Things to Do in St. Martin: 18 Reasons to Make The Island Your Next Vacation

by | Last updated Aug 30, 2023 | St. Martin, Top Things to Do Caribbean

I rarely go to the same destination twice until I discovered St Martin. This amazing Caribbean Island is a short flight from the U.S. It is part Dutch and part French and offers enough foodie and outdoor activities to keep you busy for weeks. We drove all over the island seeking out the best experiences. Here’s our top 18 things to do in St. Martin in no particular order.

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Map of Top Things to Do in St. Martin 

Trip map created using Wanderlog.

01- Drink Ti’ Punches on Pinel Island

Drinking Ti Punches at Karibuni Restaurant on Pinel Island St Martin

One of the best things to do in St. Martin: Drinking Ti Punches at Karibuni Restaurant on Pinel Island!

If you are a first-timer or an annual visitor, a day trip to Pinel Island is a must. Located on the northeastern corner of St. Martin, it is a short kayak, ferry, or boat ride away.

You can hike, snorkel, or just lounge the day away by the calm turquoise water. The island is GORGEOUS.

There are two places you can set up shop: Karibuni or Yellow Beach.

I can personally vouch for the Karibuni side. They will arrange chairs and an umbrella and keep the cocktails coming. Karibuni Restaurant also has a fantastic lunch menu.

Karibuni side of Pinel Island in St Martin

Pinel Island in St. Martin

Lobster is their specialty.

You will see the staff bringing in fresh lobster on their boats right before lunch. Talk about fresh!!!

If you really want to feel like a VIP, book a room at the Karibuni Boutique Hotel.

The hotel owns the Karibuni Restaurant on Pinel Island. They include a private boat transfer, kayaks, and an umbrella and chairs for free! The staff takes extra good care of you.

While lounging beachside, don’t forget to order the local French Caribbean drink, the Ti’punch. It’s made of a beautifully harmonious combination of rhum agricole + lime + sugar cane syrup. 

Now we’re on vacation! 

02- Grocery Hop to Find the Best French Food

Meats and cheeses at Le Petit Casino Baie Orientale in St Martin

Meats and cheeses at Le Petit Casino Baie Orientale in St. Martin

Alright, so not everyone will find this next activity thrilling. However, if you love discovering foods in different destinations, check out their grocery stores.

My husband becomes a kid in a candy shop when we go to a grocery store in a new country. New spices, flavors, snacks, cheeses, drinks … ahh, the senses become overwhelmed.

We stayed on the French side of St. Martin, which gave us access to all the amazing French grocery stores.

One of our favorites was Le Petit Casino Baie Orientale. It was a small grocery store but had a fantastic selection of fresh baguettes (for 1 euro!), pates, charcuterie, and mouthwatering cheeses.

Variety of imported cheeses at Grape Wine in St Martin

Variety of imported cheeses at Grape Wine in St. Martin

Another favorite was Grape Wine.

I love this charming store. The staff was super friendly and eager to help you find that special cheese or perfect bottle of wine. They also have a great selection of cured meats, spreads, olives, etc.  

03- Airplane Watching at Maho Beach

Plane flying over Maho Beach at Sint Maarten

Watching the planes fly over Maho Beach

Yes, it is touristy and crowded, but it’s still a must-do if you are in St. Martin as a first-timer.

Where else in the world can your toes be in the sand and have a plane zoom right at you just before it lands?

Welcome to Maho Beach. This beach is stunning and has two bars flanking it on either end. Great for plane and people-watching.

04- Enjoy the Best Caribbean Foodie Experience

Open Kitchen at La Villa Hibiscus in St Martin

Open Kitchen at La Villa Hibiscus in St. Martin

Yes, we do sometimes plan vacations around a foodie experience.

We book the reservation then we buy the plane ticket.

Hisa Franko in Slovenia, The Test Kitchen in Cape Town, Maido in Peru, and Sawada in Japan are a few examples.

La Villa Hibiscus is another one of those amazing foodie experiences, and it’s in the Caribbean!

This intimate restaurant is operated by the lovely Sabine and her French-trained husband Chef Bastian.

I would best describe the food as fine French dining with a Caribbean flair. The tasting menu is delicious, well-executed, and made with incredibly high-quality ingredients.

With only a handful of tables, they book up quickly!

Slowly poached confit thigh with hedgehog mushroom and Ivoire sauce at La Villa Hibiscus in St Martin

Slowly poached confit thigh with hedgehog mushroom and Ivoire sauce at La Villa Hibiscus in St. Martin

05- Get Naked at St. Martin’s Top Beaches

Baie Rouge Beach in St Martin

Baie Rouge Beach in St. Martin

Ok, I think I will need a few more Ti’punches to do this one.

But yes, the French side of St. Martin does have one official nudist beach … Orient Bay Beach. There is a dedicated section to go au naturel.

There are also a few other “nonofficial” nudist beaches such as Happy Bay Beach and Petites Cayes.

It also seems going topless is well-accepted. We found that out quickly when we headed over to Baie Rouge beach one day to do some snorkeling.

There’s even a nudist hotel if you are so inclined.

