There’s a reason the caribbean island of Saint Martin is known as “the friendly island”. Like its neighboring islands, it is more than just a relaxing resort destination. It has its own unique culture and story to tell, for those willing to listen. If all you’re looking for in your tropical vacation is to relax by the pool with a fruity drink while listening to the gentle lull of the ocean, then St. Marin will provide, but for those looking for a holistic cultural experience, you will find that there as well.

You can think of St. Martin as having a split personality, as it comprises two separate countries. However, rather than being polarizing, the northern French side (called Saint Martin) and southern Dutch side (called Sint Maarten) come together in perfect harmony. Two cultures coming together on the same island means that you get to experience the best of both worlds, and this is especially true of the cuisine. St. Martin offers some of the best fusion cuisine around. As a private pilot, I’ve traveled to many places around the world and St. Martin goes down as one of my best culinary experiences of all time.  It’s obvious that the island’s chefs take great pride in their creations, combining fresh, local ingredients with a European flare. Because the island is so spread out with many different areas and beaches, it can be difficult to narrow down your food options, so here are just a few of the restaurants representing the best the island has to offer.

Le Tastevin

Located in the traditional fishing village of Grand Case, this restaurant takes its inspiration from traditional French cooking, while remaining true to its Caribbean roots. You’ll find imaginative island dishes flavored with Caribbean spices alongside classic French fare like foie gras and escargot. As one of the most popular restaurants on the island with a prime location overlooking the Grand Case bay and the Caribbean sea, tables fill up fast so be sure to make a reservation well in advance.

The Hideaway Restaurant

The Hideaway is what most people visualize when they think of the Caribbean: outdoor dining overlooking a crystalline infinity pool with the ocean beyond that. It doesn’t get much better than that. The restaurant’s website describes it as “a cozy intimate spot” perfect for a relaxed brunch or romantic dinner. The cuisine is international, featuring a variety of seafood dishes.

Dreams Beach Bar Restaurant

This restaurant is everything a tropical beach bar should be and more. Just go to their website, and after a few seconds of watching the rotating pictures go by, you’ll see what I mean. Relax in a lounge chair on the soft white sand overlooking the sparkling blue ocean while sipping a cocktail and snacking on sushi.

Little Jerusalem

What this restaurant lacks in flashy opulence, it makes up for in flavor. Plus, it’s one of the more affordable options on the island. The Middle Eastern spot doesn’t even have its own website, but it’s a favorite among locals and tourists alike for its authentic food and friendly service.

Canoa

Located in the Oyster Pond area of Sint Maarten and nestled between two boardwalks, Canoa is a true hidden gem that could be easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. The restaurant, which rests on a floating dock, can be best described (according to its website) as “international cuisine with a Caribbean twist.” Head chef Sherman Marten trained at the renowned Johnson & Wales culinary school in Rhode Island, and brings a wealth of experience and a fusion of cultures to the table.