Can an island have a dual personality? In the case of St. Maarten and St. Martin, the answer is yes. This Caribbean gem is split between two countries: France and the Netherlands.
And while they may share the same island, they offer distinctively different — yet complementary — experiences.
The Dutch side, St. Maarten, is famous for its festive nightlife and fun casinos. While the French side, St. Martin, attracts visitors searching for secluded beaches and gourmet dining.
See this St. Martin/St. Maarten map below showcasing the best beaches and restaurants:
The best part? This beautiful island is only 37 square miles, so you can easily experience both sides of this unique tropical gem during your St. Martin/St. Maarten getaway.
The small, idyllic island of St. Martin/St. Maarten is located 18.07° North and 63.05° West in the northern part of the Lesser Antilles archipelago in the eastern Caribbean.
At just 12 miles away, the gorgeous island of Anguilla is St. Martin's closest neighbor. A flight between the two islands takes a mere 10 minutes (it is actually the world's shortest international flight).
Another breathtaking island located only 19 miles from St. Martin is St. Barts. A fantastic destination for a day trip of shopping and dining in Gustavia if you make your vacation home base in St Martin.
And finally, there is Saba. This tiny, 5-square-mile island is part of the Caribbean Netherlands and is situated 28 miles from St. Martin. Saba’s airport, Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, is home to the shortest international runway in the world, and the island's Mount Scenery is the highest point in the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands.
It's actually both. The northern half of this island is called St. Martin, and it is part of the French collectivity in the West Indies.
St. Maarten is located on the southern half of this dual-nation island and is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Traveling between the two parts of the island is easy. There is no physical border, so you won't need a passport or a visa to go between St. Martin and St. Maarten. There are, however, some differences between the two:
St. Maarten (Dutch Side)
More developed than the French side, with more resorts, restaurants, and bars
Home to the island's casinos
The currency is the Antillean guilder, but the U.S. dollar is accepted in most places
Outlets are the same as in the USA, 110 volts, 60 cycles
St. Martin (French side)
Offers more secluded, quieter beaches
Known for its gourmet French fare
The currency is the Euro, but the U.S. Dollar is also widely accepted
Outlets are 220 volts and 60 cycles
Do you love a relaxed beach vacation with excellent food? Then St. Martin is perfect for your next Caribbean getaway. The beaches on this side of the island are more secluded .
As for the food, St. Martin is known for its excellent French cuisine. Marigot and Grand Case are the culinary capitals of this side of the island, and you simply must try their version of crab and rice. Another signature dish is Johnny cake, which is an indigenous twist on cornbread.
St. Maarten is more developed than the French side of the island , with many restaurants, bars, stores, and casinos.
Its capital, Philipsburg, is also where the large cruise ships dock. So, it's not uncommon for this town's streets to be bustling with tourists.
The main airport in St. Maarten is Princess Juliana Airport in Philipsburg on the Dutch side. There are several direct flights from major cities in the USA, Canada, and Europe to St. Maarten, including American Airlines, Air France, Delta Airlines, Air Canada, and Jet Blue.
The second airport, Esperance Grand Case Airport, is on the French side. This one is used mostly by regional passenger planes and private aircrafts.
The main port in St. Maarten is in Philipsburg. This is where the major cruise lines dock when visiting the island. The island also has more than 10 beautiful marinas, including the Yacht Club Port de Plaisance Marina in Simpson Bay Lagoon, St. Maarten, and the Anse Marcel Marina in Marigot, St. Martin.
For those staying on one of the neighboring islands, such as St. Kitts and St. Barts, there is a ferry to and from St. Martin.
On St. Barts, you'll find many fine-dining restaurants, pristine beaches, and high-end shopping malls.
Visiting St. Barts is relatively easy from St. Martin as there is a high-speed ferry available up to three times a day.
The trip takes approximately 60 minutes. If you prefer airplanes, flights to St. Barts from St. Martin only take 15 minutes.
Like St. Maarten, this tiny, stunning 5-square-mile island is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is located about 28 miles southwest of St. Martin. Even though the island is small, its population of roughly two thousand inhabitants lives in four picturesque villages.
Another fun fact: Saba is home to Mount Scenery, considered the highest point in the entire Kingdom of the Netherlands.
You can reach Saba via a 12-minute flight or a 90-minute ferry ride from St. Martin.
This is a mainly flat island with stunning white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters. Anguilla is not a big island - just 16 miles long and 3 miles wide - nor does it boast glitzy bars and crazy nightlife.
It is, however, considered the culinary capital of the Caribbean and has more gourmet restaurants per acre than the island of Manhattan.
Ferries leave for Anguilla from St. Martin approximately every 30 minutes during the day, and the trip takes about 25 minutes. Flights between the islands take about 10 minutes.
Marigot is the capital of the French side of the island. This former fishing village will charm you with its beautiful architecture and brightly-colored homes.
It's also an excellent place to dine on delicious French fare with a Caribbean accent or go shopping.
Grand Case's beautiful white-sand beach and quiet waters make this area very popular with families. Grand Case is also home to some of the island's best restaurants.
This area is known as the Lowlands on the Dutch side and Terres Basses on the French side. Here, you'll find stunning villas and mansions, as well as three of the prettiest beaches on the island: Baie Longue (Long Bay), Baie aux Prunes (Plum Bay), and Baie Rouge (Red Bay).
