About St Maarten
The friendly island covers 37 square miles, with Dutch Sint Maarten on the south spanning 16 square miles and French Saint Martin on the north covering 21 square miles.
The island's true history starts with traces of Stone Age tribes dating back to 4,000 BC. Around 800 AD, the Arawak Indians arrived from South America for a life of fishing, hunting and farming, followed in the 14th century by the cannibalistic Carib Indians. These new arrivals knew St. Maarten as Soualiga, or "Salt Island" after its main mineral deposit. The remains of the Great Salt Pond can still be seen in Philipsburg today.
According to legend, Christopher Columbus sighted Soualiga on the 11th of November in the year 1493, the holy day of St. Martin of Tours, claimed the island for Spain and named the island after him - St. Maarten. The 11th of November is celebrated to this day, as St. Martin/St. Maarten's Day.
Around 1630, the Dutch and French established small settlements on the island. The Spanish, in response, fought to drive out both settlements. The Dutch and French joined forces to repel the Spanish, and finally achieved this goal around 1644, when the Spanish finally abandoned their claims to the Eastern Caribbean. The Dutch and French signed an accord (in 1648) and agreed to divide the island.
Today, the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin is the world's smallest land mass to be shared by two separate governments.
As a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Sint Maarten boasts 77 different nationalities. Saint Martin is a commune of Guadeloupe, an overseas territory of France. 41,000 people live on St. Maarten and 36,000 on Saint Martin.
English is spoken everywhere, but Dutch is the official language of St. Maarten and French the official language of Saint Martin. On the Dutch side, you can also hear Spanish, Papiamento, Italian, Hindi, Chinese and other languages. On the French side, Creole Patois is also spoken.
Sunny and warm year-round, with some cooling from trade winds. Average temperature during the winter season is 80F (27C) and the island is a few degrees warmer but not as humid in the summer. There are occasional showers in late summer and early fall, with average annual rainfall of 45 inches.
In St. Maarten, the official currency is the Antillean florin or guilder (NAF) and in St. Martin, Euro is the legal currency, but U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere.
As the only completely duty-free island in the Caribbean, Sint Maarten/St. Martin offers some of the best shopping in the Caribbean and no duty is paid on imports arriving on either side. Shopping includes everything from Swiss watches, French perfume, British cashmeres, Chinese embroidery, Japanese cameras and electronics, Indonesian batiks and Italian leather goods, plus fine jewelry, crystal, linens, porcelain and liquor.
Air service to Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten is provided by: Air France (daily) and Corsair (bi-weekly) direct from Paris (CDG/ORY) and KLM direct from Amsterdam (weekly).
American Airlines, JetBlue, Continental, Delta and U.S. Airways fly non-stop from New York, Newark, Miami, Charlotte, Philadelphia and San Juan with connecting flights to numerous cities throughout the U.S. In addition, numerous charter flights are available from throughout the continental U.S.
Other airlines serving the island include: DCA Dutch Caribbean Airlines from Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire; LIAT from Antigua, Anguilla, St. Croix, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and Tortola; and Windward Islands Airways (WINAIR) to St. Kitts/Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Anguilla, St. Barth and Tortola.
Tourists need a current passport. 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.
St. Maarten Medical Center in Cay Hill and l'Hôpital Général de St. Martin in Marigot offer medical services. Airlift is available to Puerto Rico and the continental U.S. in case of extreme medical emergency.
Most hotels in St. Maarten are wired as in the U.S.: 110 volts, 60 cycles. On the French side, all run on 220 volts, 60 cycles so a converter and adaptor plugs are needed for travel appliances. Great Bay is wired as in the U.S. – 110 volts.