St. Maarten, also known as, Sint Maarten, shares a 37-square mile island with the French nation of St. Martin. And while they might share the same island, these two are completely different from each other.
St. Maarten, the Dutch side, has a distinct Caribbean feel to it present on any of its 37 beaches, but it also has a lively side with flashy casinos, a vibrant nightlife and loads of water sport activities. St. Martin, the French side, has a more European feel to it, from its upscale French eateries and French-speaking people to the clothing optional beaches.
St. Maarten has plenty of beaches to choose from, but Maho Beach has something the others don’t, and that’s jumbo jets. The beach is located just a few steps from the Princess Juliana International Airport, which means planes fly dramatically close to the sea while making their exhilarating tarmac landing. The planes loudly roar as they blast over you, giving you a heart-pounding feeling in your chest and enough wind for some amazing waves. Watch the crystal clear water from your beach chair or from an outdoor table at Sunset Bar & Grill.
So you’ve been gazing at the beautiful ocean and now you want to get in. If you’re looking for a few hours of snorkeling, grab your gear–or rent it at the beach–and head to Dawn Beach. It’s not as crowded as some of the others, and you’ll have the chance to snorkel over a coral reef teeming with tropical fish. Once you’re back on land, you’ll have a clear view of the neighboring island of St. Barth’s.
If you’d prefer not to exert as much energy and want calmer waters, head to Tiki Hut Snorkel Park. It’s snuggled in a quiet cove and protected from the winds that really cause all of the choppy waters. Here you’ll even have a chance to snorkel over a reef and around a sunken ship and submarine.
Perhaps you want to see the island but would rather have someone else do the work. Horseback riding might be exactly what you’re looking for. There are numerous tour operators, but the big question is what you want to see. You can horseback through the protected area of Cay Bay while riding along the beach and into the water. Or choose a tour that takes you through some of the hillside trails, giving you sweeping panoramic views of neighboring islands Saba and St. Barth’s. You can even find a few that offer sunset horseback rides along the ocean with champagne. What better reason to toast?
Doudou, is much sweeter than Guavaberry and is made on the French side of the island.
After you’ve tasted all the rum you can taste and snorkeled all you can snorkel, head to Marigot, capitol of St. Martin. This “city” has a distinctly European vibe to it. The tiny cafes and French eateries that dot Rue de la République are great for people-watching. You’ll also be exceptionally close to Grand Case, which boosts some of the best dining options in the Caribbean.
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