Where to stay?
Accommodation choices on the island are countless, and the number of hotel rooms is on the rise. There is something to suit everybody's budget. There are first class, 5 star hotels, charming little guesthouses, time-share properties and luxurious villas available for rent. Yacht crews looking for temporary accommodations can also find crew houses scattered around the yachting centers.
Whatever your choice of lodging we recommend you book well in advance, especially in the winter season.
If you want to stay closer to the yachting action, then Simpson Bay is your ideal choice. This area has become renowned over the years for its nightlife, wide variety of fine restaurants, and fun bars. But quiet hotels and guesthouses can still be found on the shores of this old fishing village.
Many hotels are located close to or directly on the beach and/or have swimming pools. Casinos and nightclubs can be found on the premises of the larger resorts on the Dutch side, especially in the Maho area which with its bright lights and street shows reflect the glitz of Las Vegas.
Visitors have an assorted choice of accommodations on the French side where everything from small and cozy to large and lively is almost guaranteed to offer spectacular ocean views.
The island offers virtually every conceivable activity from boat trips to neighboring islands to shark diving.
There are scuba diving and snorkeling trips, parasailing, jet-skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, tennis, golf, "fly the trees" and a hundred and one other choices that can make your visit a memorable one.
Sounds too exhausting? Not to worry. The island offers numerous gorgeous white sands beaches for swimming and sun bathing.
Explore the island to your leisure. Both sides of the island have ancient forts, ruined plantation houses and museums.
Another attraction is the St. Maarten Park, a unique Zoological, Botanical and Floral Garden with a focus on the Caribbean and American Tropics. Visitors can enjoy a pleasant stroll and discover many animals in a colorful tropical garden setting.
Or Climb to the peak of Mount Paradise (Pic Paradis), the island's highest point which rises 1,500 feet from sea level at the center of the island. Take one of the trails starting at the Lotterie Farm, an eco haven and make your way to the top where you will enjoy breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea and the neighboring islands of Anguilla and St. Barths.
Whatever your desires are you will be sure to find it here. The possibilities are endless!
Where to dine
One of the many unique aspects that St. Maarten / St. Martin has to offer is the ambiance in which your dining preferences are set. Restaurants and cafes are as diverse as the cuisine available.
Here is a listing of restaurants/cafe's and bars one must visit:
If you are a lover of great food, then you have come to the right place. With its wide variety of restaurants the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin is a Gastronomic Delight.
Fine Dining and five star restaurants or a simple rib shack, the Friendly Island offers something for every taste and wallet and where to dine is the visitor's most argued over topic. You will be astonished by the extensive wine lists and cocktail menus offered by many of the island's dining havens.
There are over 300 restaurants to choose from offering French, Creole, Antillean and Caribbean cuisines. Worldwide cuisine is also well represented with Japanese, Thai, Indian, Italian and Vietnamese restaurants, to name but a few. Grand case is renowned for its fine restaurants but then so are Maho, Marigot, Philipsburg and Simpson Bay. The secret is to drive or walk around and check out the various menus. Part of the fun is in discovering new places to wine and dine. If one decides that gourmet is out for the night, then you can guarantee a great BBQ shack or beachside café is just around the corner.
Welcome to Party Central!
Whether you want to dance the night away or take a gamble at one of the island's many casinos, nights on St. Maarten/St. Martin are guaranteed to be full of fun and excitement.
Rhythms of Techno, Reggae, Meringue, Salsa and Zouk are just some of the sounds you can find here.
Open Air nightclubs showcasing world renowned dj's spinning the latest hits, piano bars starring entertainers from all over the world and lounge bars where one can sip on exotic cocktails in a VIP setting are just a few of your options.
Although a few bars and restaurants begin to wind down between 11:00pm and midnight, many of the clubs are just getting going while the adult entertainment clubs guarantee a party until the sun comes up.
Crews can unwind at the different crew bars. The imfamous Soggy Dollar Bar borders on crazy with its wild parties while the Sand Bar offers great food, drink specials and live entertainment.
On the Dutch side casinos inevitably top the list when it comes to all night entertainment and there are fourteen casinos to choose from.
Want to watch the action instead of taking part, then how about a night at the movies with Megaplex 7 in Cole Bay or Philipsburg Theatres in town.
Whatever your choice you are guaranteed the time of your life.
There is no official line on what one should or should not wear on this holiday island. However, swimwear should be confined to beaches, otherwise casual summer clothes are generally acceptable. Females are seen topless on virtually all beaches although officially topless bathing is not allowed on the Dutch side. Total nudity is permitted on certain of the French side beaches - in particular the Club Orient end of Orient Bay.
Activities on Sint Maarten
St. Maarten is blessed with 37 beaches--one for each of the island's 37 square miles.
This island is one of the most popular destinations for American and European tourists visiting the Caribbean and therefore offers virtually every conceivable activity. There are numerous boat trips to various locations, including both sailing and motor vessels.
There are scuba diving and snorkeling trips, as well as parasailing, water-skiing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, horse-riding, tennis, golf and a hundred and one other choices. You can even go in a semi-submersible, take a day trip to one of several neighboring islands, or visit the only butterfly farm in the northern Caribbean!
For the less energetic, the numerous beaches offer the ultimate in swimming and sun-soaking relaxation. Both sides of the island have ancient forts, ruined plantation houses, delightful old gingerbread houses and museums. There are also a number of archaeological sites, the most famous being the 3,500-year-old Hope Estate site on the French side where many of the thousands of artifacts that have been uncovered are now on display in the museum in Marigot.
