Before becoming an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in late 2010, St. Maarten (St. Martin) was an island peaceably split between the Netherlands and France. Once the site of numerous sugar cane plantations and military strongholds, the West Indies island is a popular destination for festive nightlife, local handicrafts, exotic drinks, decadent shopping and gorgeous beaches.
The unique Dutch/French division provides 2 distinct cultures to experience. The Dutch half of the island is highly developed and known for sizzling nightlife, jewelry and inventive alcoholic drinks. The French side is recognized more for its natural wonders and remains a bastion of fashion, luxury shopping and beaches (parents be warned: some are nude). No matter if you choose to loll on pristine beaches, swim or sail in pretty harbors, hike or bike over sandy cliffs and bluffs or pay a visit to landmarks or fabulous casinos; this small island offers a world of unforgettable experiences.
Places to Explore
- Fort St. Louis
Explore the island's largest historical monument that overlooks sparkling Marigot Bay. This magnificent fort, built in 1767 by France's King Louis XVI, is steeped in history and provides a resplendent 360° view of the island.
- Mount Concordia
Take to the trail and survey the site where the original treaty dividing the island was signed by French and Dutch forces.
Tour Phillipsburg, the capital of Dutch St. Maarten with fabulous shopping and captivating cafes.
Discover a small gem of a city, only 4 streets wide and filled with all the flavors and finery of a French market town. Enjoy cafes and pastry shops, or find designer fashions and jewelry in beautiful boutiques-sometimes at 40% off U.S. retail prices!
Though Dutch and French are the official languages across the island, English is almost universally spoken as well.
U.S. dollars are accepted almost universally on the Dutch side of the island, though you may find prices expressed in Netherlands Antilles Florins (NAF) in some establishments. The French side of the island uses the Euro as its currency. Major credit cards are widely accepted, and ATMs are readily available.
- How to Get Around
- Well-known agencies service the island with rental cars; though be wary that traffic can be a major problem, with frequent jams between Marigot and Philipsburg.
- Taxis are usually in the form of vans and can be found at the dock. A complete tour around the island by cab will cost about $25 USD.
- A bus system is also in place using minivans; though it tends to be slower, this mode of transport is very cost efficient.