St. Maarten / St. Martin is a Caribbean island with two distinct personalities. However, the two get along pretty well and that makes for an interesting vacation; with areas for just about any taste. The beaches and scenery, along with the water, are beautiful as they are on all the Caribbean islands. People pick this island for its personality, which is in some ways two distinct ones, but together they present a whole that is rather unique. And if you’re interested in a tour guide or car rental to visit the island on your own, do check out http://www.valuecarrental.com/ for their affordable prices and pleasant customer service.
In the Colonial era, the Dutch and French both settled his island. Christopher Columbus bypassed the island in 1492, and it was not until the mid-1600’s that the Dutch and French took notice. They have lived side by side ever since.
Today the north side is French St. Martin, and the south side is Dutch St. Maarten. People on the island make much of their unique sides, but to some extent that is as much promotion of the island itself. Still, there are differences. The French side is a little less developed, more natural, and more focused on fine food. The shops have a European flair that has been preserved. The Dutch side is more “touristy” with casinos, nightlife and more resorts. Cruise ships stop on the Dutch side. The French side is more genteel or laid back, while the south side is more the typical tourist oriented Caribbean.
The island is not all that big, and the border is open, so it is easy to go back and forth. Map out your visit by experiencing both cultures of the island. Going back and forth is easy, so you can easily experience both at any time.
Shopping is also huge here, as there are great deals and virtually no taxes to be paid. Most of the shopping is around where the cruise ships are, but there is good shopping all around the island.
Phillipsburg is the capital of St. Martin, and that is where the cruise ship port is located. The city is built on an arching beach, and is essentially a huge outdoor shopping mall for the tourism industry. Front street and Bayfront road is where the action is, with shops, restaurants, bars and casinos. Duty free shopping on electronics and other items is huge here.
Marigot is the capital of the French side of the island, and it does seem they took a town out of France and planted it along the beach here. This is where older buildings are, with streets lined with Colonial homes and little shops and cafes. The small cafes along the streets are like the ones in France, down to the menu and your choice of wine. The whole town is just four blocks wide, much smaller than its Dutch counterpart.
Simpson Bay is a large bay on the french side, and is home of the famous Princess Juliana International Airport. The airport is famous for photos of airliners passing over the beach just above the heads of people on the beach.