Saint Martin / Sint Maarten – also known as “SXM”, the IATA identifier for Princess Juliana International Airport -, is an island located in the northeast Caribbean, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. France and Netherlands are sharing the lands which make it unique and charismatic. In fact, it is one of the smallest islands shared between two nations, even though there is no physical border between the two territories… Which allow people and goods to travel freely from one side to the other. Freedom is a must!
A Little bit of History:
How did the two nations agreed on the split of the island? The legend says that a race was organized between the French and the Dutch. They both started to run on opposite directions around the island. The deal was clear: when they would meet again, it would define the limit of the borders.
Luckily, the French competitor was faster than the Dutch, this is why Saint Martin is slightly bigger than Sint Maarten ;)
English is the most commonly spoken language. Why? First of all because the locals from both part of the island use it as their first language (before Dutch or French).
On the second hand, 85% of our visitors are coming from North America (United States and Canada mostly) so we are all used to hear that language in our everyday life.
The two main currencies used on both sides of the island are US dollars and euros. Depending on the exchange rate (subject to change everyday), some vendors and restaurants will give you a “1 for 1” deal.
On the Dutch side, you can also pay with Netherlands Antillean guilder but almost nobody really use it…
The weather is warm (mid 70s to low 80s as a temperature average)and sunny pretty much all year long in the Caribbean and especially in Sint Maarten. The island is hilly but not enough to catch the clouds, which is what happens with most of the other islands. Rain showers are not so common or if we get some, they never last for long. Just the perfect time to refresh us and feed the plants ☺
However, Summer and early fall (from July to the end of October) is extremely hot and humid and is subject to Hurricanes alerts. This is why that time of the year is the Island’s low season.
Two sides, two different feelings:
Saint Martin / Sint Maarten is a heaven for water sports, gastronomy, party, or postal card’s beaches. No matter what you are looking for, you will find it, either on the French or on the Dutch side of the island. They both offer two opposite type of vacations but good news is that you can go from one to the other in a few minutes! And this is what makes it a special spot in the world!!
Our promise: you will find your own little piece of paradise here!
Sint Maarten, the Dutch Side:
As you might have understood, the southern part of the island belongs to Netherland.
Sint Maarten is the most internationalised side of the island. It is famous to be the most active side as well in term of night life (casinos, night clubs) and duty-free boutiques.
The main areas are Philipsburg, Maho, Simpson Bay and Porto Cup Coy. The biggest concentration of hotels, bars and restaurants are found in these zones.
is the Dutch capital and is well known as one of the biggest cruise ship port of the Caribbean (visible by Pointe Blanch Pier), as well as a good spot for international brand shopping and electronic products. Most of the boutiques are located on the board walk, on Front Street or Back street.
Everyday, hundreds of tourists disembark from their boat and have a few hours ahead of them to discover the island. They either choose to stay in Philipsburg or they venture around the two sides of the island. The cleverest of them book their transportation & kayak/paddle board rental at Caribbean Paddling and spend an amazing day in Pinel Island ;)!
is a small city, next to Princess Juliana airport. On the main street is where the night life is happening during the evening. Everybody can find their happiness with either good restaurants, exotic drinks in nice bars (3 Amigos, Fig and Bananas or the Sky Beach Bar), gambling at the Royal casino or dancing in the night clubs (Tantra or The Refuge)… And there is also an Adults Entertainment bar (The Platinum) if needed.
But Maho is not only that, and we are sure that you have heard of the remarkable Maho Beach! Located at the bottom of the international airport, thousands of tourists are coming every year to admire the planes landing and taking off! They either wait for them directly on the beach or grab a drink at the famous “Sunset Beach Bar”, located at the corner of the bay: a perfect spot!
is another highlighted area of Sint Maarten. On the main street, located in between Simpson Bay Beach (one mile long and pretty wide) and Simpson Bay Marina (very pretty and it welcomes a lot of luxury Yatch during the high season) you will find a lot of casual but great restaurants and bars! Most of them are located on the water (lagoon side) and the ambiance created at night is very pleasant. This area is perfect for a nice evening out between friends or with your family: cinemas, casinos and night clubs will please everybody’s tastes and needs!
Porto Cup Coy
is the last (but not the least) leading spot of Sint Maarten. This area is slightly considered to be more “elegant” than the ones mention above. Thanks to its splendid marina, its beautiful and secluded beach (loved by the gay community), its high end hotels and its numerous good restaurants, Porto Cup Coy is a must see. Plus, its location right at the border of the French & the Dutch side and with the famous Mullet Bay beach followed by Maho area on the other hand, makes it very convenient for a day (beach and restaurant) or an evening (dinner and party) visit!
Saint Martin, the French Side:
The northern part of the island is Saint Martin and belongs to France.
The atmosphere that comes out of this side is closer to an authentic Creole ambiance.
is known for its (mostly) French gastronomy with its numerous amazing restaurants located all over the different areas. Chefs trained in Europe elevate restaurant cuisine to gourmet level.
At the very North of Saint Martin, the Marine Park is here to preserve Mother Nature. The Park area is focused on three islands: Tintamarre, Pinel island and Caye Verte. The idea is to forbid all the activities that can damage the ecosystem. And years after years, we can already notice some improvement! In fact, the reefs, the cost, the beaches… Are already getting back to their original state: filled with animals and vegetation. So for the outdoor activities lovers, be ready because our Paradise is getting back on track ;)
Another highlight of the Saint Martin
is of course its French touch in terms of shopping (including outdoor markets) for clothes, accessories, cosmetic items… A little Paris in the middle of the Caribbean islands. What else would you ask for?
