The pleasures of St. Martin are legendary, from its haute cuisine to its golden beaches. When you enter St. Martin, you’ve entered France, and not just figuratively speaking. St. Martin is as much a part of France as Marseilles or Nice, and a flight here from Paris is a domestic flight.
Visit the capital Marigot on market day, when, in front of the harbourside bistros and boutiques, vendors fill the parking lots with goods from home-brewed alcohol to burlap sacks overflowing with cinnamon, nutmeg and chili peppers. St. Martin is action-packed but also laid back. Orient Beach, perhaps the Caribbean’s best-known clothing optional strand, is also its premier location for watersports from windsurfing and jet skiing to “parascending” on a boat-towed parachute.
For a different kind of adventure, visit Loterie Farm, where a former slave trail leads you upward to breadfruit trees descended from the original plants brought to the Caribbean aboard the H.M.S. Bounty. A trail leads to Pic Paradise, the island’s highest point.
You can feast at one of the Caribbean’s largest collection of restaurants, but you can also eat well even on a small budget. In the village of Grand Case, fine eateries line a beachside road, yet amid these culinary palaces lie the “lolos,” a series of wooden shacks overlooking the sea where you can feast on a mountain of stewed conch, fried fish, rice, beans and plantains — all for about $10. From the lowland area called Sandy Ground to Marigot and the less visited Nettle Bay, savvy cooks are waiting to tempt you. It’s a good idea to eat heartily, because your days will be spent in a variety of activities, from a visit to the Butterfly Farm — where such beauties as the Cambodian wood nymph and the Brazilian blue morpho turn your day into a fluttering parade of colour — to the Mont Vernon Plantation, where you’ll journey back through the history of rum production to view the life of days gone by.
Airports: Princess Juliana International Airport Simpson Bay, St. Maarten, N.A., L’Esperance Regional Airport Grand Case, St. Martin, F.W.I.
Gateways/Flying Times: There are no direct flights from the UK. Air France fly from Heathrow via Paris, and KLM from Heathrow via Amsterdam. There are local connecting flights from Antigua. Paris: 8 hours 50 minutes. Amsterdam: 9 hours. Air Caribe operates up to 33 weekly flights from Paris to the CTO members countries of Guadeloupe (Pointe-à-Pitre), Martinique (Fort-de-France), Haiti (Port-au-Prince) and Saint Martin (Juliana). The company has set up the schedules of its regional network to offer passengers quick connections to all destinations: Saint-Martin (Grand Case), St. Barthelemy (service operated by St Barth Commuter), Saint Lucia and Haiti.
Average daytime temperature in winter is about 80-83 degrees F. Summer is a few degrees warmer. Evenings are cool in the winter.
The island boasts over 300 restaurants with a large variety of cuisines. It is considered the “Dining Capital of the Caribbean”.
French is the official language of St. Martin but English is widely spoken.
Entertainment available includes-Dinner/Dancing. Cocktail lounge music. Disco. Cinemas. Casinos (Dutch side).
Marina Port la Royale. Shopping complex, including top French and Italian designers fashions. The newly restored Fort Louis, the main historical building, built in 1789 in the reign of Louis XVI, with a wonderful view overlooking the entire French capital. Paradise Pic, the highest peak of the Island, 1,400 ft. The Museum, “On the trails of the Arawaks”, is a historical and cultural patrimony of the Island. It displays artifacts from the Arawak Indians, telling the history of colonisation of St. Martin, and an Art Gallery.
The Loterie Farms Ecocenter, located in the lush interior region of French St. Martin, is the island’s only private nature reserve. This former sugar plantation, set in 150 acres of pastures, tropical forest, and soaring mountain peaks, offers interested tourists the opportunity to rediscover the fascinating natural heritage of St. Martin. A growing population of wildlife including the green monkeys, raccoons, and an abundance of birds is testament to our preservation efforts. The future plans for Loterie Farms include botanical gardens, activities and conference center, a natural fitness course, and a Creole grill outdoor restaurant.
The Butterfly Farm, where you can walk amongst the rare and exotic butterflies from around the world flying freely in a tropical paradise, with music, flowers and fresh waterfalls. Colombier, this area will take you back to the “Old St. Martin”. “The Old House” Museum, located between French Quarter and Orient Bay, on an ancient eighteenth century sugar plantation, known as the “Spring”. A discovery of the lifestyle of sugar plantation back in time as well as the history of the Caribbean through the great adventure of Rhum.