St. Martin vs. St. Maarten

The Caribbean region is filled with amazing islands perfect for a summer getaway, but the island of St. Martin–St. Maarten is undoubtedly one of the most unique to visit. The 87 sq. km (34 sq. mi) island on the northeastern end of the Caribbean is recognized as the smallest land body shared by two nations.
St. Martin vs. St. Maarten

Table of Contents

St. Martin is a French territory and it occupies the northern part of the island. On the other hand, St. Maarten is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and stretches along the island’s southern coast.

The split between the two nations was established in 1648 through the Treaty of Concordia. If you happen to journey by the island of St. Martin–St. Maarten, how do you choose which side you are going to visit first?

St. Martin

St. Martin is the French territory that covers much of the island’s northern region. With a total area of 53 sq. km (20 sq. mi), St. Martin owns more of the island’s 60-40 split with the Dutch St. Maarten.

Although St. Martin has a larger territory than St. Maarten, it has fewer residents. Roughly 33,000 people live on the French side while more than 41,000 live over on the Dutch part of the island.

St. Martin is known for a variety of things. The majestic Marigot Bay is home to the French’s primary harbor. It is the first city to welcome tourists entering the French side of the island. From stunning beaches, sprawling shopping centers, and historic sites, tourists have so much to explore in St. Martin.

What Makes St. Martin Unique?

The Majestic City of Marigot

Marigot serves as the capital city of the French St. Martin. It is located along the island’s northeastern coast and is primarily known for its scenic Marigot Bay. The now-bustling city of Marigot was once a quaint fishing village until it transformed into one of the island’s primary tourist hubs.

The city of Marigot is all about the Caribbean experience. There are several beautiful beaches found near the city. Palm-lined beaches provide tourists with opportunities to try a variety of water activities such as snorkeling, diving, and surfing.

Shopping is also a popular activity at Marigot. An open-air market is set up along the waterfront every Wednesday and Saturday. Smaller shops feature an array of local items, products, and produce. Tourists can find everything from local arts and crafts, food items, and more.

Many consider Marigot the perfect place to experience multiple cultures. The city shows cultural influences from the French, Dutch, British, Creole, African, and Carib Indians.

History at Fort Louis

The 18th-century Fort Louis is considered one of the most important historic sites on the island. Built overlooking the vast Marigot Bay, Fort Louis was a crucial defensive structure during the height of conflict among European nations. It was also used as a storage site for important products such as salt, sugar cane, coffee, and rum.

When the war in the Caribbean passed, the grandiose Fort Louis slowly fell to ruin. In 1993, government efforts led to the restoration and reconstruction of the historic hilltop fortress.

Fort Louise is now one of the most visited tourist attractions in St. Martin as an observation deck. The fort provides tourists with spectacular views of Marigot. On clear days, it is possible to spot the nearby island of Anguilla, Terres Basses, and the Baie Nettle.

Amazing Outdoor Adventures at Loterie Farm

Loterie Farm is considered one of the most popular and visited attractions on the French side of St. Martin. Sitting right by the foot of the grandiose Pic du Paradis, Loterie Farm is part of the 135-acre (54 ha) plantation. It was founded by then Hollywood actor Bill “BJ” Welch.

The nature reserve features lush pockets of forests and a wide variety of forest activities. Visitors can take a quick 45-minute stroll through the park’s marked trail or go on a series of thrilling activities above the trees.

Loterie Farm is particularly famous for its 1-hour-long treetop-canopy tour. The trip takes tourists on high-ropes courses, several zip line rides, and unique elevated bridge designs. The nature park is open six days a week from Tuesday to Sunday.

Visitors of Loterie Farm can also take some time to relax with nature. The park features nature-themed restaurants and accommodations. Get the chance to walk and tour around the lush and scenic estate.

Create a Personal Scent at Tijon Perfumerie

Have you ever dreamed of creating your personal perfume? A scent tailored to your liking and that is made solely for you? Tourists exploring St. Martin may stumble upon the famous Tijon Perfumerie.

Located in St. Martin’s Grand Case, Tijon Perfumerie is recognized as the island’s number one producer of fragrances and perfumes. Instead of simply purchasing a Tijon scent or fragrance, visitors get the chance to create their perfume recipes. The site features more than 300 essential oils for tourists to choose from and mix and match to create a scent they like.

St. Maarten

St. Maarten is part of the Kingdom of Netherlands. Also referred to as Sint Maarten, it covers a total area of 41.44 sq. km (16 sq. miles) which is roughly 40% of the island.

