St. Martin/ Sint Maarten is an exciting holiday island with something for just about everyone. The island has 37 superb beaches – in just 37 square miles – some quiet and secluded – others with lots of fun activities including fantastic scuba diving and snorkelling. The island has a mountainous countryside, covered with rain forest vegetation, ideal for people who will enjoy exploring the tropical natural world. Another “undiscovered” gem we can offer you – off the beaten track – a new and exciting holiday destination. The choice of the relaxed and the active, the natural world and entertainment, something for everyone to enjoy. With our help, you can enjoy places of interest and things to do, at your own pace, as a welcome guest rather than a tourist.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten is half French half Dutch, which is why it has two names. Its cosmopolitan nature gives it a typical Caribbean atmosphere – friendly and relaxed. The island motto is “The Friendly Island” – and you’ll see why. St. Martin/St. Maarten has a more diverse culture and heritage than most Caribbean islands but, due to its size, feels like small community. This cultural heritage has produced a peaceful society with a welcoming attitude to visitors.
The island is not over developed or commercialised. Tourism to the island started around 1970, and great care has been taken to protect the natural resources and beauty of the island whilst providing excellent facilities for visitors to enjoy. St. Martin/Sint Maarten comes to life after dark. Live entertainment from around the world, nightclubs and bars on both sides of the island and casinos (on the Dutch side). St. Martin claims to offer the widest variety of cuisine of any island in the world!
Warm and sunny, with a cooling breeze that keeps you fresh and comfortable. As a tropical island the climate does not change much, warm and sunny all year. No matter what kind of holiday you prefer, you can enjoy it to the full.
The Caribbean Sea, surrounding the island, is warm and clear, perfect for a range of water sports especially the fantastic diving and snorkelling. The reef and ocean are legally protected and are in excellent condition. The ocean has a wide variety of marine life, including large ocean-roaming creatures, fantastic lava and coral formations, pinnacles and caves and several excellent wrecks. The clear water gives snorkellers views of the undersea world they would not normally see.
We are an ATOL licensed Caribbean holiday specialist for St. Martin with a wealth of local knowledge and many years’ experience on the island. For many people our islands are “undiscovered” places – exciting new holiday destinations. Having enjoyed and experienced much of what St. Martin has to offer, we know the island well. We can answer your questions from personal experience and tailor-make a holiday to your requirements and wishes. We enjoy talking about the island and would be delighted to discuss any plans you have for a holiday in this special part of the world.
Sint Maarten/St. Martin is an exciting holiday island, relatively unknown to people from the UK. The island has a more diverse heritage than most Caribbean islands and, due to its size, feels like small community. The rich and varied cultural heritage has produced a welcoming atmosphere for their guests. One of the most enjoyable characteristics of “our” Caribbean islands is being able to enjoy yourself at your own pace – no rush – no fuss. The island is not over developed and has lots of superb beaches, a magnificent choice of cuisines, a lively nightlife and lots of activities.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten, is in the east Caribbean Sea, 186 miles east of Puerto Rico. The neighbouring islands, Saint Barthélemy, Anguilla, Saba, Sint Eustatius (Statia), Saint Kitts are visible on a clear day. St. Martin is just 37 square miles, the smallest land area in the world to be shared by two nations, France and the Netherlands, which is why it has two names – St. Martin and Sint Maarten. Possibly the most cosmopolitan island on earth, the island welcomes its visitors and you are sure to enjoy the interesting culture and easy going way of life.
St. Martin/Sint Maarten was settled originally by Arawak Indians from South America, who were displaced by Carib Indians, from whom we get the name “Caribbean”. In 1493 Columbus claimed St. Martin for Spain. From 1679 until 1816, control of the island changed between the French, Spanish, Dutch and British, more than 15 times. Consequently, St. Martin’s population of just 70,000 are descended from Amerindian, European, African, Indian and Asian people, over 80 nationalities, which gives the island, a rich and diverse cultural heritage. For 350 years the island has had “dual nationality”, the northern part French and the southern part Dutch, although there is no visible border. The islanders speak Dutch, French and Papiamento, a Creole language of the Dutch Caribbean. Dutch is the official language in the south, French in the north, but everyone speaks English.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten is a tropical island and the climate does not vary a great deal. Warm and sunny almost every day of the year with a cooling breeze which keeps you fresh and comfortable. Whatever you choose to do, even if it’s “not a lot” – you can do it comfortably all year round. The average daytime temperature is 27°C (81°F). St. Martin’s rainy / windy season is August to November, when the rain falls in brief, heavy showers. But after the showers it’s warm and sunny again. There is a possibility, during September, that the island experiences strong winds and our advice is that September is perhaps not the best time to visit the island. The island has wonderful weather almost every day of the year.
The island is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and the warm, calm, clear water provides perfect conditions for everyone that enjoys water sports and the ocean itself. The island has a wide range of fun activities: sailing, windsurfing, body-boarding, wake-boarding, kite-surfing, water-skiing, parasailing, jet-skiing, kayaking etc . The Atlantic Ocean side of the island, with its constant on-shore breeze, is perfect for kite surfers, windsurfers and sailors. St. Martin is a fantastic diving and snorkelling destination, relatively unknown to European divers. The Caribbean Sea is famous for its abundance of colourful marine species. The reef and ocean are protected and are in excellent condition. The coral reefs offer a wide variety of sea life, fantastic coral formations, pinnacles, caves and many excellent wrecks. Just off the coast in the Great Bay, lies the wreck of an English battleship dating back to 1801. St. Martin/ Sint Maarten is famous for its huge number and variety of wrecks. The Atlantic is the territory of the larger ocean roaming species, like sharks, dolphins and whales.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten was formed by a volcanic eruption and the landscape of this small island is dramatic and beautiful. The island’s rain forest is home to a diverse tropical natural world, colourful plants and flowers, and even more colourful birds. Great care has been taken to protect the natural world of the island with the formation of several nature parks. The islands’ fascinating history and culture provide some wonderful sightseeing and some interesting museums and galleries. You can get out and about to explore and enjoy this island very easily. You can do your own thing at your own pace or enjoy one of the many organised excursions of offer. We can reserve tours, vehicles etc. and include those in your holiday itinerary if you wish.
St. Martin/Sint Maarten has 37 super beaches in 37 square miles – some have lots of water sports and fun activities available. Other bays are more secluded, and perhaps a little harder to get to, but these are quieter and often worth the extra effort for their beauty and tranquillity. Some beaches are surrounded by rugged cliffs and dramatic landscapes, while others are shaded by palm trees. You will be spoilt for choice. Away from the beaches there is a wide range of sports and land-based activities to enjoy. St. Martin/Sint Maarten is a great choice for families or groups of divers and non-divers, something for visitors of all ages.
We have visited and personally selected our accommodation on St. Martin/Sint Maarten. We offer accommodation on each of the island’s coasts, close to the ocean. Our holidays are designed for “independently minded” people and we offer small resorts and hotels with character and personal service. The accommodation on St. Martin/Sint Maarten is ideal, hotel rooms, apartments, studios and bungalows. There is a range of board options available at hotels and resorts, while apartments and studios give you the freedom to self-cater, if you wish. There are restaurants nearby, should self-catering lose its appeal. The small resorts and hotels have amenities like swimming pools, dive centres and a restaurant (or two) on site. These are small resorts, nothing like the large European holiday resorts.
We are the preferred tour operator for many resorts and have the best air fares, prices and offers. We offer a wide choice of services for you to get the very best from your holiday. On small islands, services like accommodation, vehicle hire, excursions, diving etc, get booked very quickly. To avoid disappointment these should be booked in advance. Booking services with us, will save you money and they will be part of an ATOL protected holiday.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten is a small island in the Caribbean Sea, just 37 square miles of glorious beaches around the coast and a rugged terrain covered with rain forest at the heart of the island. The varying terrain and climate, dry and rainy seasons, produce a variety of habitats for a variety of life to thrive, including many interesting species of fauna, some unique to the island. The island has several distinct natural habitats: mangrove wetlands, dense tropical forests on the mountain and dry scrubland in coastal areas. The Caribbean Sea is known for its huge diversity of marine life. The ocean has many hundreds of marine species which visitors can encounter diving or snorkelling.
The coastal areas include salt ponds and lagoons, mangrove swamps and sandy shores. The salt ponds were linked to the sea and are now surrounded by the mangroves. Many rare species of flora and fauna can be found in the mangrove swamps, near Oyster Pond. A visitors’ observation point allows visitors to watch animals nesting and feeding in the mangroves. This habitat is now better protected since the creation of the St. Martin National Nature Reserve (see below). Birds and animals vary from hummingbirds and sand kestrel to lizard and iguanas.
The island’s hillsides are covered with dense evergreen forests with a wide variety of habitats for vegetation. On the lower slopes the flora consists of palm trees, cacti and ferns about 500 different species of plants. There are different species of mosses, lichens, fungi and flowering plants such as bromeliads and orchids, as well as gum trees. Butterflies, moths, dragon flies and humming birds are just some of the animals found in the forest. Sentry Hill has a breathtaking view of Philipsburg in the east and to the west Cole Bay.
