This compact part-Dutch, part-French territory – dubbed the Friendly Island – is a 13 square mile tropical paradise renowned for gourmet cuisine, excellent beaches, top-quality shopping and bustling night life. It’s a popular tourist destination with a large duty-free shopping area and more on-shore development than many islands, including casinos, numerous restaurants and boutiques.
There are also excellent facilities for yachts of all types, with a growing emphasis on catering for the megayacht market. The island is well placed for this, given the proximity of the airport and excellent provisioning, especially on the French side of the island.
Nevertheless, yachts of a more conventional size are also still well catered for.
The bulk of the yachting facilities are focussed around the Simpson Lagoon, which is entered via opening bridges on either the Dutch or French sides of the island and is where yachts arriving from elsewhere in the Caribbean clear in through customs and immigration. There are also marinas and boat yards in other parts of the island, notably Cole Bay, Oyster Pond and Phillipsburg.
The island is increasingly becoming a base for megayachts at the beginning and end of their charters…
The Sint Maarten Heineken Regatta has a long-standing and well-deserved reputation as being one of the best events in the Caribbean calendar. For the past 30 years it has provided lots of fun during three days over the first full weekend in March.
The racing fleet, and its entourage, moves around island, stopping at a different destination each night, where a temporary village – with bars, food stalls and live music – is set up to cater for competitors’ après sailing needs.
…but there’s still plenty of room for more modest yachts and great facilities. Credit: Saint Maarten, Dutch Side by AndonicO CC BY-SA 2.5
Although the island is busy and in places relatively densely populated, those in search of a quieter spot can head a short distance north Anguilla.
This is a lightly populated island surrounded by largely unspoiled coral reefs with excellent snorkelling and diving, plus extensive white sand beaches. Alternatively, to the south of St Martin is St Eustatius (Statia), one of the least developed islands in this part of the Caribbean, with a relaxed and chilled out vibe.
The island’s national parks provide a protected habitat for many endangered species including the Antillean iguana. Inland there is spectacular hiking, including a walk-in volcano, which rises in a perfect cone to 700m.
SM3: The anchorage in Great Bay. Credit: Todd Neville CCA2.0 Generic
In terms of climate, the trade winds give near-perfect force 4-5 winds all year, tending to be a little stronger in the winter months, but weaker and less reliable in summer.
Afternoon temperatures in winter range between 25-29°C and there are generally 22-23 dry days per month, with most rain falling as showers in late afternoon and evening. Summer tends to be warmer, wetter and more humid. The island lies well within the hurricane belt, with the season lasting from June until the end of November.
Map embed code: