Top 10 Reasons to Visit
10. Friendly and Safe. No reason to be trapped in the resort – this island is to be enjoyed and explored. Rental car is a must to experience St. Maarten/St. Martin and its friendly people.
9. European/Caribbean Culture with American Comforts - Foreign enough to be exotic, but English is the most common language and the US-Dollar the usual currency.
8. Best Port for Yachts - Most marinas, boat yards and supply stores – all duty free prices, often cheaper than in the States. Start your cruise or charter here!
7. Great Investment Opportunities - The island is open for business with an investor friendly legislation. Real estate is booming, time to buy your dream vacation home, before prices go through the roof.
6. Most Cosmopolitan Island on Earth - Only 37 square miles, but 2 nations and over 80 nationalities. Showing the world that we all can get along...
5. Instant Island Addiction - Most visitors come back every year, many own a piece of paradise in one of St. Maarten's world class vacation ownership resorts.
4. Best Caribbean Shopping – Duty free bargains everywhere; look for jewelry, perfumes, liquors, tobacco products and much more.
3. Best Nightlife – Clubs for every taste, 12 casinos. Nonstop action for the party crowd. Drinking age 18.
2. Best Dining – Known as the Caribbean gourmet island, St. Maarten/St. Martin might be a culinary world leader with its restaurant selection.
1. Great Beaches – From an active beach scene to remote stretches of sand and nude beaches, the island has it all; year around sunshine.
Whether you already know, or are a first time visitor, St Maarten (pronounced Sint Maa-hr-ten) is an island where you can have adventure, excitement and relaxation. We offer an ideal mix of sporting activities, vibrant nightlife, natural beauty and secluded comfort with all the necessities of home right at your fingertips if you need them - the choice is yours!
St. Maarten with its busy cruise port and bustling commercial district, has long been an active center for trade and tourism. More developed and at the same time more informal, it is very Dutch in flavor and still has strong ties with fellow compatriots in the other Netherlands Antilles.
You can windsurf, snorkel, go hiking, horseback riding, enjoy great cuisine, shop to your heart's delight, or test lady luck in the many world-class casinos. St.Maarten offers a unique experience for every visitor, but what truly makes our tiny paradise unique is its dual Dutch/French heritage.
The smallest island in the world ever to have been partitioned between two different nations, St. Martin/St. Maarten has been shared by the French and the Dutch in a spirit of neighborly cooperation and mutual friendship for almost 350 years.
The border is almost imperceptible. and people cross back and forth without ever realizing they are entering a new country. The only marker is a monument between Union Road and Bellevue, testifying to centuries of peaceful cohabitation and the treaty that made the arrangement possible. All the same, each side has managed to retain much of the distinctiveness of its own national culture.
Between the two different cultures in St. Martin and St. Maarten, vacationers will be able to find just about every kind of activity they might want for a perfect holiday in the sun.
More Sint Maarten Info
Area: Area: 34 sq. km (13 sq. mi)
Capital city: Philipsburg
People: Mixed African and European descent
Language: English, Dutch (official) and French and more
Government: Municipality of the Netherlands Antilles
The terrain is largely green, with more palms, hibiscus and cacti to ferns or forests, although there are a few thickly vegetated areas in the interior. Herons, egrets, stilts, pelicans, laughing gulls and other shorebirds are plentiful in the island's brackish ponds. Frigate birds can be spotted along the coastline, hummingbirds and bright yellow-bellied banana quits are common in gardens and there are colorful woodland birds in the hills. Lizards are abundant and can be seen scurrying about on walkways and other sunny areas.
The average daily high temperature is 28°C (83°F) in January and 30°C (86°F) in July. The average low temperature rarely dips below 22°C (72°F).
The island culture has its roots largely in African, French and Dutch influences, though scores of more recent immigrants, many of them have added their own elements to this multicultural society. The tourist boom of the past few decades has resulted in such an influx of job-seekers from elsewhere in the Caribbean that only about 20% of all residents were born on the island.
Dutch is the official language, though in practice English is the first language spoken, Dutch the second. Most island-born people are multilingual and can speak English, French and Creole. There's also a sizable Spanish-speaking immigrant community, mainly from the Dominican Republic.
Sint Maarten Carnival usually begins the second week after Easter and lasts for two weeks, with steel band competitions, jump-ups, calypso concerts, beauty contests and costume parades. Sint Maarten Day on 11 November commemorates the peaceful 1817 reconciliation of the Dutch with their French neighbors.
The Heineken Regatta, held the first weekend in March, features competitions for racing yachts, large sailboats and small multi hulls.
1 January - New Year's Day
• April 13 - Good Friday,
• April 15 - Easter Sunday
• April 16 - Easter Monday
April 30 - Queen's Day
May 1 - Labor Day
May 24 - Ascension Day
October 21 - Antillean Day
November 11 - Sint Maarten Day
December 25 - Christmas Day
December 26 - Boxing Day
Facts for the Traveler
Visas: US and Canadian citizens don't need visas or passports, only proof of citizenship.
Time: Atlantic Standard Time (GMT/UTC minus 4 hours)
Electricity: 110V, 60Hz
Weights & measures: Metric
Netherlands Antilles florin (NAf). Dollar (US$)
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten's main town, is centered on a long, narrow stretch of land that separates Great Salt Pond from Great Bay. There are some older buildings mixed among the new, but overall the town is far more commercial than quaint. Most of the action is along Front street, the bay front road, which is lined with boutiques, jewelry shops, restaurants, casinos and duty-free shops selling everything from Danish porcelain to Japanese cameras and electronics. History buffs can visit the Sint Maarten Museum, which has displays on island history with Arawak pottery shards, plantation-era artifacts, period photos and a few items from the H.M.S. Proselyte, the frigate that sank off Fort Amsterdam in 1801.
Wathey Square, over looking Great Bay on the south, is the town center of sorts. It boasts a tourist information booth, a wharf where cruise ship tenders dock and an old courthouse that dates from 1793. On cruise ship days, vendors on the square sell drinking coconuts and souvenirs; more street vendors, selling T-shirts and wood carvings, can be found at the north side of the courthouse.
The tiny Sint Maarten Zoo & Botanical Garden has some 35 reptile, bird and mammal species. It's located on the north side of Great Salt Pond. Maho Bay, on the southwestern shore, is Sint Maarten's main resort area. It feels a bit like the Las Vegas Strip: while little more than a block long, it's dense with multistory buildings housing exclusive jewelers, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and a huge resort and casino. Maho Bay has a nice enough beach except that it's at the very end of the airport runway. The area is even marked with a sign warning beach goers that 'low flying and departing aircraft blast can cause physical injury'!
Cupe Coy Bay If you're looking for a beach that's quiet but not totally secluded, Cupe Coy is a good choice. Its white sands are backed by low sandstone cliffs that have been eroded in such a way that they provide a run of small semiprivate coves.
Sint Maarten has beautiful white-sand beaches, ranging from crowded resort strands to long secluded sweeps. Most of the best and least developed beaches are on the French side. Dawn Beach has good snorkeling and swimming. Snorkelers can expect to find waving sea fans, soft corals and small tropical fish. When the swell picks up, Mullet Bay can be good for body boarding.
The most popular diving is at Proselyte Reef, a few kilometers south of Philipsburg, where in 1802 the British frigate HMS Proselyte sank in 15m (50ft) of water. There are 10 other dive sites in that area, including coral reefs with caverns.
The island has good bicycling. You can cruise around Simpson Bay Lagoon, or cross to the French side and pump up to the top of 425m (1395ft) Pic Paradise.
Getting There & Away
Travelers from the US have the best air service to Sint Maarten. There are direct flights between Philipsburg and New York and Miami. There are also direct flights from Paris and Amsterdam; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Antigua; Guadeloupe; and St Barths and Martinique, some of which land in Espérance on the French side.
Cruise ships land passengers in Philipsburg. There are numerous daily ferries to and from Anguilla; daily catamarans to and from St Barths; and a ferry several times a week to and from Saba. Yachts can clear immigration at Philipsburg; there are marinas at Philipsburg, Oyster Pond and Simpson Bay Lagoon.
Despite its dual nationality, the border crossings between the French and Dutch sides are marked only with inconspicuous signs and there are no stops or other formalities when crossing over.
There's a departure tax of US$20 from Juliana Airport.
Renting a car is the best way to get around Saint Maarten. There are scores of agencies and your home driver's license is valid. Driving is on the right. There are also motorcycles (motorcycle license required), scooters and bicycles available.
Taxis are plentiful and are a convenient and inexpensive way to get around during short stays.
There are two kinds of buses available: public buses that run between Philipsburg and Mullet Bay, Simpson Bay and Marigot on the French side; and smaller (and more frequent) private minivans. Service to other destinations on the Dutch side is sketchy, so touring the whole island by bus is not practical. Although there are no airport buses per se, if you're traveling light, you can try catching one of the Philipsburg-Mullet Bay buses, which pass right by the airport.
Philipsburg is about a 15-minute drive from Juliana Airport. Taxis are available to and from Philipsburg.
The Hemisphere's Gourmet Capital
(Labrise is approx. a 15-20 minute drive to this mecca of dining!)
It's no false hype: Grand Case IS the culinary capital of the Caribbean! This charming village on the northern coast of St. Martin is home to an amazing number of restaurants, ranging from basic local eateries to temples of 'Haute Cuisine' of almost every nationality.