The national flower is the Yellow Orange. Around the island you will also see – wild and being cultivated – fruits like, banana, orange, lemons, mangoes and guava. The guava is grown to make into a local liqueur. Aloe Vera plants are common, all over the island. A popular cure-all, but one proven benefit, the sap will ease skin burns.
The island has over 100 species of bird, 40 of which are breeding residents. Seabirds like Audubon’s shearwater, brown pelicans, red-billed tropicbirds, frigate birds, royal and sandwich terns, laughing gulls, brown boobies, egrets and herons can be seen around the salt ponds, mangroves and along the coast. Some species of ducks and geese nest on the island during the summer, while others are migrants, as are most wading bird species. Other birds you are likely to see: falcons, hummingbirds, doves and pigeons.
There are 8 different species of bat, probably the only indigenous mammal on St. Martin / Sint Maarten. Bats are now recognised as the most important pollinators – more proficient than the birds and the bees. Rats and mice arrived with the first European settlers. Raccoons were introduced but no one knows why. Domestic animals like dogs and cats – and livestock like pigs, cattle, goats, horses and donkeys.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten has a few species of non-marine crustaceans, like the black land crab and the mangrove crab, seldom seen as they live under rocks during day. More commonly seen are the Caribbean hermit crabs, great land crabs and ghost crabs on beaches and rocks as well as fiddler crabs in the mangroves. Around 40 different species have been documented on St. Martin.
Including marine turtles and introduced species, there are 17 reptile species on St. Martin / Sint Maarten. One species, the Bearded Anole, is indigenous. Other species include the red-eared slider, loggerhead/green/hawksbill/leatherback turtles, sphaerodactylus parvus (new species of gecko), turnip-tailed gecko, house gecko, Anguilla bank anole, Watts’ anole, green iguana (common iguana), Anguilla bank ameiva, brahminy blind snake, flowerpot blind snake, the red-footed tortoise, leeward island racer. There are three species of frogs on St. Martin / Sint Maarten, two of which were introduced – Cuban tree frog, red-snouted tree frog, lesser Antillean whistling frog (or Johnstone’s whistling frog)
Colombier is halfway between Marigot and Grand Case, a green valley lush with tropical vegetation between rolling green hills. One of the most beautiful, and peaceful, places on St. Martin, perfect for private walks and relaxation.
Mount Concordia is on the border between St. Martin and Sint. Maarten, where the treaty dividing the island was signed by the French and Dutch. There are also the ruins of the old sugar plantation “La Sucrerie”.
Terres Basses – the lowlands – are at the western end of the island beyond Simpson Bay Lagoon where you’ll find two of St. Martin’s prettiest beaches, Baie Rouge and Baie Longue, in Plum Bay.
Paradise Peak & Pic Paradis rises from the centre of Sint. Martin to a height of 424m (1,400 feet) the highest point on the island. At the top there are two observation decks, providing a spectacular view of the scenery and the tropical forest below.
Butter Fly Farm. You can walk amongst the rare and exotic butterflies, from around the world, flying freely in the tropical garden, with its flowers and waterfalls. You will see rare species like the Central American postman, Malaysian malachite, and Brazilian blue morpho.
Loterie Farm is a former sugar plantation, now a nature park of 54 hectares (135 acres). Well marked hiking trails lead to the highest point and a viewing platform with astonishing 360-degree panoramic views. Lots of flora and fauna to enjoy. Monkeys, parrots, hummingbirds and mongoose are common. The hills are covered by lush vegetation, running streams and beautiful sounds of the forest.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten is proud of its natural heritage, and recently both sides of the island have created protection programs to conserve and regenerate the island’s natural world. St. Martin’s National Nature Reserve – ‘La Reserve Naturelle’ – is on the French side, a nature reserve which includes marine and terrestrial areas of more than 3060 hectares, in the north east of the island. The offshore section is over 2900 hectares. The land part of the Reserve includes rocky coasts, cliffs and beaches, home to many species of seabirds (see above). Visitors can also watch iguanas basking on rocks along the coast, or feeding in the forests.
The salt ponds and mangroves are highly productive biological systems that provide a safe haven for young crustaceans and fish. They also provide food and shelter for many birds (over fifty species). Sea turtles visit the large beaches of the east coast and the inlets to lay their eggs. Dolphins are a common sight offshore, and from January to May the ocean is a gathering area for humpback whales in the mating season. The coral reefs, provide a habitat for many species of invertebrates and molluscs (starfish, sea urchins, lobsters, slipper lobsters and conches), and many fish species (coffer-fish, grouper, surgeon fish, parrot-fish, tarpon, barracuda and angelfish).
The ‘Nature Foundation Sint. Maarten’, on the Dutch side, founded the ‘Sint. Maarten marine park’ including several small islands, and a terrestrial park is planned for the near future. The Sint. Maarten Marine Park surrounds the entire Dutch side, from Oyster Pond to Cupecoy Bay, extending from the beaches to include the ocean to a depth of 60 metres (200 ft.). This area includes some of the last pristine marine locations on the island, a breeding ground for birds, fish, and other marine life. The Marine Park features 28 dive sites that include natural and man-made coral reefs. Marine life includes blue crabs, banded coral shrimp, spiny lobsters, conches, sea urchins, sponges, porcupine fish, barracuda, moray eels, nurse sharks, a wide variety of tropical fish, seahorses, and dolphins. In recent years there has been an increase in foraging hawksbill and green sea turtles and the occasional loggerhead as well, all of which feed on the sea grass beds and sponges. Good news as most turtle species are endangered.
Mangroves line the south shore of Simpson Bay lagoon and around some salt ponds. Replanting of red mangrove and seaside lavender has been under way in Little Bay pond. Mangroves are ecologically vital. These woody plants grow in tropical tidal waters. The highly salt tolerant Red Mangrove roots help to prevent beach erosion by trapping and stabilizing sediments. In addition they act as a nursery for young fish and a habitat for birds like brown pelicans and snowy egrets.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten is recognised as a fantastic diving and snorkelling destination, but is relatively unknown by divers from the UK and Ireland. Crystal clear, warm water makes the ocean perfect for diving and snorkelling. The reefs are protected and are in excellent condition. The coral reefs offer a wide variety of sea life, fantastic coral formations, pinnacles and caves and several excellent wrecks.
There are lots of ways to get out and about, to explore and enjoy the natural world. Lots of tours – both bus and walking – some focusing on specific topics. A comfortable way to see the flora and fauna – not to mention the spectacular scenery. You can hire one of several modes of transport, and do your own thing, at your own pace. Hiring a car is a great way to get the most out of a holiday on St. Martin. The mountainous terrain hides many small towns and villages, with spectacular views and an amazing variation of landscapes. You can walk most of the island, certain parts of the mountain are a bit of a challenge, but that is entirely your choice, how you feel on the day. The island has no dangerous animals or snakes of any kind, but some plants and insects can cause irritation. When hiking in the hills it’s best to wear long trousers and long sleeves. Whatever you fancy doing – let us know – we can organise and reserve tours, vehicles etc. and include those in your holiday itinerary – if you wish.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten is a small island in the Caribbean. One coast faces the Caribbean Sea. The other faces the Atlantic Ocean. The Caribbean Sea is famous for its fantastic coral reefs, home to many hundreds of species of tropical fish, sea fans and colourful sponges. The Atlantic is known for larger species of marine creature, which migrate across the open ocean. This is a volcanic island with fascinating underwater features, lave tubes, caves, large craters, coral encrusted rock walls, walls of sponges, corridors of coral “canyons” and ridges formed from old lava flows, “mountain ranges” with pinnacles rising up out of the deep encrusted with coral formations. The proximity of the island to the open ocean, the magnificently varied topography and water conditions around the island provide a variety of unique habitats for a huge diversity of marine life to thrive.
The island’s underwater world is a mixture of pristine reefs, fantastic lava formations and some great wrecks – including cargo ships, tug boats, cannons, huge anchors and the wreck of an English battleship dating back to 1801. The island has a large number of wrecks, some natural some artificial. All are now encrusted with wonderful coral formations, sunken gardens of orange, red, pink and deep purple sponges – fan and “mushroom” corals – home to an amazing range of creatures. The incredible variety of natural and artificial underwater features creates a beautiful and dramatic underwater “landscape”. The Tugboat, sunk to make an artificial reef, has become home to many reef fish, including barracuda. There are fan corals and snow-like soft corals around the wheelhouse. The HMS “Proselyte” has, for almost two centuries, been completely covered with coral. All manner of fish and marine life can be found here. Several cannons, anchors and other debris from the wreck still litter the site. Wreck Alley has two wrecks which were sunk to form artificial reefs. Lots of species, big barracudas, rays and larger species. The Gregory is home to schools of snappers, Nassau groupers, scorpion fishes and very inquisitive eels. There are also some huge basket sponges. There are lots more wrecks – and more information – on the diving pages – following the link on the banner above.
Sadly, all turtle species are now endangered. International treaties and conventions exist for the protection of these wonderful creatures. Turtles’ eggs, their nesting and feeding grounds are strictly protected by local legislation. Young hawksbill and green turtles feed on the reefs and sea grass beds while loggerheads can be seen feeding around the small inlets on the east (Atlantic) coast. The ocean roaming leatherback turtle can be seen in the nesting season, April to November. Most turtle nests are around Simpson Bay Beach, Guana Bay and Gibbs Bay. Hawksbills and green turtles nest in the vegetation of the sand dunes. Leatherbacks prefer the wide open sandy stretches of Simpson Bay Beach.
