A logical next step for anyone looking to branch out from the British Virgin Islands, half-French, half-Dutch St. Martin is a premier travel destination and a delightfully eclectic cultural melting pot. Known for its laid-back Caribbean charm and stylish European appeal, this upscale sailing paradise boasts sparkling white-sand beaches, designer shopping, superb dining, and scenic hiking. Plus, nearby Anguilla and “A-lister” hotspot St. Barts provide visitors with an expansive island-hopping playground that is every bit as unique as it is cruise worthy.
Following their recent trip to St. Martin for a Moorings’ photoshoot, two of our in-house marketing experts, Adam Rohrmann and Michael Klimek, returned from their Caribbean sailing vacation with enviable tans, glorious drone footage, and plenty of first-hand knowledge. Both guys had nothing but rave reviews to give “The Friendly Island” and were eager to share some highlights from their travels. They also provided some helpful charter tips regarding what to expect when sailing in St. Martin…
Q: Which airport did you fly into? How was your transfer from the airport to the base in Marigot?
A: We flew into Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). Be sure to have a copy of your contract readily available and to answer any questions the Customs officers may have, like the address of the base.
Q: What was the weather like in December?
A: It’s in the heart of the Caribbean, so even in the winter it was still warm. The average temp was 80 degrees every day, although the mornings were slightly cooler. We had excellent wind the entire week.
Q: What yacht were you on?
A: We were on a Crewed Moorings 5000 sailing catamaran and a Moorings 514 Powercat (tough life! haha).
Q: Did you choose to provision? Was it easy to find the food you enjoy?
A: Yes, and it was easy to find the food we wanted. We got everything we needed for meals and snacks. It’s best to provision before you go as there aren’t many grocery stores. You’ll mostly find liquor stores and drug stores along the way.
- Super U market is a 15-minute walk or 5-minute taxi ride from The Moorings marina. Located at Howell Center, it is the biggest supermarket on the island.
- Carrefour, on the Dutch side, is a regular full-service grocery store with a bakery and deli.
Q: How was the cuisine? Anything spectacular you’d recommend?
A: Compared to the BVI, there were many more restaurant options throughout the cruising ground in St. Martin and a much larger variety of cuisine options. The Sunset restaurant at Maho Beach has quick service and great food. Plus, the restaurant is elevated so you’re in a prime location to witness the planes flying into Princess Juliana airport.
Q: What was your favorite anchorage?
A: Tintamarre! I’ve never seen beaches so vibrant! The water was so clear it rivals the waters around the BVI. Dinghy into this island for your own piece of quiet paradise.
Also, Anse de Colombier. You can’t beat the 360-degree views from atop the hiking trail.
Q: Did you visit Maho Beach? What was that flyover experience like?
A: Yes! We highly recommend it! We were there for 3 hours and saw about 15 flyovers. It is every bit as impressive as it sounds.
Q: Did your itinerary include both the French and Dutch sides of the island?
A: Yes, the Dutch side is more densely populated than the French side. Phillipsburg is a commercial cruise ship port where you’ll find casinos, shops, and one of our surprise favorites, the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit. The French side, by comparison, was a little quieter and had some phenomenal beaches.
Q: How far is Anguilla from St. Martin?
A: It takes about an hour to get from Phillipsburg to Anguilla. It’s a remote island with a National Park, which makes the customs fees more expensive. It is worth it, however for anyone looking for a quieter charter experience.
Q: Were you able to visit St. Barts?
A: Yes, complete with a Carla Gugino spotting! St. Barts is notably popular with the rich and famous, so celebrity sightings are not uncommon. I highly recommend Shellona Greek restaurant, located on private Shell Beach. The iconic Guavaberry store is a great place to pick up souvenirs for your friends and family back home.
Q: Are there moorings balls?
A: Mooring balls are available. We only hitched to a mooring ball once or twice and chose to anchor the rest of the time.
Q: What’s one item you wished you packed but didn’t? What’s one item you didn’t need to pack but did?
A: I prepared for slightly chillier weather but didn’t need long pants or long-sleeve shirts in December. I recommend bringing about $1,000 USD to cover dockage and customs fees, and any other onshore activities because ATM machines are not easy to come by.
Q: The images you captured on your trip are awe-inspiring. From a photographer’s point of view, what was the most picturesque anchorage?
A: Tintamarre, hands down, if you’re looking for beaches. Gustavia in St. Barts is also very picturesque with all of the red rooftops, and of course a sprinkling of megayachts here or there.
Q: Has St. Martin fully recovered from Hurricane Irma?
A: It’s hard to find evidence of the hurricane. It’s not very noticeable when driving or sailing from different places, and from the water you’d never know the storm even hit.
What to Know Before You Go
What are the main differences between the BVI and St. Martin?
- The British Virgin Islands are closer together, requiring shorter voyages each day.
- Internet connectivity is better in the BVI—If you’re really looking to unplug and slip into island-time, choose St. Martin [Pro Tip: Get an international cellphone plan in case you do need to stay in touch.]
- Getting in and out of the dinghy can be a bit more challenging in St. Martin.
- St. Martin has a distinctive upscale and developed feel.
- For Bareboat charters, St. Martin is an ideal cruising ground for intermediate sailors.
- Because each island is run by a different country’s government, you need to clear customs and pay fees (Ranges anywhere from $25 to $125).
- Island hopping requires that you check-in and out of every island.
- Tintamarre doesn’t have a customs office.
- For more detailed information, please see our St. Martin travel notes.
Pro Tip: St. Martin has a fairly relaxed attitude towards beach nudity and topless sunbathing is a common. Some resorts may offer a nude section on the beach. Nude sections in the resorts can usually be differentiated by the color of beach umbrellas. For example, red umbrellas for clothed beaches and yellow umbrellas for nude beaches.
The Moorings offers flights and transfers to St. Martin. Here are the three ways to get there:
- Fly to St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport; take a taxi to the base; distance is approximately 20 minutes.
- Fly to St. Martin’s Grand Case Airport (in Grand Case, French side); take a taxi to the base; distance is approximately 20 minutes.
- Take a ferry from Anguilla to Marigot Port, capital of the French side of St. Martin. (Every 30 min. From St. Barts to Marigot daily 7:30 am, 11:30 am and 5:00 pm
Step Aboard Here
Start your experience with The Moorings on land and sign up to receive e-mails from us about yachts, offers and destinations.