Top 10 things to do in Saint-Martin

Visiter Saint Martin

Visiting the island of Saint Martin: what are the best things to do and see on the French-Dutch island in the West Indies?

Destination: the Caribbean! Popular for its climate and numerous sandy beaches, Saint-Martin is still considered the gem of the Antilles. Located 250 km north of Guadeloupe and 240 km east of Puerto Rico, the island is divided between two sovereign nations, France and the Netherlands, by a symbolic border. This island with a dual personality has Marigot as its capital on the French side and Philipsburg on the Dutch side. Once inhabited by the Arawak Indians (also known as Taïnos), it is the smallest island in the Caribbean Sea and was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and subsequently colonized by Europeans.

The Dutch side is known to be quite festive, with a large number of clubs in the west, unlike the French side, more renowned for its farniente and relaxing atmosphere with its numerous beaches.

What to do in Saint-Martin? Aside from its postcard-perfect scenery, this island of 75,000 souls is well worth a visit, and you’ll see for yourself with this list of 10 must-see things to do on Saint-Martin!

1. Marigot, capital of the French part

Vue sur Marigot depuis le Fort Saint Louis

Photo credit: Flickr – Jerry Dohnal

The town of Marigot owes its name to the numerous marshes, known as marigots, that were once found here. As you stroll through the streets of the town center, you’ll have the pleasure of admiring the old Creole huts that have been restored and now house numerous luxury boutiques. The island is famous for its « free tax », so take advantage of the opportunity to do a little shopping! Don’t forget to visit Fort Louis. Built in 1789, it overlooks Marigot Bay, opposite Anguilla. Looking for local color and atmosphere? Take a trip to the Marigot market! It’s the largest open-air market in the Caribbean.

Also worth a visit in Marigot: the Catholic Church, built on the road to Fort Saint Louis, the tomb of François-Auguste Perrinon, the Durat bridge and Rue de la République.

2. Philipsburg

Philipsburg

Photo credit: Flickr -Christophe Seger

Stroll down Front Street and Back Street, Philipsburg’s two main shopping streets, and take advantage of the many tax-free products on offer. Front Street (or Great Bay Voorstraat) is also lined with bars and casinos. You can also visit The Courthouse on the same street. It’s one of the major historical monuments on the Dutch side of Saint Martin. Another must-see in Philipsburg is the Sint-Maarten Museum, where you can learn more about the island’s history and see artifacts from the Arawak people.

Also worth a visit in Philipsburg are the ruins of Fort Amsterdam and Fort Willem I, which offer superb views.

3. Grand case

Grand Case à Saint Martin

Photo credit: Flickr – Jerry Dohnal

Grand Case lies to the north-northeast of Marigot. With its reputation as the gastronomic capital of the Antilles, its sandy beaches and colorful houses, this village is a must-see! Among its many attractions is Anse heureuse beach (Happy Bay). Paradise-like and less crowded than the island’s other beaches, it’s a must-see. You should also pay a visit to Rocher Créole. This nature reserve is protected and can only be accessed by boat.

An ideal outing for lovers of marine life, you’ll enjoy the seabed, the natural habitat of fish, rays and turtles! Renowned as the most beautiful spot on the island, Grand Case is a popular spot for diving/snorkelling or paddle boarding.

If you’re in Grand-Case between January and April, don’t miss Harmony Nights, a festive Tuesday market where music and gastronomy make for a wild evening!

Also worth a visit in Grand Case: the Tijon perfumery and Hope Estate, a protected archaeological site.

4. The beaches

Une des 37 plages de Saint Martin

Photo credit: Flickr- Gilles Messian

Set in a paradise-like landscape, the island of Saint Martin boasts 37 beaches, each more beautiful than the last, covering 70 km of coastline! From the most tranquil(Mullet Bay and Baie Rouge) to the sportiest, ideal for a surfing session (Baie de l’Embouchure, Petites Cayes, Le Galion…), not forgetting the wild(Baie aux Prunes or Grandes Cayes) and the heavenly(Ile Tintammare and Happy Bay), Saint Martin has something for everyone…!

Other famous beaches on the island may make you hesitate even more…

– Grand Case: A swell-protected bay with calm seas, where diving enthusiasts can get close to the Rocher Créole.

Baie Orientale, also known as « The Saint-Tropez of the Caribbean ».

– Little Bay, known as a bird’s paradise.

Maho Beach: a real tourist attraction, located at the end of the Juliana airport runway.

– Dawn Beach, close to Oyster Pond Marina.

