The Culture is Captivating
St. Maarten combines island vibes with a truly incomparable Caribbean cosmopolitan flair. If culture is where your heart lies, there’s an evolving art scene with 12 stunning, colorful (and let’s face it … importantly, Instagram-worthy) street art and murals created during COVID in Philipsburg. All pieces showcase each artist’s modern twist on their own culture. Island festivals are making their return this summer with the Oualichi Festival set to hit center stage (or better yet, beach) as part of SXM Best Week on July 26-Aug. 1. Guests will enjoy concerts from Soca music acts, discounted shopping and specials at bars and restaurants, but if you want to get into the music yourself you can take a steel pan class led by the charming (and hilarious) Mighty Dow.
There’s an Appetite for the Unexpected
In a surprising twist for the Caribbean, there’s been an incredible rise in vegan culture with restaurants expanding their offerings; a husband and wife duo hosting in-home, garden-to-table dining experiences; and the island seeing a huge influx of locally grown vegetables. It’s common for families to come together once a month to trade ingredients and recipes. All part of a trend towards health and wellness on the island.
Maybe it’s a stop at the Caribbean Brewing Company, where owner Sunil Vaswani holds bragging rights for the best brew in the Caribbean. He started two years ago with no brewing experience and successfully opened both a brewery and beer garden, mid-pandemic no less. Visitors can enjoy the brews at the newly debuted Dutch Blonde Beach Bar and Beer Garden, poised on the second level of an iconic windmill overlooking the cruise ships on Great Bay.
You also can’t go wrong trying the traditional johnny cakes, BBQ and bush tea. They say you could live on the island for a year and not eat at the same place twice (challenge accepted, right?)
You Can Immerse Yourself in the Environment
In a place as naturally beautiful as the Caribbean, there are plenty of outdoor adventures to explore. There are eco-minded tours available, from new hiking trails and biking tours to sailing school. Plus, the unforgettable Flying Dutchman, the world’s steepest zipline, located at Rockland Estate for those major thrill seekers.
New Accommodations can be Your Home Away from Home
As far as where to lay your head after a day of making memories, there are new luxury hotel product such as The Morgan Resort — with stunning architecture and a beach-style infinity pool like nothing I’ve seen in the Caribbean — and over-the-top, yet discreet luxury villas like Pelican Key’s beautiful Bella Vita with enviable views. There’s also Sonesta Ocean Point Resort which embraces a contemporary Caribbean style, offering an adults-only, LGBTQ-friendly, all-inclusive vacation experience, while bringing style, luxury and outstanding service to Sint Maarten. Guests of the Sonesta Ocean Point also have full access to amenities at its sister property, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. Both are registered with the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), and offer same-sex wedding ceremonies.
“The Friendly Island” Welcomes All
Deemed “The Friendly Island,” St. Maarten celebrates pride year-round, welcoming all for life, love and endless sunshine. Visitors can enjoy Cupecoy Beach, the island’s most famous gay beach, or head to Maho Beach for those famed flyovers (take a peek at the view!). For a Friday night there’s long-running cabaret and drag show L’Escargot, and the Gay Sint Maarten website offers LGBTQ-friendly guides, listings for LGBTQ-owned businesses and more.