For a closer look at St. Maarten’s French twin, St. Martin,
Whether you arrive by air or sea, staying for just an afternoon or a whole week, you should know that St. Maarten has a twin, and she is French. Because the airport and cruise terminal are both located in the southern part of the island, the Dutch side, most people know the island by its Dutch name, St. Maarten. But if you venture 20 minutes to the north by car, you will reach St. Martin, the French side. Here are five hand-picked activities in St. Martin that will be worth your trek.
Haggle at the Marigot Market
Go early and see the fishmongers expertly cleaning up the morning’s catch by the docks. The Marigot market on the waterfront, beneath Fort Saint Louis, is a riot of colours and scents — and a perfect place to scout for souvenirs. Hot sauce and flavoured rum in hand-painted bottles will surely delight foodies. Open every day, but there are more stalls on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There is no website for the market. Just ask a local!
See the father of Caribbean Impressionism at work
Sir Roland Richardson only paints from life, and his renderings of the colourful, local Flamboyant trees perfectly captures their vibrancy. Visit his studio in Marigot, or spot him painting en plein air around the island — he is easy to spot with his white beard and big paint palette. Former U.S. first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands are both said to have been collectors of his work. Rolandrichardson.com
Discover "Vegetable Ivory"
The local tagua nut, also known as ivory palms or ivory nuts, looks just like ivory when dried and polished. Local artisans use it for making beads, buttons, jewelry and sculptures. You can find tagua products at the Marigot market, as well as in local stores.
Create your own perfume
Don a white lab coat and mix your own perfume at Tijon Parfumerie, the island’s first and only working perfumery. Start with a base of 12 premixed oils and add three additional choices from an available 300 offerings. Theoretically, there are more than one trillion possible combinations, meaning the scent you create is unlikely to have been mixed before. The one-hour class costs $120 and includes a bottle of your own creation, plus a gift bag with sun lotion, massage oil, lip balm and more. Tijon.com.
Swim with a horse
Ride through the mangroves in the nature reserve to a sandy beach, where the guide will take off the horses’ saddles and let you ride bareback into the sea. If you are up for it, the guide will take you to deeper waters (about two metres) and your horse will start swimming. Just hold on to its mane and float along in the warm, pristine waters. Ninety-minute trail and beach ride, $135. Reservations required, closed Sundays and Mondays, Baysideranch.com.