Sea Grass Beds
Sea grass beds are a habitat and shelter for reef animals such as juvenile conch, lobsters and various species of fish. They provide food for many herbivorous reef fish and sea turtles. Their interwoven stems and mat-like root system serve as filters for the seawater, trapping and filtering large amounts of fine sediment. This provides vital stability and retention of the soil around the coast thereby preventing coastal erosion. Sea grass beds can be found at Simpson Bay, Great Bay, Little Bay and Simpson Bay Lagoon. Three most common types on the island are paddle grass, manatee grass and the most common, turtle grass, so called because it is the staple diet of the green sea turtle.
The island’s fringing reefs are ocean habitats that are rich in life. The reef is formed from coral polyps, tiny animals that live in colonies. When coral polyps die, they leave a hard, stony, branching structure made of limestone. The coral reef is a collection of biological communities, representing one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, a wide variety of marine plants and animals. The spaces, crevices and cracks in the hard coral mass provide shelter and feeding grounds for marine animals such as fish, sponges, sea fans, shrimp, crabs, molluscs, urchins, worms and sea anemones. For some fish the coral itself provides a source of food, while others live off the reef’s inhabitants and visitors. Coral reefs are an irreplaceable nursery and feeding ground for many creatures. They are also a buffer against the power of the ocean – a natural defensive sea wall. Different species of crustaceans, echinoderms and the endangered hawksbill and green sea turtle live and feed on the reefs. Local reef fish include grunt, red snapper, stoplight parrotfish, queen angelfish, yellow goatfish, porcupine fish, barracuda, green moray eel, spotted scorpion fish and nurse shark. Not all the island’s “reefs” are coral reefs, many are rock formations encrusted with sponges, hydroids and coral. Proselyte Reef for example was formed by lava flows.
Just a few of the best coral reefs:
Creole Rock is part of the nature reserve on the French Side and here you can see Eagle Rays, Turtles, Barracudas, huge Sting Rays and many more species. The diversity of marine life here is amazing. From December to April dolphins are regular visitors.
Turtle Reef, named because of the hawksbill and green turtles there, is a circular reef that lies just below the surface on the other side of Grand Case Bay. Lots of turtles as well as eagle rays, stingrays, huge porcupine fish and large schools of snapper. Anse Marcel Point has wonderful variety of both hard and soft corals of orange, purple, and red. Angelfish, butterfly Fish and many others.
Ile Pinel – Pinel Island has a pristine coral reef around it, with beautiful sea fans, angelfish, butterfly fish, sea anemones, and Spanish hogfish.
Isabella Reef home of large stingrays, garden eels, lobsters with some giant tube sponges.
The colourful coral reefs are adorned by beautiful sponges of all shapes and colours, yellow, orange, purple, and red – purple tube sponges, brain coral, sea fans and lots of bushy gorgonians. Some barrel sponges are almost 2 metres tall. Sometimes the contrast is very marked between bright orange and yellow sponges. The reef walls are often covered with orange, ruby-red, pastel pink and purple threads formed by rope sponges which surround species like orange cup corals.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten has hundreds of species of marine creatures in its coastal waters. From the numerous small, colourful reef fish of gold, purple and red (including seahorses) to some of the large deeper ocean roaming creatures. Some are seasonal like the spotted eagle rays, dolphins, African pompanos etc. Among the “regular” residents are great barracuda, turtles, tarpon, flying gurnard, moray eels, huge stingrays, lobster, sergeant majors, blue tangs, surgeonfish, porcupine fish, angelfish, butterfly fish, chromis, trumpet fish, filefish, sailfin blennies, remoras, frogfish, octopus, reef squid, blue crabs, banded coral shrimp, giant manta rays, rock beauties and black bar soldier fish. St. Martin / Sint Maarten is famous for its sharks. It is common to see nurse sharks, black tip reef sharks, Caribbean grey reef sharks and hammerheads.
St. Martin /Sint Martin has dedicated marine reserves, crucial to the diversity and health of the reefs. The reef and ocean are protected, as part of the St. Martin and St Maarten Marine Parks, and are in excellent condition. The protection of the underwater environment has ensured a very rich and healthy marine habitat.
L’Esperance is a small, unpretentious hotel, in a residential area, 3km from Great Bay and Little Bay, on the Dutch side of the island. The hotel has only 22 suites, so it can never become crowded or busy. It is intimate and informal, with friendly personal service. This hotel is a good base for exploring the island and enjoying the wonderful snorkelling and diving. The hotel has a nice swimming pool and sundeck, quiet and secluded, surrounded by tropical gardens. Each suite has a kitchen so guests can self cater if they wish. There is a large supermarket 500 metres from the hotel. L’Esperance is ideal for people who prefer small scale hotels and the opportunity to be a little more independent. Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of the island, with its nightlife and shops, is less than 2 km from the hotel. Marigot, the lively capital of the French side of the island is just 6 km away and Princess Juliana airport is 10 minutes by car. L’Esperance is fantastic value for money and has a good location on Sint Maarten. For those looking to enjoy the island’s scuba diving L’Esperance is a no frills, budget accommodation.
L’Esperance One Bedroom Suites are air conditioned suites of around 30 sq. metres – 300 sq. feet. The separate living area is fully furnished with rattan furniture, a flat-screen cable TV, telephone and personal safe. The full kitchen includes a two burner hob, microwave, refrigerator and cooking utensils. The bathroom has a bath. Several of these suites have interconnecting doors. These suites have a private balcony of around 5 sq. metres, 50 sq. feet, with a view of the tropical gardens.
L’Esperance Two Bedroom Suites are air conditioned suites of around 60 sq. metres. 600 sq. feet. The separate living are is fully furnished with rattan furniture, a flat-screen cable TV, telephone, personal safe and bathroom with bath. The full kitchen includes a four burner hob, refrigerator, and cooking utensils. The private balcony is almost 9 sq. metres, 90 sq. feet, with a view of the tropical gardens.
We work closely with the PADI 5 star centre on Little Bay nearby, which has a range of water sports available. The custom dive boats are comfortable and well equipped for the very short ride to the reefs and wrecks. Dive groups are in very small groups, usually around 6 – 8 people. At most sites there will be just you and a few (new) friends – very relaxed and comfortable. Boats only take small groups and get booked up very easily. Booking your diving with us, will save you money – it will be part of an ATOL protected holiday itinerary – and you will be sure you have a place on the boat. We recommend that you pre-book any diving you intend to do before arrival.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten is a small island in the east of the Caribbean Sea, 186 miles east of Puerto Rico. The neighbouring islands, Saint Barthélemy, Anguilla, Saba, Sint Eustatius (Statia), Saint Kitts are visible on a clear day. Although St. Martin/ Sint Maarten is relatively unknown in Europe, it is becoming known as a premier dive destination. St. Martin / Sint Maarten has one coast facing the Caribbean Sea the other facing the Atlantic Ocean. Currents from the open ocean enrich the waters around the island which support a thriving, healthy marine life. The Caribbean Sea is famous for its warm, clear water and abundance of colourful reef creatures, sponges and coral. The open ocean coasts are visited by larger ocean roaming creatures like sharks, dolphins and whales. St. Martin/ Sint Maarten is a volcanic island and the dramatic landscape above ground continues below the water with breathtaking coral reefs, lava formations and underwater mountain tops. Dive sites are a mixture of pristine reefs, fantastic lava formations and many fascinating wrecks. The variety of ocean conditions and underwater features provide a range of habitats for a huge diversity of marine creatures – and exciting underwater adventures for divers and snorkellers.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten has an exciting underwater seascape with large coral heads, “mushroom” corals, expansive elkhorn forests, lava tubes, caves, swim-throughs, overhangs, coral encrusted walls, coral canyons, coral covered ridges of old lava flows and fantastic underwater “mountain ranges” with pinnacles rising from the depths to close to the surface. These breathtaking geological features are covered in giant, colourful tube sponges, sponge grottoes, vibrant coral gardens, large basket sponges of orange and deep purple, sea fans, sponges and coral of orange, purple, pink and bright red.
