Known as Sint Maarten and St
Martin, this 37 square mile island in the Caribbean is at the northern end
of the Lesser Antilles, approximately 150 miles southeast of Puerto Rico.
The island is a small heaven for beach lovers with 37 sandy beaches kissed
by aquamarine water and offers year round water sports and outdoor activity.
It also offers duty-free shopping throughout the island.
This island carries two names, as it is both Dutch and French, Sint Maarten
on the Dutch side and St Martin on the French side. Indeed it is the
smallest island in the world ever to have been
partitioned between two different nations and has been shared by these two
nations since 1648, over 365 years. There are no physical separations
between these nations on this island, just stone markers showing the border
between the two countries and people pass freely between the two countries
It is said that how the island came to be split between the Dutch and French
was because "the two groups held a contest. Starting at Oysterpond on the
east coast, they would walk westwards -- the French along the northern edge,
the Dutch along the southern -- and where they met they would draw a
dividing line across the island. The French set off, having fortified
themselves with wine, the Dutch with gin. The ill effects of the gin,
however, caused the Dutchmen to stop along the way to sleep off their drunk;
consequently, the French were able to cover a much greater distance. In
truth, though, the French had a large navy just off shore at the time the
treaty was being negotiated, and they were able to win concessions by threat
of force. The treaty was signed on top of Mount Concordia in 1648, but
despite the reputation for peaceful cohabitation, the border was to change
another 16 times until 1815 when the Treaty of Paris fixed the boundaries
Below are some tips for enjoying Sint Maarten/St Martin.
Topless bathing by women is considered normal, especially on the
French side of the island and in some parts nude bathing is allowed. It
is considered rude to stare
This is a sunny island and the color white abounds; white sand,
white buildings, white cars. The glare therefore can be quite high so
carry sun glasses.
With many days of sunshine, one can easily get sunburn so carry sun
block and use it
This is a duty free shopping heaven with duty free shopping every
where and a very competitive market so you can bargain with the store
Check the local newspaper for which days there are no cruise ships
in port and visit Phillipsburg on those days as it is less crowded and
you can bargain more with the store owners on those days.
The Dutch side of the island generally has cheaper prices than the
The official currency on the Dutch side is the Netherlands Antilles
Guilder and on the French side it is the Euro but US dollars are widely
accepted on both sides.
Beach Chair rentals are available on most beaches but by 4.30pm they
begin removing the chairs so if you are planning on spending long hours
relaxing by the beach on a chair go early.
This is an island of casual dress, so plan your clothing to your
activities to avoid over packing and if you forgot something you can
easily buy it on the island.
Alcohol is very cheap as it is duty free, so be careful about over
Do not leave any valuables in your car or even locked in your car
There are several islands close by that you can easily visit by
ferry for the day and these include Anguilla (15 minutes), Saba (55
minutes), St Barts (90 minutes)
To learn more about Sint Maarten/St Martin, visit our other St Martin pages: