On the Water

Splashdown!
 
St. Maarten/St. Martin is a playground for water lovers.
 
If you want to get a real feel for the tropical paradise you’ve chosen to visit, just jump right in. St. Maarten/St. Martin is surrounded by the warm, richly hued waters of the Antilles Archipelago, and that means one thing for active vacationers: It’s time to play!
 
Let go of those workaday worries and discover why wetter is better — above and below the waves. Make like the dolphins and swim like the water is your home, grab a board and ride the surf, dive deep and hang with schools of multi-colored fish, or hook up with a parasail and fly high above the coast.
 
Maybe there’s a water sport you’ve long wanted to try but thought you didn’t have the time. Well, now you do, and there are plenty of island experts on hand to guide you every step of the way.
 
So what are you waiting for? Make a splash!   
 
On the Waves
 
On this island shared by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France, you’ll discover an extensive menu of water sports and activities. Go surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing and bodyboarding, or try your hand at SUPsquatch, a giant inflatable paddleboard suitable for surfing. 
 
Other activities include jet-skiing, waterskiing and canoeing. Contact Tri-Sport for thrilling kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) adventures. And don’t overlook your water babies. The island offers safe, fun options for kids. D-Boat SXM, a retired tanker turned water park and party boat for all ages, is permanently moored in Simpson Bay and features waterslides, trampolines, rope swings and more.
 
Boating is a great way to get to know St. Maarten/St. Martin, and the island offers myriad ways to make your introductions. Rent a sailboat, catamaran, motor craft or mega-yacht and take the helm for a day. Go for a dinghy or day sail. Charter a yacht and let the crew do the work or sign up for a luxury catamaran sail at Random Wind Charters. You can even sit back in comfort and watch a race at the Heineken Regatta in March.  
 
A sea tour as well is a great way to spend a day. Aqua Mania Adventures offers a variety of island hopping and other day trips. You can also sign up for a sailing catamaran, powerboat or sailing cruise at Eagle Tours. In addition, the Sint Maarten Yacht Club offers sailing classes for young and old, as well as laser rentals. And Nitro Charters can take you out for offshore 
 
fishing and snorkel adventures.
 
Above the Waves
 
Wish you could take off like a caped superhero and soar above the ocean blue? Then hydroflying is the water sport for you. The term may be new to you but not to the folks at Sea Fun SXM. They’ll show you several adrenalin-pumping ways to kiss the sky.
 
With a flyboard, you step into wakeboard-style boots that are attached to a platform you operate with a controller. Hoverboarding combines flyboarding and something like surfing on a skateboard to give you an unforgettable Back to the Future sort of thrill. Or strap on a jet pack and give your inner Rocket Man permission to zoom. All three devices are powered by compressed water, and they’re easier to tackle than you might imagine — not to mention loads of fun!
 
Below the Waves
 
The waters and coral reefs surrounding St. Maarten/St. Martin offer myriad opportunities to meet and greet the local sea life. All waters are designated as protected marine parks and offer excellent opportunities for divers. Dive trips center on interesting old wrecks and stunning coral reefs, or you can sign on for an exciting night dive or a plunge with sharks. 
 
Don’t know how to dive? Swim, snorkel or just relax at the newly rebuilt Tiki Hut Snorkel Park. Sea Trek offers helmet diving and safe, easy sea walks. In addition, most island dive operators conduct PADI certification courses and set you up with gear. Aqua Mania Adventures’ Discover Scuba experience is not a certification course, but you can get credit toward PADI Scuba Diver or Open Water Diver certification. Already certified but a little out of practice? Local dive operators will take you on a refresher tour.
 
If you prefer to snorkel, there are plenty of great opportunities, either on your own or with a group. Prime snorkeling sites include Simpson Bay Beach, Îlet Pinel, Tintamarre, Friar’s Bay, Baie Rouge, Little Bay, Cupecoy Beach, Dawn Beach and, perhaps, the best snorkeling spot of all, Creole Rock off the shore of Grand Case.
 
