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Caribbean Spotlight: St. Martin

St. Martin beach from Calmos Cafe
St. Martin beach from Calmos Cafe

We are always up for an adventure – and for us, island hopping in the Caribbean is our favorite kind of adventure! The waters of St. Martin/St. Maarten are turquoise, beaches pristine and laid back culture. Whether you visit the island from a cruise ship, or you fly in and hire a private charter boat, this island and her waters has something for everyone.  Here are a few reasons St. Martin should be a stop on your next Caribbean escape:

Two Cultures – One Island

It’s fun to experience different cultures and at this island, you get two for one – Saint Martin is owned by France and Sint Maarten is owned by Holland.  Both sides still have the laid-back Caribbean vibe but on the French side, you’ll find French-influenced food and less clothing on the beaches (go topless or go home!).   Sint Maarten (the Dutch side) is known as the “louder” side – one, because it’s the nightlife hub and two, it’s famous for the very loud “beach fly-over” at Maho Beach. As airplanes go in for a landing, they closely fly over beach-goers. For a great local guide who will show you some of the island’s more “off the beaten track” sights, book tour-guide phenom Joyce Prince in advance.

Local Wildlife

You never know what you’re going to see as you roam around on land.  Wild vervet monkeys are frequently spotted on the Dutch side of St. Maarten.  Although they are an invasive species and locals think of them as pests, kids love it when they spot one up in a tree.
Ask a local (or your tour guide) where you can find the wild iguanas – a popular stop for tour guides and a hoot to watch (for kids and adults alike)!  There is a section of mangroves along the roadway where dozens of wild iguanas will come out from if there’s a vague possibility they might score a piece of fresh fruit or veggie from a tourist.  Insider tip: Pack a banana in your day bag. When you pull it out, and dozens of iguanas come running toward you – your kids will think you’re a superhero.
If you are beached out, The Butterfly Farm is a favorite kid-approved attraction.

A Great Boating Base

St. Martin is thought of as a boating and sailing hub where you can easily reach other Lesser Antilles islands – from here, you can quickly “island hop” to other spectacular Caribbean destinations.  St. Barth’s, Saba (and it’s amazing dive sites) and St. Kitt’s are practically a stone’s throw away.  Boating events on the island include the Heineken Regatta in March and the Alliance Race in November. In May, Yachts from all over the words gather here for Captain Olivers’ Regatta.

Drink Up!

Wherever you go, you’ve gotta enjoy what the locals do and in Sint Maarten, you must try the Guavaberry Colada!  The island’s Guavaberry is a liquor that is woody, fruity, bitter and a tad spicy. It’s frequently used in the  Guavaberry Colada that is the island’s delicious twist on a pina colada. After you’ve reached your colada fill, switch over to the local Caribe beer.  A great spot to enjoy one is Calmos Cafe on the French side.  Relax in one of their beachfront lounge chairs and enjoy your beverage (and your view!)