Every couple needs a romantic getaway now and again. If you have kids, chances are you are long overdue for one. My husband and I haven’t taken a trip without our daughter since she was born years ago. With both our families living in other states, it’s difficult to get away sans kid, so we bring her with us wherever we go. With that said, we need an adults-only vacation. While there are plenty of romantic places worth visiting in the world, if you live in the United States, one of the best destinations for couples is just a short flight away in the tiny island nation of St. Maarten. There are a lot of things to do in St. Maarten for couples, families, adventure-seekers, and those looking to relax and unwind.
We visited this beautiful country when we first got married. While we’ve traveled all over the planet, St. Maarten remains one of the most romantic vacations we’ve ever taken. It could be the nostalgia and sentimental feelings I get when I think of St. Maarten because we honeymooned there, but it truly is a beautiful and romantic island.
About St. Maarten-Saint Martin
The dual-nation island is broken up into two sides: the Dutch country of Sint Maarten on the south and the French collectivity of Saint Martin on the north. Many simply refer to these two territories as either the Dutch side and the French side. The language, currency, and overall feel of the two sides are completely different.
On the Dutch side, they speak English and Dutch and use the American dollar. On the French side, they speak French, use the Euro, and sunbath nude on the beaches. You’ll also find some pretty amazing crepes! Traveling between the two countries is easy and chances are you’ll barely realize you’re in a new country when you cross the border. You do not have to go through customs or show a passport, or pay any type of entrance fee. It’s as easy as driving from one US state to another.
History of the island of Saint Martin and its two sides
The island has a long history that dates back to one of the early founders of the Americas, Christopher Columbus. On his second voyage to the Americas it is said that he discovered and anchored on the small island. The Dutch later took control of the island from the Spaniards, and in 1648, the Dutch signed an agreement with France to divide the island. It has remained that way for nearly 350 years.
Where to stay in St. Maarten
We stayed on the Dutch side at the charming Divi Little Bay Resort. The resort is well maintained and right on the water. It was incredibly peaceful and romantic to go to sleep and wake up each day to the sound of the ocean right outside our door. The staff is friendly, there are a couple of restaurants within the resort, and it is in walking distance to the town of Philipsburg. They also have entertainment during the evening and a resident parrot that preferred my husband over me.
Things to do in St. Maarten/Saint Martin
The tiny island surprisingly has a lot to do. We were able to keep ourselves entertained for a week, and we left wanting more. Here were some of our favorite things to do in St. Maarten and Saint Martin.
The most popular activities in St. Marteen all involve the beach and the ocean. The beaches are beautiful on the island. The water is clear and calm, and there is great snorkeling in Divi Little Bay. In fact, several snorkeling tour operators on the island take their guests to this bay for snorkeling, so if you’re staying at the resort, use the free snorkeling gear provided, and save yourself the cost of a snorkeling excursion.
Stroll through Philipsburg
St. Maarten is a popular Caribbean cruise port. The ships dock in the main city on the Dutch side, Philipsburg. The town can be quite busy when a ship comes in, but on days when there are no cruise ships, you will have the town to yourself. We were fortunate enough to visit the island during low season, and the town was basically empty. There are lots of little tourist shops and restaurants that line the beach and main streets. We felt safe the entire time we were there… except when a drug dealer tried to sell us cocaine in an alleyway… there was that.
Plane Watch at Maho Beach
Maho Beach is probably the coolest thing about St. Maarten and likely its number one claim to fame. There is no other place in the world where you can sit on a beach while massive airplanes fly dangerously low overhead as they come in for a landing. It truly is a cool experience. You can feel the strong gust as the jets depart and arrive at the small airport on the island. It will blow your towel, your belongings, and possibly you across the beach. There are even warning signs on the fence separating the runway from the beach alerting travelers of potential harm. It is not your typical relaxing day at the beach. This is a bit more action-packed. But if you are looking for something more low-key, there are numerous beaches and other activities to do in St. Maarten.
Check out the naked people at Orient Bay
After a week on an island filled with nude beaches, even the most bashful person gets curious… So what better way to stir up romance than to go where clothing isn’t necessary. 🙂 This was my first experience at a nude beach. As an American raised in the conservative south, nude beaches aren’t a thing where I grew up. In fact, as a teenager, I got in trouble if I even attempted to bare a mid-drift, so walking along a beach with a bunch of strangers who were baring it all was a bit… eye-opening.
I wish I could tell you that our newlywed selves stripped down and joined the naked crowd, but we weren’t that uninhibited. We visited the nude beach at Orient Bay but kept our bathing suits on. Not everyone on the beach is naked, either. It’s a clothing optional beach, so you’ll find plenty of other people who will ultimately leave the island with tan lines, too.
Out of respect for the naked people, I did not take any pictures at this beach. 🙂
If you want to check out Orient Bay Beach without having to see a bunch of naked strangers, there is a side of the beach that is more family-friendly (aka clothed).
Visit the French town of Marigot
The capital city of Saint Martin, Marigot, is a great place to spend a day shopping, exploring, and savoring some yummy French food. It’s just a short drive from the Dutch side and is a lovely town. It definitely has more of a foreign feel than Philipsburg, where businesses accept US dollars and the people speak English. In Margiot, French is widely spoken, although most everyone can also speak enough English to help tourists. We found a lovely open air cafe that had a wide variety of French pastries, crepes, desserts and breads. It was a great place to sit, relax, and people watch.
Have a guava berry rum and relax
Speaking of relaxing, when you’re on an island, you should be on island time! That means relax, take things slow, don’t over plan your day, and just enjoy the cool vibes, good food, and tropical drinks. One of my favorite things to do in St. Maarten, was simply relax with a tropical drink called a Guava Berry Rum. It is a frozen pink drink that probably had a million calories, and it was worth every one of them! It was the tastiest frozen drink I’ve ever had. Just thinking of that calorie filled concoction makes me want to hop on a plane tomorrow and head back to St. Maarten.
It’s been almost 5 years since we visited this wonderful paradise, and we hope to go back someday soon. Perhaps we will take our daughter… or perhaps we won’t. As I mentioned earlier, we are long overdue for an adults-only vacation! If you are looking for things to do in St. Maarten and St. Martin with kids, the countries and the island are very family friendly. Although we were there without children, we saw plenty of families enjoying their holiday together on the island.
Have a question or comment about things to do in St. Maarten or Saint Martin? We’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.