Take Your Pick
Little Bay, St Martin and St Maarten
Historic Fort with a Great View
Fort Amsterdam - Situated on the peninsula between Great Bay and Little Bay, the ruins of historic Fort Amsterdam tell an epic tale filled battles. Originally built by the Dutch in 1631 to protect their salt interests, the Spanish invaded the island just two short years later. The Spanish occupied the fort (fighting everyone who attempted to take it), until 1648 when the French and Dutch split the island between themselves. The last official use of the fort was in 1874 to honor King William III's 25th anniversary as king. Today a few walls of the bastion stand tall and the museum displays a few weapons and artifacts from the early days of the fort.
Marigot, St Martin and St Maarten
Sea-side Market
Marigot Market - Located on the harbor-front of Marigot Bay is the Marigot Market, an open-air public market with a huge variety of items. Every day you will find spices, batik and tie-dye clothing, handcrafted jewelry, local artwork and a variety of crafts. But the best days to come are on Wednesdays and Saturdays when the vendors with fresh fish and produce are here. You can taste some fruits you've never even heard of before. Marigot is the capital of French St Martin and near the market are numerous restaurants, cafes and shops to enjoy. Plan on spending at least a half of a day in this cute little Caribbean town.
Marigot, St Martin and St Maarten
Fort St Louis
Fort St Louis - Fort St Louis is the largest historical monument on the island of St Martin. The fort was constructed in 1767 to protect the French settlement of Marigot from invasion by the English and Dutch. It is named after the marauding and crusading King Louis XVI. King Louis XVI ruled France from 1775-1791, and personally sent plans for the construction of the fort. Long story short, he was eventually deposed and beheaded. The fort itself stands high atop a hill overlooking Marigot Bay. It is a tough hike up the hill and only a few crumbling walls and some weathered cannons are there to greet you. But the view from the fort is well worth your effort.
Orient Bay, St Martin and St Maarten
Nice, But Clothing Optional
Orient Bay - Orient Bay is the most happening slice of sand on the island and one of the prettiest. Lined with beach bars and restaurants, it also features an abundance of water sports such as parasailing, windsurfing and jet skiing - so you'll never be bored here. Prior to going, this monkey didn't know that it is a clothing optional beach, and to be honest, it was over an hour before I noticed. So almost everyone wears something. Other great beaches on the island include, Dawn Beach, Mullet Bay (although not as nice as pre- Hurricane Luis in 1995), Baie Longue, and of course Simpson Bay described below.
Philipsburg, St Martin and St Maarten
What's Guavaberry?
Guavaberry Emporium - To find out what Guavaberry is, just head to downtown Phillipsburg and look for the Guavaberry Emporium. It's the brightly painted building (a former synagogue built in the late 1700s) with big rum barrels in front - so you can't miss it. Inside is a huge as assortment of rums and liqueurs. Guavaberry liqueur is made with aged rum, cane sugar and guavaberries (a tree that is native to St Maarten). It has a somewhat sweet taste to it and comes in an assortment of flavors, mango, lime, passion fruit, etc. and you can sample a few to find out what you like. They have other items at the Emporium too, BBQ sauces, t-shirts and knickknacks.
Philipsburg, St Martin and St Maarten
Philipsburg Courthouse
Philipsburg - Founded in 1763 by John Philips (hence the name), Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch St Maarten. The town is situated on a sliver of land between Great Bay and the Great Salt Pond and has two main streets, Front Street and Back Street. Front Street is the primary thoroughfare and is lined with palm trees and cast iron street lights with an assortment of pastel colored restaurants, duty-free shops, cafes, casinos and hotels along the way. You can also traverse the newly constructed boardwalk that runs the entire length of the beach. The town seems almost custom built for the cruise ship crowd and is a great place to hang out.
Simpson Bay, St Martin and St Maarten
Watch Airplanes Land
Maho Beach - For a truly unique beach experience, head on down to Maho Beach. From this small strip of sand you can watch enormous airplanes take-off and land at the airport. You are probably saying, "what's the big deal with that?" The big deal is, the planes are so close they have signs warning that you can be injured by the blast of departing planes. You can even wave to the pilots and passengers as they take off. Daily arrivals and departures schedules are listed at the Sunset Bar and Grill and the Boat Bar so you won't miss a flight.
Upper Prince's Quarter, St Martin and St Maarten
Border of St Maarten and St Martin
Borders - There are six border crossings (that I know of) on the island of St Maarten/St Martin. This tiny 37 square mile gem is shared by the French and Dutch, and is the smallest land mass in the world shared by two different nations. This is because, back on March 13, 1648 two ships arrived at the same time - one from France and one from Holland. They selected a crew member from each ship to walk around the island - and where ever they would meet is where they would divide the island. The French guy was a little more ambitious and walked faster, so they own 60% of the island (St Martin) and the Dutch own 40% of it (St Maarten). There are no customs agents between the two sides, but it is a long distance call if you're trying to reach someone on the other side.