St Maarten / St Martin is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the Caribbean. In the past five years alone, Tripadvisor has been recognized as one of the top 20 destinations worldwide and one of the leading destinations in the Caribbean, and the Dutch capital Philipsburg as the best place to shop in the region by both CruiseCritic and Porthole Magazine.
Research has shown that what sets us apart is our unique bi-national and multicultural character, our wide range of culinary tastes that result from it, our award-winning standards of hospitality, our well-connected location in the middle of a larger archipelago, and last but not least, our a large offer of things to do on land and on water/ 1000 experiences. Last but not least, of course, our 37 pristine beaches, from cosmopolitan and vibrant to one all your own.
According to our binational character, we build on a rare 350-year history of open borders. Apart from the Concordia border monument, you will not even notice that you are crossing our borders, but only experience the great complementarity of this unique combination because our two sides have their own peculiarities!
The French side “St. Martin” is part of France, while the Dutch “St. Maarten” is an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. While the euro and Netherlands Antillean guilder are the official currencies, the dollar is by far the most common currency
For our visitors, the main difference will be felt in the widely available bustling nightlife, casino, shopping and activities available on the Dutch side of St Maarten, while the slightly larger French side of St Maarten offers a wider range of natural areas to explore.
Most tourists arrive via the Dutch side, either at Princess Juliana International Airport or cruise on the Dutch side of St. Maarten’s capital Philipsburg. You can visit any location on St Maarten / St Martin within an hour – so any location to dine, shop, do an activity or attend an event is within easy reach wherever you are staying on the Caribbean!
With the aforementioned uniqueness of untouched beaches, cultures, cuisines, excellent hospitality and history, you will be less surprised that St. Marten has won the prestigious Cruise Critic award multiple times over the past decade. However, as many cruise passengers stop at its port, Philipsburg has also contributed to its reputation as a shopping destination in the Caribbean.
Additionally, St. Maarten is ranked #3 in the Caribbean and #10 in the world. For some cruise ships, it represents a hub as a home transfer destination. For both cruise travelers and home porters, check out our St. Maarten one-day itineraries to find out how to get the most out of your stay!
On many occasions, you will find St. Maarten / St. Martin referred to as “Soualiga”, an old Arawak word for “island of salt” because of the abundant salt lakes.
For over 400 years, salt has been the main source of income for St. Maarten. Natural salt lakes like those at Phillipsburg and Grand Cayce provided the salt needed to keep food and goods fresh on transatlantic voyages. For those willing to wander a little off the beaten path, the ruins of the old salt works can be found next to the Great Salt Pond, as well as those next to the Grand Case Airport.
The most famous airport beach in the Caribbean;
Without a doubt, St. Maarten has the most photographed airport runway in the world! One of St. Maarten’s most famous landmarks is Maho Beach, as it offers great selfie opportunities with a Boeing seemingly landing right on top of you as the Princess Juliana Airport runway meets the beach here. On the PJIAE website, you can see a monitor of departing and arriving aircraft, and some beach bars also have arrivals and departures displayed. Keep in mind that when the big plane takes off, you’re apt to experience a local sandstorm – so make sure your towel and belongings don’t end up in the Caribbean! Also, the power of departing planes makes it very dangerous to stay (close to) the fence – just stay safe on the beach! Or just as well – enjoy one of the bars surrounding the area!