Travel Fundamentals for St. Martin

Traveling in the Caribbean often means experiencing different cultures and geography

Photo credit: © Roupen Baker |

St. Maarten and St. Martin are two very unique vacation destinations in that one small island shares two different governments and cultural backgrounds.

The island, which is the smallest territory in the world to be shared by two states, offers its visitors the opportunity to explore two different countries in less than 96 square miles of land. The people of the island accept their split nationalities and peacefully coexist on their tiny island.



Because of the exquisite fine French cuisine and extensive duty-free shopping, over the years, both St. Maarten and St. Martin have transformed from quiet and sleepy Caribbean countries, into booming and bustling tourism towns, full of vacationers and cruise ship passengers. While the island may be full of tourists and visitors, travelers should remember that they are guests to someone's home country and culture.

Locals are generally friendly towards vacationers as long as the kindness is reciprocal. Visitors should not be frustrated if a local doesn't speak their language. Travelers may want to carry a French or Dutch translation dictionary. Most local people will appreciate the extra effort in communicating. Unlike many countries and cities, the pace of life in St. Maarten and St. Martin is slower and less rushed. Vacationers should try to slow down, relax and enjoy their time on the island and not demand speedy service from the locals who are accustomed to a slower way of life.


The geography of St. Maarten and St. Martin doesn't have as much lush vegetation and waterfalls as some of the other Caribbean islands, but the island is still plenty appealing to vacationers with its white sand beaches. Both sides of the island have been a lot man-made structures and have been extensively developed over the years. The terrain of the island is arid and low, and the desert vegetation covers the island.

The island has several landlocked bodies of water. In St. Maarten, Phillipsburg is home to the Great Salt Pond. The largest landlocked body of water in the Caribbean is the Simpson Bay Lagoon, which spills into both St. Maarten and St. Martin. The island has several nude and topless beaches, so vacationers should expect to see nudity on some of the island beaches especially on the French side, which has a lot of clothing-optional beaches.

Tourists visiting the island will enjoy the opportunity to explore two different cultures while on one vacation. French St. Martin and Dutch St. Maarten aren't separated by any physical borders, so visitors are free to divide their vacation into two unique experiences and discover what beautiful and exciting sites and activities both countries have to offer.


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