The island has a fantastic number of wrecks of various types and ages – some intentional and some not. These include cargo ships, planes, tug boats, sailing boats, the remains of a bridge (!) and the wreck of an English battleship dating back to 1801, in just 16 metres of water. All are now encrusted with wonderful coral formations and home to an amazing range of creatures. Debris from the wrecks is clearly visible, coral encrusted 18th. century cannons, huge anchors etc. Many of these wrecks are very large and in shallow water, an exciting and rare opportunity for snorkellers and divers of all levels to enjoy them. Many have also been adapted to allow easy access and even newly qualified divers may be able to explore some of the wrecks. Wreck Alley, an obvious pointer, has several wrecks in one area. There is even an articulated truck on the reef – now unrecognisable as it is covered with beautiful coral and sponges. The incredible variety of natural and artificial, underwater features create a magnificent underwater seascape for divers and snorkellers to enjoy. Calm, clear water and lots of sunshine make the underwater world on St. Martin/Sint Maarten ideal for photographers.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten has a huge number and diversity of marine creatures from small, colourful reef fish of gold, purple and red to some of the large deeper ocean roaming creatures. Some are seasonal like the spotted eagle rays, dolphins, African pompanos etc. It is common to see: Barracuda, Tarpon, Flying Gurnard, Moray Eels, Manta Rays, Sergeant Majors, Blue Tangs, Surgeonfish, Chromis, Frogfish, Sea Horses, Nassau groupers, Glass fish, Trumpet fish, huge Spiny Lobsters, Stingrays, Porcupine fish, Horse Eyed Jacks, French Angelfish, Grunts, large Banded Shrimp, Arrow crabs, Octopus, Squid and many more. Coral reefs “wake up” at night, Octopus, Squid, Crabs and a whole new cast of characters are busy around the reef. Bioluminescent organisms are a beautiful spectacle. The conditions here provide a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the magnificence of the coral reef at night.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten is famous for its healthy shark population. Sites with names like ‘Shark Hotel’ give the game away. Dive centres have Shark Awareness sites for those wanting to learn more about these magnificent creatures. There are several sites which are very popular with various species of shark. It is common to see Nurse sharks, Black Tips, Caribbean Grey Reef sharks and Hammerheads. Turtle Reef, needing no explanation, is considered one of the most diverse in the Caribbean. Two large pinnacles surrounded by an astonishing abundance of fish. Lots of large Hawksbill and Green Turtles, as well as Eagle Rays, Stingrays, huge Porcupine fish, schools of Snappers, Flying Gurnards, Jawfish, Sailfin Blennies and many more.
St. Martin/Sint Maarten is just 10 miles wide and around 9 miles long. The island is surrounded by over 30 official dive sites, including 11 shipwreck sites. Most are in shallow water, 3 metres up to around 30 metres, some within 30 metres of the shore. There is easy to access the whole coast line, and ocean, around the island. Walls and reefs are all close to shore, on a volcanic island the drop-off is never far from shore. We offer accommodation around the island, so you are never far from the ocean or a dive centre. There is little or no current at most sites, although on some sections of coast there are some easy drift dives. There are some shore entry sites, but most diving is by boat, less than 15 minutes from shore. The different features and ocean conditions also mean a wide variety of “types” of dive, making each dive different and, regardless of ability, there will be lots of sites to suit divers of all levels from novices to the most experienced divers. You can snorkel from just about everywhere on the island. Many of the reefs and wrecks are shallow and close to shore – in warm clear water – a unique snorkelling experience. There are lots of snorkel excursions and dive boats welcome snorkellers. St. Martin / Sint Maarten has something for everyone who enjoys the ocean.
Snorkellers will enjoy the easy conditions in the sheltered bays, beautiful shallow reefs, close to shore, with a wonderful variety of colourful tropical creatures, clearly visible from the surface. Many sites are great for divers and snorkellers to enjoy together. For families or groups of divers and non-divers, St. Martin is a good choice. The relaxed and safe atmosphere enable you to enjoy your holiday to the full. The reef is close to shore, so if you are snorkelling or diving you are not away for long and never far from shore. Snorkelling in warm, shallow water is a great way to introduce children to the wonderful underwater world. St. Martin/Sint Maarten has some wonderfully large, soft sand beaches, lots of water sports and many land-based activities for the whole family to enjoy.
Dive boats are well equipped for the very short ride to the dive sites and boats leave daily. Custom dive boats take small groups of divers and snorkellers, usually around 6 to 8 people, to the sites, 2 or 3 times per day. At most sites there will be just you and a few (new) friends – very relaxed and comfortable. As these are small groups, availability is limited. Any diving you wish to do should be booked before your arrival on island.
The ocean is always warm, ranging from 27ºC in January/February to as high as 32ºC in September/October. A 3 mm. shortie is enough for most divers. Water visibility is a fantastic 30 to 40 metres, sometimes more. On the south and west coasts there is little or no current. On the north and east coasts there may be a little more current due to the open ocean. The weather and ocean conditions are generally very easy and comfortable. St. Martin is a tropical island and there are no big seasonal changes in the weather although there is a windy/rainy season September to October. Short tropical downpours then warm and sunny again. The wind can affect the diving during this period. The average daytime temperature is 27ºC. with a refreshing breeze.
St. Martin/Sint Maarten has dedicated marine reserves, to protect and maintain the diversity and health of the reefs around the island. Moorings are provided for dive boats to protect the reef from anchor damage. A hyperbaric chamber is available at the Saba National Marine Park at the Fort Bay Harbour and is maintained by the Saba Conservation Foundation.
We are an ATOL bonded, diving holiday specialist for St. Martin/Sint Maarten. We work closely with the dive centres on St. Martin/Sint Maarten who have everything divers and snorkellers might need. They offer boat diving, guided dives and night dives, equipment for sale or hire and instruction courses for all levels, including complete beginners and youngsters. The Caribbean is a great place to take a referral or refresher course.
We tailor-make holiday itineraries, which can include all your diving requirements, to ensure you get the best from your diving holiday. We know how the diving works and have prices lower than you would pay on island. Tell us what you’d like, and we will book your diving with our dive operator partner, at your accommodation, or nearby. On a small island services like diving, instruction courses, excursions, vehicle hire etc., get booked up quickly. It is important to reserve any services you may want for your holiday, before you arrive on St. Martin/Sint Maarten. Booking with us saves you money and ensures those services are available to you when you arrive on island, avoiding any disappointment. Those services then become part of your ATOL protected holiday itinerary.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten has a unique character with some exciting sights for snorkellers. The variety of ocean conditions and underwater features provide a wide range of habitats – home to huge diversity of marine creatures – fantastic snorkelling which will suit all ages and experience levels. Snorkellers will be astonished at the underwater “landscape” and the amazing diversity of a very healthy underwater world. St. Martin / Sint Maarten, has something for everyone who enjoys the ocean – from novices to the most experienced divers and snorkellers. St. Martin / Sint Maarten is in the eastern Caribbean with one coast facing the Caribbean Sea, the other coast facing the Atlantic ocean. The warm water of the Caribbean has many species of colourful tropical creatures, large, colourful sponges and dramatic coral formations. The Atlantic is home to larger ocean roaming creatures. St. Martin / Sint Maarten is a volcanic island with dramatic underwater formations like lava tubes, coral “canyons” carved out of the rock by the ocean, “mountain” pinnacles rising up from the deep to within a few metres of the surface. On a small island the proximity of two different bodies of water, and the variety of underwater features produce numerous habitats, home to a wonderful diversity of healthy marine life. St. Martin / Sint Maarten is ideal for families. “Perfect” weather almost every day of the year – excellent beaches and lots of activities and excursions – warm, clear water and a thriving underwater world make for wonderful snorkelling.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten has a huge diversity of creatures from the numerous colourful reef fish of gold, purple and red (including seahorses) to some of the large deeper ocean dwelling creatures. Some are seasonal like spotted eagle rays, dolphins (December to April), African pompanos etc. In crystal clear, warm water you can expect to see: eagle rays, huge stingrays, porcupine fish, angelfish, butterfly fish, barracuda, hawksbill and green turtles, tarpon, flying gurnard, moray eels, manta rays, lobster, sergeant majors, blue tang, surgeonfish, blue and brown chromis, trumpet fish, filefish, sailfin blennies, remoras, frogfish, octopus, reef squid and many more. St. Martin / Sint Maarten is famous for sharks. Although there are no guarantees underwater – it is common to see nurse sharks, black tip reef sharks, Caribbean grey reef sharks and occasional hammerheads.
You will also see colourful corals of orange, purple and red. The most common coral types are mustard hill, brain, fire, box fire, low relief lettuce, great mound and elliptical star coral. The island has many brightly coloured sponges and lots of bushy gorgonians. The sponges vary in colour form soft purples and pastel pinks to sharp yellows, oranges and reds. Rope and barrel sponges are common ñ the latter are great hiding places for smaller creatures. The dive page link above has a map and a brief description of the sites.
The natural (and artificial) underwater features are both beautiful and very exciting – a magnificent underwater world for snorkellers to enjoy. Not all St. Maarten / St. Martin’s “reefs” are coral reefs, many are rock formations encrusted with sponges, hydroids and coral. The famous Proselyte Reef was formed by lava flows. The reefs are in shallow, warm water, close to shore ñ in sheltered conditions – giving snorkellers a unique snorkelling experience that might normally require scuba gear. The island’s underwater world is a mixture of pristine reefs, fantastic lava formations and many great wrecks – including cargo ships, tug boats, sailing boats, cannons, huge anchors, an articulated lorry, the remains of a bridge (!) and the wreck of an English battleship dating back to 1801. All are encrusted with wonderful coral formations, sunken gardens of orange, red, pink and deep purple sponges ñ fan and “mushroom” corals – home to an amazing range of creatures. Even the truck “wreck” is covered with beautiful coral and has created a wonderful home for lots of fish. From the shallow water wreck the Tugboat, to the Proselyte snorkellers can enjoy some of these fascinating wrecks.
