Princess Juliana International Airport (Dutch St. Maarten) services all the international flights. L'Espérance Airport (French St. Martin) services small commuter flights from neighboring islands.
Main deep-water port: Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facility located in Philipsburg, St. Maarten.
Entry Requirements for U.S. citizens:
A valid passport and a return/continuing ticket.
Entry Requirements for Canadian citizens:
A valid passport and a return/continuing ticket, or a certified copy of the birth certificate, a photo identification and a return/continuing ticket.
Entry Requirements for EU citizens:
A valid passport and a return/continuing ticket.
Entry Requirements for Nationals not listed above:
Click here for more information.
The history of St. Maarten/St. Martin began long before European exploration. Arawak Indians arrived on the island from Central America around 800 A.D. Hundreds of years later, Christopher Columbus spotted the island from his ship on his1493 voyage, but never landed on the place that he named St. Martin. Over the next couple hundred years, lured on by the rich salt deposits of the Great Salt Pond behind where Philipsburg is today, the island went through a succession of occupations by the Dutch, Spanish, English and French trading back and forth. The dual nation island followed some of the same historical patterns that were prevalent throughout the Caribbean region, including the introduction of the sugarcane industry and slavery.
The French and Dutch colonists reclaimed the island and both groups were set on inhabiting St. Martin. Initially, the French and Dutch had a few spats of disagreement, but eventually, both groups accepted the fact that neither was going to leave St. Martin without a fight. In 1648, both sides signed the Treaty of Concordia, which divided the island between the two nations. Even with the treaty, conflicts arose between the two sides of the island, as well from external attacking European forces.
The inhabitants of St. Martin come from all over the world, including various European, African, and Caribbean countries. Of course, the government is strongly influenced by the French and Dutch on their respective sides of the island. St. Martin is an overseas collectivity of France, with their governing body being a Territorial Council headed by a president. Sint Maarten, was formerly a part of the Netherlands Antilles, and governed by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In October of 2010, the Netherlands Antilles dissolved and Sint Maarten became an independent governing body with ties to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, much like Aruba is. St. Martin has a total area of 36 square miles, with a population of nearly 90 thousand people. The city with the highest concentration of residents, Marigot, is on the French side of the island, but the Dutch side of the island has a larger overall population.
Language is one of the most explicit indications of culture on St. Martin. The official language of St. Martin is French, while the official language of St. Maarten is Dutch. Other cultures are manifest in religion and the island's music, which is rooted in African culture, and food, which tends to mix French delicacies with Creole heat.
St. Martin's economy suffered a severe blow with the emancipation of black slaves on the island and the end of the sugar industry. But this tiny island has managed to maintain its economy with the tourism industry and its relationship with other countries, like the U.S., from which St. Martin imports a lot of goods. This is important because St. Martin has very limited sources of agriculture and natural resources. The economy of St. Martin definitely centers on tourism, with 85 percent of the labor force employed by the tourism industry.
The island of St. Maarten is ½ Dutch, ½ French and 2/3rds Caribbean. As you can see from the math, the sum of the whole is greater than its parts.
Characterizing the 2 sides of the island, we see that the Dutch side has retained more of the Caribbean flavor, and less of the European influence is seen than on the French side. This perhaps is typical of the two countries historical colonization patterns. The Dutch have been historically great traders, and their cultural impacts on the countries they have owned or occupied have been less than that of many other nations. Adapting to their surroundings while making sure of a good flow of Guilders (the Dutch currency prior to the Euro) was more their style. On French St. Martin you will see more of the culture of France as we know that the French have always believed that one of their greatest gifts to a colony was their culture.
However, on both sides of the island you will see more of a younger culture, that of the African Caribbean. When the Africans were brought to the Caribbean as slaves by the Europeans, they came from many diverse areas of Africa and lacking a common historical culture, they immediately set out to form a new one. Given their separation by the physical barrier of the Caribbean Sea, each island has evolved its own unique culture with its own flavor.
For St. Maarten/St. Martin, from the 1800s to the 1960s there has been a mingling of peoples and families within the closest islands, Anguilla, Saba, Statia, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Barths and to a lesser extent as the sea miles add up to other nearby islands. There also has been added to this the various migrations as work was available in Guadalupe, Martinique, Aruba, Curacao and even the Dominican Republic. St. Maarten/St. Martin, lacking many resources was a quiet backwater, where people enjoyed a peaceful and relatively comfortable life, earning it the reputation as the “Friendly Island”.
From 1970 on, as tourism started to develop in earnest, people flocked to the Island from over 100 countries to provide the services and to make a good living. Today’s culture is one that can only be described as metropolitan, where people from all over the world live in a remarkable harmony of diversity with a heart that is still St. Maarten/St. Martin. High-speed internet and one of the highest per capita usage of fast computers, cell phones, satellite television, and the easy movement of both goods and people have changed the island from a sleepy backwater to a vibrant and exciting place to live.
- Climate: Sub-tropical, with trade winds from the Caribbean Sea.
Temperature: The island has a year-round temperature of approximately 80°F (27°C).
Time: Atlantic Standard Time, year-around
Language: English is the predominate language in the island, however the official language on the St. Maarten side is Dutch, and is officially French on the St. Martin side. French Creole, Spanish, Papiamento and other languages are also spoken.
Population: 41,000 people live on St. Maarten and 36,000 on St. Martin for a combined total of 77,000.
- Currency: US dollars are accepted everywhere.
St. Maarten: Netherlands Antilles Florin (NAF); the official exchange rate is NAF 1.77 for each US$1.00 U.S. dollar.
St. Martin: The official monetary unit is the euro.
St. Maarten: 110-volt AC, 60 cycles (same as U.S. and Canada)
St. Martin: 220-volt AC, 60 cycles (requires the use of adapters and transformers)
Calls to St. Maarten/St. Martin from the U.S. are international calls and require the following country codes:
St. Maarten: 00599 followed by the seven-digit local number
St. Martin: 00590, 590 again followed by the six-digit local number
- Official Tourist Office information St Maarten:
Vineyard Office Park, WG Buncamper Rd. #33, St. Maarten
St. Maarten Medical Center in Cay Hill and L'hospital General de Gaulle in Marigot, St. Martin. Airlift is available to Puerto Rico and the continental U.S. in case of extreme medical emergency.
Animals are admitted temporarily to the island with the following papers: a health certificate dated no more than 10 days before visit and a record of inoculations, including a rabies shot administered no more than 30 days before visit. Be aware though that most resorts enforce a no pets policy.