This summer has been particularly indulgent. While reflecting on my 6 Days in St Martin this morning, I’m on a flight to the Bahamas for yet another getaway. Trust me, I’m rolling my own eyes at my luck.
What makes this borderline extravagance possible?
Being able to work from anywhere and having minimal financial obligations (no mortgage, no kids, not even pets) certainly helps, as does the combination of budget travel finds with selective splurges on personal priorities, making the semi-nomadic dream lifestyle a reality.
The toughest part is deciding what to do. I seriously spend HOURS reading TripAdvisor reviews.
For those of you who prefer a more of a streamlined approach to getaway planning, get your bookmark bar ready, I’ve got the fully curated low down on 6 Days in St Martin for you…
St Martin is known for its beaches and cuisine, not its all-inclusives. As such, I started the search for budget-friendly accommodations on Airbnb ( get $40 off your first booking with my affiliate link!)
We booked a beachside unit in a condo complex called Nettle Bay Beach Club on the French side of the island with spectacular views, a private outdoor area and a swimmable beach with loungers included.
The private beach didn’t have that perfect white sand you find at all-inclusives in Riviera Maya or Punta Cana, but having your own space with no early morning rush to reserve a sun lounger is hard to beat.
The apartment was also walkable to a number of delicious restaurants and the Mercure resort across the street, which offers various activities.
Wanting to see as much of the island as possible we rented a car, (which I highly recommend to maximize your mobility). The one-week rental cost around $200.
After a long day of flying due to some serious airline delays, we settled into our unit at the Nettle Bay Beach Club and walked about 25 steps to the Ma Ti Beach restaurant next door.
A moment of pause here for the food in St Martin – it was delicious everywhere we went. Even as a vegetarian passing on the famed island seafood, every restaurant was delightful (and accommodating to my non-animal eating needs).
Ma Ti Beach is located directly on the beach with outdoor seating on picnic benches next to the lapping ocean waves.
We had definitely arrived.
After visiting the local grocery store to stock up on a few snacks and staples, including sunscreen and bug spray (both essentials), we made the drive out to the famous Orient Bay beach for lunch.
Note: Navigating around the island is fairly easy as everything is off of one main road that circles the island, but turn offs to specific destinations can be tricky to spot.
The turn off to Orient Bay beach for example looked like a private resort entrance. We drove back and forth at least three times before realizing we had arrived.
Many public beaches and shopping areas require entry through a guarded gate. Just tell the guards where you’re going and they’ll let you through or redirect you to wherever you’re trying to go.
After finding the proper turn off, we finally made our way to lunch at Palm D’Or on Orient Bay.
Note: Many of the restaurants in St Martin act as hubs in terms of amenities, (much like hotels). You can rent a beach chair for the day, sip cocktails and enjoy lunch and/or dinner, all from a beachside restaurant. Some even have activity desks offering parasailing and jet skiing alongside their frozen drinks.
We settled in for lunch at Palm D’Or, which is located in a quieter section of Orient Bay, enjoying some delicious food and our drink of choice, the BBC – a frozen cocktail of banana, Kahlua and chocolate that appears on just about every drink menu in St Martin. After lunch, we made our way over to the beach loungers, (included with our lunch), and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon in the waves of Orient Bay.
On the drive back to our rental unit, we picked up a few more provisions for dinner, making use of the full-kitchen in our Airbnb while enjoying the beach view just outside the sliding doors.
After a lazy morning lying around on our private beach loungers, we made our way to lunch at nearby Mezza Luna. As usual, the beautiful setting, good food and veggie friendly options were a treat.
The restaurant had an activity desk out front where we browsed through various excursions and settled on a jet ski tour for later in the afternoon.
Tip: When possible, try booking excursions directly through service providers. There are many activity desks around the island, especially in or near resorts, but if you can find a service provider directly online or in person, you may be able to avoid paying referral fees.
We signed up for the 1 hour 15 minute Lowlands Jet Ski tour, which was just the right amount of time. The ocean can be very choppy which makes holding onto the Jet Ski a real challenge, and pretty exhausting after an hour. That said, it was an exhilarating and stunning ride. The tour also helped us gain our bearings and identify which beaches we wanted to visit later on.
Tip: Don’t wear anything you think you might lose. I was barely able to hold onto the waterproof camera I had tucked away into my lifevest.
After finishing up the Jet Ski tour and unwinding with a beachside cocktail on our private outdoor patio, we ventured into Marigot, the capital of the French Side of the island for dinner. During our stay (in the second week of August), there wasn’t much happening in downtown Marigot, at least in the evenings. We did enjoy our meal however. Watching our enthusiastic waiter lure in passers by for dinner was certainly the highlight. The food was also good and reasonably priced.
We kicked off the morning with Captain Alan’s Three Island Snorkeling Tour.
The small boats of 10-12 passengers each offer an intimate experience that begins with a 20-minute high-speed boat ride out to Tintamarre Island. Beautiful views and choppy seas make for an exhilarating ride.
Warning, you will get soaked. I stood at the front of the speedboat and watched as we bound over the massive waves.