The main road follows the beach and is lined on both sides with restaurants. Intense competition guarantees the highest standards of service, the best quality in food preparation and a world class depth to the wine lists. With new chefs and ideas coming annually from Europe, Grand Case continues to expand its world-renowned reputation and is definitely not to be missed.
The beach side establishments offer breathtaking views while you dine whilst the 'landlocked' competitors make it up with cozy and artistic interior designs.
For a fast meal, an evening on a budget, or just to sample local food dishes, the 'Lolos' in the center of town are popular with residents and tourists alike. With a truly Caribbean ambience and excellent freshly grilled seafood, these simple beach side restaurants are essential to the Caribbean dining experience.
Mixed in with Restaurant Row are several boutiques and art galleries, which provide for a colorful and interesting after dinner stroll along Grand Case Boulevard.
If you cannot make a decision from the immense collection of 'palate paradises' why not take a pre-dinner walk through the rich aromas of Grand Case. Enjoy your meal!
Explore St.Maarten-St-Martin by Car
The island's infrastructure is adequate by Caribbean standards, but don't expect 4-lane motorways on our 37 square miles. In recent years the roads on the Dutch side have been dramatically improved. Most of St. Maarten/St. Martin's roads are paved and very few require a 4-wheel drive vehicle. You will find the major traffic arteries rather narrow and being overused by large trucks and tourist buses, resulting in frequent traffic jams. Especially the Simpson Bay area with the road leading to the International Airport is subject to delays, as the draw bridge letting yachts into the lagoon, opens frequently and backs up traffic.
The good news is the friendliness of local drivers, who don't insist on their right of way and let you cross a busy intersection without too much delay. The customary courtesy of St. Maarten/St. Martin's driver shows that traffic can flow through complicated intersections without traffic lights and even regulations. The downside of this easy going attitude is the habit of local drivers to stop in the middle of the road to have a chat with a friend. Just don't get upset; after all, you are on vacation.
Some of the traffic rules are different from the ones in the US, as the island follows European traffic laws. The most important difference is that cars coming from the right have the 'right of way', if signs don't indicate otherwise.
Fuel prices are somewhat higher than in the US, but much lower than in Europe. The Dutch side gas stations post prices in Antillean Guilders ($1 = NAF1.80), the French side in Euro (exchange rate varies). Several stations are open 24/7.
There is no reason not to rent a car: rental rates are the lowest in the Caribbean and comparable with Florida. The island invites you to be explored, and with its small size you will be able to visit most sites of interest within a vacation week. Getting lost is just part of the experience in order to learn the lay of the land and will not result in delays of more than 15 minutes due to the geographical limits. Basically, the island has one major road looping around it, and another one running through the Lowlands. It is always easy to find your way back to the main road and to determine where you are.
Think twice if you really want to rent a Jeep or something similar; apparently the term 'Off road Vehicle' translates into 'Feels like being off-road', even if you are on a decently paved street. Experience shows that a regular small sedan with air condition is the most comfortable and practical choice on St. Maarten/St. Martin.
There is much to do for kids of all ages on our island:
The Fly Zone at Loterie Farm
This is one of the most exciting attractions in the Caribbean! Zip lines connect the hundreds of year old trees of the island's private nature reserve and only tropical forest system. Suspended above the ground, you will 'zip' with amazing speed from tree to tree. There are obstacles, such as rope bridges to be mastered. Completing the track can take up to two hours and is a real work out. Great for adults AND children above the age of 8 - 10. For the little ones, there is a special 'Little Tarzan" course prepared. Instructors are explaining procedure and equipment and are monitoring the safety of all participants. Cost is about $40 per person. Especially the Fly Zone at Loterie Farm needs reservations, because many times, large cruise ship groups are occupying the course and 'walk-in' visitors can not be accommodated.
Don't forget to have a meal at the Hidden Forest Cafe, right there at Loterie Farm. It might be the island's best restaurant...
One of the major past times in the Caribbean and especially St Maarten is sailing. After all, St Maarten is home of the Heineken Regatta, the hemisphere's largest sailboat race. The large Simpson Bay Lagoon with its protected and calm waters is the ideal body of water to teach sailing to children. Budget Marine operates a fleet of 24ft boats, but there are also Optimists for rent.
The Butterfly Farm will charm not only kids, but their parents too. A large meshed structures contains a beautiful tropical landscaped garden, exotic flowers and pool with Japanese fish. The atmosphere is tranquil, hypnotic music plays and hundreds of breathtaking butterflies from all over the world fly freely around.
An essential part of the visit to the farm is the famous "guided tour". Visitors are shown the evolutionary cycle from microscopic eggs, to strange and exotic caterpillars, pupae resembling exquisite designer jewelry. If you come early in the morning it is quite possible to see the birth of a butterfly and watch the newly emerged butterflies take their first flight!. The tours are also very amusing and an amazing source of butterfly facts and stories. Guides will show you how to handle the butterflies with care and caterpillars if you dare!
