After years of day trips from Anguilla to St. Martin to run errands, I pooh-poohed our neighboring island as congested, chaotic, and suffering from a serious overdose of cruise ships. To be honest, I still believe a lot of that to be true as far as the Dutch side is concerned but the French side has wonderful pockets that have managed to maintain a vibrant sense of place and culture. A stroll down Grand Case’s main thoroughfare in St. Martin, has a distinct French Caribbean flair: balmy temps, incredible French restaurants, and a mix of local St. Martiners and imports from France chatting away in French while running the bars and boutiques that line the way.
When it comes to perfect days on the island, there are two experiences that we’ve come to love for a day of relaxation. Whether you’re spending a day in St. Martin as part of a quick getaway, have a long layover en route to another island, or are a cruiser trying to escape the typical jaunt through Philipsburg, here are a couple of great destinations for your next trip to French St. Martin:
Beach Laze: Pinel Island, Orient Bay
Located in Orient Bay on St. Martin’s northeast side, Pinel Island is St. Martin’s equivalent of our Sandy Island or Scilly Cay in Anguilla; a tiny islet with a great beach, plus dining options for a perfect daylong escape. Part of a marine preserve, the area is perfect for snorkelers and the island itself is home to iguanas that have become an iconic part of the island’s landscape. The island is home to two restaurants, Yellow Beach and Le Karibuni Restaurant, but we’ve typically gravitated towards Le Karibuni where the caipirinhas and ‘ti punches are perfectly constructed and where lunch – everything from tartares and salads to burgers – provides something for everyone. Be warned that lunching doesn’t come with a complimentary beach chair. Plan on spending $20 for two chairs and umbrella to hang out for the day; well worth it based on our experience lounging with great beach service.
To reach Pinel, you can rent a kayak or a standup paddleboard ($15 per person) to make your way from St. Martin to the island. If you’re feeling less adventurous, a ferry ($12 R/T per person) departs from 9:30AM to 5PM, every 30 to 60 minutes depending on the time of day.
FIND IT: Orient Bay, St. Martin
↠ Accessible by private boat, ferry, standup paddle board or kayak
Pool Days: Loterie Farm, St. Martin
I’ve long been intrigued by Loterie Farm, a little oasis that is self-dubbed a ‘nature reserve and sanctuary’. Loterie Farm is composed of many facets: The Tree Lounge, The Bamboo Room, L’eau Lounge plus offerings for more active pursuits like zip lining and hiking. We had a day carved out for lazing in St. Martin so we eschewed the zip lining in favor of lounging at L’eau Lounge, their poolside hangout.
The pool lounge is the perfect blend of trendy, relaxing and sexy; like a more subdued, pool-focused Nikki Beach (though Loterie Farm does have pool parties throughout the month that I suspect are less subdued). You’ll pay $26 per person for access to a daybed, towel and the pool, and you’ll have the option of renting a cabana if you are visiting with a larger group (€208+ per day for up to 10 people). Lunch is a nicely curated list of bikini-friendly fare: salads, hummus + pita, and some heartier entrees for the hungrier of the bunch. Cocktail service begins at 10AM, and a varied selection of hand-crafted drinks plus bottles of rosé and carafes of sangria were in steady demand. The drinks menu represents a great value with bottles of wine beginning at around $20. With 4 – 5 hours of lounging, a couple of rounds of cocktails, a carafe of sangria, and a couple of menu items to share, we were out for around $100.
FIND IT: Rue du Pic Paradis, St Martin 97150, Collectivity of Saint Martin
For travelers visiting St. Maarten on a cruise hoping to escape the typical cruiser’s trail through Philipsburg, a cab ride to the French side will transport you to a more secluded side of the island with an authentic French West Indies vibe that may feel like more of the relaxing Caribbean postcard you’ve envisioned. ☀️
What’s your perfect day in St. Martin?