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Known as the friendly island in the Caribbean, St Maarten and St Martin has a unique feature as the smallest landmass shared by two nations.
The Dutch side, St Maarten is located on the southern part of the island and the French side which is the northern area of the island called St Martin.
The international airport, Princess Juliana International Airport is located on the Dutch side. Once you arrive on island, it is easy to drive over from the Dutch to the French side as there are no restrictions.
As a general rule, St Maarten is better for travelers who are interested in visiting the iconic Maho Beach, island hopping, parties and duty free shopping. Alternatively, St Martin is ideal for a visitor who loves food, island hopping to nearby islands and enjoying tranquility on Tintamarre Island.
Read on for further details and explanations on how the Dutch and French side compares. Contribution to this article was made by a native of the St Maarten.
St Maarten Vs St Martin: Which Side Is Bigger
Based on square miles, St Martin has the bigger landmass being 37 square miles. On the other hand, St Maarten is only 13 square miles.
According to Worldometer, at the time of writing, the population of St Martin is 39,634 while the population of St Maarten is 43,592 thus making the Dutch side more densely populated. St Maarten is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
St Maarten Vs St Martin: Does The Currency Differ?
Despite sharing the same landmass, the currency of the two sides differs. The best currency for St Maarten is the Netherland Antillean Guilders or Florins.
The Netherland Antillean Guilder is pegged to the US dollar at a rate of USD $1 to $1.79 ANG. The local currency is available in bank notes and coins.
Bank notes are available in $10, $25, $50, $100 Guilders. Coins are available $1 Guilder, $5 Guilders, 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents pieces
Alternatively, as an overseas territory of France, the best currency for St Martin is the Euro which is managed by the European Central Bank.
Bank notes are available in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 Euro dollars. Alternatively coins are available in 1 and 2 Euro dollars and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cent pieces.
Nevertheless, the US dollar is accepted everywhere on the island and it is used by both locals and visitors to the island. Prices of goods and services are quoted in US dollars. Change is given in US coins.
Therefore as an example if an item costs USD$8.50 and you pay with $10, the 50 cents change will be US coins.
ATM machines on the island also dispense both local currency and US dollars. Exercise great care when using the machines to avoid requesting the incorrect currency.
St Maarten Vs St Martin: Which Side Has The Better Beaches
The island is blessed with gorgeous beaches with white sand and clear water. On the island nations of St Maarten/ St Martin, there are 37 beaches.
One of the favorite and well-loved beaches on the Dutch Side is Mullet Bay Beach. This beach has white sand, clear turquoise waters and great landscape all around.
Mullet Bay Beach is a good option for beginner snorkeling as you can see fishes near the shoreline. There are no full restrooms but there is a port-a-potty available and usually there is a crowd on weekends. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent and local foods can be found at Rosie’s Snack Bar.
Great Bay Beach is another popular option for cruise passengers as it is one of the beaches in St Maarten near the cruise port.
It is located in the heart of the downtown capital Philipsburg and is about 3km from the cruise port. You can access this beach by walking. It takes about 20 minutes to arrive at this location.
On the French side, Orient Bay is a popular beach for both and visitors to the island. Orient Bay Beach is excellent for water sport activities such as snorkeling and many individuals prefer it for swimming and sunbathing than Great Bay Beach.
Orient Bay Beach is the most popular beach in St Martin, so expect there to be a crowd. There are several beach bars such as Waikiki Beach, Kakao, Perch Bar & Grill, Bikini Beach and Kontiki Beach in this area.
Nevetheless, St Maarten is well known globally for Maho Beach. Also known as Airplane beach, airplanes approaching the Princess Juliana Airport fly at an altitude of less than 100 feet. Individuals from all over the world usually flock to this spot to take pictures, make videos and experience the thrill of jet blast.
Great care must be exercised as persons have died in the past due to the effects of the jet blast. The beach itself has suffered significant erosion due to the jet blast. As such there is little vegetation.
St Maarten Vs St Martin: Is The Culture Different?
The culture of the two sides differs due to their heritage being Dutch and French. The Dutch sides maintains a more conventional and traditional culture while the French side tends to be more modern.
As an example, at the Orient Bay Beach on the French side, there is a clothing optional area for visitors who prefer this experience.
St Maarten Vs St Martin: Which Side Is Better For Island Hopping
Both the Dutch and the French side offer opportunities to visit neighboring islands. In St Maarten, daily ferry service is available to St Barths, Anguilla, St Eustatius and Saba.
