Things to Do in Grand Case
Known for its rugged beauty, the uninhabited island of Tintamarre—part of the St. Martin Nature Reserve—is 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) off the northeast coast of St. Martin. A popular day trip, the island boasts historic ruins, large grassy fields of a former plantation, unspoiled beaches, and abundant wildlife.
Secluded Baie RougeBeach—set between two rocky bluffs in the lowlands along the west coast of St. Martin—is one of island’s most beautiful beaches. Its name hints at what makes it special: sparkling pink sands and red-hued rock formations, although the beach bar and a cave flooded with seawater, Devil’s Hole, also hold appeal.
Located just off of the west coast of St. Martin, Pinel Island is a haven of white sand and clear water perfect for kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders, snorkelers, and those who want a tranquil escape from the modern world.
The white sands of Orient Bay Beach are no secret in St. Maarten. This clothing-optional spot is a top attraction in the area, and sun worshippers come for its views of the bay, clear water, snorkeling opportunities, and many beachside restaurants and bars.
Fort St. Louis is St Maarten’s foremost historical attraction. The installation stands guard on a steep hill overlooking Marigot, the “capital” of French Saint Martin, looking over its wide bay. It was built in 1767 on the orders of France’s last pre-revolutionary king, Louis XVI.
The tricolor of republican France might wave over the fort these days but you can still see the formidable walls and cannons which protected the colonial settlement from other European powers as well as pirates. There is historical information posted around the site, but you will probably find your eyes keep wandering to the outstanding view, sweeping over the coastline and the Fort-Louis Marina and then out to sea, all the way to neighboring Anguilla.
While numerous Caribbean islands are still controlled by distant European powers, St Maarten or Saint Martin is the only one split between two, the smallest territory in the world to be so divided. But at the point where French Saint Martin meets Dutch St Maarten on the island's east coast, you won't find checkpoints or border guards, just the clear, calm waters of Oyster Pond. This protected cove welcomes ocean-faring yachts to a picturesque marina and it is also the berth for ferries to St Barth.
There’s no beach at Oyster Pond but nearby Dawn Beach is great for both swimming and snorkeling, with a reef just a few yards from the shore. For a change of pace, take a short drive north to the tiny fishing village of Orléans, which boasts some of the island’s oldest traces of the French colonial era as well as a popular butterfly enclosure, La Ferme des Papillons.
One of St. Martin’s most family-friendly beaches, Le Galion Beach is the perfect beach day for visitors traveling with young children. The turquoise waters of the beach also known as L’Embouchure or Baby Beach are clear, mellow, and very shallow—even 300 feet (91 meters) from the shore. It’s also one of the few area beaches that discourages nude sunbathing.
Rising from the center of St. Maarten/St. Martin, Pic Paradis (Peak Paradise) is the island’s highest point as well as its wettest, which ensures the vegetation is lush and green year-round. Climb to the 1,391-foot (424-meter) summit for sweeping views of Orient Bay, Philipsburg, Simpson Bay Lagoon, Marigot, and the neighboring islands.
As the capital of French St. Martin, Marigot is a unique fusion of French and West Indian culture, alive in the ambiance, cafes, bakeries, wine shops, and the Creole gingerbread houses along Rue de la République. History buffs gravitate to Fort Louis, built in 1789 to overlook Marigot Bay.
More Things to Do in Grand Case
Get an up close look at some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic butterflies at the Butterfly Farm on the east side of St. Martin. The farm has a collection of more than 40 species of butterflies and moths—including rare species like the Central American postman and Brazilian blue morpho—that live and breed among the lush tropical gardens that create a Zen-like experience with waterfalls and koi-filled pools inside the screened enclosure. If you come early in the morning, you may have the chance to spot new butterflies emerging from their cocoons, and if you wear brightly colored clothes, they may mistake you for flowers and land on your shoulder.
Please note The Butterfly Farm is currently closed temporarily due to Hurricane Irma.
One of the Caribbean’s great snorkeling destinations, Creole Rock is a small rocky outcropping just off St. Martin’s northern coast. Teaming with the life above and under the sea, the reef is part of a protected marine reserve. It’s also an important bird rookery where pelicans and brown boobies come to lay their eggs.