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St. Martin: The Pearl of the Caribbean

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St Martin: The Pearl of the Caribbean
By Emmanuel Demanez/velakitesurf.com

Just 186 miles from Puerto Rico, St. Martin is the smallest island in the world to have been partitioned between two nations, France and the Netherlands. The French side, where the majority of kite spots are located, tends to emphasize comfort and elegance. The beaches are secluded, the luxury resorts provide lavish accommodations, and the restaurants offer the finest dining experiences anywhere in the Caribbean. Known for its dry climate and sunny weather, St. Martin offers 36 beaches with warm, tropical turquoise water and white sandy beaches to explore.

Susi Mai gets in a little time above Orient Bay. Photo Rachel Hastilow

What is the official site name?

Orient Bay in St. Martin is a 2.5 mile long bay and offers a wide playground for everybody.

What is the best time of the year to hit this spot?

From December through the end of July (light wind in May, best swell in June and July).

What is average wind speed and what kind of conditions should I expect?

Morning is typically the best time to ride when the wind blows a consistent 13 to 15 knots. It dies down a bit toward noon before picking up again mid-afternoon. Orient Bay offers a variety of conditions from flat water lagoons to wave riding on the reef and wind swell outside of the bay.

With a water temperature of 75°, there is no need for a wetsuit in St. Martin. Photo courtesy Wind-Adventures

What is the usual wind direction and average air and water temperatures?

Our prevailing wind direction is east. The air is typically 85° and the water 75° so pack light!

How do I get there?  Will I need a car?

As a worldwide destination, there are many flights available from North America to St. Martin’s Juliana International Airport (SXM). Taxis take roughly 35 minutes and cost about $40 to reach Orient Bay.
Public buses are available (stop outside of town) and are only $2 to go to Marigot or Philipsburg for duty free shopping and casinos. Renting a car is the best way to visit the island and one day is typically enough to check out loads of spots on the island. You can rent cars right from your hotel or the center for about $30-$40 per day.

What gear should I be sure to pack?

Typical kite sizes used are 10 to 14m. Bring good sunscreen and a rash guard for sun protection.

What conditions should I avoid?

We’re in the tropics so know your weather and avoid gales and stormy conditions.

What is the launch/landing like?

The launch and land area is in front of Vela St. Martin, between the Kontiki and Kakao restaurants (between blue and red umbrellas). The dedicated launching area is pretty narrow. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from the Vela team; they will be happy to help. Be careful at the umbrellas around and swimmers when reaching the dedicated kite area (outside of the yellow buoys).

What are some of the best places to eat nearby?

During the day there are many great beach restaurants to try: Kakao (best T-bone, $25), Kontiki, or Orange Fever (best pizzas, $11). At night, you also have many options in Orient Bay Village: Le Piment (special every day, $20 average meal) and for a treat, try the fine French cuisine at Astrolable ($55 average, including lobster).

In St. Martin, you can spend the whole day kiting over beautifully clear water and then hit the town at night. Photo courtesy Wind Adventures

Who are the local schools and shops?

At the moment there is only Vela St. Martin (Orient beach, www.velakitesurf.com) and Surface (surf shop in Marigot), but another school/kite center is supposed to open next winter. St. Martin is also duty free, so kites typically cost about 20% less when compared to prices in the US.

Where should I stay?

Budget: L’Hoste Hotel: L’Hoste Hotel is right along the beachfront of Orient Bay. This is high-quality budget accommodation in Orient Bay, good for singles or a couple, beachfront with a nice swimming pool located a two minute walk from the center. Average Nightly Rate for Double Occupancy: $175

Moderate: La Plantation Hotel: All accommodations boast large patios and balconies overlooking Orient Bay while upper level units provide panoramic views of the bay and surrounding islands. This is a perfect hotel for families with a nice restaurant, relaxing bar, and swimming pool surrounded within tropical grounds, all just a short six minute walk from the center. Average Nightly Rate for Double Occupancy: $208

Luxury: Alamanda Concorde Hotel: When you want the best, Hotel Alamanda Resort is set just a few steps from the soft white sands of Orient Beach and 50 yards from the kite center. The spacious rooms and suites are scattered throughout the lush gardens of this intimate beach resort. An idyllic St. Martin resort, perfect for couples and families with all the facilities you could need, including well-equipped kitchenettes in each room to provide a convenient alternative to dining out. Average Nightly Rate for Double Occupancy: $280

What is the nightlife like?

St. Martin is a Caribbean Mecca for nightlife; everyday there is a party somewhere!

What else is there to do if I get skunked?

St. Martin is a small island, so it’s easy to organize last minute activities including watersports (sailing, sea kayaking, or snorkeling around Orient Bay; surfing, SUP, or boat excursions to Anguilla and St. Barthelemy), duty free shopping in Philipsburg and Marigot, and eco-trips (Lottery and Butterfly farms and Pinel Island to name a few).

Is there anything else I need to know about riding this spot?

Orient Bay is only for advanced kiters, as the kiting area is 250 feet from the beach, outside of the swimming area. Kiters need to ride upwind to reach the kiting area (outside the yellow marks). Beginners can ride in the lagoon or at Le Galion, a short five minute walk via a coastal track from the Club Orient end of Orient Beach.

Are there any safety issues or rules I need to know about?

Please respect the kiting area (no jumping or riding in the swimming area).

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