OVERVIEW OF THE ISLAND: This is one of our absolute favorite islands. We almost never go to an island twice but this island has so many wonderful qualities we went when I was pregnant and then again when the girls were 6 and 8. The island is divided into the French and Dutch side. They have 2 completely different feels to them so it is like being on 2 different islands. We’ve stayed in a hotel as well as rented a condo and stayed in 2 different locations on the island and both were wonderful. The restaurants are amazing and prices were low compared to other islands.
TINTAMAR ISLAND: This is a gorgeous, uninhabited beach accessible only by boat, with pristine white sand and crystal clear water. There are many excursion boats that can get you there and it is only a short distance away from St. Marten. Some reviews said it can get busy if there are several tour boats there but when we went there were only 2 other families. One actually turned out to be a family we knew from town…crazy small world. The boats will anchor away from the island and you can swim onto shore. The best part about the swim is the island has tons of sea turtles that eat the seaweed off shore so when your boat pulls up chances are you will see them.
- Take a waterproof camera with you to get some underwater pictures of the turtles. Some of them come right up close to you.
- Bring snorkel equipment with you if your excursion does not provide it.
- Bring along some snacks and drinks. The island is perfect for picnics on the sand.
- It is a gorgeous place so make sure whatever you bring onto the island comes back off with you.
PINEL ISLAND: This island daytrip made for a wonderful day in the sun. This small island is very close to St. Marten and you can reach it by ferry, private boat, or even by kayak. The ferry was about $12 per person and offered a nice view of the coastline and the clear water. When you get to the island, the wooden dock leads you to some restaurants and some lovely beaches. There are 3 restaurants here: Le Karabuni, Yellow Beach Restaurant, and Up on a Key. (See my review of Yellow Beach Restaurant here). It is a perfect place to rent a beach chair and relax as waiters bring you a cocktail. If you prefer, the waiter can put a high table right in the water so you can stand in the water and have somewhere to set your drink down. There are paths around the island that lead to secluded spots for swimming or snorkeling and iguanas are everywhere. It is a clothing optional beach but when we were there most people had swimsuits on (of course except for the women who struck up a conversation with my girls which, back at our condo, led to our 6 year old’s unforgettable comment of, “Those boobs looked like bowling balls!” Never a dull moment with her!)
Friar’s Beach: This gorgeous beach is situated on the French side of the island and offers incredible views and clear water. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas and buy buckets of beer. Right on the beach is a restaurant called Kali (See review) and the best part about it is the kids can play in the sand while you wait for your food. I was nervous when I read reviews saying there is a lake behind the beach that sometimes causes a horrible smell on the beach. I figured if that was the case then we could just get back in the car and find another place to swim. But we never smelled anything bad and it ended up being a fun beach day. It is a wonderful beach for families. We brought snorkel gear but the water is so clear you don’t even need it. There was also a large tide pool that the girls explored and found starfish, crabs, and snails.
St. Marten Zoo: This zoo is pretty small and not as well kept up as we are used to in the US. There are animals such as birds, Vervet monkeys, tamarins, marmosets, ocelots, capybaras, and reptiles. There was also a small playground which my kids did not go on because we were all dying to go to the beach. It was a nice small zoo that took only about an hour and a half to walk through. It was a nice way to start our morning.
Open daily from 9:00-5:00
Adults $10 Kids ages 3-11 $5 (Super cheap!)
FORT AMSTERDAM: After having been to Bermuda where the forts were all so impressive, this fort did not compare. If you are looking for history I wouldn’t go into it with much expectation. If you are looking for gorgeous views, this is the place. There is a 360 degree view from this fort and you’ll be snapping pictures the whole time. You can see Little Bay, Grand Bay, and Philipsburg Bay. The odd part is you access this fort through the Divi Resort but you do not need to be a guest there to view the fort. We only discovered it the first time we came to this island because we stayed at the Divi.
Casinos: I really couldn’t tell you about the casinos except that my husband really liked some of them. The first time we went I was 6 months pregnant so I happily let him go to the casinos at night while I read a book by the pool. He said that they are not like Vegas casinos, but they had all the games he wanted to play and it made for a fun night.