The Dutch side of St. Maarten is smaller than the French St. Martin. However, St. Maarten has a higher population. It is home to more than 41,000 people, most of them living in the primary tourist hub and the capital city of Philipsburg.

The capital Philipsburg is a bustling city along the island’s southern coast. It also features one of St. Martin–St. Maarten’s ports. The port of Philipsburg is one of the few ports in the Caribbean region that can dock the world’s largest cruise ships. This makes the city one of the gateways for the millions of tourists visiting the island on a cruise.

The Dutch side of St. Maarten is primarily known for its colonial-style buildings. It is also a popular spot for duty-free shopping. Traveling to St. Maarten has a lot to offer for tourists visiting the island for the first time.

What Makes St. Maarten Unique?

Unique Experiences at Philipsburg

Philipsburg is the designated capital city of the Dutch country of St. Maarten. It is home to St. Maarten’s primary port which hosts hundreds of vessels daily. The Port of Philipsburg is also known as one of the few in the Caribbean region capable of harboring the world’s largest cruise ships.

The city of Philipsburg is the first to welcome the millions of tourists visiting the Dutch side of the island. Because of this, the city features a wide array of tourist sites and attractions.

Front Street is one of the busiest throughways in St. Maarten. The beachfront stretch is lined with numerous local stores, boutiques, and restaurants. It is also home to malls and centers that are primarily known for duty-free shopping.

To learn more about the island’s history, tourists can drop by the historic St. Maarten Museum. The site is home to an impressive collection of artifacts from the island’s first settlers. It also shares an interesting insight into the different countries that tried to colonize the island.

A trip to Philipsburg is not complete when getting a taste of the island’s infamous Guavaberry. Visitors can find a local store along Front Street known as the Guavaberry Emporium. Its importance to the identity of St. Martin–St. Maarten earned the designation as a National Historic Monument. At the Emporium, tourists can purchase a variety of Guaveberry liquor, Guavaberry Hot Sauces, and Guavaberry Coladas.

The Famous Maho Beach

When it comes to unique attractions, Maho Beach is arguably one of the best in St. Maarten. Maho Beach is one of the most popular and visited places on this side of the island, for tourists and locals alike.

Located along St. Maarten’s southeastern coast, Maho Beach is a relatively short stretch of sand. Only spanning about 0.3 km (0.1 miles), Maho Beach is not the most beautiful or scenic beach in St. Maarten. However, thousands still visit the site for a totally different reason.

A section of Maho Beach lies directly next to the island’s international airport. Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) is a primary transportation hub and it is one of the busiest airports in the region. The airport’s runway is within a few meters of the sandy attraction. Only a chainlink fence separates people from the planes that fly and land on the island through SXM.

Because of its location, Maho Beach is one of the, if not the only, places where people can sight moving airplanes unbelievably close. Planes landing at the airport pass by Maho Beach extremely low as it approaches the runway. Aircraft of different sizes approaching the island pass by Maho Beach within 20 to 60 ft (6 to 18 m) above the ground.

Some flights leaving the island also start their takeoff at the runway next to Maho Beach. Visitors earn a different way of appreciating the power behind planes as the engines build power to launch them up the air. The jet blast it creates is so strong it is enough to bring people off their feet.

This spectacle has turned into such an event that nearby establishments feature timetables of the arrivals and departures from the Princess Juliana International Airport, allowing people to time their visits to the beach accordingly.

Crazy Zip Line Adventure

Perfect for thrill-seekers, St. Maarten is home to the world’s steepest zip line attraction. Known as the Flying Dutchman, the grandiose rise is located at the 1,198 ft (365 m) high Signal Hill. It is part of the Rainforest Adventures Eco-adventure Park and is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island.

Standing at 1,000 ft (305 m), the zip line starts at a scenic observation deck and features a chair harness. The zip line runs along the side of Signal Hill and travels way above the treetop.

With the title of the world’s steepest zipline, the attraction takes visitors down the hill rushing at a whopping speed of roughly 56 mph (90 kph). It only takes less than a minute for the passengers to travel down the 2,800 ft (853 m) long zip line.

Learn About the Infamous Yoda Guy of St. Maarten

The Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit is an up-and-coming attraction in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. Located amidst the bustling Front Street, the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit was founded by the renowned makeup artist Nick Maley. Maley is the artist credited with creating the iconic Star Wars character, Yoda.

The Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit features a vast collection of movie items and memorabilia. Considered one of the most popular museums in the Caribbean, the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit tells the story of Maley’s journey. The star of the exhibit is the various memorabilia from the Star Wars franchise.

Aside from Star Wars, the museum also features a collection of movie items from the 14 more movies Maley worked on such as Terminator, the Exorcist, the Shining, and Men in Black.

