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Spending A Vacation in St Martin or St Maarten – Choice Is Yours

Saint Martin or Sint Maarten, whatever you call it, is the Caribbean’s most popular vacation destination and has a unique aura. French on one side and Dutch on the other – the peaceful coexistence of two different cultures for over 360 years is what makes the tropical beach paradise of St Martin so special among vacationers.

Exotic beaches, picturesque landscapes, pleasant weather combined with the sprawling ocean all around and the magical world of coral reefs under its turquoise water add to the charm of the place. These are also the reasons for St Martin’s growing popularity as a holiday destination. But which side to choose for your next vacation? Is it the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten or the French Collectivity of Saint Martin?

Both sides have distinct characteristics and are unique in their own way. Although the island is administered by two different nations, tourists are allowed to move freely between the two territories – there are no checkpoints along the borders.

Both sides have in common scenic beauty, pristine beaches, luxurious Caribbean vacation rentals and tempting duty-free shopping. So how do you differentiate your holidays in Saint Martin from those in Sint Maarten? We’ll take a look.

French side

In the north of France (Saint Martin), French is the official language, while you will also find some Spanish and Creole. You will find a mini Europe north of St Martin. Buildings, architecture, people and law are all influenced by European culture.

Marigot is the capital of the French part. The city is home to wonderful malls, boutiques and open-air markets offering fashionable clothes and accessories. Don’t forget that you have to bargain with the vendors at the open-air markets by the sea. Perfumes, souvenirs and spices are some of the specialties to buy on the French side.

Visit Orient Bay, St Martin’s famous marine reserve, where you can enjoy snorkeling and lots of water activities.

Butterfly Farm is a must especially when you have kids with you. A guided tour of the farm can give them insight into the beautiful creature’s life cycle.

Foodies will love Grand Case home to an array of top notch restaurants. From delicious French specialties to spicy Indian cuisines, you have plenty of options to satisfy your taste buds.

Nudist beaches are another attraction on this side of the island. On Club Orient Beach and other smaller, less populated beaches, nude sunbathing is permitted.

The chain of hills covered with tropical flora is a unique attraction of the French side. The tropical rainforest hides beautiful hiking trails inside. The trails take you to the highest point called Pic du Paradis offering a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the island.

Dutch part

In the south of the Netherlands, English is more popular than the official Dutch language. Nightlife is livelier on this side with a number of bars and casinos exclusive to Dutch Sint Maarten. Casinos, one of the main attractions of the Dutch side, are mainly found in the famous beaches of Maho Bay, Cupecoy and Cole Bay.

The capital city of Phillipsburg is home to the island’s Princess Juliana International Airport connecting the island to the rest of the world with direct flights from major cities in Europe and America. Shopaholics will find Front Street interesting with many stores offering excellent jewelry, crafts, cosmetics and electronics and liquor.

Cupecoy Beach is the only clothing optional beach on the Dutch side. Famous Dawn Beach is home to an array of Caribbean villa rentals. With an increasing number of villas and holiday homes being developed, this side is a popular property market. The concept of timeshare rental is very popular in Dutch Sint Maarten.

Remember that the NAF (Netherlands Antillean Guilders) is the local currency used to price groceries and other basics in the Dutch part, although Euros are accepted. On the French side, the euro is more commonly used. Therefore, you can find the same items in the Dutch part a little cheaper than those in the French part.

Now that you know both the French and St Martin/Sint Maarten, you can now plan your vacation accordingly.

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