If you are coming to St Martin | St Maarten with your little one’s then one of the questions you are probably asking yourself is “What can we do?” Well, after living here for over 7 years, and the last 2 and a half with my little boy, Keiran, I thought I would share the top ten things to do with little kids.
Plus, I put a shout out on Facebook the other day for some ideas on what to blog about, and I got a lot of requests for “things to do in St Maarten.” So, I thought I would start a top ten series (sorry about the cheesiness of it, but it grabbed your attention, right?). I was thinking about top ten things for little ‘uns, then for teenagers, and then for adults. To be honest, it was super fun thinking of all the things that we can do on this island, and if I am frank, it gave me a greater appreciation of this place. I mean… there is a ton of great stuff to do, no matter what your age is. So, here it is;
TOP TEN EXCURSIONS FOR LITTLE KIDS!!!
1. Snorkeling with Octopus Diving
Of course this is going to be the number one thing to do… you didn’t expect any less, did you? I will say, that this is really for kids that are 3 years old or more. We take little K on the boat all the time, so he is super comfortable on it. Plus, he has been trying on masks since he was born. So, K is really comfortable on the boats. For non-K little one’s, though, I think that under threes are too young.
2. Charter to Pinel Island
One of the things that we love to do on a day off with Keiran is to take him to Pinel Island on the boat. Obviously, you all don’t have boats in St Martin, but you can certainly decide to do a private snorkeling charter with us. The beach at Pinel is really calm, warm and shallow, so it is perfect for little kids. We always have lunch at Karabuni’s, and Keiran loves their rice and vegetables. Keiran also loves the boat ride around the coast line, and normally falls asleep on the way back. We always try and look out for dolphins and turtles on the ride over, and then once we arrive, it doesn’t take long to find some of the hundreds of iguanas that are on the island. They are everywhere and all the kids have a real hoot throwing them scraps which they come over and gobble up. You do need to have lots of suntan lotion on, though. It can get hot hot hot here. If you prefer to take the public ferry over, you can certainly do this as well. You have to take the ferry from Cul de Sac and the cost is $8 return. The ferry runs every 30 minutes or so.
3. Going to see the airplanes land and take off in Maho.
I know this is something that loads of adults like to do, but we love to take Keiran to see the planes take off and land in Maho. We like to go for lunch. You can either get lunch at the Sunset Beach Bar (the ribs are the best on the island) or you can go to Taco Macho for some mexican which is further up the runway past the Sunset Beach Bar. At Taco Macho they have seats that look right onto the runway. It means that Chris and I get to talk and eat while the Little Boy is constantly pointing out the next planes that are coming in. “Look! Look! LOOK!!!!! Airplane coming!!!” Keiran always covers his ears when a big plane comes in, and we love watching all tourists who think it is a good idea to hang on the fence as a plane takes off (and watching them realize their poor choice as they get pummeled in fuel). I think Keiran loves it so much because it is something special that he does with his dad, but for little boys especially (and big boys too), it is pretty cool to see a huge airplane landing so close.
4. Going to the BEACH
St Martin / Sint Maarten boasts 37 beaches, and there are some great beaches for little kids. This should really be numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6 and 7, but I will bundle it into one. I mean, what is better about being in the Caribbean than being on the beach? Swimming and sand castles, you just can’t go wrong.
One of our favorite beaches is Galion Beach on the French Side. The reason that Galion is so great for little kids (and babies) is that it is super super shallow and calm. You could walk out about 400 feet and still be only chest deep in water. The water is warm and clear and the chairs are super close to the water. There is a restaurant on the beach called Tropical Wave and they have chairs and umbrellas for rent that are 5 euros each (5 euros for a chair, 5 euros for an umbrella). They also have kayaks to rent, a pedal boat, and more. Galion Beach is located just on the other side of Orient Bay and you take a left at the end of this bumpy road to Tropical Wave. Parking is free. This beach is also a favorite for the locals, so it is best to go on a weekday, otherwize it can be super crowded.
Other beaches that are great for kids would be Grand Case Bay and Happy Bay (although if you want to go to Happy Bay you have to take a small hike (10 minutes or so.) The hike is part of the fun, but if you have one of those little kids that wants to be carried after 2 minutes of walking, you might want to reconsider Happy Bay. Also, there are no amenities at Happy Bay, so bring your drinks and food with you (and take away all your leftovers please!!!)
There are some beaches that you might want to avoid if you aren’t comfortable with naked people, or boobies on show. Orient is a popular nudist beach, but only the far part on the south of the beach by Club O is for total nudies, the other end isn’t clothing optional. Happy Bay can have also some topless ladies (and sometimes more), so if you go to Happy Bay you should also be aware this is a possibility. I would also avoid Simpson Bay Beach as there are tons of dogs here and the tide doesn’t come up high enough to clean the sand. This means that there is lots of dog poop and pee that isn’t washed away by the beach. This…. plus cigarette butts, and I just don’t like it for Keiran. When he was little, he literally ate sand!!! Yuck!
5. The Butterfly Farm
Conveniently, The Butterfly Farm is located on the same road to Galion Beach, so it can be a nice day out if you visit Les Papillons first and then go the Galion for some lunch and beach. Or vice versa. It is a small Butterfly Farm, but they do a really great tour and it is a fun activity for about an hour or two. After that, it can be a bit much for the little one’s not to just run around and reek havoc. If I remember rightly, it costs about $15 per entry (but then you get free entry for as long as you are on island). Kids are less, or free if they are super young. I can’t remember the price exactly, but it isn’t going to break the bank. My parents, who seem to know a lot about butterfly farms, said this was the best one they have ever visited.
