Located on one small Caribbean island, French St. Martin shares its space with its Dutch neighbor of the same name; Sint Maarten. While many visitors will enjoy both these islands together, each one by itself offers a unique experience and it is no surpise that this destination was ranked as the fourth best island in the Caribbean by USA Today in 2014. Travelers to St. Martin will be treated to relaxation, tranquility, and fine dining that is on a higher caliber than what the Dutch side has to offer.
|Currency||Since St. Martin is officially recognized as part of Guadeloupe, a territory of France, the official currency is the Euro.|
|Electricity||Unlike the Dutch St. Maarten, St. Martin does not use the same electrical system as the U.S., so plan accordingly.|
|GDP Per Capita||The average per capita income in St. Martin is about $9,000(USD).|
|Island Size||This half of the island covers about 20.8 square miles.|
|Language||As a territory of France, the official language on this side of the island is French. Creole is spoken as well, and you are sure to hear the sounds of Dutch and Papiamento.|
|Population||The island is home to about 37,000 residents.|
|Entry Requirements||A valid passport is required for all of St. Martin's visitors, including those from within the Caribbean. All visitors must also show an ongoing or return ticket.|
St. Martin takes up the northern portion of the island, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean. It is the larger side, with 20 square miles of total area, full of people full of French pride and nationality. Towns and roads have French names, and the food is an interesting blend of French sensibility and Caribbean flavor. French is the official language and the one most often spoken, but Creole is also prolific on the island. Locals consider their culture to be distinctly more French than other French territories in the Caribbean that have more thoroughly blended French and Caribbean culture.
St. Martin's climate is tropical, experiencing about 42.3 inches of rain each year. Temperatures range from 73 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, with the warmest temperatures occurring in July and the coolest temperatures in January. Click here for more information about average annual rainfall.
While many travelers come to the island during a port stop on a cruise excursion, vacationers are drawn to staying on the island due to its inviting atmosphere and breath-taking scenery. The accommodations on the island vary to suit any traveler’s lifestyle; from budget-minded vacationers to lavish honeymooners. Lodging options include everything from mega-resorts to family-owned inns, and if you’re traveling with a large number of people, the Dutch side of the island offers a number of facilities that cater specifically to groups.
...secluded snorkeling provides for an unforgettable experience.
St. Martin is a particularly interesting island for those interested in studying history, because of its dual nation status. You can visit the Arawak Museum and Fort Louis as well as many other historic structures to learn about the island's fascinating history and culture. American travelers will be pleased to learn that both sides of the island have adapted to speaking English, making communication easy.
Exploring the outdoor wonders of St. Martin is a must for nature lovers. At the Seaside Nature Park, guests can enjoy a variety of horseback riding packages that will tour you through the surrounding areas while a guide describes the local plant and animal life. The ecosystems on the island range from tropical rainforests to volcanic environments, providing travelers with a sweeping selection of scenery. Hiking and mountain biking are excellent ways to explore while engaging in a thrilling activity. Whale watching is a favorite pastime during the spring. True nature enthusiasts will love a trip to Îlet Pinel, an uninhabited island where wild goats roam free and secluded snorkeling provides for an unforgettable experience.
Of course, there are the beaches. No trip to a Caribbean island is complete unless at least one day is spent basking in the sun and swimming in the surf. St. Martin's beaches tend to be quiet and are typically not crowded; giving couples the seclusion they may be looking for. Likewise, the calm atmosphere of the beach provides traveling families with the ability to claim a spot in the sand without worrying about children getting lost in the crowd. Windsurfers flock to the eastern shores of the island, including Coconut Grove, Orient Beach and Dawn Beach. Families and conservative travelers are advised that many French beaches are home to topless sunbathers.
...clubs and bars are bustling with excitement and entertainment.
Other popular activities in St. Martin include water sports, tennis, spa treatments, and shopping. More active travelers will enjoy the range of water sport activities that are available on the island. Everything from snorkeling and diving to deep-sea fishing excursions are offered to provide guests with a thrilling water-based experience. The island is home to popular fishing competitions such as May’s Marlin Cup and the Billfish Tournament held every June.
After working up an appetite while exploring everything the island has to offer, travelers are invited to dive into the culinary scene of St. Martin. Everything from French dishes and Italian fare to Japanese cuisine and local Caribbean food can be found on the island, making it easy to please any taste preference. The style of restaurants also varies, giving vacationers the option between upscale candlelit dinners or casual eateries and barbecue stands. The best places to catch a delicious bite are in Grand Case, but other locations such as Marigot and Cupecoy offer excellent alternatives. Favorite local dishes include stuffed crab, cod fritters, grilled seafood and fresh produce like mangos, guavas and papayas. Click here to read more about the culinary styles of St. Martin.
The water is safe to drink throughout the island. As on St. Maarten, it's best to avoid night driving on St. Martin, and even wiser to avoid deserted, poorly lit back roads at night. Isolated beaches are usually isolated for a reason - don't go out seeking an adventure. Travelers are advised to use the buddy system. Beyond that, follow basic safety rules of traveling, such as keeping an eye on your possessions.
Vacationers looking to get the most bang for their buck should consider a trip to St. Martin. Here they will get to experience three different cultures – French, Dutch, and Caribbean – and do so while lounging under the sun and in the sand. What more could you ask for in a vacation?
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