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St. Martin

Overview

St Martin / St. Maarten has something for everyone. It is noted for fine food, shopping, casinos, nightlife and of course, beaches.

Half French and half Dutch St. Martin / St. Maarten is the smallest island to ever be split between two countries. Two different governments run the island without a border patrol or passport check between the sides. St. Martin / St. Maarten has survived for hundreds of years this way. While each side has it’s own feel and personality, they work together.

French Side:
The French side of St Martin (the French spelling) has luxury and moderate resorts and villas, gourmet dining, night life and beachfront restaurants and barbecues. This side of the island has melded French and Caribbean culture creating an elegant look along with the laid back feel of the Caribbean.

The capital of Marigot has French shops, bistros, sidewalk cafes and an open-air craft and food market facing the harbor. On some evenings and holidays, there is live musical entertainment in a waterfront gazebo.

Terres Basses, a wonderful spot for private villas, is a quiet location but not far from excellent restaurants and nightlife on Dutch and French side. There are several beaches here and it is considered the most upscale neighborhood on the island.

Orient Bay is the most popular beach on the island. This area has a long sandy beach with a clothing optional section on one end. Orient Beach is flanked by some of the best beach restaurants offering everything from hamburgers to gourmet food. These restaurants / bars make a nice respite from the sun. There are beach chairs and umbrellas for rent as well as shops and water sports. At night and on the weekends, many of these restaurants offer music and parties. There are plenty of condominiums and villas for rent in this area. A great location if you want it all close by.

Grand Case is considered the culinary capital of the Caribbean. Food offerings range from gourmet restaurants to the best Lolo’s (barbecues). This Creole style fishing village is worth a visit even if you do not eat there. Some of the gingerbread style cottages house charming boutiques.

Dutch Side:
The Dutch side, spelled St. Maarten, is also a mix of European and Caribbean culture but may seem more Anglo American than the French side. That’s because most of the Dutch inhabitants speak English. This side of the island has excellent shopping as well as restaurants, casinos and nightlife.
Phillipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side, is well known for it’s excellent shopping and prices on jewelry, electronics and souvenirs. This is also the area where the major cruise ships come in. At night there are good restaurants, bars and casinos. The waterfront promenade has outdoor cafes and is a favorite place for strolling in the evening.

Dawn Beach / Oyster Pond is located about a 20 minute drive northeast of Phillipsburg. This once very quiet area is now becoming more populated. There are many new villas and condos in this area as well as a new large hotel. The beach is excellent with good snorkeling.

Simpson Bay runs from the airport down to the Pelican resort area. This is one of the islands longest beaches, yet remains uncrowded with mostly private homes and condominiums. This is a great area for a beach walk, swimming and soaking in the sun while still being within a short drive or walk of restaurants and bars. Casinos, shopping and nightlife are within a very short drive.

Pelican Key is just east of Simpson Beach. This area has a few resorts and a casino. There are many lovely private homes and condos here as well. Pelican Key is only a few minutes drive to shops, restaurants, casinos and nightlife.

Maho Bay is just North of the airport. This area is home to large hotels and condominiums as well nightlife, shops and restaurants. A perfect area for someone that would like to be near all the action.

Language

French is the official language of the French side and Dutch is the official language of the Dutch side. Most residents also speak English as well as some additional languages.

Entry Requirements

US Citizens: A valid passport is required for re-entering the US. See the US department of State website for details.

If you are not a US citizen please contact us for entry requirements.

Airports

There are two airports on the island. Princess Juliana Airport is the main airport and located on the Dutch side. The airport code is SXM. A large new terminal is is now open.

We can provide airfare for customers booking accommodations with us. If you would like a quote, please use our request form.

Departure Tax

For International destinations, there is a departure tax of US$30.00 for passengers age 2 and up. For islands within the Netherlands Antilles, the departure tax is US$10.00. Many airlines include this tax in the ticket price. The check-in agent will tell you if you must pay this tax on departure.

If you are departing by ferry to a neighboring island, the tax is typically about US $3.00. There are departure taxes to pay in the other islands. For example, day trippers returning from Anguilla pay $5. If staying overnight, Anguilla collects $ 20 per person.

Currency / Banking

While Euros and Antilles Florin are the official currency, US$’s are accepted almost everywhere. Most ATM’s can dispense bills in euros, florin and US dollars.

Climate

With average high temperatures between 80 - 85 F°, St Martin has beach weather year round. During the winter months the evenings can be a little cool so a light sweater may be needed. Summer tends to be a little more humid. Hurricane season runs July 1 – November 30. September is the peak month for a possible Hurricane passing over the island. The rainiest times are in Spring and Fall. Rain is typically in the form of a quick afternoon shower.

Electricity

The Dutch side has 110v electricity (same as the US) and most of the French side has 220v electricity (European). Some villas and hotels on the French side have dual voltages at the property. Converters can also be used and are available at hardware stores on the island.

Driving

Driving is on the right. Rental cars have steering wheels on the left side (same as the US). It is a small island and there are no major highways.

Getting to your Accommodations

If you have rented a villa, you will probably have a personal escort to the villa. The owner’s representative usually meets guests at the airport or their car rental agency. If you are not being met, we will provide directions and instructions. The procedure is similar for most of the private owner apartments.

Ground Transportation

Car rentals are recommended, especially for those staying in residential areas. They are inexpensive and make it easier to get around. Please contact us for a quote. There are franchise agencies and reliable local ones.

Taxi’s are available at major tourist areas and the airport. There are no meters so ask for rates ahead of time. There may be additional charges for late night fares or suitcases.

An alternative to taxi’s and car rentals are van buses. These are privately owned and are not scheduled. On the Dutch side, look for a round red & blue sign with Dutch words that indicate a bus stop.

Activities

We provide up to date information on these for our guests prior to arrival.
The island has a variety of watersports (snorkeling, windsurfing, diving, kayaks), day excursions by boat to nearby islands, golf, horseback riding and various sailing/ boating options including yacht racing. Tennis courts are at major resorts and a few private villas.

Spas, fitness centers, and masseuses are on both sides of the island.

Nightlife includes movie theaters, casinos and live music at various clubs and resorts. Free public concerts are held on some evenings in Phillipsburg, Marigot and Gran Case.

There is a rain forest with a special tree top tour for the adventurous, a zoo, a butterfly farm plus a couple small museums.

Shopping

This is a duty free island with an abundance of stores. You can bargain in many of them. Major shopping areas are Phillipsburg on the Dutch side and Marigot on the French side. The Dutch side is known for great prices on jewelry and electronics. The French side has many boutiques to choose from.

Restaurants

Restaurants change often so we don’t want to make specific recommendations on this web site. We will provide a current list before your departure. Restaurants on St. Martin are a special treat and a favorite topic of conversation for many visitors.

Popular Special Events

The Heineken Regatta sailing competition is in early March. The French side Carnival takes place in February. The larger Dutch side Carnival takes place over several weeks in spring.

Weddings

Due to French regulations most US citizens find it much easier to have legal wedding on the Dutch side. We recommend using a local wedding coordinator for this. Please contact us for details.