Self care with breakfast tray floating in the pool.




By Riselle Celestina


When simply vacationing just isn’t enough to help you find your zen, turn to the island’s wellness experts to nourish your body and soul from the inside out.



For such a small island, St. Maarten/St. Martin has a lot to offer. Whether you spend your time on the island trying your luck at the casinos, snorkeling in search of starfish and turtles, sunbathing on the many beaches, or hiking to hilltops offering the most breathtaking views, there is never a dull moment on St. Maarten/St. Martin.


You can easily find yourself running from one activity and attraction to the next, trying to fit as many experiences as possible into just one vacation. But wouldn’t it be a shame if you got back from an amazing vacation, utterly exhausted and in need of rest, when you could have done all that de-stressing and relaxing when you were on the island? While here, take some time to spend on you.


A day at the beach with a cocktail in hand and a good book in the other certainly counts as taking care of your mental health, but St. Maarten/St. Martin offers a multitude of other ways to nourish your body, mind, and spirit. Here are some ways you can take care of yourself and boost your mood while enjoying all that the island has to offer.





Both sides of the island offer amazing restaurants where you can truly indulge, many of which are catering more and more to the vegan and vegetarian crowd by offering plant-based deliciousness, proving that going meatless does not have to mean sacrificing flavor.


One such restaurant is Irie Gardens, located in the heart of Philipsburg at the Walter Plantz Square. It’s a small restaurant with just a few tables that dishes up large, mouthwatering servings of stir-fry veggie pasta, sweet polenta with plant-based meat, and a creamy vegetable soup that is just to die for, among many other options on its expansive menu. Sit outside in the Caribbean breeze while you watch passersby on their way to run errands in town or go for a walk on the adjacent Great Bay Beach while your meal is being prepared. Irie Gardens is open for breakfast and lunch.


For a unique vegan experience, head to Freedom Fighters Ital Shack where its slogan, “Ital is vital,” is taken seriously without sacrificing fun. Made fresh with local ingredients — some harvested right in its own little garden in the back — the menu changes daily but always offers a healthy and tasty meal. What started as a simple shack alongside a busy road catering mostly to Rastafarians has become the place to have lunch, whether you are vegan or not, largely thanks to the late Anthony Bourdain, who stopped here for a bite back in 2000 and helped spread the word about this colorful place. Ital Shack is open every day except Saturdays, serving breakfast, lunch, and fresh juices.


On the other side of Cole Bay Hill, you will find the island’s newest all-vegan dining option. Casa Vegan is in Maho just steps away from St. Maarten/St. Martin’s most popular attraction, Maho Beach, where visitors delight in watching incoming planes skim the beach before landing across the street at Princess Juliana International Airport. Casa Vegan offers delicious menu items made with fresh and organic ingredients sourced from local farmers and prepared by a chef with 20 years of experience. This restaurant puts quality above all else. Their 100 percent plant-based and gluten-free dishes can be enjoyed in-house or ordered online for pickup. Casa Vegan is open Tuesday through Saturday and serves up an impressive vegan brunch on Sundays.





Here’s a secret: You don’t need to head home to finally get your workout. Hit a gym or go on a hike and explore one of the many trails St. Maarten/St. Martin has to offer, each one more beautiful and intense than the last. Now, you can combine a heart-pounding trek with a visit to the gym. Hike to the top of Naked Boy Hill and get a full-body workout, alfresco style with a killer view, at St. Maarten/St. Martin’s first and only hilltop gym. The Naked Boy Hill gym is free to use by anyone who can actually get to it.


Whether you are staying on the Dutch side or the French side of the island, chances are there is a yoga studio nearby or, better yet, a private instructor who’s willing to come to you. And just like that, you are out of excuses not to stay fit while on vacation.


Work on your chi, find your balance, and re-align your chakra under the guidance of trained instructors at studios like Island Rebel Yoga in Cole Bay, where you can start your day early and watch the sun rise over the Simpson Bay lagoon with their sunrise class. Or end your day with a restorative class in the evening. This studio has a strict policy to keep things fun while staying in shape with classes like Buti, vinyasa, and primal flow.


No matter the day of the week or whether you are a beginner or advanced yogi, you can hit the mat at Island Rebel Yoga or at any of the other studios around the island, like Grace Yoga Studio in Cupecoy, Joga in Cole Bay, La Plènitude in Friar’s Bay, or outdoors at the Ti Temple in Grand Case. Nurture your body with yoga, find your inner zen with meditation, or practice Contrology with Pilates. It’s all possible here in paradise.


Another easy and free way to keep yourself fit when vacationing in St. Maarten/St. Martin is to join the locals for a run or jog. Forget the treadmill and take your run to the streets, feeling the salty breeze on your skin while you get your sweat on. The Boardwalk in Philipsburg and the Simpson Bay Causeway are both excellent and safe places for joggers and runners alike. They’re also perfect for an early-morning or sunset stroll.





Breathe, disconnect, and relax at one of the island’s many spas. Experience the ultimate treatments that will heighten your senses and leave you feeling like new, ready to take on another day of island adventures.


St. Maarten Nectar has long been a name synonymous with natural skin care and aromatherapy remedies. Located at the Oyster Bay Resort, Nectar Wellness Spa is undoubtedly one of the best-known and preferred spas by both locals and visitors. Indulge in body treatments like Caribbean salt body scrub or the pineapple cilantro body polish, feel the stress drain from your body during one of the massages offered, and get your glamor on with a deluxe lemongrass manicure/pedicure. Not only are you in experienced therapists’ capable hands, but also, the products used are 100 percent all natural, vegan, cruelty-free, and hand-made locally by St. Maarten Nectar.


The latest to hit St. Maarten’s spa scene is Blu Spa at The Morgan Resort. Forget your worries the second you open the double glass doors and walk inside this state-of-the-art spa, where nature meets luxury. The hair salon and manicure and pedicure area on the first floor are just an introduction to what awaits you on the second floor. Dimly lit by salt lamps, the treatment rooms exude pure zen. Leave your pre-spa life behind in the beautiful locker room — even if it’s only for a few hours — before entering the spacious sauna, where you’ll find one of the only salt walls on island. In between treatments, relax with a glass of flavored water or a mug of hot organic tea in the luxurious sitting area, decorated in calming earth tones with beautiful cushions in different shades of blue. Pamper yourself from head to toe with unique treatments like the Botanical Bounty, which starts with a scalp massage with avocado and carrot oil made from scratch and continues with a warm compression and body massage with chocolate oil before the grand finale: a mango butter foot massage.


Speaking of luxury, The Spa at La Samanna is undoubtedly one of the most heavenly spas on the island, combining indoor spaces with an outdoor element. Each suite here opens up onto your very own private lush tropical garden and comes with an outdoor shower, allowing you to feel completely in sync with nature. The serene atmosphere and exotic treatments like the Roucou pre-tanning body exfoliation and the Lomi Lomi massage keep clients coming back to this haven of relaxation year after year.



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