An island known for their slow living, breathtaking sunrises, crystal clear water and delicious culinary experiences, St. Martin is the perfect destination for those wishing to go with the flow and take it easy. If you’re pining to sail on the sea of spontaneity, take the days as they come and independently explore St. Martin, one of the best ways to do so is by renting a car and seeing the sights at your own pace. With lush lookouts, scenic landscapes, and beautiful beaches, there’s so much to discover. Driving is on the right-hand side, and although some road signs may be in colourful Caribbean creole, the friendly islands will be happy to provide you with directions.
Photo from Pic Paradis, courtesy of Donovane Tremor
Begin your travels by venturing to the outdoor nature activities and excursion on St. Martin that are waiting for you to explore. Pic Paradis, with an elevation of 424m is the highest point in St. Martin. Rent a 4x4 and take the drive up the hill to enjoy a wonderful summit hike and take in the breathtaking scenes across the island. With views of St. Barthelemy and Tintamarre island, it’s a beautiful visual experience to add to your must-visit list.
Orient Bay, with its supple white sand beaches, and calming waters, is the perfect place to pack a picnic, enjoy the weather, finish your current read and watch the hours blow away with the cooling breeze. A tranquil spot often frequented by Canadians; once you feel truly serene from lounging, take a dip into the water, and make the most of this beach’s crystal-clear clarity by going for a snorkel. Complete your day by enjoying a kayaking experience from Orient Bay or to Caye Vert.
Orient Bay Beach, photo courtesy of Donovane Tremor
Organize a full day out and drive the entire family to the north-eastern part of the island to St. Martin’s National Nature Reserve. A wonderful place to hike and enjoy the great outdoors, ‘La Réserve Naturelle’ is surrounded by 30 square kms of water. Originally established in 1998, the reserve is home to the 5 main ecosystems that can be found in St. Martin: coral reefs, mangroves, phanerogams herbaria, ponds, and a coastal dry forest. During the months of January to May, the shallow waters surrounding the reserve become a place of gathering for humpback whales during mating season. On the larger beaches, sea turtles come on land to lay their eggs on the inlets.
For those wishing for a blood pumping experience, plan a trip to Loterie Farm’s Hidden Forest for a ziplining adventure. If you’re brave enough to keep your eyes open as you go zooming along, you’ll feel as if you’ve won the visual lottery as you take in the scenes of St. Martin’s dense 200-acre forest canopy, rich with local flora and fauna, mango, and mahogany trees. If you have little ones with you, this activity is even suitable for the bravest of kiddos as the option to have them strapped in with you as you both go zooming through the trees at high speed is available.
Loterie Farm, photo courtesy of Donovane Tremor
Attached to Loterie Farm are their sophisticated cabanas. Located deep in the interior of the island in the hillside of Pic Paradis. If any member of your family or friends don’t feel up to high flying through the forest they don’t have to miss out on the day or drive as they can enjoy all the loungers and happy hour cocktails as well as making time for a dip in the unique natural water pool built at the base of a mountain.
For history and to experience relics of centuries past, ride on out to Fort Louis for unparalleled panoramic views across the island. Named after a French crusading King, Fort Louis is St. Martin’s largest historical monument and was originally designed in the 18th century, in 1789 to protect the main town and capital of the island Marigot. A climb to the top of the fort will bestow views of neighbouring island Anguilla.
Once you’ve soaked up the sun, seen the lookouts, visited the reserves and hiked to the highest point on the island, change the pace, take your foot off the gas, and plan a flavourful day of gastronomy in Grand Case. Renowned as the culinary capital of the island with over 67 different restaurants, serving up a variety of exquisite eats, from Japanese, Caribbean to European cuisines, there’s a dining destination available for all.
For shopping, architecture, culture and to feel the essence of Europe whilst still enjoying the wonders of the Caribbean, spend a day in Marigot, drive along the beautiful coastline of French St. Martin before parking the car and exploring the capital on foot. Walk through the beautiful narrow cobbled streets and feel the chic French influence as you take in the colorful scenes, visit the different stores, pass through the markets and vendors selling their wonderfully handcrafted pieces. Whilst strolling through Marigot, you can’t miss taking in the scenes of the picturesque harbour front.