cruising names go to Saint Martin annually, like the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line to name a few.

Where Do Cruise Ships Dock in Saint Martin?

Most cruise ships, especially the big one dock in Dutch Sint Maarten, specifically at the A.C. Wathey Pier & Port Facility, just outside of Philipsburg, the Dutch capital. However, smaller ships dock at Marigot in French Saint Martin. Despite the seeming division of the island, virtually no border controls are making it easier for visitors to see both sides, regardless of wherever the cruise ship is docked.

What Is the Best Part of Saint Martin?

Whether you’re on the French or Dutch side of the island, the entire island is a Caribbean paradise teeming with beauty, from gorgeous idyllic beaches, charming historical towns, and other cultural marvels like the local cuisine. To ask which part is the best is like omitting other equally beautiful parts of this one small island.

French Saint Martin has always boasted one iconic area, the Orient Bay. This famous bay remained largely undeveloped until 1985, where it underwent a transformation and has attracted a huge following and became famous and has been French Saint Martin’s most favorite beach.

Along the stretch of this gorgeous beach strip, there are many hotels lined to cater to the holiday whims of vacationers. La Playa Orient Bay is a charming boutique hotel that sits by the coast with a total of 56 rooms. Other notable areas other than Orient Bay, are Maho Bay and Simpson Bay both found in the Dutch Sint Maarten.

Where Should I Stay in Saint Martin?

With a plethora of beaches and towns worth exploring, Saint Martin is filled with plenty of options for first-time travelers to the island, and yes, that includes the Dutch side. However, your most ideal place to stay will always depend on what kind of experience you want to have, or what kind of places you want to easily access from where you’ll stay.

When in Saint Martin, the go-to area to stay if you’re up for historical sightseeing is the capital of Marigot where you’ll find top-rated hotels overlooking the harbor with expansive views of the sea. You can also stay around Orient Bay for quick access to the island’s most famous beach strip, you have options like La Playa Orient Bay, Orient Beach Hotel, Esmeralda Resort, and Hotel Palm Court.

In the town of Grand Case, you have the popular Grand Case Beach, one of the longest strips on the island, and not to mention the town itself is famous for being a hotbed for restaurants and beach bars, almost competing against Orient Bay.

Does Saint Martin Have All-Inclusive Resorts?

With its enduring reputation among tourists all over the world, you can expect to find a plethora of all-inclusive resorts that cater to guests in pairs, or even whole families or friend groups. Due to loose borders and a thriving tourism industry you can stay around either Sint Maarten or Saint Martin.

Some of them are Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, and Divi Little Bay in Sint Maarten, and Esmeralda Resort, Secret St. Martin, and Grand Case Beach Club in Saint Martin, to name some of the top-rated places.

Does Saint Martin Have Casinos?

Even with its chilled vibe, and laid-back loving culture, the island itself loves the cosmopolitan highs of casinos and luxury shopping. However, most of the casinos on the island can only be found on Sint Maarten, the Dutch side. You can find Princess Casino, a large Vegas-style casino that has 650 slot machines and several game tables. Coliseum Casino is an ancient Rome-inspired casino known for having a diverse set of games, from poker, roulette, to blackjack.

How Many Days to Spend in Saint Martin?

If you decide to explore as much of the island as you can, and not just its beaches, three to five days will give ample time to familiarize the culture and enjoy everything the island has to offer. You can also explore either side of the island within these three to five days. With a plethora of beaches, historical landmarks, and cultural experiences, even only three days can give you just enough to call the island a worthy visit.

With three to five days in your itinerary, you can split different activities and different parts of the island on each day. You can go city tours on the first day, cross to the other side on the second day, go on a food trip on the third, go visit different beaches in between, it’s all up to you. The best thing to consider is where you’ll stay, and your budget.

What Do You Wear in Saint Martin?

Saint Martin is more of a chill, laid-back island, just like any tropical holiday island across the Caribbean. However, French Saint Martin is more fashion-forward with a pinch of chill and casual. Light and thin clothes to help cool off from the heat are common and are often the go-to look.

For ladies, you can wear sundresses, maxi dresses, light button-downs, denim shorts, skirts, and a pair of flip-flops, sandals, or espadrilles. As for the men, a button-down is always the go-to, basic plain colored t-shirts, tank tops, board, denim, or cotton shorts, pair them down with flip-flops, sandals, boat shoes, or espadrilles. For a dip in the water, bikinis are always perfect for women, and speedos or swimming trunks for men.

Can You Bring Alcohol to Saint Martin?

Alcohol and other liquors are allowed to bring into Saint Martin, however, they must not exceed 40 ounces. But according to previous visitors, customs in Princess Juliana International Airport are usually lenient about the kind of alcohol you’ll bring. Alcohol prices on the island are also incredibly cheap and accessible so it’s better to buy in Saint Martin unless you have a really special bottle that you want to bring then, by all means.

What Is the Legal Drinking Age in Saint Martin?

If you’re over 18 years, you are allowed to buy and drink alcohol in bars, restaurants, and supermarkets. However, it is best to bring a valid ID confirming your age and date of birth, just in case you will be stopped by bouncers in bars and clubs.

Do Cell Phones Work in Saint Martin?

Cellphones work on the entire island of Saint Martin, however, that depends on what your carrier is. AT&T and T-Mobile work in Saint Martin, however, you have to get the international plan which can be pricey. Sint Maarten, the Dutch side has carriers like TellCell, and UTS, or Chippie, which you can purchase at many locations that are known to be cheap.

Which Mobile Network Is Available in Saint Martin?

US American carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile work in Saint Martin, but you have to get the international plan which can cost a bit more, than buying another sim. Networks that are in Saint Martin and Sint Maarten are Digicel, Orange, UTC or Chippie, TelCell,  and Dauphin Telecom.

Can I Use My Verizon Phone in Saint Martin?

Verizon’s extensive coverage has made it available in Saint Martin, however, you’ll still need to purchase an international plan which can be expensive than buying a temporary sim on the island for as low as 10 USD.

What Outlets Does Saint Martin Use?

If you’re from the US or Canada, chances are you might need to bring or buy an adapter as Saint Martin uses the type E plug and outlet, with a standard voltage of 220 V. However, type C plugs also work on the French side of it has an additional pinhole.