The twin-nation island of St. Martin is one of the Caribbean's most popular destinations. It's the smallest place in the world divided between two countries: the south end is Dutch and the north end is French. Famous for its beaches, shopping and gastronomy, there's much more to St. Martin.
Whether you're in St. Martin on a cruise ship port of call or an extended stay at a hotel or resort, we recommend you explore the wild side of French St. Martin. Here are three very different ways to enjoy its outdoors:
Good for: sightseers, novice hikers, history buffs
One of French St. Martin's most noticeable remains of its colonial history, Fort Louis is part of a coastal string of historic naval forts on the French side of the island.
Towering on the hilltop above French St. Martin's capital city Marigot, Fort Louis (pictured, top) was build in the 1700's and named after the King of France, of course. Originally built to protect Marigot from pirates, what remains is weathered stone and cannons, but proudly flying the French flag.
Nowadays, Fort Louis is one of the most popular hiking spots on the island, enticing visitors with its 360-degree overlook of St. Martin’s crystal waters. It’s only a short jaunt up the hill to access this incredible view, and you’ll walk amidst the ruins of the fort as you follow the path to the summit. A breathtaking panorama awaits you at the top of this gentle climb and on a clear day, one can even see the neighbouring island of Anguilla!
Good for: lux/adventure lovers, families
A private nature sanctuary encompassing 135 acres, Loterie Farm has a fascinating history, won, I was told, originally in a lottery, but the property has transitioned to modern-day luxury outdoor adventure park.
From hiking and ziplining in the forest canopy to an onsite pool, bar, cabanas and restaurant, Loterie is a tropical forest escape from the bustle of the rest of St. Martin. A self-guided hike through the reserve’s tropical forest allows guests to choose their own adventure: exploring the entirety of the well-marked trail takes just under two hours, but hikers are free to make their own way. The various ruins, lookouts, and springs found within Loterie’s shaded expanse make for perfect picnic destinations.
Recharge at Loterie Farm's Jungle Room serving up Caribbean cuisine made with fresh, local ingredients and paired with a relaxed, open-air ambiance. Or lounge by the pool and listen to the sounds of the surrounding forest, that keeps Loterie Farm slightly cooler than other places on the island and was a perfect luxury retreat on my last visit to St. Martin.
Good for: Nature lovers, hikers of all experience and fitness levels
The National Nature Reserve of St. Martin, the Reserve Naturelle (as it is known to the island’s French-speaking populace) covers nearly 7500 acres of nationally managed land and sea in Northeastern St. Martin, including the smaller offshore islands of Pinel and Tintamarre.
The Reserve boasts a stunning assortment of natural scenery and abundant protected wildlife, including sea turtles, dolphins, iguanas, and seabirds. Visitors can access the Reserve via tours or snorkeling excursions, and one of the best ways to experience the Reserve is on a hike through one of its four Discovery Trails; each offering a glimpse of a different ecosystem.
A hike through the mangroves of Barrière pond, for example, will get you up close and personal with the beautiful endemic birds who make the area their home.
On Pinel (pictured above), guests can hike a mile-long trail that connects all three beaches of the islet, providing a fascinating introduction to the Reserve’s coastal vegetation. Experienced hikers should head to Froussard’s Trail, which covers 3 miles of intact coastal forest, the last of its kind on St. Martin.
No matter how many times you've cruised to St. Martin, these outdoor escapes show how much more of the half-Dutch, half-French island there is to discover!
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Images of Fort Louis and Loterie Farm: World's Greatest Cruises
Pinel Island image via Getty
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