So many sites ………so many sights
On an island just 7 miles by 6, you are never far from the ocean. You can explore the different snorkelling sites easily and you can snorkel from just about anywhere on the island. Most of the dive sites are located on the south western coast. As this is a volcanic island, the island rises steeply from the ocean and most sites are very close to shore. St. Martin / Sint Maarten has over 30 official dive sites, including 11 shipwrecks. Snorkelling is generally in shallow water, usually 20 metres or less, in protected sites, in warm clear water. There are several sites you can snorkel from the many beaches, however there are special snorkelling excursions and snorkellers are welcome to join dive boats – and most “off shore” dive sites are less than 15 minutes from shore. These trips will get you to the best sites very quickly. Boats usually take around 6 – 8 people on the (very) short ride to the dive sites. Boats are shaded and stay at the site, usually for around an hour or so, you can get in and out as often as you wish. Boats provide complimentary fruit and water. The great thing about the boat trips are they will be planned – not just the best sites – but the best in the prevailing conditions.
Dawn Beach on the east side of the island, the water is around 14 metres deep with incredible visibility. A beautiful reef and lots of angelfish, butterfly fish, sea urchins, and colourful corals of orange, purple, and red. Swim directly out to the sea-side of the reef for the best snorkelling and look out for squid.
Friar’s Bay – quite shallow – 2 to 5 metres deep with a reef around 30 metres from shore. Lots of small, colourful reef fish, and gardens of purple sea urchins and anemones, with arrow crabs, banded coral shrimp, and scarlet ladies.
Ile Pinel – to the south east is the tiny Pinel Island. A pristine coral reef circles the island and is home to some lovely Sea Fans, Angelfish, Butterfly fish, Sea Anemones, and Spanish Hogfish.
The island has an average daytime temperature of 27ºC. Water visibility is up to 40 metres. The ocean is warm – ranging from 27ºC in January/ February to 32ºC in September/October. Weather and ocean conditions are generally easy and comfortable. If you snorkel on the Atlantic (east coast) at certain times and in some locations, conditions can be a little more challenging, but there are more than enough sheltered dive sites to keep you busy for the whole of your holiday.
St. Martin /Sint Martin has dedicated marine reserves, crucial to the diversity and health of the reefs in Saint Martin. The reefs and wrecks are part of the St. Martin and St Maarten Marine Parks and are in excellent condition. Moorings are provided for dive boats to protect the reef from anchor damage. The protection of the underwater environment has ensured that divers and snorkellers will be able to enjoy a very rich and healthy marine habitat.
We work closely with the dive centres on the island and we have information on all the favourite snorkelling sites. If you want to take some boat trips, special courses or excursions, you should book in advance. Boat trips and excursions are in small groups and can get booked up. You may also wish to hire a vehicle to explore the island. We have the best rates for vehicle hire and we have worked with a reliable hire company for many years. Booking your on-island services with us is a little cheaper and we can include that into your ATOL protected holiday itinerary.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten is a small island Caribbean island, one coast facing the Caribbean Sea, the other facing the Atlantic Ocean. The Caribbean Sea is known for its fantastic coral reefs, tropical fish, sea fans and colourful sponges. The Atlantic is known for larger species which migrate across the open ocean, like sharks, dolphins and whales. This is a volcanic island with dramatic underwater features, lava tubes, caves, large craters, coral encrusted rock walls, coral “canyons” and ridges formed from old lava flows, “mountain ranges” with pinnacles rising up out of the deep, encrusted with coral formations. The proximity of the island to the open ocean, the varied topography and water conditions, produce a variety of unique habitats for a huge diversity of marine life.The incredible underwater features create a magnificent underwater seascape for divers and snorkellers to enjoy.
The ocean is always warm, ranging from 27ºC to 32ºC and water visibility is a fantastic 30 to 40 metres. On the south and west coasts there is little or no current. On the north and east coasts is a little more current due to the open ocean. The reef and ocean are protected, as part of the St. Martin and St Maarten Marine Parks, protection of the underwater environment has ensured a rich and healthy marine habitat. The Man of War Shoal Marine Park was established in 2010.
The island has a fantastic number of wrecks of various types and ages – some intentional and some not. These include cargo ships, planes, tug boats, sailing boats, the remains of a bridge (!) and the wreck of an English battleship dating back to 1801, in just 16 metres of water. All are now encrusted with wonderful coral formations, sunken gardens of orange, red, pink and deep purple sponges – fan and “mushroom” corals – home to an amazing range of creatures. Debris from the wrecks is clearly visible, coral encrusted 18th. century cannons, huge anchors etc. The Tugboat, sunk to make an artificial reef, has become home to many reef fish, fan corals and snow-like soft corals cover the wheelhouse. The HMS “Proselyte” has been covered with corals for almost two centuries and is home to a huge variety of marine life.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten has an exciting underwater seascape with large coral heads, “mushroom” corals, expansive elkhorn forests, lava tubes, caves, swim-throughs, overhangs, coral encrusted walls, coral canyons, coral covered ridges of old lava flows and fantastic underwater “mountain ranges”. Not all the island’s “reefs” are coral reefs, many are rock formations encrusted with sponges, hydroids and coral. Proselyte Reef for example was formed by lava flows. The island’s reefs are primarily fringing reefs, but patch reefs are found in shallow waters close to shore along the eastern, western and southern coasts. Reefs on the eastern coast are mainly spur and groove formations. The reefs are made up of 13 hard coral species and numerous soft coral species. The most common are elkhorn, staghorn, pillar, fire coral and brain corals.
Just a few of the best coral reefs:
Creole Rock is part of the nature reserve on the French Side, good for eagle rays, turtles, barracudas, sting rays and many more species. From December to April dolphins are regular visitors. Turtle Reef is a circular reef that lies just below the surface on the other side of Grand Case Bay. Lots of turtles as well as eagle rays, stingrays, huge porcupine fish and large schools of snapper. Anse Marcel Point has wonderful variety of both hard and soft corals of orange, purple and red. Ile Pinel Island has a reef with beautiful sea fans, angelfish, butterfly fish, sea anemones, and Spanish hogfish. Isabella Reef home of large stingrays, garden eels, lobsters with some giant tube sponges.
The reef walls are often covered with orange, ruby-red, pastel pink and purple threads formed by rope sponges which surround species like orange cup corals. The breathtaking geological features are covered in beautiful sponges of all shapes and colours. Yellow, orange, deep purple, pink and bright red. Giant tube sponges, large basket sponges, sea fans and lots of bushy gorgonians. Some barrel sponges are almost 2 metres tall.
A total of 153 species of reef fish have been recorded in the ocean around St. Martin / St. Maarten. Numerous small, colourful reef fish as well as large ocean roaming creatures. Some are seasonal like the spotted eagle rays, dolphins, African pompanos etc. Among the “regular” residents are great barracuda, turtles, giant manta rays, tarpon, flying gurnard, huge stingrays, sergeant majors, seahorses, blue tangs, surgeonfish, porcupine fish, butterfly fish, chromis, trumpet fish, filefish, sailfin blennies, remoras, frogfish, octopus, reef squid, blue crabs, banded coral shrimp, black bar soldier fish, bluehead, spotted and yellow goatfish, grunt, red snapper, stoplight parrotfish, French and Queen angelfish, porcupine fish, moray eels, spotted scorpion fish, Nassau groupers, glass fish, huge spiny lobsters, horse-eyed jacks, arrow crabs and many more.
Coral reefs “wake up” at night, Octopus, Squid, Crabs and a whole new cast of characters are busy around the reef. Bioluminescent organisms are a beautiful spectacle. The conditions here provide a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the magnificence of the coral reef at night.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten is famous for its healthy shark population and the island was declared a shark sanctuary in 2011. Sites with names like ‘Shark Hotel’ give the game away. Dive centres have Shark Awareness sites for those wanting to learn more about these magnificent creatures. There are several sites which are very popular with various species of shark – nurse sharks, black tips, Caribbean grey reef sharks and hammerheads.
All four Caribbean species of sea turtle can be found on Sint Maarten / St. Martin. Hawksbills, green turtles, leatherbacks and loggerheads. The ocean roaming leatherback turtle can be seen in the nesting season, April to November. Turtle Reef is considered one of the most diverse in the Caribbean. Two large pinnacles surrounded by an astonishing abundance of fish. Lots of large hawksbill and green turtles, as well as eagle rays, stingrays, huge porcupine fish, schools of snappers, flying gurnards, jawfish, sailfin blennies and many more. Sadly, all turtle species are now endangered. International treaties and conventions exist for the protection of these wonderful creatures. Turtles’ eggs, their nesting and feeding grounds are strictly protected by local legislation.
We have a very close, and friendly, working relationship with all the dive centres on St. Martin / Sint Maarten. Most are independent of the hotels/resorts and offer dive services to all visitors to St. Martin / Sint Maarten. The dive centres have a full range of equipment for sale or hire and a full range of instruction courses – from a first “try dive” to professional ratings like Dive Master. There are numerous “special” excursions you can enjoy ñ special because of the type of diving or the location. We offer a range of courses, boat diving packages and excursions – tailored to your personal diving itinerary. These dive centres are small scale – courses and boats can get booked very quickly. Booking in advance is strongly recommended – to be sure you get precisely what you want – when you arrive. We can give you full details of all the dive packages and trips. Pre-booking your diving itinerary leaves nothing to chance for your precious time on the island.