Tintamarre is tiny and glorious with a small white sand beach, cliffs and beautiful views of St Martin – and the snorkeling! We spotted sea turtles and stingrays!!!
The sea turtles blend in with the grassy areas of the ocean floor so they can be a bit tricky to spot, but once you see one, stay put. They have to come up for air every few minutes, so if you hover nearby they’ll swim right up next to you as they make their way to the surface. It’s remarkable.
After snorkeling and spending some time on the small Tintamarre beach enjoying some refreshments, our boat took us around the corner of the island to snorkel at a reef full of beautiful small fish. From there, we got back on the boat and made the short trip to Pinel Island.
Every St Martin website and guidebook I read raved about Pinel Island, but to me it was just OK. A lovely island across from Orient Beach, Pinel Island offers beautiful St Martin views complete with two beach bar/restaurants, a gift shop, wild iguanas and that’s about it.
All very nice but a little overcrowded and overhyped for my liking. I’m glad we stopped by on the tour to see what all the fuss was about, but I didn’t feel the need to take another trip back.
After a pit stop at Pinel and some homemade sandwiches on board, we took the 20-minute ride back to harbor. Once again, exhilarating.
Tip: If you’re not staying nearby Oyster Pond where Captain Alan’s tour kicks off, give yourself some time to navigate getting there. The turn off of the main road, coming from the direction of Orient Bay looks very unassuming. You might think you’re on the wrong road. Just keep going until you start to see some development. Follow signs for Oyster Bay Beach Club and you’ll find Captain Alan’s dock and office right there on the harbor in front of the resort.
After returning to Captain Alan’s dock in Oyster Pond, we got back in the car and drove, following signs to Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of the island. Again, it was off-season, so there wasn’t too much going on, but it was nice to walk along the boardwalk and stop into a bar for a quick drink before looping back on Front Street to window shop. I actually bought a new pair of sunglasses – duty free, yay!
Tip: There’s plenty of free parking when you get into Philipsburg in large lots to the right of the main island road. Park there and walk towards the water.
For dinner, we made our way back to the French side of the island to Ernst & Fidel, located in the Porto Cupecoy shopping complex, off of a roundabout next to the Blue Mall. This Latin fusion cuisine (and drink of course) was a culinary highlight of an already gastronomically delightful trip. I’d highly recommend it.
We started day five with another early morning adventure, this time at the lovely Loterie Farm, an inland oasis with a quiet pool, airy restaurant and fabulous zip line and ropes course.
The Extreme Zip Line Adventure is not for the faint of heart, but it’s a total blast in a beautiful setting. We even saw monkeys hanging out while climbing through the treetops. It was magical.
Tip: Follow signs for Pic du Paradis to get to Loterie Farm. Again, the turn off is unassuming, but keep following the road until you come across a large sign for Loterie Farm. It’s at the bottom of a long, steep driveway.
From Loterie Farm we drove to culinary capital of the Caribbean, Grand Case, for lunch. After eating beachside with our feet in the sand at Los Calmos, we walked along the water before settling in front of Love Beach Bar where we rented stand up paddleboards
Tip: If you want to try stand up paddleboarding in the ocean, stay close to the shoreline – it’s tough to stay on course otherwise. Paddle against the current as you head out, that way you know you can always make it back.
After our day of ziplining and paddleboarding, we opted to stay close by for dinner, stumbling upon my favorite restaurant of the trip, Le Sand – a beautiful beach restaurant with a 3 course set menu (and very accommodating to various dietary needs). The special grilled pineapple with coconut ice cream dessert still has my mouth watering.
After a morning lounging around, we set off for St Maarten’s (that’s how it’s spelled on the Dutch side) famous Maho Beach to watch the planes fly in.
It was a Saturday afternoon with a cruise ship in port, so the area was packed. We stopped into the Sunset Bar and Grill located just at the end of the airport runway for lunch. It was crowded, but because we were there for lunch (not just drinks), we were given immediate access to a table with prime views.
Watching the planes land was certainly fun, but there was some pretty solid people watching to be enjoyed too – especially when folks lined up behind the planes taking off to get blown away by the jet stream.
From Maho Beach we drove to Plum Bay. Plum Bay is a very private (but still public) beach, located in the gated area of Terres Basses, which is kind of like the Hollywood Hills. We drove through trying to get a sneak peak at the villas behind the gated walls on either side.
There are no restaurants or facilities in Plum Bay, but it is beautiful, and the beach is right in front of the sprawling Trump villa.
For dinner, we ventured over to Pelican Key on the Dutch side of the island, which offered more of a Jersey Shore type vibe than a relaxing Caribbean getaway feel. The restaurant we selected, The Stone, was beautifully set on the lagoon harbor, but the constant bug bites made the meal difficult to enjoy.
The food was fine but the surrounding area didn’t particularly suit my personal preferences.
When I want the Jersey shore, I’ll go to the Jersey shore. For St Martin, the peace and elegance of the French Puerto Cupecoy and Nettle Bay areas were my favorite.
All in all out 6 day stay in St Martin / St Maarten was absolutely lovely (and I hope it was or will be for you too!)