5. A boat trip

Une balade en bateau à Saint-Martin

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Uladzik Kryhin

If you’re visiting the beautiful island of Saint-Martin, there’s one way you can’t miss… By taking a boat trip! Renting a boat in Saint-Martin will let you discover the Caribbean in a way you’d never imagined.

In fact, as you stroll around the island, you’ll discover many wonders. Whether it’s the paradisiacal beaches, the transparent waters revealing the maritime fauna, or the view of the sublime mountains, your pupils won’t be able to resist!

Find a boat for rent in Saint-Martin

6. Butterfly farm

Ferme des papillons à Saint Martin

Photo credit: Flickr- Mark Yokoyama

A must-see for all curious visitors, young and old alike. Under its 900m² sphere, the Butterfly Farm houses the world’s most beautiful butterfly specimens, and helps to safeguard endangered species.

7. Saint Martin nature reserve

Réserve naturelle de Saint Martin

Photo credit: Wikimedia- AnjaMagdic

The island’s nature reserve is one of Saint Martin’s must-visit treasures. Created over 20 years ago, it covers 3,060 hectares in the northeast of the French part of the island. It preserves the island’s five main ecosystems: mangroves, marine phanerogam meadows, coral reefs, coastal forests and ponds.

The site is home to a wide variety of marine and terrestrial flora and fauna, including several protected species. Numerous marine mammals such as bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales frequent the waters of this nature reserve. There are also over 90 species of birds.

8. Le Pic Paradis

Still wondering what to do in Saint Martin? Climb the island’s highest peak, Pic Paradis! At an altitude of 424 meters, it’s the highest point on Saint Martin, and access to it gives you a splendid view of the Caribbean Sea and Marigot. For the more sporty and nature-loving, you can opt for a 3-hour hike from the bottom of the Pic. This alternative is well worth the detour, as you’ll be able to spot butterflies, monkeys and even iguanas. The site is also accessible by car. Just allow a good 15-minute walk!

9. Lottery Farm

Loterie Farm à Saint Martin

Photo credit: Flickr- Mike Roberts

The Loterie Farm is a 54-hectare nature reserve at the summit of Pic Paradis. It’s a place steeped in history, offering breathtaking scenery! Formerly known as the « Loterie Plantation », it was originally a sugarcane plantation that ceased operations following the abolition of slavery. The site, which is only accessible by car, offers a range of activities to suit all tastes: hiking, tree climbing, swimming, restaurants… It’s sure to be a great time!

10. Also worth a visit in Saint Martin

L'anse Marcel à Saint Martin

Photo credit: Wikimedia – Clavius66

  • The Spring sugar factory
  • Saint-Jean plantation
  • The border obelisk
  • L’anse Marcel
  • Soualiga Destinations Boat Tours

How do I get to Saint Martin?

There are two ways to get to Saint Martin: by plane and by boat.

  • By plane

Flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle toPrincess Juliana SXM International Airport are mostly direct with AirFrance. With other airlines, you may have a stopover at New York John F Kennedy airport.

From Orly to SXM airport, flights with Air Caraïbes are direct, but many transit via Guadeloupe or Dominica, depending on the airline. For example, Air France now routes its passengers via Pointe à Pitre.

To land atSFG St Martin Esperance airport (located in Grand Case), flights are all indirect from Paris, with a stopover in Pointe à Pitre as well. Allow at least 9 hours’ flying time to reach the island.

To find a flight at the best price, take a look at the website of our partner Ulysse.

  • By boat

If you’d like to make the boat crossing an integral part of your trip, then don’t hesitate to use this means of transport, which is gaining in popularity every year. The cargo crossing lasts between 10 and 12 days and is only available as far as Guadeloupe or Martinique. The price is higher than by air, but includes accommodation and meals. To reach Saint Martin, all you need to do is take a plane.

Where to stay in Saint Martin?

Saint Martin offers a wide range of accommodation options: hotels, guest-houses, villas, vacation homes, rentals… There’s something for everyone! The north of the island, with Anse Marcel, Cul de Sac, Grand Case and Orient Bay, is the area that tourists generally prefer to stay in Saint Martin. It’s possible to find a vacation rental in St. Martin at attractive prices, especially if you come in the off-season. An increasing number of individuals are also renting out their homes when they go on vacation themselves.

To find a hotel at the best price, take a look at this hotel comparison site. And if you’re looking for more unusual accommodation, you can turn to the Airbnb rental platform.

Finally, to get an idea of where to stay in Saint Martin, check out our article  » In which city to stay in Saint Martin? « !

Map of hotels and accommodations – Saint-Martin, West Indies