Most diving is from a boat – very short trips as St. Martin/Sint Maarten is a volcanic island and the ocean gets deep very quickly – very close to shore. Snorkellers can also join the boats. Please note – boats and excursions can get sold out very easily. Booking before you arrive is strongly recommended.
We can book a full range of dive courses – from basic training for learner divers through to professional ratings, such as Dive Master. Instruction is available in several languages. The length of the course may vary according to the diver’s ability. Please note: St. Martin/Sint Maarten dive centres train to the highest standards – but they are small. Good for personal service – vital for training courses. BUT instructors may not always be available. It is important to book courses in advance to be sure you do not waste valuable holiday/diving time.
Discover Scuba Diving – This is a day introduction to scuba diving. Short pool session followed by an ocean dive. (Max. depth 40ft/12m)
Additional Discover Scuba Dives – additional ocean dives guided by a dive professional.
Scuba Review – This is a day refresher course and includes an ocean dive.
Open Water Certification – This 4 & 5 day course includes classroom sessions, confined water and 4 ocean dives. A certified PADI Open Water diver can dive with a buddy, unsupervised, to a depth of 18 m.
Open Water Referral Course – This is a 2 day course for those who have completed the theory and pool work of the Open Water Course. Pass the theory and pool work module of your Open Water Course in the UK and complete the open water dives in the warm, calm, clear waters of the Caribbean.
Advanced Diver – This is a 2 day course – a continuation of the PADI Open Water Diver course and involves a small amount of classroom work and 5 ocean dives. Core dives are Deep and Navigation, other dives can be chosen from speciality courses that interest you. Students can focus more on their interests and can gain extra knowledge in the different aspects of diving. Minimum Age: 15 (Junior 12).
Rescue Diver – 3 & 4 day course covering problem prevention, self rescue and 12 rescue scenarios. (Prerequisites: AOW & EFR certification).
Dive Master Course – This Professional Training Course includes Diving theory, Physics, Physiology, Equipment and Environment, confined water training and open water sessions. (Prerequisites: Rescue Diver, Medic First Aid, 20 logged dives). Minimum Age 18. The first step towards your instructor certification. Once qualified you are able to supervise dive activities and assist instructors with student divers. Length of the course varies with student entry level.
There are a range of speciality PADI courses also available.
Start ’em Early – There are several courses and activities to get kids interested in diving.
SASY (Supplied Air Snorkelling for Youth) SASY allows them to breathe from a regulator and mini-tank at the surface while wearing a flotation device, which does not allow them to submerge. They have their own small sized equipment and are always safe with the PADI dive instructors.
Bubble Maker is an introductory course for kids aged 8 and above, during which they get acquainted with real scuba diving. Under close supervision of an instructor they will learn the fundamentals of scuba diving in a swimming pool. Students are then given the opportunity to dive in shallow open water up to 2m deep (all equipment is provided).
Kids aged 10 and older can earn their PADI Junior Open Water Diver certification. Kids can dive to 12m.
At 15 young divers can pass the PADI Open Water Diver certification. They are allowed to dive to 18 m as are all qualified Open Water Divers.
Children aged between 10 and 15 years who have gained their open water certificate, can only dive with a certified adult.
Hopefully you won’t need it ………St. Martin/Sint Maarten has excellent modern medical facilities.
The hyperbaric chamber for the region is on Saba – around 10 minutes flying time away.
St. Martin Dive centres use American equipment – if you have DIN fittings you will need an adaptor. If you don’t have one – the dive centre will have one for hire. Always best to let us know before you go – to make sure everything you need is available.
St. Martin/Sint Maarten is a lively holiday island, relatively unknown to people from the UK – a new holiday destination. One of the most attractive features of “our” Dutch Caribbean islands is being able to enjoy the many sports and activities available at your own pace. No rush – no fuss. A refreshing change from being part of a package deal. You will enjoy the activities and sights and hopefully be tempted to try new adventures. The weather is always warm and sunny with a cooling breeze. Anything you choose to do – or not do – can be done in comfort, practically every day of the year.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten is an ideal holiday destination, sunshine, beaches, lots of activities to enjoy, an exuberant nightlife plus the best shopping and dining in the Caribbean. This island has a fantastic combination of a dramatic natural world, interesting island culture and exciting entertainment. The towns and villages around the island offer a lot of leisure activities, like cinemas, a bowling alley, numerous gyms and sporting clubs. On the more sedate side there are many local and historical museums, art galleries and beauty spots to visit.
Relaxing can be an “activity” – and there are 37 glorious beaches on this small island. Many have water sports and various leisure activities to offer visitors. There are “secret” beaches and coves, accessible only by boat, as well as beaches famous for their popular beach bars and activities. Other bays are more secluded, and perhaps a little harder to get to, but these are quieter and often worth the extra effort for their beauty and tranquillity. Some beaches are surrounded by rugged cliffs and dramatic landscapes, while others are shaded by palm trees. You will be spoilt for choice. Away from the beaches there is a wide range of sports and land-based activities to enjoy. St. Martin/Sint Maarten is a great choice for families or groups of divers and non-divers, something for visitors of all ages.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten sits in the Caribbean with the Caribbean Sea on the west coast and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. The crystal-clear, warm water of the Caribbean Sea provides perfect conditions for anyone that enjoys ocean and water sports. The island has a wide range of fun activities to offer its guests: sailing, windsurfing, body-boarding, wake-boarding, kite-surfing, water-skiing, parasailing, jet-skiing, kayaking etc. The Atlantic Ocean side of the island, with steady on-shore winds, is ideal for kite surfers, windsurfers and sailors.
Kayaking is very popular and are available on most beaches and several resorts. Kayaks can be hired for the ocean or for exploring Simpson Bay Lagoon, a large, enclosed salt-water lagoon. You can also kayak between Pinel Island and the main island. Pinel is a small atoll just off the coast near the Orient Beach area where many visitors enjoy a quiet day – sunbathing or picnicking.
Sint Maarten / St. Martin is recognised as a superb diving/snorkelling destination and the underwater scenery is spectacular. The reef and ocean are protected and are in excellent condition. Fantastic coral formations, pinnacles and caves and several excellent wrecks are home to a wide variety of sea life. Just off the coast in the Great Bay, lies the wreck of an English battleship dating back to 1801. St. Martin/ Sint Maarten is famous for its huge number and variety of wrecks. The Atlantic coasts are often visited by larger, ocean roaming creatures like sharks, dolphins and whales. For families or groups of divers and non-divers, St. Martin is a good choice. Beaches, snorkelling, activities, shopping etc., keep everyone entertained while the divers are busy.
Simpson Bay Lagoon is the largest Caribbean lagoon, and St. Martin is an international centre for sailing craft of all sizes. Explorer Island is in the centre of the Simpson Bay Lagoon an ideal spot for a picnic or even a cocktail at sunset. The Lagoon is large enough to have a “proper sail”. Small boats, like Sunfish and Sailfish, can be hired at many hotels. For racing enthusiasts, several regattas are held here every year usually at the end of March. Participants from Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean visit St. Maarten to compete in one of the world’s biggest sailing events – the Heineken Regatta.
Born from a volcanic eruption St. Martin/ Sint Maarten has hills and peaks covered with lush rain forest – both dramatic and very beautiful. Hiking through the rain forest, amongst the tropical flora and fauna, is a joy for people who relish the opportunity to explore this island’s natural world and enjoy the spectacular scenery. There are 25 miles of clearly defined footpaths running through the mountains and along the shore, that also take in many historic sites. Fort St. Louis overlooks Marigot Bay and has a superb panoramic view of the island and the ocean around it. Fort Amsterdam, built in 1631, provides an amazing view of Philipsburg. Fort William, originally “Fort Trigg” is a gentle hike up to the fort and highly recommended. The views over Philipsburg and neighbouring islands are stunning.
Due to the dramatic and varied terrain, mountain biking is a lot of fun. If you enjoy the thrill of mountain trails – there is a lot here for you. Not all the trails are difficult, but none are flat for long. Some take you along high tracks with some fantastic views of the island. Bikes are easy to hire from several places around the island.
Loterie Farm is a former sugar plantation, now a nature park of 54 hectares (135 acres). Well marked hiking trails lead to the highest point and a viewing platform with astonishing 360-degree panoramic views. Monkeys, parrots, hummingbirds and mongoose are common. The hills are covered by lush vegetation, running streams and beautiful sounds of the forest. The park includes a broadleaf forest and the remains of historic buildings dating back to the 18th century.
Fly Zone Zip Lines
In addition to hiking, the Loterie Farm has three treetop adventure obstacle courses with zip lines. You can fly over the forest canopy on ropes and cables suspended high in the air between the two canyons. An exhilarating experience. Some of the lines are very high and it can be physically demanding.
The offshore waters offer a wide and challenging variety of game fish including marlin, tuna, barracuda and kingfish. The Marlin Cup occurs in the month of May and the Saint-Martin Billfish Tournament takes place here every year in the month of June. Boats can be chartered all year although some of the fish are only in season from December to March.
St. Martin / Sint Maarten has over 100 species of bird, 40 are breeding residents. Seabirds like Audubon’s shearwater, brown pelicans, red-billed tropicbirds, frigate birds, royal terns and sandwich terns, laughing gulls, brown booby, egrets, herons, falcons, hummingbirds, doves and pigeons.
