About SINT MAARTEN / SAINT MARTIN
Delightfully Dutch and Fantastically French
Imagine a Caribbean destination that offers
two very different cultural experiences ... all on
the same island! Welcome to Saint Maarten
(Dutch, Netherlands Antilles) and Saint Martin
(French West Indies), the smallest island in the
world to support two sovereign governments
that have maintained a peaceful coexistence for
over 350 years. With no true border to separate
the two distinctly different territories, driving
from the European charm of the French side
(Saint Martin) to the vivacity of the Dutch side
(Sint Maarten) is a breeze.
The French side - whose capital is Marigot -
occupies the northern half (21 square miles) of this
37 square-mile vacation paradise, while the Dutch
side - with Philipsburg as its capital - occupies the
southern 16 square miles.
Located about 150 miles southeast of Puerto Rico in the Lesser Antilles chain, the island is ringed with 37 long beaches and quaint coves - ideal for swimming, snorkeling, sailing, diving et al. Visitors enjoy a wide variety of activity including casino gambling, duty-free shopping, gourmet dining, all manner of watersports, golf, tennis, horseback riding, hiking, sightseeing and trips to neighboring islands: St. Barths, Anguilla, Saba and 'Statia (St. Eustacia). We can think of no other Caribbean destination that offers so much in such a small space!
What To Expect
Saint Martin (French) is colorful and charming - the epitome of a sophisticated Caribbean island. It is world-renowned for its gourmet cuisine, and the town of Grand Case is often referred to as the "Culinary Capital of the Caribbean". There are many fine French and Italian restaurants - some directly on the sea, with a backdrop of bobbing sailboats and magnificent yachts - and several casual beachside eateries called "lolos" whose grilled delights are so fresh you'd swear they caught the fish only moments before. During the winter season, reservations are a must and parking is a challenge so go early (before 6 p.m.) ... and shop! Walk around Grand Case and check out the adorable boutiques with clothing, local art and handicrafts, jewelry and accessories. You'll find some unusual, funky items here that you won't find elsewhere.
Although many other tourist destinations claim to be “duty-free”, Saint Martin is the only destination in the French West Indies that can truly lay claim to a tax-free status. With no customs duties, VAT or other indirect taxes to pay, the island offers unbeatable prices on a whole host of items. The island’s French side has a wide range of luxury and fashion boutiques. The impressive air-conditioned West Indies Mall on the Marigot waterfront contains many well-known shops and restaurants and is worth the visit. The Marina district and the Rue du Général de Gaulle are also high fashion hot spots. Stores selling hi-fi, TV, video, electronics, eyewear, watches, jewellery, alcohol, tobacco, textiles and cosmetics can be found on the French and Dutch sides of the island. More restaurants and shopping may be found in the French capital of Marigot, which is also where you catch the ferry over to Anguilla.
Sint Maarten (Dutch) is where you land (Princess Juliana Int'l. Airport), regardless of where you are staying. The island is home to a multitude of nationalities (in addition to English and Dutch, it is common to hear Spanish, Italian, Papiamento [a Netherlands Antilles dialect], Chinese, Hindi and other languages spoken in the street). Known for its incredible duty-free shopping, visitors will discover perhaps the best prices on jewelry, designer goods and electronics to be found anywhere in the Caribbean. The island's 12 casinos are all located on the Dutch side. The region's cultural diversity has resulted in many, varied cuisines, and this territory has attracted fine restaurants that rival those found on the French side. Guavaberry is the native liquor (and source of folklore), whose seasonal fruits are grown locally. The island's sole golf course is found here at Mullet Bay. More experienced duffers might prefer the Greg Norman-designed, former Temenos Golf Course now managed by CuisinArt on neighboring Anguilla (accessed by a 20-minute ferry ride from Marigot on the French side). Exciting nightclubs abound for evening entertainment.
What You Won't Find
Saint Martin (French): You won't find lots of high-rise hotels, fast food restaurants, pushy beach peddlers, aggressive shopkeepers, timeshares, gambling.
Sint Maarten (Dutch): You won't have problems getting dinner reservations at most restaurants (except during holidays), clothing-optional beaches (except Cupecoy).
What To Do
Saint Martin (French): Enjoy exquisite dining in Grand Case and Marigot, pack a picnic lunch (brie, baguettes, fruit and champagne or wine) and go to one of the many beautiful beaches (for example Orient Bay, Baie Longue, Baie Rouge, Friar's Bay), visit the Butterfly Farm, buy fresh produce at the open-air market in Marigot. Spend an entire day at "happening" Orient Bay - the longest and widest sandy beach on the island, dotted with cute beach shacks serving lunch to a sometimes naked crowd.
Sint Maarten (Dutch): Duty-free shopping, casino gambling, nightclubs, get married and enjoy more beautiful beaches. We highly recommend taking a catamaran day trip to St. Barths. Check out the Loterie Farm, a nature park with hiking trails, historical Great House, yoga and restaurant set on an old sugar plantation. Be sure to let us rent a car for you so you can explore the island to the fullest!
Take the ferry over to Anguilla for lunch. It leaves from both Sint Maarten (near the airport) and Marigot on the French side.
Why People Come Here
The local residents are friendly and helpful. There is something for everyone to do. The island is a popular wedding and honeymoon spot. It's easy to get to from major gateways. The duty-free shopping is fabulous! While French is the official language in Saint Martin and Dutch is the official language in Sint Maarten, English is spoken everywhere. The U.S. dollar is accepted island-wide.
VHR, WORLDWIDE has been offering a collection of the best private
homes, condominiums and villa resorts throughout both the French and
Dutch territories for more than three decades. Our company is very active
in the marketing of the island as a whole through its many years of being
part of the lead team for S.A.M.A. - the Sint Maarten/Saint Martin American
Marketing Association, which organizes the promotion of the destination -
and we travel to the island regularly. We are personally acquainted with the
more than a hundred special vacation homes and villa resorts on Sint
Maarten / Saint Martin in our portfolio, some of which may be found on
VHR, WORLDWIDE's properties on Sint Maarten / Saint Martin are
generally staffed with a housekeeper. While a few villas have a cook, with
ample advance notice we can arrange the services of a chef or cook for you. However, this island is a gastronomic paradise and most people enjoy the amazing culinary palate of restaurants on both the Dutch and French sides. The island is dotted with large supermarkets as well as local grocery stores and bakeries. Arrangements for services not provided can be made upon request, at extra cost, including a car rental which is a must to take in all that the island has to offer.
"Spring break 2016 with daughter and husband was FANTASTIC. We requested and sought a beach
location that was safe, comfortable & stress-free. Lori recommended SM389 - it was lovely.
We especially enjoyed the "family mix" & opportunity to scuba, snorkel & explore other islands
by ferry or by the private yacht group. Thanks for the suggestion re: the car rental."
- Molly N. 2016