Saint Maarten is the smallest island in the world divided between two countries – with France on one side and the Netherlands on the other. The island is small, with only 90,000 inhabitants, but offers tourists a multitude of things to do that goes far beyond beautiful beaches and turquoise water. From zip-lining and snorkeling to sight-seeing and excursions, the possibilities are endless.
As for the division (something that leaves a lot of people confused), this ‘frontier’, physically, is nothing more than an obelisk in place that separates the two nations. Circulation between the two sides is free and highly encouraged. Despite coexisting harmoniously, the two places have different charms. The French Saint Martin breathes gastronomy, exclusivity, and the Caribbean sun. On the other hand, Sint Maarten is Dutch and has more parties, bars, casinos, and cruise ships. Both sides are glamorous but offer an opposite type of tourism from the other.
It’s always hot (90°+) in Saint Maarten, but the peak season is from December to April. The rainy season is generally associated with hurricane season, which runs from June to December.
I recommend staying on the French side – here you will find the most charming hotels, beautiful beaches, delicious restaurants and a much quieter atmosphere.
During our time in St. Maarten we stayed at the Belmond La Samanna, the only official 5 star hotel on the island . The hotel is located on the French side and overlooks the island’s largest beach. If you are traveling in search of relaxation, exclusivity, comfort, and even a certain degree of isolation, there truly is no better place to stay.
All 83 rooms of the hotel are spacious, decorated elegantly in white and beige, and most importantly, set facing the Sea. This means not only will you start your day with turquoise eyes, you’ll end the evening with the most breathtaking sunset.
In addition to the private pools that come with suites, La Samanna has two swimming pools for all guests to enjoy. The main pool is exceptionally large and rather peaceful. The second one, the one my family preferred, is an infinity pool that overlooks the Caribbean Sea and is steps away from the hotel’s beach bar.
Non-motorized water sports, such as kayaks, small sailboats (Hobie Cat) and snorkel equipment are included in the room rate and are available for guests to use freely. The resort can also arrange other activities (paid separately), such as scuba diving, fishing, boating, jet-skiing, wakeboarding, skiing, etc. etc. By the end of our stay we literally did them all, and after trying everything, I concluded sailing the Hobie Cat was my favorite.
Minus the exception of dining in Maho Beach on the night of my brother’s arrival (this is the beach where you experience the intensity of jet blast from airplanes landing at St. Maarten’s famous airport), we taxied to Grand Case for the majority of our dinners. This quaint town is nestled in a northern crook on the French side of the island and is known for its gourmet cuisine by both locals and tourists. The restaurants here are enamoring and made for indulging. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, I recommend eating at Spiga, an authentic Italian delight, and Ocean 82 where you have to try the Escargot. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Would I go back? Absolutely. And if I could hit rewind and do it all over again? I would in the blink of an eye. For us, a family vacation is always sacred but being in Saint Maarten was the cherry on top. As I said in an Instagram post last week, I returned to Atlanta with a full heart. I couldn’t feel more grateful for my time on this beautiful island. Until next year!
If you have questions on something I didn’t cover, please let me know. I am happy to answer anything!