Two excellent stables organise riding trips along the beach or on scenic trails through the rain forest.
The highlight of the ride is swimming with your horse in the calm, clear ocean.
Tennis & Squash
There are more than 70 courts around the island, many in hotels and resorts.
There is just one 18-hole course on the island, open to all visitors.
There is a fantastic choice of tours and excursions available based on various themes. There are lots of tours by luxury coach and many taxi drivers offer island tours too. You can enjoy boat trips to neighbouring islands like Saba – “The Unspoiled Queen” – and the French island of St. Barts – “The Jewel of the Caribbean” – two beautiful islands. There are shorter excursions by boat around the island itself. You can sail around the island, lunch in Grand Case, mud bath at Tintamarre, snorkel at Creole Rock. There are trips on tall ships – with some tall tales thrown in – on the Pirate Cruise. There is the opportunity to crew (or be a passenger) on an Americas Cup style yacht.
On the more sedate side there are many museums and art galleries to visit. Perhaps the most famous is the St. Martin Museum, “On The Trail Of The Arawaks”, in Marigot, next to the Marina Port la Royale. A new building houses a variety of pre-Colombian treasures unearthed by the Hope Estate Archaeological Society. Among these are a reproduction of the 1,500-year-old burial mound that was only discovered in 1994, artefacts dating back as far as 1800 BC, and some beautifully decorated ceramics from around 550 BC.
On St. Martin/ Sint Maarten shopping is considered an activity. It is famous for its duty-free shopping and boutiques selling designer labels, jewellery, perfumes, Indonesian batiks and Chinese embroidery, crystal, liquors and fine porcelain. Front Street in Philipsburg has many tax-free shops. Japanese electronics, Marigot, the capital of the French side, has some stylish boutiques selling Parisian fashions. There are organised shopping trips from hotels and resorts – by bus or boat – a new experience – going shopping by boat!
Hiring a car is a great way to get the most out of a holiday on St Martin. The mountainous terrain hides many small towns and villages, with spectacular views and an amazing variation of landscapes. Jeep Safaris are also a fun way to explore this interesting island. Let us know if you need more information or would like to hire a vehicle or book any excursions or activities. They will form part of your ATOL protected holiday itinerary. Most importantly they will be pre-paid and ready for you when you arrive.
St. Martin/ Sint Maarten like most Caribbean islands was formed by a volcanic eruption and this small island has several peaks. Mt Concordia – Paradise Peak or Pic Paradis is the highest on the island at 424 m – Wymouth Hill 383m – Sentry Hill 341m and St. Peters Hill 316m. With many impressive high points, in a very small area, the landscape of the island is dramatic and very beautiful. The rugged terrain in the heart of the island is covered by a dense rain forest – a joy for people who appreciate the natural world and enjoy spectacular scenery. There are several observation points on the hillsides from which visitors can enjoy the scenery. The island’s hillsides are covered with dense evergreen forests and the lower slopes the flora consists of palm trees, cacti and ferns about 500 different species of plants.
Cole Bay Hill – just west of Philipsburg, has an observation platform at the top with outstanding views of the surrounding islands, including Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts, and Nevis. There is a footpath/ trail along the coast at Cole Bay that takes you to Cay Bay which will take around 45 minutes to an hour. Sentry Hill has a breathtaking view of Philipsburg in the east and to the west Cole Bay.
Paradise Peak & Pic Paradis – Rising from the centre of St. Martin at a height of 424 metres 1,400 feet stands Pic Paradis, the highest point on the island. At the top there are two observation decks, providing a spectacular view of the scenery and the tropical forest below. On a clear day the neighbouring islands, Saint Barthélemy , Anguilla, Saba, Sint Eustatius (Statia), Saint Kitts are visible.
Parks – St. Martin / Sint Maarten is proud of its natural heritage, and recently both sides of the island have created protection programs to conserve and regenerate the island’s natural world. Saint-Martin’s National Nature Reserve – ‘La Reserve Naturelle’ – is on the French side, a nature reserve which includes marine and terrestrial areas of more than 3060 hectares, in the north east of the island. The offshore section is over 2900 hectares. The land part of the Reserve includes rocky coasts, cliffs and beaches, home to many species of seabirds.
Colombier – Halfway between Marigot and Grand Case is picturesque Colombier, a green valley with tropical vegetation. One of the most beautiful and most peaceful spots in St. Martin, perfect for quiet walks and relaxation. There is also a watermelon plantation, where the fruit is used to prepare liqueur and deserts.
Loterie Farm – a former sugar plantation, is now a nature park of 54 hectares (135 acres). Well marked hiking trails lead to the highest point and a viewing platform with amazing 360-degree views. Lots of flora and fauna to enjoy, monkeys, parrots, hummingbirds etc.
Beaches – The island has 37 stunning beaches, on its 37 square miles, each with its own character. We mention the fantastic beaches in “sightseeing” as most are very picturesque. Several are enclosed by dramatic volcanic cliffs – making them very beautiful and peaceful. There are secluded, quiet beaches, only accessible by boat, and others famous for their popular beach bars and activities.
Mount Concordia – The treaty dividing the island in two was signed by the French and Dutch in 1648 on the top of Mount Concordia. In the same area there are the ruins of the old sugar plantation “La Sucrerie”.
The Border Monument – is a national landmark, on the road close to Marigot, the only visible indication you are crossing an international border. The monument was built in 1948 as a reminder that the island has enjoyed 350 years of peaceful coexistence between the Dutch and the French.
Fort Amsterdam -close to Little Bay, is a fort built in 1631, the first Dutch military outpost in the Caribbean. Sadly only a few walls of the original bastion remain but the site provides an amazing view of Philipsburg. It was captured by the Spanish who occupied it as a military post until 1648. The island, and therefore the Fort, changed hands 16 times between 1801 and 1848 in the midst of colonial disputes between Holland, England and France.
Fort William – originally called “Fort Trigg” lies just to the west of Philipsburg. Built in 1801 by the British but captured by the Dutch in 1816. It’s a gentle hike up to the fort and highly recommended. The views over Philipsburg and neighbouring islands are superb.
Fort St. Louis – overlooking Marigot Bay is the imposing Fort St. Louis, the largest historical monument in St. Martin. Named after the King of France, it was built in 1767 to protect the settlement at Marigot. Following the revolution, the fort was temporarily occupied by the Dutch. The 15 minute steep climb up to the summit provides a panoramic view of the island and the Caribbean Sea around it, well worth the effort.
Philipsburg, the capital of Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of the island, was founded in 1763 by John Phillips, a Scottish Captain in the Dutch Navy. Philipsburg occupies a narrow strip of land between Great Bay and Great Salt Pond. The two main streets are “Front Street” and “Back Street”. Front Street is the street of the (luxury) tax-free shops, boutiques and shops. Back Street is where you find the bargain clothes shops and restaurants. Philipsburg is a bustling city with distinctive architecture and lots of restaurants, bars, shops, etc.
The most striking building in Philipsburg is the “Courthouse”. The rustic, white and green wooden building, with its iconic tower, is in Front Street and was built in 1793. It is the courthouse for Dutch St. Maarten. A nice detail is the pineapple on the roof, a sign of welcome. Also in Front Street, a 19th century house, now the St. Maarten Museum.
The capital of the Franc St. Martin is Marigot. Colonial houses stand beside smart cafés and bistros, pastry shops and luxury boutiques, in many ways like any French market town. There are shopping centres with luxury European designer brands for sale, “tax free”. The city is only four streets wide, so it is very easy to get around. Next to the Marina Port la Royale, is a museum “On The Trail Of The Arawaks” dedicated to preserving St. Martin’s history and culture.
The Marigot Market
On Wednesdays and Saturdays mornings, an open-air market along the wharves on the Blvd. de France, offering a colourful array of home grown produce, tropical fruits and spices. Across from the market are the “Lolo’s”, featuring arts and crafts.
Orleans, The French Quarter
The quiet little fishing village of Orleans, also called the French Quarter, is on the eastern side of the island, just north of the border with St. Maarten. It was the original settlement of the French in St. Martin and some of the original seventeenth century structures are still preserved here. This part of the island has not been developed extensively, much of the old atmosphere has remained unspoiled. There are only a few residences here today, together with a few small shops.
In the sweeping curve of Grand Case beach, near the northern tip of the island, is a small fishing village, famous not only for its fine foods but also for its distinctive architecture. Elaborate carvings and fretwork, classic gingerbread style, decorate the fronts of the charming, wooden houses, painted in pastel colours. Some of the island’s best restaurants are in this area plus the “LoLos” small, barbecue stands. Don’t miss Tuesday night festivities during high season on the Blvd. de Grand-Case.
St. Martin is recognised as a fantastic dive / snorkelling destination, and the underwater scenery is just as spectacular is it is above the waterline. Crystal clear, warm water makes the ocean perfect for diving and snorkelling. The reef and ocean are protected and in excellent condition. The coral reefs offer a wide variety of sea life, fantastic coral formations, pinnacles, caves, shipwrecks as well as many beautiful tropical fish and colourful sponges.
