St MartinSun-drenched and palm-fringed, the island of Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten is one of the most beautiful in the eastern Caribbean. It also has a dual personality: the north of the island is a little outpost of France, and the south side oozes the warmth of the Dutch. The border between them is basically non-existent, and visitors are free to enjoy everything from water sports and cultural festivals to shopping.
The IslandHundreds of islands form the Caribbean, but none are quite so enigmatic as St. Martin and St. Maarten. The island is one of the smallest to ever be divided, with residents of both the French and Dutch sides working together in mutual friendship and respect. Culturally, St. Martin and St. Maarten, which caught the eye of the Dutch and the French after Columbus discovered the island in the 15th century, are quite different. St. Martin has some of the most chic fashion shops and restaurants in the Caribbean and beaches elegant enough to rival those in Cannes and Saint-Tropez, while St. Maarten has the serious work and play ethics of its fellow countrymen. For the visitor, this means there’s lots to do, such as dining out on French à la carte cuisine and wines one day and sampling fresh pastries inspired by the finest Dutch chefs the next. Enjoying activities like horseback riding and water sports and exploring breathtaking beaches and scenery are other options to fill your day.
Beach LifeRanging from long stretches of sand fringed by palm trees to coves to dunes that attract families and sun worshipers, the beaches on St. Martin and St. Maarten are white, sandy and inviting. The largest are on the French side, and many are naturist, while St. Maarten has many pretty coves.
Do & See
St. Martin has a rich and interesting history, which can be seen today in its unique cultural heritage. Visit St. Maarten Museum and some of the many historical sites to learn more about the island's history and its impact on modern life. However, do not forget to take some time to relax while you enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the island's many beaches.
Visitors to Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten will be spoiled with all of their choices when it comes to dining out. For lovers of French cuisine, there is probably nowhere else in the Caribbean where you can dine on à la carte and French-inspired gourmet food at such reasonably inexpensive prices. The food is usually al fresco or located on the beach, with fine wine lists to accompany the meal. Look out for the wonderful aromatic Creole and Caribbean cuisine, or taste some other popular cooking styles, such as Mexican, Indonesian, and Italian. Most restaurants have a varied menu of meat, fresh fish, and shellfish dishes, while beach bars with non-stop barbecues offer spicy chicken and fish dishes cooked with traditional Caribbean recipes.
Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten are dotted with cafes and informal restaurants where you can enjoy snacks and beverages while gazing at the stunning panorama. Most of the popular beaches have their own cafes, usually serving local fresh products, while some other great spots offer several hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered.
Bars & Nightlife
Nightlife in Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten is synonymous with long, refreshing cocktails on the terrace before dinner, followed by relaxing meals of French and Caribbean-inspired cuisine. Although, visitors often head for the casinos and beach bars to enjoy livelier evenings of music and savour local drinks. The island has 12 casinos – all on the Dutch side.
St. Martin and St. Maarten are a shopper's duty-free paradise, especially for high couture fashion from French and Italian houses, jewelry, leather goods, fragrances from the world’s top perfumery companies, fine porcelain, crystal and handcrafts. Passengers from ships touring the Caribbean are drawn to the shops around Front Street in Philipsburg. On the other side of the island, Marigot gathers numerous chic shops and boutiques, and the waterfront West Indies shopping mall proves a temptation for shoppers. If you are looking for local handicrafts and produce, then head for the Marigot Market, where you can purchase tropical fruits, spices, freshly caught fish and unique souvenirs to bring home.