With an unmistakably European flair, this area earned the nickname "St. Tropez of the Caribbean." Orient Village offers many amenities, including a supermarket, restaurants, and hotels. Windsurfers, in particular, prefer the beach here.
This lively town is the capital of St. Maarten. It is home to a zoo, historic forts, many restaurants, bars, and casinos.
The Museum of Sint Maarten is home to many exhibits from the island’s colonial history. And for political enthusiasts, the Philipsburg Courthouse is well-worth the tour, located in one of the most beautiful city squares.
If you’d rather take a stroll, Philipsburg’s white sand beaches offer long and serene paths to explore.
Simpson Bay is a popular tourist destination with many bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. It also has one of the longest beaches on the coast of St. Maarten.
This neighborhood is home to Maho Village, with numerous restaurants, clubs, and the Dunes casino. It is also the site of St. Martin's only golf course.
Maho is probably best known for its beach, where airplanes coming in for a landing fly extremely close to daring sunbathers.
This quiet area is located on a peninsula and is home to million-dollar homes and villas. The Lowlands boasts three lovely, quiet beaches: Plum Bay, Long Bay, and Red Bay.
Dawn Beach gets its name from its beautiful sunrises.
This is a picture-perfect area with a mile-long white sand beach, a backdrop of verdant mountains, and a view of St. Barts in the distance. Dawn Beach also has a reputation for being an excellent place to go snorkeling.
Oyster Pond is located in one of the quieter sections of St. Maarten, close to the French side of the island. Nicknamed the " Pearl of the Caribbean ," this is one of the most prestigious and desirable neighborhoods in St. Maarten. Oyster Pond is situated on a protected bay that attracts many yachts and sailboats.
St. Martin is a tropical delight, offering visitors everything that the Caribbean is famous for, including gorgeous white sand beaches, vibrant nightlife, and gourmet restaurants.
It also has something most other islands don't have: two different countries with distinct personalities.
This 37-square-mile island may be small, but it has more than 400 restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines. You'll get to enjoy the best of two culinary worlds: fine French dining with a Caribbean twist in St. Martin, and delicious European fare fused with island influences in St. Maarten. Many of these restaurants are also blessed with to-die-for views of the sea.
Grand Case in St. Martin is where you'll find the best restaurants on the island. For instance, L'Auberge Gourmande is situated in one of the oldest Creole cottages on St. Martin and serves classic French cuisine.
Then there is La Cigale, where you can dine on beautifully plated dishes while taking in the stunning views of the Nettle Bay Lagoon.
St. Maarten also has more than its fair share of fine dining experiences, including the Big Fish Seafood Grill in Oyster Pond, which serves Caribbean fusion cuisine.
And, of course, you can't leave the island without having at least one drink at the Sunset Beach Bar. This St. Maarten location is where you can enjoy a cocktail while watching the planes up close and personal as they land at Princess Juliana International Airport.
With 37 beautiful beaches to choose from, you're sure to find one or more that can serve as the perfect backdrop for your St. Martin dream vacation.
Is your idea of a perfect beach day sitting under a palm tree, away from the crowds? Then claim a piece of Plum Bay's sugar-white sands.
Or, perhaps, you'd prefer to roar around the sea on a jet ski or try your luck at paragliding? If so, head to Maho beach on the Dutch side.
Traveling with little ones? The good news is that St. Martin has several beaches where the water is calm and perfect for kids, including Simpson Bay, Anse Marcel, and Grand Case Beach.
There are also a few beaches for those who enjoy sunbathing in the nude, including Orient Beach on the French side and Cupecoy on the Dutch side.
The island's clear blue waters are perfect for watersports, especially snorkeling and scuba diving. In fact, St. Martin sports more than 55 dive sites, including shipwrecks.
There are also numerous boat tours. If you are in St. Martin between December and April, book a whale watching tour. This is the time of year when the waters between St. Barts and St. Martin become a breeding ground for humpback whales. Dolphins and turtles can also be spotted during these tours.
Another popular activity is island hopping. Both St. Barts and Anguilla are just a quick ferry, charter boat, or plane trip away. So, it's easy to check out these two beautiful Caribbean gems while on St. Martin.
You can also explore both St. Martin and St. Maarten on a tour. Several are offered, including ones aboard an ATV, Jeep, or bus. Why not rent a vehicle and enjoy a self-guided tour of the island?
For the more adventurous visitors, St. Martin also has many hiking trails, as well as ziplining.
Wimco Villas - C’Scape Penthouse
Most visitors stay in either a hotel, a resort, or a villa. Since most people have stayed in a hotel or a resort, you're probably familiar with the amenities they offer.
Many people, though, aren't aware of the advantages of staying in a luxury villa . For example, if you're traveling in a group or with many family members, a villa can actually cost less than individually booked rooms. Villas also offer guests more privacy than a resort or hotel, and many more options for cooking, leisure activities, and services.
The most popular time to visit St. Martin weather-wise is the dry season, from December to April . The weather is very pleasant during this time, with highs in the mid-80s. Not surprisingly, this is also the high season for St. Martin, which means you'll pay a premium price for accommodations.
If you're looking for lower prices, consider visiting St. Martin from May to June or between November and mid-December. These are the times when the weather is pleasant, and accommodations are priced below high-season rates.
Prices for accommodations are lowest in the summer and early fall months. However, some restaurants and businesses close during this time. There is also a chance of hurricanes during this season.