Lots of easy ways to get out and about to explore and enjoy this island. Lots of tours jeep, both bus and walking with various sightseeing themes. A comfortable way to see the spectacular scenery and historical sights. You can hire one of several modes of transport and do your own thing – at your own pace. It is quite safe for you to walk around the island, with or without a guide. Parts of the mountain are a bit of a challenge, but that is up to you and how you feel on the day. Hiring a car is a great way to get the most out of a holiday on St Martin. The mountainous terrain hides many small towns and villages, with spectacular views and an amazing variation of landscapes.
Whatever you fancy doing – let us know – we can advise, organise and reserve tours, vehicles etc. and include those in your ATOL protected holiday itinerary if you wish.
Many of the resorts and hotels offer excellent entertainment and naturally you are welcome to wander into a neighbouring resort should you wish. No matter where you are there will be some excellent nightlife to enjoy. St. Martin / Sint Maarten is a lively island and much is made of the casinos and international flavour of the nightlife. But this is a small, Caribbean island. The nightlife is informal and low key by European standards, which makes it far more enjoyable. Despite efforts to make it sounds like Las Vegas, or Paris, it isn’t. The whole atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed. The wide choice of nightlife on offer means that evenings out can be enjoyed without being expensive. There are innumerable discos, nightclubs and bars on both sides of the island and it is possible to party to the small hours. Lots of variety techno, rock and roll, Jamaican reggae, meringue and souk are all popular.
There is a wide choice of nightlife for visitors to enjoy. Lots of excellent restaurants, live music and entertainment in clubs and lots of dance music. The Dutch side of the island has several casinos. In Philipsburg, the Jump Up Casino, Casino Rouge et Noir and the Hollywood Casino in Pelican Key all have a chocie of tables and slot machine. Simpson Bay has numerous excellent bars and cafés for your enjoyment.
There is live entertainment from around the world in discos, nightclubs and bars around the island. Front street in Philipsburg, with its quaint ‘gingerbread’ houses, Simpson Bay, Marigot port and Marina Royale are all centres of nightlife with live music nights, street entertainers and several nightclubs. You can salsa to sultry Latin music or dance to the latest club tracks.
Marigot, with its attractive sidewalk cafes and bars, has a “tropical Parisian” atmosphere. An early evening stroll through Marigot with its soft lighting and ambient music from restaurants and bars is a wonderful experience and provides a perfect setting for a romantic evening. The Marigot port and Marina Royale areas are very popular with many local bands and ‘avant garde’ street entertainers. The Marina area is also a hotspot for several chic nightclubs. Traditionally, French culture means a long and leisurely evening meal and many of the livelier bars and nightspots get going later in the evening. You can enjoy anything from sultry Latino music, rhythmic Reggae to the latest techno. There are many popular clubs scattered around the town, often hidden down side streets. Great discovering those special places for yourself. Whether your preference is a romantic stroll along the waterfront or losing yourself in the hot Caribbean rhythms, Marigot will certainly capture your heart. ‘La Belle Vie’ of this quaint little town will leave you with a lasting impression of French St. Martin.
Orient Bay, on the French side is not just a fantastic beach, the whole area is a great place for relaxed nightlife. There are several restaurants and bars, often with live music.
Known as the “Gastronomic Capital of the Caribbean”, St. Martin claims to offer the widest variety of cuisine of any island in the world. Over 300 restaurants serving everything from local BBQ ribs and chicken to first class French fare cooked by famous chefs from Paris. Other cuisines are well represented, Italian, Tex-Mex, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, Japanese and Chinese, to name but a few, including fast food. There are also a number of outlets that specialise in health foods and vegetarian menus. You will be astounded by the extensive wine lists and cocktail menus.
The village of Grand Case on the northern coast has been called the culinary capital of the Caribbean. Nowhere else can you find this many gourmet restaurants, in beautiful beach side settings, with so many famous international chefs striving to give you the perfect dining experience. It is said that Nouvelle Cuisine was invented in Grand Case. Tuesdays are Harmony Nights, where the central road is closed to traffic and musicians and artists take over the village. A great night out.
On the French side Carnival is celebrated in February, keeping the tradition of the French Creole Mas. A perfect example of joie de vivre.
The other Carnival is celebrated on the Dutch side and lasts for 17 days and nights and is the larger of the two. Carnival is the largest and longest event on St. Martin.
Visitors can expect an infectious carnival mix of dancing, music, international shows with well known artists and local cultural shows. Noisy, boisterous and great fun. Highlight of the carnival is the magnificent costume parade and people dancing through the streets of St. Martin.
Flights to St. Martin/Sint Maarten are with AirFrance/KLM – the only major airline to fly from Europe to the Dutch Caribbean islands. AirFrance/KLM gives you a huge choice of departure points in the UK – more than 15 airports. Flying from a local airport means no long trek to a central airport and far less hassle. It might also be possible to avoid airport parking fees if departing from an airport closer to home. The service on board Air France/KLM is excellent – meals and drinks are free of charge – luggage allowances are higher and seats are more spacious than the usual “holiday” charter flights. Flights to St. Martin/Sint Maarten are via Paris (Charles de Gaulle) – the flight from the UK to Paris takes around one hour. There are several connecting flights each day from 15 UK airports. The check-in time in the UK is just one hour – and the transfer is quick and easy. The combination of a short check-in and a local UK airport will save you a lot of time and hassle starting your journey. It may seem counter-intuitive – but the route via Paris is usually quicker than if there were a “direct” flight to the Dutch Caribbean.
We know how the flights work it’s our job
We always check the days around your preferred departure dates AND the various routes – to make absolutely sure we get the best price, schedule and route. Companies that lack that specialised knowledge – and automatic booking machines online – are unable to match that level of care and attention to your holiday.
It is important to know which days of the week you can travel – as we will always look for the best fare and schedule for you ñ and give you the best options for you to decide.
Any payment you make for a flight inclusive holiday is safeguarded by our ATOL bond issued by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL licence is an important guarantee for your peace of mind. We are also bound by European consumer protection laws – which protect consumers against misleading advertising and information.
Travel websites, comparison sites and accommodation suppliers, in the UK or the Caribbean, without an ATOL licence have no such guarantee and are not allowed to sell flights in the UK. Websites / suppliers based outside the UK are not bound by UK law.
Two very important reasons for buying from a UK based company with an ATOL licence.
Booking with us is easier – cheaper – safer
One of the big attractions of “our” islands is that they are not over-developed as tourist destinations. That means a limited number of flights and availability can be tight. These are scheduled flights, not charter, flights. As with all scheduled flights the fare depends on availability. For this reason we always take options on flights as soon as possible. Taking flight options involves no obligation or payment from you. Taking options fixes the fare for you. After taking flight options you are able to consider our holiday proposal in your own time. We know of no other company that can offer you such a service. If you do not travel with us this time we will cancel them (if notified) or the options will automatically cancel. No obligation and no penalty. there is no downside – this is a “win-win” for customers – taking all the time pressure off the important decision making process. You do not have to buy flight tickets now – and hope your plans do not change. Now you can spend time thinking about what you want in your holiday – and not worrying about flight fares increasing every time you look ! You have the added reassurance that the schedule and itinerary can still be revised if your plans change.
The flight market is now so competitive – and often deliberately confused by website booking machines that offer no service, discussion, advice or accuracy. Often offering unworkable schedules whilst offering unrealistic prices. Only when you get to the “payment page” do you get the flight schedule and the final price. Many websites offer a cheap headline fare (without luggage) – but hide the awful flight schedule and demand immediate payment. Even the major airlines play this game.
To take flight options we need the full names of passengers as per their passports.
If you prefer not to give us names, we will send a detailed holiday itinerary and quote of course, but without flight options, the fare might rise. Taking options involves no obligation or payment – until you are completely happy with our holiday proposal and decide to proceed. By taking options early, we have the best fare and we have fixed the fare – it cannot go up. If the fare goes down – it happens from time to time – we re-book and get you the lower fare. Other travel companies are unable to quote for a holiday “including flights” or give you 48 hours to decide ! Booking flights online and with some travel companies, requires an immediate payment. Often with no changes or refunds allowed. Takes some of the fun out of booking a holiday, doesn’t it ?
No matter how or where you book – we have the terms and best fares !
We include all taxes and surcharges in our price quotes. Beware of travel companies that do not include all taxes and surcharge. Taxes, fuel surcharge and the new Air Passenger Duty now total more than 50% of the flight ticket price. Some travel companies still quote price without taxes etc., or without the air fare included – a nasty shock when you receive the final holiday invoice. Please be sure to compare prices – like for like – with all taxes included.
. . . . are very busy – people flying home for Christmas (to and from the islands). The islands are never crowded but the flights are very busy and fares are at a premium. If you are considering a holiday in the Dutch Caribbean at Christmas, please ask us as early as possible to take flight options for you. We can do this February 1st onwards for the following Christmas.
Overnight in Amsterdam
If your flight to the Caribbean leaves early morning, or you usually stay in a hotel close to an airport in this country, you might like to consider “breaking” the journey, by staying overnight in Amsterdam. You can fly from the UK in the evening, stay overnight, get a good night’s sleep and continue the journey the following morning. We have a contract with the four-star Hotel Schiphol, with a free shuttle to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (10 minutes). The airport has a train station. It is a 20 minute journey to Amsterdam city centre. It may be possible for you to enjoy some time in Amsterdam.
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