If a cultural vacation experience calls you, then Saint Martin and Saint Maarten is the place for you. Whether you go to the French or Dutch side, you will get a taste of the European and African influence that is both rich in history and entertainment. A crossroads for all those who ventured to the New World, St. Martin delivers a Caribbean experience like no other. Come for the white beautiful beaches or the culture, just come to the island where hospitality is a lifestyle.
Geography of the Island
Island of Saint Martin sits at the heart of the Antilles Archipelago, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator. St. Martin measures at 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) long and 13 kilometers (8 miles) wide at its longest and widest points. The island covers a total surface area of 88㎢ (34 square miles). This area is divided in a roughly 60:40 divide between the French (54 ㎢) and Dutch (34 ㎢) respectively.
Culture of Saint Martin
Since the French St. Martin and the Dutch St. Martin are two distinct countries, the culture is similar and unique at the same time. Saint Martin’s Dutch side is known for its festive nightlife, gorgeous beaches, casinos and jewelry. The French side is famous for their nude beaches, shopping and French and Indian Caribbean cuisine.
The influence from the African, Dutch, and French roots are visible across the entire island. Food on the island is a clear display of this mix of cultures. Another example of the island’s blended culture is in its music.
The premier cultural event of the island is the annual Carnival, which includes parades, calypso competitions, reggae shows and endless stream of stands full of traditional island food.
Things to Do
This island might seem small at first sight and give worry to travelers hoping for a complete experience, but St. Martin delivers something for people of all ages. If you want a relaxing time by the water, there are countless beaches and bays where you can have a wonderful time. Orient Bay is one of the most famous tourist spots on the island. This bay is located on the French side and is a nude beach that is a natural wonder.
If you are traveling as a family maybe checking out Cupecoy Beach, Mullet Bay Beach, Friar’s Beach, Dawn Beach or Maho Bay would be a better option. There are also countless ways to get off the island by jumping on one of the sailing, yachting, and boat tours, or by going kayaking, windsurfing, snorkeling. Beautiful clear waters also provide great diving spots and water sports.
When you have your fill of the water, check out Loterie Farm located in 135 acres of forest and farmlands and the foot of Pic du Paradis. Pic du Paradis is a mountain with an elevation of 1,492 feet that packs a breathtaking view of all of Saint Martin and surrounding islands. You can always spend countless hours in one of the many shops, restaurants and casinos located throughout the island.
For those looking for an adrenaline filled experience, Rainforest Adventures at St. Maarten’s Rockland Estate provides the world’s steepest zip-line.
Language and Currency
The official language of the island is Dutch, while English is taught in all schools and spoken across the island. Other languages spoken on the island include, French-based creoles, Spanish, and Papiamento the local dialect.
The national currency of Saint Martin is the Netherlands Antillean Guilder or florin which is at a fixed rate to the U.S. dollar at 1 USD: 1.8 NAf. U.S. dollars are accepted across the island while Euros are accepted across the Dutch side.