Heaven to water sports fanatics

St. Martin is heaven to watersports fanatics, who will find one giant playground in, on, and under the crystal-clear waters surrounding the island.

With an average temperature of 80? and steady trade winds almost all year long, it comes as no surprise that St. Martin is an established water sports paradise, with ample opportunities for windsurfing, surfing, kayaking, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and more.

The gentle trade winds on St. Martin make windsurfing a real treat. The season starts in winter and lasts until July. Intermediate and advanced surfers should head to the hugely popular Orient Beach. Beginners and intermediates should try Le Galion, also known as Coconut Grove, Baby Beach, or Baie de l’Embochure. Le Galion and Orient Beach are also the places to try kite surfing, the new craze in water sports.

The island’s own Kitesurfing school Wind-Adventures is located between Kakao and Kontiki on Orient Beach. Here you can take classes with a maximum of two people at a time, and practical lessons at nearby Green Cay, safely away from sunbathers.

Surfing on the north and west coast is best from November through March. The east coast comes alive from July through November. Popular surf spots include Le Galion, Mullet Bay, Guana Bay and Orient Bay. Board rentals are available at Le Galion through Windy Reef or Tropical Wave.

Kayaking is growing in popularity as a way to explore some of the hidden areas of Simpson Bay Lagoon and the coastline. Kayak tours are available through Caribbean Paddling, which leaves from French Cul de Sac and takes you through the marine reserve to Pinel Island and Little Cay, and Tri-Sport, where the Lagoon Explorer Tour takes you along the mangroves on the Bellevue coastline and makes a stop on the deserted Grand Islet island. Tri-Sport also rents kayaks, as does Tropical Wave at Le Gallion.

There are plenty of good scuba diving sites in the crystalline waters surrounding St. Martin. Coral reefs teeming with marine life are often located close to the shore, making them accessible to snorkelers as well.

Certified scuba divers can rent tanks and equipment from shops around the island such as The Scuba Shop in Simpson Bay and Oyster Pond. Aqua Mania Adventures and Dive Safaris are among the companies that offer dive courses for novice and advanced divers.

Snorkel gear can be rented from Kontiki Watersports in Orient Bay or The Scuba Shop in Simpson Bay. Creole Rock at Le Petite Plage in Grand Case boasts some of the island’s best snorkeling. Other beaches to check out are Baie Rouge and Plum Bay on the French side and Dawn Beach and Little Bay (great for beginners and children) on the Dutch side.

Full or half-day boat trips are readily available on the island. Our favorite is the catamaran Celine which boards at Skip Jack’s Restaurant in Simpson Bay. We just came back from a full day sail and it was simply amazing. Captain Neil Roebert is fantastic. He offers private full and half day trips around the island as well as a variety of sunset cruises and pub crawls.

The Captain Morgan sailboat runs luxurious sailing & sightseeing tours along the coastline, with stops for snorkeling and sunbathing. The cruise includes snacks, lunch, dessert, and a complimentary bar.

The Rapid Explorer provides daily service to St. Barths, and Edge I and II, through Aqua Mania Adventures go to Saba and St. Barths.

Bluebeard Charters runs day sails on the Heineken Cat to Anguilla and Prickly Pear, including fabulous snorkeling. Anyway Marine in Marigot offers day charters and power and sail boat rentals for professional skippers. AquaWorld is a boat rental and charter in Simpson Bay. The Scoobidoo is a catamaran that runs day trips to St. Barth and Anguilla, including snacks and bar.

You can find out what it feels like to be a crew member on a 12-meter America’s Cup Yacht, located at Bobby’s Marina in Philipsburg.

If you’d like to try deep-sea fishing, call Lee’s Deep Sea Fishing. The best fishing is close by – you won’t have to go far to bag marlin, tuna, dolphin or wahoo. The drop-off at La Samanna is said to be the best spot for black fin tuna and wahoo, and Proselyte Reef close to Great Bay Marina is also supposed to have good reef fishing. The island holds big game fishing tournaments periodically, including the Marlin Cup in Marigot in May and the BillFish Tournament in June.

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