St Martin and St Maarten- one Caribbean island, two countries = two names and many beaches that meet the wonderful Caribbean cliche of turquoise water and white sand. The island is a popular day stop for Caribbean cruises from the USA and the port fills up most days with as many as 7 ships. I was on a DIY Caribbean island hop of my own when I stopped here. I’ll be honest it is not my favourite Caribbean destination, that’s not because it is lacking I just loved St Barth & Curaçao a little more. If you find your elf in St Maarten for a day or longer here are some must sees from me.
1. Snorkeling day trip with Captain Bob
My first recommendation is Captain Bob’s Soualiga Destinations snorkeling boat adventure. It is TripAdvisor’s number one tour and well-worth this honour. It is a full-day (10am-4ish), that lets you explore coastal spots on Captain Bob’s red speed boat the Danzi Daytona. They promise to have you back for the final ‘all aboard call’ if you are a day visitor on a cruise ship.
I always prefer small group tours and this was perfect with 12 guests plus the two staff. Which made it a fun, relaxed and sociable day. I had some interesting chats with a couple from The Netherlands who sat at the back of the boat with me as the Danzi Daytona sped out to see and we laughed at the crazy amount of wind in our hair.
The day has lots of snorkelling opportunities and we made several stops to swim from the boat. At one I saw a sea turtle and at another an underwater world of tropical fish and fauna. They have snorkel masks, flippers and noodle floats on the boat to borrow for free if you need.
There were also a couple of land stops during the day. One was Pinel island, which was a fab beach with large colony of Iguanas, which are worth a photo or two. The other was for lunch at a beach bar at Grand Case. The food here was amazing, especially the Ribs and Mahi Mahi fish. Make sure to try the Island Pina Colada with Guavaberry as well.
For both of the stops, the boat remains off-shore with no jetty. So you need to wade through the water to reach your cocktail. However, if you are a non-swimmer don’t worry, my boyfriend can’t swim and had no problem. The staff are on hand to help if needed.
On the way back we stopped off Maho Beach (more on this below), which is a great chance to see it if you are only in port for the day.
2. The Butterfly Farm
This really is the most lovely butterfly sanctuary and a rare opportunity to get close to these beautiful creatures.
On arrival you get short but very informative introduction to all things butterfly, followed by a chance to wander freely through the small tropical reserve. Coming from the UK, tropical butterflies are a colour explosion compared to insects at home, I have never seen so many beautiful butterflies. I could have photographed them for hours! (Although I am not very good at wildlife photos!). The butterflies will even land on you if you are lucky.
We had a hire car, so drove here. I think you would struggle to visit here without one unless you came as part of a tour.
3. Maho Beach
My boyfriend is a bit of an airplane geek and although he denies it I think Maho Beach was why he suggested St Maarten as an option in the first place!
The Beach is special as it is separated from the runway of an international airport by just a two lane road and a large chain fence. As such you are closer to a passenger plane at take off and landing then anywhere in the world.
This gives you an awesome view as airplanes come into land, you can almost touch their underbellies as glide over the top on their way to land. If you like planes this is the place to have a beer.
More than that though you can (if you want) stand behind the engines of the airplane as it is powering up for take off. It was crazy people were literally blown over by the wind generated and more than one hat was never seen again. (There are loads from clips on YouTube of the beach if you want to see before you go). However, please note the sign picture above, it is dangerous to stand too close and people have been seriously hurt. Take care of yourself!
There is a small lively bar on the beach, which serves food, drink and lists the arrival/departure times for the day. It really was fun, to be honest I wasn’t that keen initially as I thought it would be noisy, however it’s not Heathrow so you aren’t drowned out by constant engine noise while you enjoy your Carib beer.
Have you been to St Maarten/St Martin or are you planning a visit? Let me know in the comments below!