06- Discover the Best Snorkeling Sites

Beach at Petite Clef in St Martin

Beach at Petite Clef in St. Martin

Alright, so St. Martin is not known for having out-of-this-world snorkeling sites.

But … if you are like us and love getting in the water, there are still a few little gems worth checking out.

Snorkel over a sunken ship, hang out with some turtles, or admire the many schools of blue tang. All the sites we discovered are listed in my post below.     

Snorkeling with a school of blue tang at Pinel Island in St Martin

Snorkeling with a school of blue tang at Pinel Island in St. Martin

07- Scour the Island for the Best Rum Bottles

Purchasing rum and rhum while in St Martin

Purchasing rum/rhum while in St. Martin

When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do.

When you are in the Caribbean, that means trying out the rum!

Some of our favorite distillers are Foursquare from Barbados and Chairman’s Reserve from St. Lucia. There are a few shops in St. Martin that source some of the best rum in the Caribbean islands.  

One of those shops is Gulmohar’s on the Dutch side.

The owners are incredibly knowledgeable, and the prices are fantastic! We were told some tourists even load up an empty suitcase with all their favorite bottles. We scored a fantastic deal on two bottles of Foursquare Rum.

Definitely check this store out!

Gulmohars in Philipsburg Sint Maarten

Gulmohar’s in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten

The second shop worth seeking out is Grape wine.

If you couldn’t guess by the name, they sell a great selection and variety of wines from around the world. But they also have an impressive selection of rum/rhum.

They just recently opened up a little “Rum Cave” in the back. My husband and I had the pleasure of meeting Alain, who guided us through some wonderful tastings of rhum agricole.

We learned so much including the difference between rum and rhum agricole. Yes, there is a difference!

Rhum agricole is what makes those Ti’punches so darn good.

Great experience! We took home 2 bottles of rhum to enjoy later at home.

Rum Cave at Grape Wine in St Martin

Rum Cave at Grape Wine in St. Martin

08- Scarf Down the Best Island Pizza

Takeout pizza at Papadan's in St Martin

Takeout pizza at Papadan’s in St. Martin

I had heard Papadan’s makes the best pizza on the island.

As we pulled up into a shopping strip to pick up our pizza, my expectations weren’t too high. After all, this is the Caribbean, not Naples, Italy.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the ingredients of this delicious pizza! 

All pies are made fresh to order.

They are BUSY. I strongly suggest ordering over the phone and picking it up later. If you place an order on-site, expect to wait. Remember, you are on Caribbean time. It’s worth it though.

09- Discover Saba Via a Thrilling Plane Ride

Inside Winair's plane at Saba's airport

Inside Winair’s plane at Saba’s airport

St. Martin is the jumping-off point for several neighboring islands.

One of those islands is Saba, known as the Caribbean’s Unspoiled Queen. It has not been fully discovered by hoards of tourists (yet!) and is a paradise for hikers and divers.

How you get to Saba is half the fun!

You could go by ferry, but it’s way more thrilling to take the 12-minute plane ride and land on the shortest commercial runway in the world.

We spent three wonderful nights on this tiny island hiking and snorkeling. Check out all my Saba posts below to see if this island is right for you.

10- Witness St. Martin’s Rugged Coastline

Sentier des Froussards hike in St Martin

Sentier des Froussards hike in St. Martin

You may have noticed a trend in my blog posts. My husband and I are either eating and drinking our way through a new place or discovering its natural beauty through some type of physical activity.

It was a little tough to find if there were any great hikes in St. Martin, but we did discover one called Sentier des Froussards.

This scenic hike starts at Anse Marcel and snakes you along the coast of 2 beaches- Petit Cayes and Grandes Cayes.

I love the endorphin hit you get when you work in some great exercise!

Gotta work off all that great French food somehow, right?

The hike took us about 3.5 hours. It was not overly strenuous, but it was hot! Go early and bring plenty of water. You could shorten the hike just to the first beach (Petit Cayes) like some did if you want to make it easier.

I strongly recommend this hike if you love getting outdoors.

Sentier des Froussards hike in St. Martin

Hiking the Sentier des Froussards trail in St. Martin

11- Enjoy Some of the Best Local Island Food

Takeout chicken curry from Hercule in St Martin

Takeout chicken curry from Hercule in St. Martin

If you are a foodie, then one of the top things to do in St. Martin is dine at a lolo.

A lolo is an authentic open-air restaurant centered around a barbecue. These establishments are where the community gathers to socialize and enjoy some of the best local specialties. 

The lolos are located in Marigot and Grand Case. St. Martin’s tourism website lists all the options, so you can choose which one interests you the most.

We didn’t have the opportunity to dine at a lolo on this trip, but we did experience an incredible local Haitian establishment called Hercule on the French side of St. Martin.

The chicken curry was delicious. We also tried the stuffed Christophine (a unique vegetable dish). The owner was friendly, and the food was flavorful.

12- Kayak to a Sandbar

Kayaking near Pinel Island in St Martin

Kayak to a sandbar in front of Pinel Island in St. Martin

It’s kind of a cool experience to be able to stand up on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean.

