With the unique distinction as the smallest island in the world shared between two countries, Dutch Sint Maarten and French Saint Martin ooze the Caribbean charm we’ve all been craving. Less than five hours away by air, Sunwing’s nonstop service from Montreal resumes on November 4 with flights taking off every Thursday.
“The island is a bucket list destination loved by Montrealers,” said Lyne Chayer, general manager, Sunwing Vacations Quebec. “What’s more, the island offers a range of resorts suited to various travel styles and budgets.”
Whether you choose flights only or vacation packages, it’s one-stop-shopping with this leisure airline. “Sunwing customers can look forward to the flexibility to change their plans anytime without fees and complimentary COVID-19 medical coverage in select packages booked by October 18,” added Chayer.
A vacation worth its sea salt, fan favourites tick all the boxes from soaking up the sun on 37 beaches and checking out umpteen restaurants, bars and bistros, to spinning it to win it at a casino, duty-free shopping and exploring historic sites like the 18th century Fort St. Louis. Catnip for adventurers, there’s diving, snorkeling, zip lining and horseback riding on the beach.
“I personally welcome Montrealers to experience our island, which always inspires with new and exciting vacation incentives,” said May-Ling Chun, director tourism, St. Maarten Tourism Bureau.
Beds for heads
Resorts offered in Sunwing Vacation packages include the family-friendly Sonesta Maho Beach Resort Casino and Spa, where the hardest decision you’ll make all day will be whether to go to the beach or to the pool. Five minutes from the airport, the all-inclusive invites with five restaurants and bars, pizzeria, Kids Club, Teen Zone and Vegas-style nightlife.
Next door, for adults-only, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort is also an all-inclusive with four bars, two restaurants and 24-hour room service. On a peninsula between two bays, Divi Little Bay Beach is relaxation central with a trio of pools and a spa, and Oyster Bay Beach Resort scores a hole-in-one with a new putting green. In St. Martin, romance is on the menu at the all-inclusive, adults-only Secrets St. Martin Resort and Spa by AMR Collection with the largest infinity pool on the island and seaside cocktails at sunset.
For those booking flights only, there are plenty of choices like the hip new Morgan Resort & Spa with a rooftop observation deck and lobster rolls for lunch at the Salt Restaurant. For easy breezy social distancing, villas fit the bill like the six-bedroom Villa Paradiso with dramatic vistas of the mountains.
Wild blue yonder
For a natural high, make a beeline to the Rainforest Adventures at Rockland Estate where the brazen surf down the mountain in an inner tube and zip lining from the top of Sentry Hill comes with breathtaking 360° views of the island.
Go for the thrills and chills at Maho Beach where plane spotters gather to watch the jets take off and land at the Princess Juliana International Airport on the other side. For a quieter beach, Cupecoy is a pretty swath with sandstone cliffs and shoreline caves and for an all-over tan, Orient Beach is for those preferring a birthday suit to a bathing suit.
Skip the beach (you can go back tomorrow) and head instead to Parotte Ville Bird Park. As untouristy as it gets, the petite park is fun for kids and the grown-ups traveling with them. A labour of love for its founder; the aptly named George Parotte, admission buys a parrot primer class and seed cups to feed the neon-feathered birds that whirl overhead with wild abandon.
Eat, drink, and repeat
Fondly dubbed the ‘culinary capital’ of the Caribbean, beaucoup de restaurants aim to please even the fussiest of foodies. New on the scene, La Perle Bleu is to-dine-for with French Creole fare and lagoon views, Ital Shack is the vegetarian go-to for a funky vibe and a mushroom burger and for a taste of home, Caraibes Reveil Matin, sibling eatery to Montreal’s Rosemere Reveil Matin, welcomes meat lovers with big appetites. “We bring something unique to the Caribbean with our French Canadian breakfasts that include specialities like cretons, baked ham and maple syrup,” said Daniel Jurczenko, co-owner.
From blending to bottling, tours of Topper’s Rhum Distillery come with gratis tastings of a variety of flavoured rums. Linger awhile at Topper’s Restaurant where happy hour is, indeed, happy from 1 to 6 p.m. daily.
Built on the site of an 18th century Jewish synagogue, Guavaberry Emporium in the capital city of Philipsburg is where the rummy liqueur is distilled from the little red guavaberries that grow in the hills. For crowd pleasing souvenirs, the haute and spicy berry-infused sauces are worth the splurge.
Stay positive, test negative
Flights arrive at the Princess Juliana International Airport. For entry requirements, visit https://stmaartenehas.com/travel-requirements/