Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Virtual Vacation: St Maarten


By Katy DeHaven

After a warm and dry fall so far, It has been a chilly and rainy week here in Missouri. Even though it’s just now November and getting into the start of winter, this weather already has me thinking of warm weather and sandy beaches. Since we recently finished our Canada and New England cruise port series I thought we could take a look at some of the popular Caribbean ports of call. Let’s start with one of my favorites, St. Maarten/ St. Martin.

Part of the Leeward Islands, this 37-square-mile island is the smallest parcel of land to be peaceably shared by two countries: France and the Netherlands. The French side is known as Saint-Martin and the Dutch side is known as Sint Maarten. The French side is known for shopping, nude beaches and French and Indian Caribbean cuisine, while the Dutch side is known for its nightlife, beaches, jewelry, casinos, and drinks made with native rum-based guava berry liquors. Let’s see what this beautiful island has to offer.

While not one of the prettiest beaches in St. Maarten, Maho Beach is one of the most popular. Why? This is due to the runways of the Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) being just a few meters behind. This means the landings of those huge Boeings and Airbuses are almost within arms reach of beachgoers. Visitors to the beach also enjoy grabbing a drink or two at Sunset Beach Bar as they watch the planes come in. For a pilot’s view of landing at SXM check at this video. Check out this video taken from the beach of a KLM plane landing. 

In total St. Maarten/ St. Martin has 37 distinct beaches, with each one having its own quirks and charms. In addition to Maho Beach, other popular beaches include, Orient Bay Beach  Cupecoy BeachMullet Bay Beach, and Friar’s Bay Beach just to name a few.

Thrill-seekers should check out The Flying Dutchman, the steepest zip line in the world, which can be found at Rockland Estate Eco-Adventure Park on the Dutch side.  The zip line drops more than 1000 feet in elevation along 2800 feet of cable. The park also offers, a Sky Explorer chairlift, The Schooner Ride, and Sentry Hill zip line. 

Another popular spot for zip lining is Loterie Farm, located close to the highest point in St. Martin, Pic Paradis, on the French side. The course is actually a combination of zip lines and obstacle courses like crossing rope and plank bridges. Loterie Farm is also a nature sanctuary offering private cabanas, hiking trails, a bar, restaurant and pool lounge set on 135 acres. Check out this video to see Loterie Farm

Gorgeous sweeping 180-degree views across the Marigot Harbor and the hills above Bellevue can be found at Rue du Fort Saint Louis, one of the largest forts on the island located on the French side.  This was once the site of armed battles between the major European powers of the Caribbean. Check out this video to see the magnificent views from this historic fort. 

Another fort worth checking out is Fort Amsterdam, dating back to the middle 17th century, this is where onetime Dutch settlers first marked their territory. The fort is located on the fringes of Phillipsburg, between Great Bay and Little Bay. Click here to learn more about the site. 

Phillipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side of the island and it’s Front Street is filled with shops, restaurants and bars that line the boardwalk along Great Bay. The St. Maarten Museum is located nearby, displays artifacts of the indigenous Arawak people and is free of charge. For a peak at part of the area, click here.

Visitors who would like to try St. Maarten’s take on the Caribbean’s favorite liquor, rum, should visit Sint Maarten Guavaberry Company. The rum has a potent infusion of sugarcane and guava berries that grow all over the central hills of the island. If you would like to learn more, click on this link. The company sells hot sauces online, and the rum can be purchased in the U.S., mainly in stores on the East Coast and Midwest.

Located on the French side is Tijon Perfumerie  which produces fine perfumes, colognes, and skin care items. They have their own on-site lab and offer 60 and 90 minute perfume making classes. Visitors are guided through selecting from over 300 scents to create their own fragrance to take home. The formulas are kept on file so you can order another bottle later. To see the process check out this video

In addition to the beaches and activities above, St. Maarten/ St. Martin also offers many different types to excursions including snorkelingscuba divingsnubakayakingsunset cruises  jet skis12 Metre ChallengeATV toursfoodie tours and more.

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