Horses and Ponies
At the Bayside Riding Club, pony rides are available for small l children who are not yet ready to participate at the 2 hour beach rides. I
Shopping on St. Maarten: (Labrise is 5 minutes away from this famous strip of shopping!)
On just a strip of sand between the Great Bay and the Great Salt Pond lies the West Indian Mecca of tax-free shopping. Just steps away from the cruise-ship dock in Philipsburg an array of shopping temples await to make all your duty-free dreams come through. Prepare to indulge in a world of sparkling diamonds, cultured pearls, fine gemstones, Swiss watches and electronic products at remarkably low prices.
St. Maarten is especially renown for its precious stones and many outlets offer loose and set diamonds for half of the American retail prices. Most outlets deal directly with the diamond cutters and the savings are passed on to their customers. You'll find museum masterpieces at affordable prices. Explore stores like Diamond Creations, Joe's Jewelry and Omni Jewelers.
If you've never discovered Tanzanite, this unique purple colored stone is sure to catch your eye. This gemstone was first discovered in Tanzania, Africa but now you can explore its beauty in the largest Tanzanite houses of the Caribbean, loose, or set in rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings. Diamonds may be a girls best friend but pearls are back in high fashion and St. Maarten has an impressive selection of stores offering black Tahitian Pearls and Australian South Sea Cultured pearls.
If you are searching for a new watch, choose from names such as Swiss Army, Citizen, Seiko, Pulsar, Omega, Maurice Lacroix, Baume and Mercier and of course the classic Rolex - just to name a few! And for a classical gift, why not take home some Swarowski Crystal and the ever-stylish Lladro sculptured figurines. For some serious entertainment electronics and cameras, as well as an astounding collection of jewelry, visit Boolchands, one of St. Maarten's most established companies. All of this and more located on just one street! Frontstreet alone offers more than 70 Jewelry shops, so you won't have to wander far to find that special gift or a new 'best friend'!
For clothing, designer labels like Tommy Hillfiger, MaxMara, Calvin Klein and Liz Claiborne are just a few of the haute couture temples for all you style gurus. And there is no shortage of Italian designer shoes and styles imported from around Europe. For more casual leisure and beach wear, check the Golden Gate Giftshop which also sells great island souvenirs.
Don't forget to stroll through Old Street to experience a little European flavor. Enjoy traditional handmade Belgian chocolates and visit the workshop to find out the art of making these mouth-watering bonbons then plunge into the throng of the island's craft market just behind the Old Courthouse. Amid a wall of colorful sarongs, you'll find printed t-shirts, painted pots, wooden hand carved statues and stone sculptures. Tuck yourself into one of the colorful Caribbean cotton dresses and team it up with a locally crafted shell necklace. The sales pitches can be insistent but the deals are good.
If you want to take your sweet St. Martin memories home on a island canvas, brush through one of the fine art galleries, where you can find original oils by major local names such as Ras Mosera, Francis Eck, and Mounette Radot, to the trees and sketches by famous local artist Roland Richardson or the colorful silk paintings of Gaynor Noyce. On the market you'll find many colorful pieces of art from Haitian artists for a very good price.
As you will see Sint Maarten offers an unfathomable number of shopping temptations. Add a few liquor stores such as the Philipsburg Liquor Store, island-made specialties from Guavaberry, the biggest range of cigars from Casa de Habano, and a high-class range of perfume and cosmetic shops, and this shopping paradise offers plenty of places to spend your money.
Boating Center of the Caribbean
The crystal clear waters of St. Maarten/St. Martin attract thousands of yachts and yachting enthusiasts each year. Numerous safe harbors on both sides of the island offer great anchorage, beautiful panoramic views of her rolling green hills, and a short dinghy ride to provisions and restaurants.
Many yachtsmen prefer mooring their "dream come true" in the calm waters of the Simpson Bay Lagoon or Oyster Pond, especially those who live and work here on a semi-permanent basis.
For those who prefer to live aboard but want the amenities of land, there are a number of marinas available offering various services, with dock fees varying accordingly. The high standards kept by most marinas in St. Maarten/St. Martin, and the calm waters of the Simpson Bay Lagoon, attract the impressive 'mega-yachts' of the 'beautiful people' during the winter months. You never know who you might see stepping off the gangplank onto the dock. Paparazzi, have your cameras ready at all times!
If you don't own a boat, but would like to have a sailing vacation or charter a yacht for a few days, St. Maarten/St. Martin is the right place for you! Everything including Swans, power yachts, catamaran, fishing boats and Boston Whalers are available with or without captain and crew.
If you can dream it, we can supply it! Bon voyage.
For all requests, our concierge, Rhonda, will glady organize any event or activities for you and your group. We are here to make your vacation a truly wonderful experience.