St Martin and US Virgin Islands are two incredible places to consider for your upcoming Caribbean vacation.
In this article, we explore several similarities and differences that make these islands extraordinary.
Both islands are still today overseas territories.
St Martin is an overseas territory of France and therefore French is the official language spoken.
Contrastingly, the US Virgin Islands (USVI) is an overseas territory of the United States of America (USA) with English being the official language.
As a general rule, the USVI is better for travelers who are interested in hiking, enjoying the beach, snorkeling on Buck Island and island hopping to the BVI. Alternatively, St Martin is ideal for a visitor who loves food and island hopping to Anguilla, St Eustatius, St Barts and Saba.
Read on for further details and explanations on how St Martin and US Virgin Islands compares. This article was written by a Caribbean National familiar with both islands.
St Martin Vs US Virgin Islands- Which Island Is Bigger
The US Virgin Islands is significantly larger than St Martin being 133 square miles.
Located approximately 40 to 50 miles East of Puerto Rico, this island group consists of 4 main islands.
These islands are St Croix, St Thomas, St John and Water Island. Additionally, there are about 50 smaller islets and cays.
On the other hand, St Martin is only 37 square miles and the highest point of elevation being Paradise Peak or in French Pic Paradis which stands at 1,391 feet.
St Martin is a unique island because it shares its landmass with the Dutch island of St Maarten.
St Martin is the larger of the two sides with St Maarten being only 13 square miles.
St Martin Vs US Virgin Islands- Entry Requirements & Access
As an overseas US territory, US citizens do not require a passport to enter the US Virgin Islands as it is regarded as a domestic flight.
Contrastingly, US citizens wishing to visit St Martin must have a passport as well as proof of a return ticket.
St Martin also presents better access for visitors outside of the United States.
The international airport for St Martin is located on the Dutch side of the island, St Maarten called the Princess Juliana International Airport.
The international airport for the USVI is Cyril E King International Airport in St Thomas.
Alternatively, St Croix only has a domestic airport which provides connections to and from the US mainland.
There is no airport in St John and Water Island. Access is only via ferry services.
St Martin Vs US Virgin Islands- Can You Hop To Other Islands
Both islands offer amazing opportunities for island hopping to neighboring islands. The US Virgin Islands are only approximately 17.8 miles from the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Due to this close proximity, ferry services are readily available for seamless transfer. US citizens seeking to visit the BVI from the USVI must have a passport for immigration purposes.
Likewise, island hopping from St Martin is easy. From Marigot, one can access Anguilla and St Barts via ferry services.
Also a short drive across to the Dutch side of the island, St Maarten provides seamless connections to Saba, St Eustatius, Anguilla and St Barts.
St Martin Vs US Virgin Islands- Does The Currency Differ?
The official currency of both St Martin and US Virgin Islands differ.
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. Coins are available in 1 and 2 Euro dollars and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cent pieces.
On the other hand, as a dependency of the United States of America, the official currency of US Virgin Islands is also the US dollar.
St Martin Vs US Virgin Islands- Which Island Has The Better Nightlife
Both islands will not be considered as prime nightlife spots in the Caribbean. The most vibrant island in the US Virgin Islands is St Thomas.
Generally, nightlife in St Thomas consists of going to restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
Entertainment on the island is predominantly in the areas of Red Hook, Frenchtown and Havensight.
Bars and restaurants are located in near proximity so it is easy for individuals to walk from one to the next.
Likewise, St Martin is also a quiet island but has an advantage in that it shares its landmass with one of the bustling spots for nightlife in the Caribbean being St Maarten.
St Maarten has a variety of options to choose from movie theaters, restaurants, casinos, night clubs and discos. There is something available for everyone.
Lotus Night Club is one of the leading spots for dancing and partying on the island in Simpson Bay.
Ocean Lounge Bar in Philipsburg is another venue that attracts visitors as well as business professionals with live music, wine, cocktails and a delicious tapas menu.
St Martin Vs US Virgin Islands- Which Island Has The Better Cuisine
Hands down St Martin is the winner in this category as it is widely known as the gourmet capital of the Caribbean.
Grand Case is the town known for its fine restaurants and bars in St Martin.
From Grand Case you can get a view of the Anguilla.
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.
Alternatively, the food is also a major part of life in the USVI. There are several other nationalities living in the island group and this is reflected in the cuisine available.
During the carnival season there is usually an event in the Carnival Village dedicated strictly to foodies featuring booths from various other Caribbean islands.
St Martin Vs US Virgin Islands- Which Island Has The Better Beaches
If blue and turquoise beaches with white powdery sand are your priority, then US Virgin Islands is the destination of choice.
Located in the smallest of the main US Virgin Islands, Trunk Bay Beach is one of the most photographed beaches in the Caribbean.
St John is unique island as two thirds of the island is protected as Virgin Island National Park.
Trunk Bay Beach has over a quarter of a mile of white sand with underwater snorkeling trail.
There is an entrance fee as well as amenities such as beach chair rentals, restrooms, beach bars and life guards.
On the other hand, Orient Bay Beach is excellent for water sport activities such as snorkeling in St Martin.
There are several beach bars such as Waikiki Beach, Kakao, Perch Bar & Grill, Bikini Beach and Kontiki Beach in this area.
Additionally, St Martin may be more suitable for thrill seekers. St Martin has easy access to one of the most iconic beaches in the Caribbean, Maho Beach on the Dutch side of the island.
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 Martin Vs US Virgin Islands- What Are The Unique Things To Do
Unique Things To Do In St Martin
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.
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.
Unique Things To Do In The US Virgin Islands
St Thomas- Coral World Ocean Park– This Park is an amazing way to see and learn more about sea life in St Thomas.
There are activities available for all ages such as educational shark and sea lion tours. In addition, you can enjoy kayaking with the dolphins while at the park.
This is an excellent activity for multi-generational families.
St Thomas- Mountain Top & Drake’s Seat– These two areas are must visit spots to take in the panoramic views in St Thomas.
Mountain top is 1500 feet above sea level and provides a stunning view the other Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands. From mountain top you can see a total of 20 islands.
St John- Hike-St John is unique in that two third of the island is National Park. As a result, there are numerous hiking trails of varying difficulties.
Ram Head Trail is one of trails with a moderate difficulty level but features glorious and scenic views.
St John- Annaberg Plantation Ruins- St John was a producer of sugar in the 1780’s and
Annaberg plantation was one of the 25 factories on the island.
The ruins are protected by the Virgin Island National Park and a key feature that stands today is a windmill. A historic must see if you visit St John.
St Croix- Ham’s Buff Lighthouse– is a fantastic spot for incredible views. This lighthouse was designed and built by the Danish sometime between 1913 and 1915. In 1917, the Danish West Indies was sold to the United States of America.
St Croix-Point Udall- is a location of significance in St Croix as it is the most eastern point of the United States.
The Millennium monument was erected in the year 2000 as this is the first place that the American soil experiences the sunrise.
St Croix- Buck Island- this is a small uninhabited island about 1.5 miles off the Northern coast of St Croix.
Buck Island is a must do activity during your visit and it is the home to the Buck Island Reef National Monument.
Tours are available for a full or half day. There is an underwater snorkel trail and white sand beach called Turtle Beach.
This beach is also an award winning spot, voted by National Geographic as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
On a whole, USVI is an ideal choice for a traveler who loves beautiful natural scenery such as Virgin Island National Park. 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.
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