St. Martin or St. Maarten – Which Is Better?

Visiting the island of St. Martin–St. Maarten is a must for people looking for a unique and diverse experience. Its most defining feature is that the small 87 sq. km (34 sq mi) is occupied by two different nations. Taking this into consideration, it provides tourists with a chance to explore and experience two cultures in one trip.

But if you happen to only be able to explore one side, how do you choose where to go?

The French side of St. Martin is known for its historic ambiance and scenic landscapes. The towering Pic du Paradis dominates the island’s landscape and the cliffs provide a more dramatic background.

Hiking up the mountain to reach the historic Fort Louis is a must for any visitor on the island. Shopping at local markets gives tourists an immersive experience with St. Martin’s culture. The island also offers a multitude of fun activities such as diving, zip-lining, trekking, bird watching, and so much more.

St. Maarten is an amazing Dutch nation primarily known for its amazing duty-free shopping industry. But aside from that, tourists have so much more to discover deep on the island. Get the chance to watch low-flying planes or experience jet blast at Maho beach or zoom down the world’s steepest zip line attraction. St. Maarten is a haven for adventure lovers and thrill-seekers.

It is up to you to choose between a more chill vacation at St. Martin or a jam-packed adventure over at St. Maarten. Regardless, it is easy to jump over borders and explore both the French and Dutch sides of the island in one go.


Is St. Martin the Same as St. Maarten?

St. Martin and St. Maarten are two different countries. One is a French territory while the other is part of the Kingdom of Netherlands. However, St. Martin and St. Maarten can also be used to refer to the island to which these two countries belong.

Because the countries of St. Martin and St. Maarten share a single island in the Caribbean, it can sometimes be confusing for some people. Others use St. Martin and St. Maarten interchangeably when referring to the island as a whole. There is no harm in doing so.

However, visitors may need to be more careful when referring to St. Martin and St. Maarten as separate territories. It is easier to understand and remember that the French St. Martin is made up of the island’s northern region. On the other hand, the Dutch side covers the island’s southern end. Tourists can refer to either the north or south entry points when figuring out which part of the island they are on.

Are Saint Martin and Sint Maarten Different Countries?

St. Martin and St. Maarten are two different countries. However, they share a single island in the Caribbean. Located in the Lesser Antilles, the island of St. Martin–St. Maarten consists of French and Dutch territories. The island is split 60-40, with the larger 60% belonging to the French side and the smaller 40% being the Dutch side.

Can You Cross From Sint Maarten to Saint Martin?

There is a territorial border designated between the territory of Sint Maarten and Saint Martin. However, there is actually no physical border put in place. People are free to cross borders with no fuss.

Is There a Border Between St. Maarten and St. Martin?

There is a 16 km (9.9 miles) border that divides the island of St. Martin between the French and Dutch territories.

The border starts at the tip of the western coast by Cupecoy Bay. It moves to the east and crosses the Simpson Bay Lagoon. It cuts through the island’s inner mountain range until it ends at the easternmost tip of the Oysters Pond Bay.

Although there is a border placed to mark territory limits, there is no physical structure stopping people from crossing. People on the island are allowed to cross over the French side from the Dutch side and vice versa.

Do You Need a Passport to Go From Sint Maarten to Saint Martin?

When crossing the French–Dutch border, there is no need to show passports. Many travelers in travel forums have confirmed the open-border situation. But going to the island itself is a whole nother matter.

A passport is required to be allowed entry to the island of St. Martin–St. Maarten. All visitors traveling to St. Martin–St. Maarten need to present return or onward tickets. Aside from that, passport validity should be well within the duration of the stay. Certain travel requirements may differ for some nationalities so it is best to as a reliable tourism authority.

Where Is St. Martin and St. Maarten?

The island of St. Martin–St. Maarten is located in the northeastern part of the Caribbean Sea. It belongs to the Lesser Antilles and is part of the Leeward group of islands. Some of its neighboring islands include Anguilla, Saba, and St. Kitts.

The US and the British Virgin Islands lie west of the island of St. Martin–St. Maarten. However, a vast expanse of the Caribbean sea separates the island groups over this part of the Lesser Antilles.

How Far Is Saint Martin From Sint Maarten?

The distance between the capital cities of Marigot, St. Martin, and Philipsburg, St. Maarten, is roughly 11.2 km (6.9 miles).

Visitors heading from Marigot to Philipsburg and vice versa can travel either through Union Rd or Suckergarden Rd. It takes approximately 20 to 25 minutes to reach the capital city via Union Rd. On the other, traveling through Suckergarden Rd takes a longer 30-minute drive.