Alternatively, ferry service is available from the French side in Marigot to Anguilla and St Barths.
If you are visiting the island and will love to island hop, ensure and confirm whether you have the relevant visas for the islands.
St Maarten Vs St Martin: Which Side Is Better For Shopping
The Dutch side of St Maarten is the better side for shopping not only on the island.
Front Street, St Maarten is a paradise for individuals who love to shop. You can find a variety of shops selling clothes, perfume, electronic equipment and jewelery. Most importantly, these are all untaxed.
You can find selection from international brands such as Gucci and Versace.
International businesses such as Little Switzerland have a presence on this street which offers the best names in watches and jewelery design from Omega and Breitling.
Diamond International also has retail operations in St Maarten.
The French Side also has several shops where you can buy souvenirs, jewelery and designer products. Le West Indies Shopping Mall is a two level area where one can find several stores. Additionally for fresh produce and locally produce goods, there is a market in Marigot every Wednesdays and Saturdays.
St Maarten Vs St Martin: Which Side Has The Better Nightlife
St Maarten is the side with bustling night life atmosphere while St Martin is quiet and laid back. There are many bars, clubs and casinos on the Dutch side for those who love to party.
Some of the popular spots include the Red Piano. Church on Mondays is a famous band on the island that performs at this location with the centre of the room being a Grand Red Piano. Lotus Nightclub is another hot spot for those who enjoy parties.
St Maarten Vs St Martin: Does The Languages Differ?
The official language of St Maarten is Dutch while the official language of St Martin is French. Nevertheless, English is widely spoken on both sides. There are also schools available in English where lessons are taught in that language.
It is not uncommon on the island to hear Spanish due to the multi-cultural nature of the island. You may also seldom hear Papiamentu which is widely spoken on Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
St Maarten Vs St Martin: Which Side Has The Better Cuisine
Hands down, St Martin is the gourmet capital of the Caribbean with Grand Case being a town known for its fine restaurants and bars on the French side.
It is not uncommon for visitors to live on the Dutch Side for the vibrancy of the entertainment and travel to the French Side to eat and enjoy the cuisine.
From Grand Case you can get a view of the Anguilla. On the French side, foodies can enjoy items such as croissants and French pastries, johnny cakes and several types of street foods.
Popular restaurants in Grand Case include The Villa Restaurant, Le Cottage and Spiga Restaurant. Be sure to try several of the lobster dishes on the French side.
St Maarten Vs St Martin: Unique Things To Do
Besides visiting the many nightclubs, one of the many beaches, and Maho Beach in particular, the following are some of the unique must do things on the Friendly Island.
Explore Loterie Farm– located on the French side, this paradise is perfect to relax and reconnect with nature. While at this sanctuary, one can enjoy drinks, the pool, great meals and tree top adventures.
Visit Tintamarre Island– this small remote island also called Flat Island can be reached via a boat shuttle from St Martin. Visitors and locals usually frequent the island to enjoy the beach and relax. The beach is beautiful and perfect for snorkeling and swimming. There are turtles in this area so you may swim with them while there.
Ride The Flying Dutchman– located on the Dutch side, this is the steepest zipline in the world. This ride gives you a scenic view of St Maarten while passengers sit on a chair. The service is offered by Rainforest Adventures and one gets to fly at an elevation of over 2,800 feet.
Visit the Scenic Fort Louis– this is a perfect attraction for history enthusiasts and for those who love panoramic views. Located on the French side, Fort Louis offers scenic views of Marigot and even Philipsburg and Simpson Bay. The access to the Fort is via steps and it is an uphill climb. Nevertheless, it is not a stringent hike.
On a whole, St Maarten is an ideal choice for a traveler who wants to enjoy riding the steepest zipline in the world and partying at nights. Alternatively, St Martin is an exceptional choice for a traveler who loves food and wants a laid back vacation while relaxing in nature at Loterie Farm.
If you are contemplating traveling to St Maarten, St Martin or the rest of the Caribbean, cruising is an affordable option to consider. I have recently completed an informative course by cruise specialist, Emma Cruises which you should check out titled How To Cruise For Less.
This course provides detail tips and techniques on how to save money while cruising onboard, onshore as well as the importance of insurance. So if you if you are considering a cruise for your next Caribbean vacation, check out How To Cruise For Less.
Need More Information?
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