St. Maarten is an island in the Caribbean Sea, 18 latitude and 63 longitude, 150 miles south east of Puerto Rico. It covers 37 square miles, with Dutch Sint Maarten on the south spanning 16 square miles and French Saint-Martin on the north covering 21. The island is the smallest land mass to be shared by two separate governments. The island is sunny and warm year-round, with some cooling from trade winds. Average temperature during the winter season is 80 F (27°C) and a few degrees warmer and more humid in the summer. Occasional showers in late summer and early fall, with average annual rainfall of 45 inches. According to the most recent census, there are 32 000 people living on St. Maarten and 28 000 on St.Martin.
English is spoken everywhere, but Dutch is the official language of St. Maarten and French the official language of St. Martin. On the Dutch side, you can also hear Spanish and Papiamento, the dialect of the Netherlands Antilles. On the French side, Creole Patois also is spoken. Official currency of the Dutch side is the Netherlands Antilles Florin or Guilder (naf). Official currency of the French side is the Euro; however, U.S. dollars are widely accepted on both Dutch and French sides. Credit cards and travelers cheques are also widely accepted.
Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin are both, of course, the legacy of a single piece of much-blessed land.The island was inhabited, before the eyes of Europe fell upon it, by a succession of Indians from South America. First came the peaceful Arawaks, who called their new home "Soualiga" (Land of Salt, referring to a natural aspect of the island visitors still see today).Then came the cruel and cannibalistic Caribs; few Arawaks still survived when Christopher Columbus sighted St. Maarten on Nov. 11, 1493. According to the island's unusual mix of history, legend and lore, Columbus spotted its green wonderment on Nov. 11, 1493 - the feast day of Spain's beloved St. Martin of Tours. The island then was named St. Martin (or perhaps San Martino, in the mother tongue of the Genovese admiral). In the years since the 1648 Dutch-French accord that halved the island, it has been the pleasure of succeeding waves of visitors and exploiters to revel in St. Maarten's beauty. In recent years, the reveling has steadily grown, with the Dutch side to the South growing first, followed by the French to the North. Add to this growth the fact that St.Maarten is also the busy air and sea hub for a host of nearby islands - French St. Barth's, Dutch Saba and St. Eustatius, British Anguilla and St. Kitts/Nevis.For travelers today, the end result is an exciting, varied and rich experience of St. Maarten past, present and future. Its beaches, led off by glorious Mullet Bay, Cupecoy and Dawn Beach, remain uncrowded nearly any month of the year. That's the advantage of having so many exquisite stretches of sand.
The Sint Maarten Museum, in the Dutch capital of Philipsburg, reflects the history and culture of the Island and its people from prehistoric to modern times. A museum gift shop is on-site.If you want to know everything about the Caribbean through a history of Rhum, don't miss "The Old House". This large green and white creole house is located on top of a hill, between Orient Bay and French Quarter. The visit lasts 40 minutes. It is full of precious lithographies and ancient pictures (and precious bottles of rhum as well). The French side has got its Museum as well: located just before Sandy Ground's Bridge, "Sur la trace des Arawaks" is a permanent exhibition about the life of Saint Martin's first inhabitants.??Horse-back riding, scuba-diving, sky-diving, surf and windsurfing, jetskiing, deep-see fishing, are easily available on both Dutch and French side, on either low or high season. The island also offers numerous spas and fitness centers for gym, aerobics, massages, saunas, manicures, and more! The two cinemas are located in Philipsburg for the Dutch side, and in Marigot for the French side. Children and Adults will also enjoy Lottery Farm and The Butterfly Farm.
Puerto Rico, Anguilla, St. Barths, Guadeloupe, St. Eustatius, Saba, Monserrat, St. Kitts, St.Thomas and Nevis are quickly accessible by air, from Princess Juliana International Airport and Aéroport de Grand Case. Catamarans are available for one day or more to St. Barths, Saba, Anguilla, Prickly Pear and Tintamarre. It is a popular way of reaching deserted islands and swim in clear blue water. GETTING HERE? Air service from the U.S. to Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten is provided by:?-American Airlines direct from New York, Miami, and San Juan with connecting flights to numerous cities throughout the U.S.?-Continental from Newark, N.J., with connecting flights throughout the U.S.?-Seasonally by Northwest from Detroit and Minneapolis, with connections to other U.S. cities.?-U.S.AIR from Charlotte and Philadelphia with connections to other U.S. cities.??In addition, numerous charters flights are available from throughout the continental U.S.??Other airlines serving the island include:?-D.A.E.. Antilles Airlines from Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire?-LIAT from Antigua, Anguilla, St. Croix, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and Tortola?-Windward Islands Airways (WINAIR) from St. Thomas, St. Kitts/Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Anguilla, St. Barths, Dominica and Tortola.
U.S. citizens need a current passport.?Naturalized citizens must show an original naturalization certificate with photo identification.?There are no Customs facilities on the island because it is the only completely duty-free port in the Caribbean. No vaccination certificates are required unless arriving from an area experiencing an epidemic.
Animals are admitted temporarily to the island with the following papers:?- A health certificate dated no more than 5 days before visit?-A record of inoculations, including a rabies shot administrered no more than 30 days before the visit.