Sint Maarten, otherwise known as Saint-Martin, SXM, or “The Friendly Island” is a small, 34 square mile island in the Caribbean near Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The most unique thing about this little island is the fact that is is owned by two nations. The top half, known as Saint-Martin, is owned by France, while the bottom half (Sint Maarten) is a part of the Netherlands. The two nations share the island with a border that runs horizontally across the island dividing it almost in half. We didn’t have a chance to try, but from what I hear you can cross the border easily and without a passport, although you DO need your passport to get on and off the island itself, regardless of which side you fly into. Being two countries, there are, of course, two capitals: Philipsburg (Dutch capital), and Marigot (French capital). From what we experienced and heard, both sides speak English and accept US dollars without any issues. Unfortunately, we literally flew in for only 27 hours, so we didn’t get a chance do much more than beach and eat, but we would definitely return and do more exploring! Keep reading to find out our favorite things to do on the island that we DID have time for!
*Disclaimer: all images and opinions are my own, for which I did not receive compensation
1.) Simpson Bay – this was a natural home beach base for us since our hotel was right on
the bay! To read more about where we stayed check it out here. Since we were only on the island for 27 hours, we didn’t want to waste time traveling to multiple beaches, or paying for taxis to and from beaches. Besides, a Caribbean beach is a Caribbean beach, does it REALLY matter which one you’re on?! The water in Simpson Bay was clear and warm and overall wonderful! We were there April 1st and it was almost like bathwater, but still refreshing! It is definitely more of a family friendly beach that is also used by some locals, but is not crowded like the beaches of Maho or Orient. As a head’s up for those with kids – we did see a few topless sunbathers, but that was not the norm as most beachgoers were fully clothed, which is not the norm for some of the other beaches on the island 🙂 Our first day there the water was calm and warm, our second day there were some great waves to play in, so I think the water itself gives you a little variety as well. As a bay, Simpson Bay is home to a variety of yachts, catamarans, sailboats, and other vessels that dot the water. Our one day there we could see as many as 40+ boats!
2.) Maho Beach – if you’ve seen or read anything about Sint Maarten this is probably the part that you’ve heard about. Maho beach feeds right into the Princess Juliana International Airport runway, making it perhaps the most unique airports in the world. Jets on their final approach fly over the beach at altitudes less than 100 feet above the ground, and the beach is directly under the flight path. Any of the photos that you’ve seen of people at the beach with a huge jet right overtop of them was taken here, which is what makes this beach so famous. Unfortunately, there were no arrivals or departures while we were at that beach so we didn’t get a photo, but we’ll make sure to plan it better on our next visit, which, hopefully we won’t be in as much of a time crunch for! However, I CAN testify as to the beauty of the arrival from the airplane seat view 🙂
3.) Karakters – this is a super fun little spot in Simpson Bay that is often frequented by locals, so you know it’s good! It is literally right on the beach, only 10 steps away from the ocean! The bar is an old school bus that’s been converted, and the restuarant itself is a tented open-air deck with tables, chairs, and couches….awesome atmosphere! We came for dinner the first night, and it was a little pricey for entrees, so we ended up getting drinks and an appetizer to split. We split the seafood fruit platter (sampling of scallops, lobster, crab), which was AMAZING! Also – try their Guavaberry Colada, it’s a specialty! You can’t beat the view that Karakters provides of the bay. We came back the next morning for breakfast (starts at 9:00), and stayed for the whole day. They have lounge chairs and umbrellas right on the beach that you can use for the day if you are buying food/drinks from the restaurant, and even have servers that come to you on the beach and get your order and deliver so you don’t have to leave the sand! We didn’t find any Happy Hour specials, but their daily specials start at $6 (changes daily) and most other drinks are $7-$10 each. Something to note – it is situated adjacent to the runway of Princess Juliana Airport, so it does get loud when planes take off and land, but that is part of the attraction of this area since you get to see them up close too. Great food, drinks, location, and atmosphere! Would definitely return! If you’re interested, you can check it out here.
4.) Guy’s Driftwood Boat Bar – Located right in Maho Beach, this restaurant/bar is situated outside with picnic tables right underneath umbrellas. We went for dinner at night and really enjoyed our food and drinks! They make a great pina colada and lamb schwarma pita sandwich! The sandwich was huge and only cost $6, so if you’re looking for a budget-friendly place to eat this is it! It is often visited by locals and looks/feels/tastes like something you would see on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”. Planes fly right overhead, so be advised that it can be loud, but again, that’s kind of the attraction of Maho Beach 🙂 Check it out here for more info.