Taxis and Busses
The island is well serviced by fleets of minibuses and taxis. The absence of border controls means that vehicles can drive from the Dutch to the French side (and vice versa) without any restriction. Although there are designated bus stops, you can readily flag one down wherever you are.
All taxi fares are regulated by government. You are advised to check the fare with the driver before commencing your journey.
Duty Free Status
The island of St. Maarten/St. Martin is a duty-free port and as such, there are no restrictions on what you may bring with you.
This is one of the major reasons why the island is particularly attractive to yachtsmen. Parts and equipment can be purchased locally at prices that in many cases are lower than the equivalent in the USA or Europe. If an item is not available it can be readily air freighted to the island in a matter of hours without incurring delays or additional costs due to restrictive regulations or customs duty. Naturally, prohibited goods such as drugs, firearms and explosives may not be freely imported and should be declared when clearing in. Failure to do so could result in very serious and unpleasant consequences.
Provisiong and Shopping
Want to provision your boat? - Look no further! The mix of Dutch, French, Caribbean and American cultures has resulted in a choice of food and drink products that is virtually unmatched in the whole of the Caribbean.
Clean, modern supermarkets offer a variety of foodstuffs that would be virtually impossible to find anywhere else in the world in such close proximity. Fresh produce is imported directly from Holland, France, the USA, Britain and Italy, as well as from other Caribbean islands. Indian, Chinese and other eastern produce is also readily available.
St. Maarten/St. Martin: One island, Two countries.
Located 18N, 63W and 144 miles southeast of Puerto Rico this dual nationality island is unique in the world.
Just 37 square miles this tropical isle offers the best of two worlds: French and Dutch.
Set amid azure blue waters, St. Maarten/St. Martin has a vigorous economy and is perhaps the finest Freeport in all of the Caribbean. Yet it is two separate states, flying two flags, speaking at least four languages and using three different currencies.
Discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus and claimed by Spain, it wasn't until the 17th century boom of the West Indies trade that St. Maarten/St. Martin was settled. The Dutch wanted the island and eventually pushed out Spain only to discover a French settlement established. Legend has it that a Frenchman and Dutchman, both intoxicated, settled the land dispute by meeting in the center of the island and walking in opposite directions until they marked off their country's territory. Today there are no border controls thanks to the Treaty of Concordia which was signed in 1648 and which allows both countries to remain peaceful neighbors.
The Northern part of the island, St. Martin, is French territory and is referred to as the ‘French side', whereas the southern half, St. Maarten, is part of the Netherlands Antilles and is referred to as the ‘Dutch side'.
The island has long been known as a popular vacation destination and in recent years has also been recognized as the Yachting Capital of the Caribbean. The island's marine sector has been growing steadily over the years beginning with a small regatta (the Heineken Regatta) that has become one of the top ten in the world and now a Charter Yacht Show (MYBA St. Maarten Charter Show) that is growing more in popularity.
As a completely duty free port, St. Maarten serves as a center of trade for neighboring islands. Visiting yachts appreciate the excellent air and sea freight links from Europe and the U.S.A., and the absence of delays that are typically experienced where border tariffs must be collected or waived.
Vehicles drive on the right side on both sides of the island. Traffic can get heavily congested and there are often delays. Local drivers tend to be very friendly and may stop without warning to greet a friend and have a chat, so it is advisable to drive with caution.
In keeping with international custom, traffic on roundabouts has priority over approaching vehicles - but vigilant. The quality of the roads has continued to improve in recent years; however there are still areas where the paved surface is full of pot-holes. The island is well serviced with gas stations.
This is a small island and consequently it cannot provide a broad spectrum of specialist medical services, though with the continuing advance in techniques, this situation is steadily improving. The facilities on both the Dutch and French sides are excellent for basic illnesses, broken bones and minor surgery. However, for more serious, life threatening conditions, it is generally necessary to be evacuated to a hospital that has the appropriate facilities.
The cost of an air ambulance and subsequent medical treatment is high and therefore it is advisable that medical insurance cover be obtained.
On this and many other Caribbean islands there is a risk of being poisoned when eating certain kinds of local fish. Known as Ciguatera, this poisoning is caused by a toxin that occurs in certain coral formations. The poison finds its way into to small fish. It then makes its way up through the food chain as larger fish devour the smaller varieties.
The toxin cannot be neutralized and the fish, which are carrying it, look, smell and taste perfectly normal. The toxic effect on humans occurs with great rapidity and can last for several weeks, sometimes recurring many months later.
The poisoning causes acute nausea, vomiting and diarrhea accompanied by chills, headaches and dizziness. Other symptoms include a feeling of numbness coupled with a tingling sensation around the mouth, hands and feet. In extreme cases respiratory distress occurs, but less than 1 in 1000 cases proves fatal. Good restaurants on the island acquire their fish and seafood from Ciguatera free Regions and do not pose a threat.
The island has two airports.
Princess Juliana International Airport
On the Dutch side there is Princess Juliana International Airport, the main lifeline for the whole island with numerous wide-bodied passenger jets, private aircraft and cargo planes arriving and departing every day. There are direct flights daily to locations throughout the Caribbean as well as to major cities in the United States, South America and Europe. The airport is undergoing major expansion and a new terminal building will be open soon.
This airport is located at Grand Case on the French side of the island, and operates several flights by commercial light aircraft to other French islands in the Leeward and Windward Islands.
The island is well serviced by both internationally known companies such as Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, Budget and Avis and numerous local firms. Average rental prices are US$45 per day for a car or US$65 for a jeep.