As home to one of the Caribbean’s safest storm harbors, the island of St. Martin and St. Maarten has always relied on sailing and boating to lure travelers from around the world. Today, the island’s wealth of tourist product expertly complements the attractions guests will find at sea. But as marina developments continue to expand across the island, it’s clear St. Martin/St. Maarten is capitalizing on its assets at sea—and is set to emerge as the next big boating destination in the Caribbean.
making waves St. Martin/St. Maarten has long been an attractive destination, says Lyndsey North, Funjet Vacations’ marketing & partner manager for the Caribbean. “One of the most interesting things about St. Maarten/St. Martin is the diversity of the island,” she explains. “Blending the French and Dutch sides on the island makes for a unique mix of cultures, and the history of the island and the shared governing bodies engages visitors.” But the newest reason to visit is, in fact, one of its oldest—a rejuvenation of its historic marine culture thanks to several new boat-friendly developments.
Leading the pack of upscale product that’s emerging across the island is Porto Cupecoy, a marina village combining boutiques, rental condos, restaurants and a 54-slip marina when it opens this month. The 181-residence village, an Orient-Express project, aims to add new levels of luxury to the island’s yachting offerings.
“Porto Cupecoy is really high quality with solid constructions and style that’s very nice, with interiors featuring marble and wood finishes, and tile floors. Everything’s just really nice quality and it’s better than a lot of what’s offered on the island,” says Lamar Rutherford, director of sales and marketing for Orient-Express residential projects. The outdoor living space makes for a particularly strong selling point, she points out. “Almost all the units have patios, and they’ve bigger than you’d expect in most cases. They’re designed for that outdoor/indoor living that you really want to do in a Caribbean kind of place.”
As an Orient-Express property, Porto Cupecoy sits a bit outside the lines, differentiated from the company’s other product—mainly luxury resort accommodations—by its setup as condos available both for ownership and for rent. “Orient-Express typically does really high-end, five-star hotels. In this case, we developed condos, so in a lot of ways it’s different. It’s up to the same quality standards, but the difference is in how [clients] will use it, how they’ll enjoy the lifestyle,” Rutherford says. Because some owners are expected to live at Porto Cupecoy for months at a time (units, of course, will be available for travel agent bookings), the village was built to emphasize a community feel. “What’s new and different from other marinas [on the island] is that you have the retail shops and you have the community living. We’ve really tried to design it so everything you need is there. You have a grocery store, ATM, coffee shop, deli, a bar by the water—all these things that are really accessible so you don’t have to go and drive someplace, unless you want to. Combine that with the marina—which has mega yacht slips—a pool, tennis courts and all that, and it all comes together at the quality level.”
The location of Porto Cupecoy—set almost directly on the St. Martin/St. Maarten border on Simpson Bay, the Caribbean’s largest saltwater lagoon which provides excellent shelter from passing storms—is yet another of the project’s strong suits. Just a few minutes up the road, another Orient-Express property, La Samanna, offers even more luxury accommodations set right on the beach. And while there’s definitely separation between La Samanna and Porto Cupecoy, the relationship between the two properties will be a symbiotic one. “For some of the people coming in on mega yachts, we’re putting details together in a package that gives them access to services at La Samanna. So people at Porto Cupecoy can go to La Samanna’s restaurant, check out the cave wine cellar, go to the spa, and access all those things,” Rutherford explains. “But more than that, La Samanna guests have all this shopping and this great community to go down there and do boat things.”