Only 37 square miles in size, the island is nonetheless home to beaches, lagoons and more than 300 restaurants earning it the title of culinary capital of the Caribbean.
By day, explore its spectacular stretches of sand – there are no less than 37 beaches on this tiny Caribbean gem, most of which have powder fine sand and crystal clear waters which are full of marine life. Take a snorkel and see for yourself. Or enlist the help of one of the island’s many tourism operators and head out for a dive.
Then there is the Simpson Bay Lagoon – the largest lagoon in the Caribbean. This stretch of water, linked to the sea by two narrow channels, is large enough for sailing fun. Many yachts are moored here in luxury marinas or simply anchored.
Shopping is also a major drawcard, with everything duty-free. There is also the nightlife – casinos and night clubs here stay open until the early hours of the morning for those with energy left-over from a day in the sun.
Places to Visit in St Martin
- Simpson Bay Lagoon
- Pic Paradis
- Maho Beach
Unique Things to See and Do in St Martin
- Take in the views from Fort Louis, the island’s largest historical monument
- Hike to St Martin’s highest point at Pic Paradis
- Taste the local guavaberry at the drink’s world headquarters in Phillipsburg
- Zipline over the treetops at Loterie Farm
- Hit one of the islands 37 beaches
St Martin or St Maarten?
It can be confusing – the island appears to have two names, essentially the same but slightly different. That’s because the island has been split in two for hundreds of years. The French territory, known as St Martin, covers around two thirds of the island and is technically a part of Europe and the European Community. The Dutch side is a member island of the Netherlands Antilles and part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but not considered European territory.
More than 350 years ago, the Dutch and French side agreed that residents of either side of the island could be commercially active on the other side without border issues, making it the oldest active, undisputed treaty on earth. Tourism in St Martin boomed in the 80′s thanks to investor-friendly policies, first on the Dutch side and then on the French side.
However, on the 10th of October 2010 the Dutch Side became an independent nation within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. At the historic courthouse in the centre of Philipsburg, the flag of the Netherlands Antilles was lowered for the final time and the flag of Country Sint Maarten raised instead.
Getting Around St Martin
Most visitors rely on taxis and rental cars. Taxis can be found waiting at major facilities such as the airport, cruise ship terminal and the large hotels. There are no meters, but drivers must adhere to official rates. Be aware that rates rise by 25% after 10 pm and by 50% after midnight. Sightseeing can also be done by taxi or tour guide.
But if you are keen to rent a car, then take advantage of the island’s well developed rental industry. Cars can be picked up from the airport or delivered to your hotel. Note that while driving here – you stay on the right-hand side of the road.
Did you know…?
The island of Sint Maarten-Saint Martin is the smallest land mass in the world to be shared by two different nations.
Did you ALSO know…?
Christopher Columbus discovered the island of St Martin on November 11th 1493.
Best Time of Year to Travel to St Martin
The trade-winds that blow across St Martin mean that the island doesn’t get too hot in summer, and its location means it also never gets too cold – even in winter. The Caribbean Sea that surrounds the island also stays the perfect temperature for swimming all year round. As a result, you needn’t worry too much about when to visit – it’s a year-round destination.
That said, be warned that stronger winds and more rain are likely during the winter months, but both are usually short-lived, leaving you to get on with enjoying your holiday.
Ready to plan your visit to St Maarten-Saint Martin? Check out these popular guides and trips.