St. Martin is a special island for many reasons, but its most distinguishing feature is its unique duality. France governs the island’s northern collectivity, St. Martin, while Netherlands governs its southern territory, St. Maarten. Only a “Welcome” sign distinguishes the French side from the Dutch side, and with just 37 square miles to share, crossing from one side to the other can feel as easy as driving to the next neighborhood.
The two sides of the island each have their own attractions – the French side is quieter and quainter, while the Dutch side offers more shopping and nightlife – but the island’s greatest draw is its gorgeous beaches (37 in total – one for each square mile!). With pure white sand, clear turquoise water, beach bars, and incredible restaurants, St. Martin is a vacation destination in the truest sense. All you have to do is decide to unwind, and this relaxing island paradise will take care of the rest.
St. Martin (French side): The French side of St. Martin is less developed than the Dutch side, which translates to quieter nightlife, and according to some, a more authentic atmosphere. Marigot, the capital of French St. Martin, offers chic boutiques, cafés, and the island’s best French fare (along with many other kinds of cuisine) can be found in charming Grande Case, “the gourmet capital of Caribbean.” The French side is also home to Orient Beach, a stretch of sand that feels straight out of the South of France (complete with a designated nude beach). Note that while both sides of the island accept USD, the French side officially uses the Euro, so an exchange rate does apply.
St. Maarten (Dutch side): The Dutch side of the island deals exclusively in USD, and the majority of the island’s bars, clubs, and casinos reside here. St. Maarten’s capital, Phillipsburg, is a bustling seaside center with a beautiful boardwalk, and though cruise ships often dock at its port, its beaches are as clean and water as clear as anywhere on the island (and if you time your visit when ships are not in port, you can shop and stroll the boardwalk with relative ease). St. Maarten is home to famous Maho Beach, where low flying planes landing at the nearby airport thrill and delight visitors daily.
February and March are fantastic months to visit St. Martin. The French side of the island celebrates Carnival in February, and in early March, the Dutch side (St. Maarten) hosts the Heineken Regatta, an international sailing competition that draws people from all over the world.
The Dutch side of the island celebrates Carnival in late April, and the French side celebrates Bastille Day in July.
The weather in St. Martin is generally perfect year-round, though rainy season (and off-season) is technically from late May to mid-November.
Marilyn has been in the villa rental industry since 1984, when she visited St. Martin for the first time and fell in love with the island. After over thirty years helping travelers rent the perfect St. Martin vacation home, Marilyn not only knows the island inside and out, but knows just about everyone on the island as well. Marilyn has been recognized as the Condé Nast Traveler Villa Rental Specialist for St. Martin since 2006 and is featured as a Trusted Travel Expert on Wendy Perrin's WOW List. She spends 4–6 months out of the year in St. Martin and considers it her second home.