250km north of Guadeloupe, approximately 9 hours flight from London and less than 4 hours from New York, Saint-Martin Island is a tiny paradise of just 93km² hidden away in the Caribbean Sea.
Famous for being the smallest island being shared between two countries – 3/5 belongs to France and 2/5 to the Netherlands since 1648, the “Friendly Island“, as it is dubbed, invites visitors to share landscapes, culture and fine cuisine. Its sounds, colours and aromas will keep all their senses going.
The National Nature Reserve
St Martin is a paradise for nature lovers as its Nature Reserve, created in 1998 to protect the biodiversity of the three ecosystems it contains, testifies:
the reserve stretches over 3,060 hectares, partly on land and partly on sea.
On land, a large number of species of sea birds, iguanas, raccoons and mongoose freely roam in a delightful landscape made up of rocky coasts, beaches, ponds and mangrove swamps filled with red mangrove trees.
At sea, from January to May, turtles and, farther out, humpback whales can be seen; grassy sea beds and coral shelter a multitude of molluscs and fish, to the great delight of scuba divers.
A dream spot to see the island in all its natural glory is the Karibuni Lodge which has just opened at the gates of the Nature Reserve: this guest house looks out over Cul-de-Sac Bay and its three islands (Little Key, Pinel and Tintamarre).
The ideal place for Ocean lovers
St Martin is also the ideal destination for those who love the ocean.
The climate is sublime all year round and the regular trade winds allow water sports of all kinds: sailing, catamaran, jet skiing, windsurfing, scuba diving, water-skiing, sea kayaking, kite surfing and even a whale observatory! …
More than 37 magnificent white sandy beaches, including Orient Bay, one of the most famous, nicknamed “the St. Tropez of the Caribbean”, Long Bay in the south for secluded, intimate calmness whilst the beach of Grandes Cayes, located in the Nature Reserve, is the perfect place for surfers.
Also, with its four French and six Dutch marinas, the island of St. Martin can accommodate some 1,400 boats. The Marinas Fort Louis, Port La Royale and the Radisson Captain Oliver can all be found in the French component of the island.
The unique “H2O” adventure
For those in search of combining sea and adventure, the H2O concept and company will be their answer!
It is a unique way to discover the underwater world onboard a purposely built catamaran, available to all: adults, children, seniors, handicapped and non swimmers.
Along with traditional snorkelling, H2O also offers two other options:
- Descend to a depth of 4m, in an aquatic lift, with an oxygen supplied transparent bubble helmet, where you can then explore the ocean bed on foot.
- “EZ Diving”: with breathing equipment linked directly to the boat and a mask and flippers, you can discover the marine life.
Gastronomy on the island
Land of diversity, the island is a constant reminder of the marriage of cultures and flavours, which is translated in the gastronomy:
Indeed, the Village of Grand-Case in Saint-Martin is considered the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean. Restaurants pepper the little streets, and are accompanied by lolos, which are open-air food stalls.
Visitors should leave without tasting the local produce, such as melons bursting with sunshine and Arabica coffee, as well as cocoa – the famous food of the Gods – which is available in bar or ganache form.
35km from the star-studded luxury of Saint Barth, Saint Martin is often considered as its twin sister with a slight difference: free-spirited and deceivingly budget-friendly, this island will unveil a thousand facets
1-4 March: 32nd edition of the Heineken Regatta
Every year over two hundred boats, from family cruisers to racing boat prototypes, gather for the event. www.heinekenregatta.com
30 May – 2 June: Saint Martin Billfish Tournament
The annual Saint-Martin Billfish Tournament is a celebration of big-game fishing. Whether you are a novice or seasoned fisherman anyone can enjoy the emotion of fighting with a big catch and can measure up to blue marlins, tuna fish, wahoos, coryphenes or sea bream. www.billfish-tournament.com
November: Alliance Race
The Alliance Race was created in 2004 by the Fort Louis Yacht Club, and is not to be missed. The main objective of this race is to bring the communities of Saint-Martin, Saint Barthélemy, Anguilla and the sailors together. It gives the participating sailors the opportunity to discover a new island every day, to stop there and to experience the different atmospheres every evening. www.coursedelalliance.com
November: Annual Culinary Month
The chefs from the island’s 365 restaurants present food shows, classes and tastings, creating a melting pot of influences and heritage in a very warm and cosy atmosphere.
Photos: © OT Saint Martin / Laurent BENOIT