Article by Dian Emery originally published in one of the Atmosphere magazine. Read the latest edition here.
Dutch and French, St. Maarten and St. Martin. This tiny Caribbean island has two governments, two names, two currencies and a laid back happy vibe that makes life on the island flow seamlessly between the two sides. With its many beautiful white sand beaches, charming towns and miles of smiles, St. Maarten is a perfect playground for all kids, big and small. If you’re wondering what to do in St. Maarten with kids, here’s our “Top Five” list of fun family activities on the island.
A former sugar plantation, Loterie Farm is home to the island’s only private nature reserve. Go for a hike in the tropical rainforest and you might spy one or two monkeys, plenty of lizards and gorgeous bright blue or tiger striped butterflies floating around the mahogany trees.
The eco-park also offers two zipline rides, the Fly Zone and the Extreme Fly Zone for adrenaline junkies. Guess which one we preferred? Bring decent footwear for the hiking/climbing portion of the ride, and be prepared to sweat! For tiny tikes (ages 5 to 7), Loterie Farm offers a Ti-Tarzan Obstacle Course complete with swinging ropes, cables and suspension bridges.
Located on Le Galion Beach Road, St. Martin’s Butterfly Farm is small in size but definitely worth a visit. Guests wander through a netted open-air park, complete with small waterfalls, butterfly-friendly plants and many, many species of lovely dancing butterflies. The guides are great at explaining the insect’s life cycle, from chrysalis to caterpillar to butterfly, in the fun and informative tour. During your visit, stand still for a moment and you might be lucky enough to have a butterfly or two land on your shoulder—pure magic.
Grand Case and Lolos
The village of Grand Case is a hugely popular family destination in St. Martin for two reasons: wonderful, inexpensive food and a kid-approved beach. An islander recently told us that most of the island’s children learned to swim in Grand Case, and it’s easy to see why. Its waterfront comes well equipped for fun, with a long wooden pier perfect for giant leaps into the calm, warm and tranquil turquoise ocean, and a soft white sand beach.
After spending the morning on the beach, head straight over to one of St. Martin’s immensely popular waterfront Lolo shacks for a BBQ lunch. The shacks are a St. Martin tradition, and have been around on the island forever. You’ll find locals and tourists sharing picnic tables while enjoying towering platefuls of mouth-watering BBQ ribs, chicken and seafood. Sides are plentiful, delicious and kid-friendly. You can fill a plate with more than enough food to satisfy most after-beach appetites for about 10 to 15 dollars.
Rhino Safari Excursion
Imagine speeding along the ocean in your own tiny yellow boat, bouncing high up on the waves as you pass by miles and miles of beautiful beaches. This is the Rhino Safari Excursion, an exhilarating tour of St. Martin’s gorgeous coastline. The small yellow boats can fit two adults or one adult and child and they go fast, so we recommend this tour for older kids and those who are not prone to seasickness. This is a teenager’s dream water ride, even if it has to be shared with mom and dad.
Highlights of the two-and-a-half-hour tour include passing by a large ship wreck near Marigot Bay caused by Hurricane Lenny in 1999, weaving around some of the world’s most luxurious yachts moored in the marina and snorkeling at Creole Rock.
Towering high over the quaint town of Marigot, Fort Louis offers a spectacular view of Marigot Bay and Anguilla Island. The climb to the fort is steep, up a small paved road, as well as about 100 steps. Bring water and take it easy in the heat. Built in 1789, the fort’s main purpose was to protect the port of Marigot. Not much remains of the original fort; you’ll find a couple of old cannons and a small stone structure proudly flying the French flag. The ruins’ nooks and crannies are fun for children to explore, and to perhaps play a rousing game of pirates and soldiers.
After your visit, head back down the hill to the nearby Marigot Flea Market located on Boulevard de France for a well-deserved scoop of gelato. Another favourite stop on the boulevard is the always busy Sarafina Café and French Bakery. Be sure to order enough of their famous croissants to take some home—you won’t regret it.
With its miles of beaches, rich culture, happy people, great local food and many kid friendly activities, there’s no need to worry about what to do in St. Maarten with kids. The island has it all, so pack your swimsuits and get ready to have fun!