Fun Fact
 
Watercraft innovator Franky Zapata designed the flyboard and hoverboard and is considered the father of hydroflying.
 

Celebrating 40 Years
 
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta. The four-day racing event takes place in March, a few weeks after the Caribbean Multihull Challenge. The event, set in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean and powered by the cooling northeast trade winds, includes an experienced, innovative and friendly race team. The professional Race Committee provides custom-tailored racing for the thousands of sailors originating from the 32+ countries that come to race — from international amateur sports medalists and world champions sailing maxis and performance multihulls to holiday-makers on chartered bareboats.  
 
Make Way for Multihulls
 
This year, St. Maarten hosts the second annual Caribbean Multihull Challenge. The stars of the three February races are vessels such as catamarans and trimarans with multiple side-by-side hulls.
 
The Sint Maarten Yacht Club, which sponsors the new regatta, reports rapid growth in the market for all designs of multihulls. In addition, organizers say, technological advances in the industry have enabled newer boats to be safe and comfortable — and extremely fast in all kinds of winds.
 
​​“This event will welcome every multihull sailor, from Gunboats, Trimarans, Lagoons and Leopards to Fountaine Pajot and Spronk boats,” says Petro Jonker, the club’s steering committee chairman. “We will even throw in a Pirate Class so local charter boats with fun handicaps can race. Combine that with post-racing events and this will become a real hit in the Caribbean racing circuit.” 
 

UNDER THE SEA
 
Discover a magical world beneath the waves of St. Maarten/St. Martin.
 
There’s no denying that St. Maarten/St. Martin is a beautiful island. Just ask the vacationers who return year after year. But there’s more to the island than gorgeous scenery and breathtaking vistas. For those seeking adventure there’s a “secret” St. Maarten/St. Martin below the water’s surface, and Aqua Mania’s Dive Adventures can take you there.
 
PADI dive instructor Branden Hallick has explored the undersea world from Africa to Asia and describes diving around St. Maarten/St. Martin as some of the most spectacular he has ever seen. “The waters surrounding the island have everything: stunning coral reefs, wrecks aplenty and a diversity of aquatic wildlife that is the envy of the Caribbean,” Hallick says.
 
Dive Adventures was established in 1990 to augment the many boat excursions that Aqua Mania Adventures offers visitors. With three locations at Simpson Bay, Little Bay and Philipsburg, Dive Adventures allows avid divers to enjoy all that the underwater world has to offer, under expert instruction and guidance from PADI professionals. 
 
Visitors can experience their first taste of the undersea world with Discover Scuba, a gentle introduction to the sport, or take advanced courses to further their dive education. But what about sharks?
 
Hallick answers with a chuckle. “Divers are educated about sharks,” he says. “Sharks are fairly territorial, and on some reefs, there is a chance of seeing sharks. Some divers actually ask to be taken to reefs where they might see a variety of nurse, reef and black-tip sharks. They all form part of the wonderful ecosystem you can see around the island.”
 
St. Maarten/St. Martin has seen its fair share of hurricanes, notably devastating Irma in 2017. Surprisingly, the underwater world perhaps fared better than the land above it. Dive staffers were impressed with the general conditions of the reefs, and scuba diving was one of the first post-Irma tourist excursions. 
 
New wrecks have been sunk under the careful supervision of the Nature Foundation, and the establishment of Reef-It Snorkel Park is a great initiative to help rebuild St Maarten’s fragile coral ecosystem. Reef-It, at Dock Maarten near the cruise ship pier, is an underwater snorkel park with reef corals, a nursery of baby fish, and some visiting octopi and barracuda. Underwater tiles and statues make for an interesting new place to snorkel.
 
Exploring beneath the waves of St. Maarten/St. Martin is an unforgettable adventure that also heightens diver awareness of fragile Caribbean coral reefs and the challenges they face in a changing world. 
 
So take the plunge! Discover an exciting new world with Dive Adventures.

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