Saint Martin or Sint Maarten whatever you call it, is the most popular vacation destination in the Caribbean and has a unique aura of its own. French on one side, and Dutch on the other – the peaceful co-existence of two different cultures for over 360 years is what makes the tropical beach paradise of St Martin so special among vacationers.
Exotic beaches, picturesque sceneries, pleasant weather combined with the sprawling ocean all around and the magical world of coral reefs underneath its turquoise water add to the charm of the place. These are also the reasons behind St Martin’s increasing popularity as a vacation destination. But which side to choose for your next vacation? It is the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten or the French Collectivity of Saint Martin?
Both the sides have distinct features and are unique in their own ways. Though the island is administered by two different nations tourists are allowed to roam freely between the two territories – there is no check posts along the borders.
Both the sides have scenic beauty, pristine beaches, luxurious Caribbean vacation rentals and most tempting duty free shopping in common. Then how can you differentiate your Saint Martin vacation from a vacation in Sint Maarten? Let’s take a look.
In northern French side (Saint Martin) French is the official language while you’ll find little bit of Spanish and Creole speaking people as well. You’ll find a mini Europe in the north of St Martin. The buildings, architecture, the people and the law all are influenced by European culture.
Marigot is the capital town of French side. The town is home to wonderful shopping arcades, boutiques and open air markets offering fashionable clothing and accessories. Remember that you need to bargain with vendors in beachfront open air markets. Perfume, souvenirs and spices are some of the specialties to buy from the French side.
Visit Orient Bay the famous marine reserve in St Martin where you can enjoy snorkeling and an array of water sports activities.
Butterfly Farm is a must see especially when you have kids with you. A guided tour in the farm can give them an insight into the life cycle of the beautiful creature.
Foodies will love Grand Case housing an array of top notch restaurants. From delicious French delicacies to spicy Indian cuisines you have plenty of options to satisfy your taste buds.
Nude beaches are another attraction on this side of the island. On the Club Orient beach and some other less populated smaller beaches nude sunbathing is allowed.
Hill chain covered with tropical flora is one unique attraction of the French side. The tropical humid forest hides beautiful hiking trails inside. The trails take you to highest point called Pic du Paradis offering breathtaking bird’s-eye-view of the island.
In southern Dutch side, English is more popular than the official Dutch language. The nightlife is more vibrant in this side with a number of bars, and casinos exclusive to Dutch Sint Maarten. Casinos, one of the major attractions of Dutch side are mostly found in famous Maho Bay beach, Cupecoy and Cole Bay beach areas.
The capital town of Phillipsburg is home to the islands international airport Princess Juliana International Airport connecting the island with rest of the world with direct flights from major cities in Europe and America. Shopaholics will find Front Street interesting with numerous shops offering excellent jewelry, handicraft, cosmetics and electronic goods and liquor.
Cupecoy Beach is the only clothing optional beach on the Dutch side. The famous Dawn Beach houses an array splurge Caribbean villa rentals. With increasing number of villas and vacation homes being developed this side is a popular property market. The concept of timeshare rentals is quite popular in Dutch Sint Maarten.
Remember that NAF (Netherlands Antilles Florins) is local currency used to price grocery items and other essential commodities in Dutch side though Euro is accepted. On the French side Euro is more commonly used. Therefore, you may find same items in Dutch side a bit less expensive than that of on French side.
Now that you know about both the French and St Martin/Sint Maarten, you can now plan your vacation accordingly.