It's not often that you can visit two countries in one day, but on the 37-square-mile island of St. Maarten/St. Martin, you can travel between France and the Netherlands with ease. St. Maarten, the Dutch side, is home to sprawling resorts and buzzy bars, while St. Martin, the French section, has delicious dining. Plus, the regular ferries sailing to and from the neighboring islands of St. Barts, Anguilla, and Saba make it simple to hop between destinations.
Riselle Roidis-Celestina, the content creator and blogger behind The Traveling Island Girl, has lived on St. Maarten for the last two decades, and luckily, she's sharing some of her favorite enclaves for a perfect weekend on the island.
When to Visit
After living on St. Maarten for the last 20 years, Roidis-Celestina recommends visiting during the shoulder season from mid-May to mid-July, when the weather is milder, the crowds are smaller, and accommodations and attractions offer discounts.
Where to Stay
Since Roidis-Celestina lives on the Dutch side, heading north to stay at Le Petit Hotel in the charming fishing village of Grand Case on St. Martin feels like an escape without having to leave the island. With only 10 rooms, this Mediterranean-inspired property puts guests within a few steps of the beach and delicious French bistros in Restaurant Row. If Le Petit Hotel is booked, Roidis-Celestina recommends trying its sister property, Hotel L'Esplanade, which is set on a hill overlooking the beautiful blue water.
Where to Eat
With over 100 different nationalities, St. Maarten/St. Martin is a culinary paradise. While in Grand Case, Roidis-Celestina recommends indulging in French cuisine at Le Cottage or the Creole dishes at L'Auberge Gourmande. Or, you could head to Orient Bay's main square to dine at Le P'tit Bistro.
Visit 978 Sanctorum in Rambaud to join in on one of the best parties on the island. This restaurant lounge is known for its live poolside music on Jazzy Fridays and Caribbean Saturdays, as well as its lavish Sunday brunch.
What to Do
No trip to St. Maarten/St. Martin would be complete without straddling the border, standing in two countries at once and snapping a photo at the historic obelisk. After you've had one foot in the Netherlands and the other in France, Roidis-Celestina suggests continuing your adventure with a visit to Rainforest Adventures' Rockland Estate. For one of the best views, ascend to the top of Sentry Hill with the Sky Explorer, then fly back down over the mountain ridge on the Sentry Hill Zip Line.
Thanks to the island's 37 beaches, visitors often spend most of their time soaking up the sun, surf, and sand. One of Roidis-Celestina's favorite spots is Happy Bay. Locals have nicknamed this place "secret beach" because it is only accessible by boat once you hike down a trail from Friar's Bay. She recommends visiting earlier in the day to avoid the crowds and the hot midday sun.
Where to Take the Best Instagram Photo
A quick search of St. Maarten will likely turn up the infamous Maho Beach, which is known for its spectacular view of airplanes descending directly above it. But be extra cautious on this beach, and follow the warning signs because strong jet blasts can pose a risk to onlookers.
Caleigh Alleyne is a Toronto-based journalist specializing in travel, design, home decor, and digital media trends. When she's not traveling, you can find her working on home decor and DIY projects.
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