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Both St Thomas and St Maarten are charming and attractive islands in the Caribbean and a favorite of many visitors to the region. St Thomas is part of the US Virgin Islands group while St Maarten is part of the Dutch Caribbean.
This article provides a comprehensive comparison of these two amazing islands which I hope will assist you in choosing the destination that is right for you.
As a general rule, St Thomas is better for travelers who are interested in beaches, snorkeling, island hopping and duty free shopping. Alternatively, St Maarten is ideal for a visitor who is looking for a bubbling nightlife atmosphere, gourmet cuisine and to experience jet blast at Maho beach.
Read on for further details and explanations on how these two beautiful Caribbean islands compare. Contribution to this article was made by individuals who visited both islands on vacation.
St Thomas Vs St Maarten: Which Island Is Bigger
St Thomas is bigger in landmass than St Maarten. St Thomas is 32 square miles while St Maarten is only 13 square miles. The population of St Thomas is also greater.
According to St Thomas Source based on a census completed in April 2010, the population of the island was 51,634.
On the other hand, according to Worldmeter, at the time of writing the population of St Maarten was 43,592 thus making the Dutch side more densely populated.
St Maarten is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
St Thomas Vs St Maarten: Entry Requirements
St Thomas is an US territory so traveling to the island is an internal flight for US citizens.
Therefore, no passport or visa is required for entry on the island. Nevertheless, if a US citizen wants to visit the neighboring British Virgin Islands, a passport is required.
Alternatively, traveling to St Maarten will be equivalent to taking an international flight. A valid passport is required in addition to a return or onward ticket at the point of entry for US citizens.
St Thomas Vs St Maarten: Does The Currency Differ?
As an overseas US territory, the official currency for St Thomas is the US dollar. Contrastingly, the official currency of St Maarten is the Netherlands Antillean Guilders or Florin.
The Antillean Guilder exchange rate to the US$1 to $1.80 ANG. The Guilders is also the official currency of Curacao.
Despite the difference in currency, US dollars is accepted everywhere in St Maarten. ATM machines on the island dispense US dollars. US coins are also accepted everywhere on the island.
St Thomas Vs St Maarten: Does The Language Differ?
The official language of St Maarten is Dutch whereas the official language of St Thomas is English. However, English is widely spoken in St Maarten and there are schools on the island that educate students in English.
Due to the multicultural nature of the island, there are several Spanish speakers and French speakers from St Martin. One may also hear a bit of Papiamento as there are migrants from other Dutch Caribbean islands such as Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
St Thomas Vs St Maarten: Can You Island Hop To Other Islands
Both islands provide excellent opportunities to island hop to nearby islands. In St Maarten, there are several neighboring islands which you have easy access via ferry.
There are daily ferry services to St Barths, Anguilla, St Eustatius and Saba. In addition on the island, visitors can also drive over to the French side which provides another cultural experience all on the same island.
St Thomas also has several options for island hopping to other US Virgin islands such as St John, St Croix and Water Island. Additionally, there are ferry services to the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Kindly note that US citizens will require a passport to enter the BVI via ferry from St Thomas.
St Thomas Vs St Maarten: Which Has The Better Beaches
Both destinations have great beaches with St Thomas having over 40 main beaches and the entire island of St Maarten/ St Martin having 37 beaches.
On the island of St Maarten, 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.
On the French side St Martin, Orient Bay is a popular beach for both locals 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. This beach also has a clothing optional area.
On the island of St Thomas, Magens Bay is a beautiful one mile stretch of white sand. Located on the Northern end of the island, this beach is the island’s most popular with both locals and tourists alike. The water is usually very calm which makes it perfect for small children.
Another well-loved beach in St Thomas is Coki beach. In terms of snorkeling, Coki beach is one of the best options in St Thomas. This beach is perfect for beginners and individuals new to snorkeling.
One beach that stands out among the both islands is Maho Beach. This beach is iconic and is one of the highly photographed places in the Caribbean. 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. Therefore, thrill seekers may prefer St Maarten for this reason.
St Thomas Vs St Maarten: Which Has The Better Cuisine
Hands down St Maarten is the destination of choice for foodies. This is especially so as the French side St Martin is truly the gourmet capital of the Caribbean. Visitors to St Maarten often stay on the Dutch side but drive over to the French side to eat.
Grand Case is a town on the French side which stands out as the heart of cuisine on the French side.
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.
St Thomas Vs St Maarten: Which Is Better For Shopping
Both islands are fantastic destination for shopping. Each visitor to St Thomas including children is allowed $1600 each of duty free purchases back into the USA.
Front Street in St Maarten is like heaven for a shopaholic with endless stores selling a variety of 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.
St Thomas Vs St Maarten: Which Has The Better Nightlife
If entertainment is your priority, then St Maarten is the winner. The island 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.
Alternatively in St Thomas there are a number of restaurants are bars in areas such as Red Hook, Frenchtown, Charlotte Amalie and Haven Sight areas. These restaurants and bars are nearby so it is very easy to go bar hopping on foot. Restaurants and bars usually feature live music from local bands.
St Thomas Vs St Maarten: Unique Things To Do
The following are some of the things which we believe should be on your must do list if you visit St Maarten or St Thomas.
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.
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 Mountain Top & Drake’s Seat– These two areas are must visit spots to take in the panoramic views of the island. 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.
Visit Mermaid’s Chair – this is also a location on the Rock City’s West Coast which is a must see on the island of St Thomas. This area is a small strip that separates the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is best to visit during low tide if you will like to walk across this strip.
On a whole, St Thomas is an ideal choice for a traveler who wants to enjoy beautiful natural scenery at Drake Seat as well as duty free shopping. Alternatively, St Maarten is an exceptional choice for a traveler whose priority is enjoying gourmet cuisine and riding the steepest zipline in the world.
If you are contemplating traveling to St Maarten, St Thomas 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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