St. Maarten Directory
St. Maarten Overview
St. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two sovereign governments-namely the Dutch and French. The Dutch side, with Philipsburg as its capital occupies the southern 17 square miles of this 37-square-mile island; St. Martin, a French dependency, occupies the northern half. The dual nationality adds variety to this most unique of island gems in the Caribbean Sea. Both Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin have maintained a peaceful coexistence for over 350 years, the longest of any two bordering nations.
St Marteen Seascape
In Philipsburg, there are more than 500 stores in pastel-coloured, clapboard Dutch-style buildings selling luxury goods at 25 to 50 per cent below normal prices. Goods to the value of US$600 can be taken home duty-free from Sint Maarten by American citizens, many of whom arrive on cruise ships putting in for one-day shopping trips. For truly local shopping with a Caribbean flavour, do not miss Philipsburg’s Saturday market.
A large cruise ship pier runs out into Great Bay about a mile from Philipsburg. You can walk into town from the pier, but most people take an inexpensive water shuttle that stops at either end of the capital city. A small shopping mall sits at the end of the pier if you don't have time to go all the way into town.
Marigot is the capital of the French side, St. Martin. Marigot is a much smaller town, and since its pier can only accommodate one medium-sized cruise ship at a time, most ships dock at Philipsburg.
For rest and relaxation after shopping expeditions, sight-seeing trips and nights on the town, there are superb beaches offering safe swimming, the full range of water sports from surfing and scuba-diving to parasailing and jet-skiing, and fine ocean-side restaurants. The island's 12 casinos are all on the Dutch side and offer gaming in the European mode.
Recent years have seen the growth of many sports on the island aimed at both fitness and fun. Golf, tennis, volleyball, horseback riding, mountain biking and, naturally, a variety of water sports are offered, including scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, jet-skiing, water-skiing, kayaking, wind surfing, parasailing and deep-sea fishing. In addition, the island offers numerous spas and fitness centers for those preferring gym equipment, free weights, aerobics, stretch classes, massages, facials, steam rooms, whirlpools, saunas, manicures, pedicures and the like.
If you want to erase your tan lines, head for clothing-optional Orient Bay. Or, if you're a little more modest, try Baie Longue, which has the island's most expansive stretch of white-sand beach. Or pick up a copy of the widely available satellite-view map, and navigate to your own secret strand.
Island accommodations range from large, comprehensive resort facilities and condominiums to small, intimate guest houses, timeshares and apartments. With over 2,000 rooms on the island, there is a property to suit every taste.
For a view and a taste of history, visitors can climb Mount Concordia, which rises along the border in the center of the island. In 1648, the treaty that divided the island was signed here, and Mount Concordia continues to serve as a proud symbol of St. Maarten's 350+ year history of peaceful co-existence between the two cultures.
Island Governmental Structure:
Strictly speaking, St. Maarten is a constituent element of the Netherlands Antilles (whose shared capital is Willemstad - Curagao's capital), itself a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; the official language is Dutch, and the currency is the Netherlands Antilles guilder. The Netherlands Antilles also includes Bonaire, Curacao, St. Eustatius and Saba. The Netherlands Antilles is composed of five islands, Curacao and Bonaire located off the coast of Venezuela, and St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius lie east of the US Virgin Islands. Geographically the Netherlands Antilles are divided into the Leeward Islands (northern) group (Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten) and the Windward Islands (southern) group (Bonaire and Curacao). In 1986 Aruba obtained a separate status within the kingdom by leaving the Netherlands Antilles.
St. Martin is a commune of Guadeloupe, which is itself a department of France - The French West Indies (FWI). The official language is French, and the currency was the French franc. In fact, on both parts of the island the head states of France and Holland retain most of the control over foreign policy and fiscal matters. The main language that is spoken is English (though visitors will hear Spanish and Papiament -- the Netherlands Antilles dialect -- on the Dutch side and Creole patois on the French side).
In stores, on both sides of the island, nearly everything is priced in U.S. dollars. In short, language and money present no difficulties to Americans/English speakers.
|St. Maarten Facts|
The use, sale, or possession of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, crack, or any controlled substance is ILLEGAL in St. Maarten. Violators are subject to arrest, fines, and imprisonment by law. If you are approached by someone trying to sell you drugs, be firm and say NO.
As a part of the Netherlands Antilles and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, St. Maarten boasts 77 different nationalities. Saint Martin is a commune of Guadeloupe, an overseas territory of France.
English is spoken everywhere, but Dutch is the official language of St.Maarten, and French the official language of Saint Martin. On the Dutch side, you can also hear Spanish, Papiamentu, Italian, Hindi, Chinese, and other languages. On the French side, Creole Patois is also spoken.
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