The first time we had this experience was at Stingray City in Grand Cayman. We joined a boat tour that took us out to a sandbar. Then we hopped off the boat and stood in the middle of the sea surrounded by stingrays. A pretty unique experience.

Alright, so the adventure in St Martin is not as dramatic as Grand Cayman, but it’s still a fun outing.

Rent a kayak through Caribbean Paddling or use the free kayaks if you stay at the Karibuni Boutique Hotel.

There’s a sandbar in front of Pinel Island that requires only a short paddle from shore.

See the map below for orientation.

Once at the sandbar, jump out and hang out … because you can. You may even get lucky and see a passing turtle.

From the sandbar, you can continue to kayak out further to Petite Clef or Pinel Island.

Kayak to a sandbar in St Martin

Kayak to a sandbar in St. Martin

13- Indulge at the Finest French Pastry Shops

Incredible French breakfast at Karibuni Hotel on St. Martin_ croissants, meats, cheeses

Incredible French pastries at Karibuni Boutique Hotel

One of the many reasons I love the French side of St. Martin is the incredible pastries. My favorite pastry was the pain au chocolat we received at breakfast every morning at our accommodation, Karibuni Boutique Hotel.

Later I found out they get their delicious pastries from The Express by Bacchus.

We visited The Express by Bacchus multiple times on a subsequent trip. They have an incredible selection of French pastries and bread. Don’t miss their ham & cheese croissant. They warm it up for you right on-site.

Another solid pastry shop choice is Chez Ferdinand. We tried their pain au chocolate and a pastry that looked like a cinnamon roll (but not as sweet or gooey). Delicious, but not as good as the ones we enjoyed at Karibuni.

French pastry from Chez Ferdinand in St Martin

French pastry from Chez Ferdinand in St. Martin

14- Dine on Restaurant Row 

Lobster Cream Soup in Puff Pastry at Le Cottage in St Martin

Lobster Cream Soup in Puff Pastry at Le Cottage in St. Martin

The culinary capital of the Caribbean? I think so.

Do not miss Restaurant Row in Grand Case on the French side of the island. This narrow street is lined with one fantastic restaurant after another.

In addition to fine dining, you can also experience the lolos (open-air food stands) that offer up some delicious local Caribbean food like conch stew, crab backs, BBQ chicken, and Johnny Cakes.  

If you can only book one restaurant, make it Le Cottage.

Book well in advance because they fill up fast. Their classic French dishes are mouthwatering. One of the best meals we had in St. Martin!

The service matched the food. Truly exceptional.

We enjoyed the lobster cream soup in puff pastry, the duck breast special in an orange sweet & sour sauce, and the caramel souffle with salted caramel ice cream.

Wow, just wow.

15- Create Your Customized Fragrance at Tijon

Crafting a custom perfume at Tijon in St. Martin

Crafting a custom perfume at Tijon in St. Martin

Yes, this Caribbean Island even has its own boutique parfumerie! One fun way to spend an afternoon is to book a perfume class at Tijon.

The very friendly staff will walk you through how to create your own customized fragrance.

You start off with a base oil and then add three additional oils based on your preferred scent profile (floral, citrus, fresh, woodsy, etc). There are over 300 oils to pick from, so plenty of choices.

In the end, you bottle up your perfume or cologne to take home. They also give you a gift bag of several fun products.

16- Hike St. Martin’s Highest Point

Hiking Pic Paradis

Hiking Pic Paradis in St. Martin

One of the best things to do in St. Martin is hike Pic Paradis, St. Martin’s highest point. Gotta work off all that amazing French food and rum punches somehow. 

The best way to start this hike is to park at Loterie Farm. 10 euros a person. They will provide you with a hiking map.

The trails are well-marked. It’s not super challenging, but there are some steep switchbacks and one small rock scramble where you need the aid of a rope to pull you up.

Epic views over the island await you at the top. The icing on the cake? We saw a little monkey family toward the end of the hike!

17- Lounge Day at Orient Beach

Coco Beach in St. Martin

Coco Beach in St. Martin

If the thought of lounging at a gorgeous beach with access to food & cocktails from a Chef who used to work at a 2-star Michelin restaurant sounds right up your alley, then make a reservation at Coco Beach.

There are several beach bars dotted along Orient Beach to choose from, but Coco Beach is one of our favorites.

Book a nice lunch with your toes in the sand, or make a day of it and reserve beach chairs all day.

Don’t miss the lobster pappardelle and the Secret Recipe Pina Colada. It’s not what you think, and it’s amazing.

18- Watch the Sunset at Grand Case 

Sunset at Quai 58 in St. Martin

Sunset at Quai 58 in St. Martin

The sunsets over Grand Case are pretty epic. The sky will continuously change colors long after the sun sets over the mountain.

One of the best places to view this magical display is along the pier at Quai 58.

Order a rum punch and take it all in.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, St. Martin offers plenty to keep you occupied. We loved the beautiful beaches, the local food and fine dining experiences, and the hiking and snorkeling adventures. Great variety of activities! We rarely visit a place twice because we always want to explore somewhere new. St. Martin is one of the rare exceptions. 

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What are your favorite things to do in St. Martin?

Let me know in the comments below!


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