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A Lesson in Caribbean Culture

Words by Courtney Kellar

The Caribbean is made up of thousands of islands which boast friendly locals, palm trees and stunning, sandy beaches. When it comes to choosing a destination for your wedding or honeymoon, it’s important to do your research as each Caribbean island maintains its own distinct flair. St. Maarten is one such island that has all the gorgeousness typical of the Caribbean, but with some unique and fun attributes. Located in the Netherlands Antilles, the island is split: one part Dutch and one part French. Spend time in the capital of the Dutch side, Philipsburg, for shopping and walking the boardwalk, or head over to Marigot, capital of the French side, for some delicious eats and topless tanning (optional, of course).

For comfy accommodations and friendly service, The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort & Spa is a good option for couples with an eye on their budget or with lots of guests. The Westin has plenty to offer in the way of wedding options and planning services. The resort’s beach offers a beautiful backdrop of St. Barts in the distance or the wedding patio is perfect for more privacy. As a bonus, The Westin hosts a Champagne brunch every Sunday – just right for wrapping up a wedding weekend. For the most reliable weather, book anytime between December and April.

The real star of St. Maarten is the island itself. Your guests will gush over activities like world-class diving, snorkeling, hiking and zip-lining. If you’re looking to explore, day trips to Anguilla and St. Barts are common and convenient. It’s also popular for couples to marry on St. Maarten for the activities and amenities, but then honeymoon on St. Barts or Anguilla for more seclusion. For a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity, head over to Sunset Beach Bar. A hot tourist spot, the bar borders the airport
and offers an extreme, up-close and personal look at the incoming planes.

With all the activities and options, it’s hard to settle on a few. So here are my personal favorites: Pinel Island is an absolute must – plan on spending at least an entire day here. It’s a short boat ride to your own little piece of heaven: small, beachside huts are the place for fresh seafood, a casual hangout and more than a few handsome, French-speaking servers. The beaches are seriously stunning and offer gorgeous views of the surrounding islands. For a sweet treat, Palm Beach lounge is on the island’s famous Orient Beach and has gigantic, made-from-scratch ice cream sundaes. If you and your sweetie are looking for a nice night out, Holland House in Philipsburg has awesome ambiance and even better food.

Whether on your honeymoon or hosting a destination wedding, the best thing about St. Maarten is you can do as little or as much as you want. Either way you’re guaranteed to have a great time and some gorgeous pictures to boot.

Photos Courtesy of Courtney Cox (1st & 2nd) and The Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort & Spa (3rd & 4th)

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