6. Loterie Farm
Loterie Farm is a really great day out, or afternoon, or just for a couple of hours. We go there a lot. Loterie Farm is located on the French side in Rambaud, which is just in-between Marigot and Grand Case and on the way to Pic Paradis (the tallest point on the island). Set up in the hills it is slightly cooler than the rest of the island and there is lots to do. Entry to the compound is free and parking is free. It does involve a steep drive up a steep hill and then down a steep hill, so don’t be afraid if you are driving.
You can just walk around the property and look out for wild monkeys and iguanas and just enjoy the giant mango trees and the wildlife for free. Or, you can go on a hike up the mountain (this costs about $5 for a map and entry to the paths).
Or you can hang out in the tree top cafe for some tapas and drinks and watch folks come in from the zip lining (which is also available, but really only for older kids). Or, for the ultimate day, you can decide to go into the lounge area and the pool. We probably go about 8 -10 times a year to the pool, maybe more. It is expensive, but really great and super relaxing. We are always right on the ocean, so it is so nice to go in a pool sometimes. It costs 25 Euros per person and they do charge for babies and toddlers. For that 25 Euros you get a large towel and a super comfortable lounge chair around the pool. If you want to, and we highly recommend it, you can reserve a private cabana. This costs 200 Euros for the day and you can take up to 10 people. Plus you get a free bottle of champagne (not cheap champagne either). The cabanas are really nice, totally covered (so lots of shade) and very private, but you don’t have the long chairs to relax on. HOWEVER, you can do what we do, and get the VIP cabana. Not only does it sound super awesome when you call to reserve it “Hi, I would like the VIP cabana please?” it is well worth the extra 50 Euros (it costs 250 Euros). It is the only cabana with it’s own access to the pool, it has long chairs and it has a a shallow ledge that goes into the pool so you can sit with the kids. There is also a lovely waterfall that they have created which has shallow pools scattered throughout and that is really nice and safe for the little kids too. It is well worth the extra 50 Euros.
7. Going to feed the donkeys!
I know that you have probably seen donkeys before, but it really never gets boring for our little one and these donkeys are super friendly. They are located in Cul de Sac. So, you drive as if you are going to Cul de Sac to get the ferry to Pinel, except you take a left as if going to Anse Marcel and then an immediate right after the school. This takes you down a bendy road and at the top of the hill there are all these donkeys (and often horses too). They eat carrots, apples, all sorts of vegetables and I have seen people feed them old baguettes too, (but I’m not sure if this is healthy for them). I know that you all have probably taken your kids to feed donkeys before, but there is something about the beautiful backdrop of the Caribbean Sea that makes it super special.
8. The Sea Side Nature Park in Cole Bay.
Another great place to see animals and find ways to wear those little guys out so that they fall asleep before the baby sitter gets there, is the Seaside Nature Park in Cole Bay. It doesn’t seem like it should be a nature park as it is located just next to a Dutch Side power plant, GEBE. However, it is actually really picturesque and fun for a couple of hours. Keiran’s school went there for a school trip the other week, and we frequently take Keiran to just hang out with the goats and the pigs. It costs $3 per person, and you can buy a bag of corn kernels to feed the animals for 50 cents (I think). There are sheep, tortoises, goats, horses, sheep, rabbits and donkeys. There is also a swing set, a big trampoline and a slide to really wear out those little ones.
9. Carousel the ice cream parlor.
Of course, what kids don’t love ice cream! Carousel is a large ice cream parlor right in the middle of Simpson Bay on the Dutch side and they have hundreds of flavors of ice cream, sorbets, frozen yoghurt and more! At the back of the ice cream parlor there is a separate room with a big carousel (hence the name!!!). The ice creams aren’t expensive and the rides on the carousel are only about $2.
10. The Sea world Explorer.
In Grand Case, we have the Sea World Explorer which is a great outing for the family. This is a glass bottom boat that is great for kids that want to go and see the fish, but haven’t the courage to fully stick their heads in the water with a snorkel and mask yet. The staff are fantastic (we see them almost every day), and this is a fun, inexpensive way for them to see the fish underwater. To be honest, I haven’t done this excursion with Keiran yet. However, I have talked to other families and they have had a great time. This is just a fun activity for little kids and grandparents too. They go out to Creole Rock, which is part of our nature reserve on the French Side of the island, and then they spend about 30 minutes going around the reef, before turning back. While at Creole Rock one of the staff jumps in on scuba and feeds the fish, so there are lots of fish around. I love seeing this boat when I am actually diving at Creole Rock. I always try and swim over to wave at the people in the boat. Keiran loves Maki and Jacques (they are the divers) and although it can sometimes be hard to book with them (they aren’t always so great at answering the phone), it will be well worth it.
So there you have it! I don’t know if I have listed these in order of significance, really just in order of how they popped into my head. I will say, St Martin | Sint Maarten is a great place for little kids. There are so many things to do with Keiran here, especially swimming and the beach! These are real favorites!
(Sally wrote this blog 🙂 )