Updated: Feb 26, 2019
Text and photos by Wendy Durigon
Ski Caraibes is located on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin/Sint Maarten (or “SXM”). The island is a 60/40 split of the French Republic and The Netherlands. The waterski school home base is on the French side of the island in Nettle Bay inside the lagoon; owned and operated by Brigitte Lethem and Laurent Guy.
I’ve skied here on 7 different occasions between the months of November and February. The place is idyllic with an island feel. I enjoy the island in its entirety and works well for the vacation with friends and/or family that do or do not ski. I usually ski early when the water is calm and drive back to my villa (with fresh baked goods from the local patisserie) where others are just starting their morning coffee.
Accommodations are everywhere on the island and I have stayed on both the French and Dutch side but the best I’ve found is in the La Terre Basses and Nettle Bay area, which is 5 mins or less by car to the site. Some condos are beach walk to the school. Brigitte is very helpful and resourceful if you need assistance with accommodations. Though there are less expensive hotels and beautiful villas on the Dutch side of the island you should be prepared for an approx. 30 min drive to the site.
The island was hit very hard by hurricane Irma in Sept 2017 and though there is many reminders of the destruction (especially having been several times and recognizing where buildings no longer exist) the island is almost fully operational (as of Feb. 2019) (the ski school is fully operational – near perfect in fact.)
Ski Caraibes runs a Nautique 200 in mint condition and there is great coaching by Brigitte and Laurent both in trick and slalom (and wakeboarding) within the calm lagoon. The slalom course is tucked into a private area that sees no boat traffic. Best time to ski is the early morning. It can get windy later in the day in the one end of the course. The slalom course has a bit of a short run in on the far end but very manageable.
The lagoon is salt water, so the buoyance factor can be a bit of a surprise but seems to work in my favour after a few passes. Laurent and Brigitte have taken great care to provide fresh water to be able to rinse all equipment once back at the dock and even store your gear while you are there. All the staff, locals and international skiers have always been friendly and inviting and a fantastic experience for me. The cost of a set is 50 euros.
I continue to return to this island for many reasons. It is a great vacation spot to ski but also to enjoy what the island has to offer. A rental car is mandatory to explore this 87 square kilometer island. Excellent food is everywhere, both the French and Dutch have imbecilic taste in food.
There are over 30 unbelievably soft sand beaches to visit, ferries and boat charters to neighbouring islands like St. Bart, Anguilla, Saba etc. Hiking and biking trails, zip lining and duty-free shopping in Philipsburg (the capital). Marigot and Maho for jewellery, clothing, liquor, exotic foods, etc., with a unique European flair.
No one should miss Sunset Beach Bar and the plane take-off or landing experience in Maho. (google “airplanes in St.Marteen"). This never gets old to watch or visit!
The hurricane may have taken out some of the physical structures, but it has not taken the beauty and beautiful spirit and friendliness of this island as they rebuild. If you have never been – Go. If you are wondering if it is good to go back – Book your trip.
Wendy has some great tips if you want to go out to eat. You can read them in her post about restaurants in SXM.