Tour de Sint Maarten

…or more like a triathlon as we did the trifecta: bicycle, hiking, swimming. 

After 2 weeks exploring mostly the French coast and islands of St Martin it was time we got to see more of the Dutch side. 

In normal times we’d simply keep moving the boat around the island, hop off and explore. But given these are two different countries we’d have to clear customs and provide a PCR test when sailing into Dutch waters. On land, however, there’s no border with free movement of people. We can roam freely on both sides without PCR. Go figure Captain Bureaucracy!

So we left Porky anchored in Marigot Bay and rode our trusty dinghy across the lagoon into Simpson Bay (Dutch side) where we rented bicycles for the weekend. We found Tri Sport and they were great. They gave us new bikes at a discount with locks, water bottles, helmets and friendly advice. We even received a quick lesson on how to identify friendly honks from the angry ones. It’s an island. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone must greet everyone by the mandatory honk-yell-wave-laugh sequence through the window!

Three Swabs on their bicycles in Sint Maarten

So off we went! We set off to Philipsburg first where before Covid many large cruise ships would dock and inject thousands of tourists to the island. The island is all duty free and that, combined with the cruise ship influx, unfortunately turned Philipsburg into an open air shopping mall. There is the very originally named Front Street and Back Street, both lined with your typical jewelry and brand shops. The old church and court house bring some charm from an older time before cruise ships were a thing, but overall this wasn’t our scene. 

We continued heading east towards Guana Bay as we heard of a hike along the coast to an uninhabited bay with a natural pool. What Tri Sport failed to mention is that we would be in for some serious hill climbs! They don’t have high mountains here but that didn’t stop them from building some seriously steep roads. Maybe we don’t use our legs much anymore on the boat, but we were struggling! The lactic acid was flowing and sweat was dripping. It wasn’t pretty… On the last climb to Guana Bay we passed a construction worker sitting near an open hole by the street. He yelled “Go man! Go!” I was pumped getting cheered on by local bystanders until 50 meters up the road I realized he was just yelling at his colleagues to pull the damned cable through the hole. 

Anyway, we made it to the beginning of the Natural Pool Trail which starts in the south of Guana Bay and leads 2.6km south along the coast to Back Bay.

Natural Pool Trail beginning

The coast here is more rugged than the sand beaches and lagoons we’ve seen west and north. They are completely undeveloped, steep and lined with rocks, dry grass and bush vegetation. There is a couple of steep and rocky sections right on the cliff, so I recommend proper shoes! We also saw geckos and iguanas frequently zipping across our path. 

Natural Pool Trail, Sint Maarten

The natural pool itself is a short climb down the cliff. It is fed with sea water when waves break over the rocks. The water is crystal clear and has 27 degrees Celsius (even Antonia couldn’t complain it was too cold!). After the hill climbs and the short hike this was an amazingly refreshing skinny dip! Just be careful when entering and exiting as there are many sea urchins on the sides. There weren’t any in the middle though. There were, however, plenty of colorful fish which wanted a piece of the action. Elegant swirling movements kept them clear from contact which could have gotten awkward for both us and the fish. But they happily nibbled on our feet. Free SPA treatment!

Natural Pool, Back Bay, Sint Maarten

On the way back we went through the same uphill ordeal. We rewarded ourselves with lunch at Lagoonies, a bar on the southeastern end of the lagoon. It’s exactly what you’d expect from an island bar with dinghy dock and seating on wooden furniture right on the water. We want to go back for happy hour and live music!

We’ve seen yet another side of SXM, a great day!

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