Roll over THE MAP to discover 10 iconic experiences
St. Maarten shines as an alluring destination like no other. This idyllic isle boasts all the desirable elements of a tropical paradise—bombshell beaches, sublime sunsets, superb cuisine, crystal-clear waters swirling with 50 shades of blue—but its melding of Caribbean, Dutch and French cultures truly sets it apart. Governed by two nations—the Netherlands and France—it’s the only place in the world you can drive from a French capital city to a Dutch one in roughly 20 minutes. For those venturing south, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure awaits: from pristine beaches for snorkelling and water sports to dynamic nightlife and Dutch and Caribbean fusion fare, adrenalin junkies and beach bums alike will dig the vibe on the Dutch side.
Illustration by LeeAndra CiAnci
St. Maarten shines as an alluring destination like no other. This idyllic isle boasts all the desirable elements of a tropical paradise—bombshell beaches, sublime sunsets, superb cuisine, crystal-clear waters swirling with 50 shades of blue—but its melding of Caribbean, Dutch, and French cultures truly set it apart. Governed by two nations—the Netherlands and France—where else in the world can you drive from a French capital city to a Dutch one in roughly 20 minutes? For those venturing south, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure awaits: From pristine beaches for snorkelling and water sports to dynamic nightlife and dining on Dutch and Caribbean fusion fare, adrenaline junkies and beach bums alike will dig the vibe on the Dutch side.
Whether you’re on the prowl for beaches, water activities, or world-class dining, Simpson Bay is a hub for daytime fun. But at dusk, this historic fishing town really comes alive, teeming with bars, lounges, nightclubs and casinos. For an “in” on the local social scene, jump on the party bus and join the Sint Maarten Bar Crawl—a group jaunt to five of the best drinking dens in town. Along the way, sample drinks at each stop, nibble on snacks and learn how to party St. Maarten–style. On some nights, your group leader can arrange free entrance tickets for Lotus Nightclubfor those who want to boogie late into the night.
Staying steps from the ocean is not just convenient, it’s an invitation to experience the island’s essence. Picture waking at dawn, as pink and orange streaks paint the sky, and slipping down to the beach for a solitary stroll on the soft sand. Balmy days bring an array of fun-filled water sports and activities—from kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding to windsurfing and parasailing—right at your doorstep. At dusk, dine under the stars at a beachfront restaurant, surrounded by the lapping waves and sultry sea breeze. It’s truly a soul-stirring memory to take home.
Find your inner Zen at Joga, where yogis stretch and meditate on a terrace overlooking Simpson Bay Lagoon. The seaside studio runs indoor and outdoor yoga, Pilates, and dance classes seven days a week, but private sessions can be booked anywhere you like—including on the beach. Unfurl your mat in the sun-kissed sand and pose under swaying palm trees, deeply inhaling the salty air and exhaling your worries.
If the airplane beach didn’t get your heart racing, the world’s steepest zipline might do the trick. The Flying Dutchman, a wild ride that’s part of Rainforest Adventures at Rockland Estate, drops a dizzying 1,050 feet at an exhilarating speed. Soaring over the island, prepare to be sucker-punched by the eye-candy: a panoramic spectacle of shimmering sea, lush rainforest, and mesmerizing landscape. Back on land, visit the Emilio Wilson Museum to be moved by the story of Trace Wilson, who was born into slavery on the property in 1818, and her descendant Emilio Wilson, who purchased the estate to educate people about the plantation’s conditions and the island’s rich history and culture.
Snorkelling in St. Maarten is more than an activity—it’s a nature immersion. Gliding through calm waters, you can explore a sunken wonderland of colourful corals swaying to the rhythm of the sea, while schools of tropical fish dart amongst the gardens. Keep your eyes peeled for sea critters (turtles, sting rays, porcupine pufferfish and octopus) going about their daily routines, or even a shipwreck. Some prime snorkelling spots, like Mullet Bay, can be accessed by a short swim from the shore. For a truly extraordinary adventure, drift over more than 300 artificial reef sculptures at The Spirit of SXM Underwater Sculpture Park, a snorkelling park opening in Little Bay in December 2023.
Thanks to St. Maarten’s distinct geography, you can dip your toes into two stunning bodies of water in one trip. Start with the balmy beaches near Philipsburg, floating in gentle waves and snorkelling in the serene Caribbean Sea. Later, venture to the island’s eastern shores for an invigorating swim in the Atlantic’s wilder waves and deeper blues. One calm and the other untamed, it’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to feel the contrasting personalities of two seas.
Take an epic art walk through the heart of the capital city, uncovering more than 20 vibrant murals painted by local artists. Each piece celebrates the island’s unique history, cultures and people. Look closely to spot poetry scrawled on the walls. The dazzling imagery makes an epic backdrop for photoshoots, adding artistic flair to any pics posted on your social feed. You’ll also find plenty of duty-free shops, restaurants and historic sites to explore along the way.
Stretching three kilometres along Philipsburg’s coastline, Great Bay Beach offers a heavenly escape after a day of island adventures. Renowned for its tranquil waters and soft sands, the shoreline is full of beachfront bars and restaurants offering exquisite Caribbean cocktails and cuisine—perfect for barhopping or a romantic evening. Stroll along the boardwalk and settle in at the Ocean Lounge Bar & Restaurant, a top culinary spot serving up boozy beverages and seafood delicacies, like grilled lobster and king crab. Aside from the foodie pics, the backdrop of sailboats and cruise ships makes for Insta-worthy shots that’ll rake in the likes.
Step aboard a boat from Pyratz Gourmet Sailing for a magical sunset sail along St. Maarten’s southern coastline. Relax on the breezy open-air deck, sipping craft cocktails and munching on gourmet appetizers, as the catamaran gently cruises through rippling waves. At Maho Beach, lie back on the forward trampoline area and watch the bellies of planes swoop overhead. As the sun sinks into the horizon, the sky changes colours like a chameleon, bringing opportunities to stargaze. This is a dreamy excursion to mark special occasions…or even to pop the question!
1 Founded in 1959, Second City popularized the art of long-form comedic improvisation, which thrives on a two-word ethos: “Yes, and…” Performers were encouraged to follow the lead of their fellow players, embracing the chaos as they wrote live comedy in real-time.