The main areas of the French side of Saint Martin are all cutest one to the other. Let us lead the way for you!
is the French capital and its Creole aspect turns this little town into a very charming one!
There is everything that you need over there: two marinas (Marina Royale with all the restaurants on the dock overlooking the lagoon, and Marina Fort Louis with all the big Yatchs and luxury sailing boats), boutiques on the street or in the West Indies Mall, the open air market –perfect for souvenirs-, traditional French bakeries (with the famous Sarafina’s!), art galleries, and the Fort Louis, at the top of the hill, which provides an outstanding view of the whole area!
Speaking about view, Marigot is also located by the ocean and the turquoise water brings a bright touch that you can not get tired of.
To sum up, walking around the French Capital is definitely a must do/see, and for everybody’s tastes and wallets ;)
A little note: all the boutiques are open from 9:30am to 6:30pm and at night, the area gets very quiet. It is better to discover it during the day, especially in the morning if you want to see the flea market at its most active point.
Cul de Sac & Anse Marcel
are two areas located at the Nothern part of Saint Martin. You must have heard of Cul de Sac and its beautiful bay where you can paddle around before heading to Pinel Island thanks to Caribbean Paddling shop ;-).
Moreover, Cul de Sac is a neighborhood district, very quiet and peaceful. You can find a small grocery store, a few casual restaurants and mostly private villas or apartments.
Anse Marcel, located on the left side is particularly known for its marina where a lot of day charters depart from (Scoobitoo, Captain Jo…) or for its resorts and beach restaurant (Anse Marcel Beach restaurant is a must!). But just like Cul de Sac, Anse Marcel is also a harmonious residential area and a good starting point for an amazing hike excursion along the coast.
is a small fisherman village and well known to be the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean! On the main street, you can find all type of restaurants on both sides, from Gastronomic ones (Le Pressoir, Ocean 82, Spiga, Le Tastevin…), to more casual options (Lolos, Hidden Garden).
In addition to the numerous great restaurants, Grand-Case is also the perfect spot to have a drink and listen to live music. Either at the (very!) famous Calmos Café which is right on the beach and have live music (Latin or Reggae) on Thursdays and Sundays evening – the perfect spot to enjoy a nice cocktail with your toes in the sand, while enjoying the view of the bay with Anguilla Island on the back ground. Another alternative for live music with a quick bite would be the Blue Martini which organizes a nice Reggae night on Fridays and Saturdays!
Finally, after nice bars and restaurants, you can also find a few boutiques that are open until 10:00pm everyday; if you are looking for unique items or souvenirs to bring back home!
Little note: the best ambiance of Grand-Case is to be discovered during the evening. At day time, it is a quiet place for a relaxing day on the beach or fun watersport activities (paddle board, wake board & wake surf at the Love watersport, snorkel trip…)!
Galion & Orient Beach
are located at East coast of Saint Martin and are both well known for the beauty of the spot and the watersport activities available over there.
Galion Beach is well known for its shallow water (perfect for kids) but most of all, for its perfect bay for surf and wind surf lessons or sessions.
Orient Beach became the most popular beach on the entire island thanks to its size, its restaurants (Kontiki, Cacao, Bikini, La Playa…), watersports (Jet Ski, fly board, parasail, banana boat, scuba diving, kite surf…) and its nude beach at the very end of it. In addition to the beach side of this area, it is also a secluded neighbourhood with most of all, luxury villas that are also available for weekly rental. At the center of Orient Beach (2 minutes away from the Beach) there is a sort of Square –“La Place du Village”- with a few restaurants open only at night. A great spot for a casual dinner (La Table d’Antoine, Le Piment) with a warm atmosphere! And if you are lucky enough, and you feel like it, go to Kontiki’s or Bikini’s beach party afterwards. Those restaurants are turning into night clubs a few days per month, usually on weekends.
Nettle Bay & Terres Basses
are the areas located right after Marigot when you are heading to the Dutch side.
Nettle Bay is a very small village (squeezed between the lagoon and the ocean) where you can find a grocery store, a pharmacy, a bakery, two hotels (Flamboyant and Mercure) and great restaurants for lunch or dinner (Le Sand, Mezza Luna, La Cigale…)!
Further down, you will end up in Terres Basses area which is actually an area with only luxurious private villas and beautiful “wild” beaches: Baie Rouge, Plumb Bay, Baie Longue… A real piece of Paradise for a relaxing day on the beach!
How to get there?
PRINCESS JULIANA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Every year, there are thousands of people who are landing at that small, but impressive international airport. Located on the Dutch side of Sint-Maarten, only a few feet from Maho Beach, Princess Juliana International Airport became famous all over the world thanks to its special location.
Check out this video, and you will understand better ;)
But in addition to be on a special spot, this airport welcomes visitors from all over the world with many different flights companies: Air France, American Airlines, Delta, Jet Blue, United, Air Canada, Copa Airlines, Sun Wing, Liat, Winair... This actually impressive compared to the size of our dear island! And this is also one of the reasons why Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten is considered by many of you as a “must visited” island in the Caribbean: its easy access allow amazing getaways!
GRAND CASE AIRPORT
Grand-Case village also has its own airport!
“L’Esperance airport” is a much more smaller than Princess Juliana and operates short flight towards the Caribbean islands only. The aircrafts are also more compact than the ones visible at the International airport of Saint-Martin but the idea of having two airports on such a small island is convenient because it divides the passengers into two places and that way, both of them gets less “busy”.
CRUISE SHIP TERMINAL
Sint Maarten is a real hub for cruise ships. Everyday, a few of them are docking at AC Wathey Pier or Bobby’s marina, both located in Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch Side. Most of the time, they are staying for one day, “enough” time for their guests to get a good feeling of what we have to offer ;)