Things to know before going to Sint Maarten

Saint Martin is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and spans an area of 34 miles (88 square km). The island has white sandy beaches, fascinating sea life, friendly locals, superb culinary cuisine, and numerous choices of entertaining activities that offer all travelers an amazing Caribbean experience.

The key to the uniqueness of Saint Martin is that the island has two countries in one. One side is owned by France, the other is owned by the Netherlands. The population of Saint Martin is 39,421 on the French side of the island and 40,733 on the Dutch side of the island. Dutch Sint Maarten is known for being very lively while French Saint Martin is known for being more laid back. Although each side has its own traditions and character, each side of the island adds to the vibrant spirit of the entire island.

The island of Saint Martin has a lot to offer to all kinds of travelers. The things all travelers should know before visiting the island are addressed in this article.

Why should you go to Sint Maarten?

Saint Martin is a beautiful island brimming with culture, delicious and picturesque scenery, this alone is already a good reason to visit Saint Martin. But St. Maarten also possesses so many unique qualities that draw many tourists back to the island year after year.

The reasons why you should visit Saint Martin are listed below.

  1. Gorgeous Beaches: Saint Martin has 37 gorgeous beaches lining 70 km of coastline. Each one of these beaches has a unique beauty, from the remote beaches to beaches that are tourist hotspots. All the beaches on the island are known for their soft sands and crystal-clear water.
  2. It’s a Dual Owned Island: Saint Martin is split into two, French Saint Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten. Visiting this island is like getting two European vacations in one trip. Since there is no physical border, it is easy to cross from one side to the other. This is the only border that France and the Netherlands share in the entire world.
  3. Underwater Marine Life: The marine life and colorful reefs of St. Maarten draw people in from all over the world. Snorkeling is available on the many reefs around the island. Saint Martin is also a diverse paradise. There are 55 different dive sights on the island teeming with vibrant coral and fish.
  4. Water Sports: St. Maarten is the perfect destination for adventurous tourists. There are many different activities available to tourists who love water sports such as jet-skiing, parasailing, banana boating, paddleboarding, and more. These sports are available on most of St. Maarten’s beaches.
  5. Delicious Cuisine: Saint Martin provides an excellent culinary experience for all travelers with its vast array of different cuisines, ranging from local Caribbean cuisine to French delicacies. The island has over 300 restaurants that have gained influence from at least 100 different nationalities. This is something that truly sets St. Maarten apart from its other neighbors in the Caribbean.
  6. Nightlife: The entertainment in St. Maarten lasts long after the sun goes down. St. Maarten has a vast array of bars, casinos, and clubs that create a vibrant atmosphere that lasts well into the evening. The island is known for its indoor and outdoor venues that host events and have live music and dancing.
  7. Carnivals and Festivals: St. Maarten has some of the most spectacular celebrations in the world. The island is well known for the St. Maarten carnival, the SXM festival, and the Grand Parade in Phillipsburg, usually occurring in Dutch Saint Martin. These festivals attract international attention. At these festivals, tourists can see bright costumes, hear exciting bands play music, and have tasty food and drink.
  8. Beautiful Landscape: St. Maarten has a stunning natural landscape with clear waters and golden sunsets framed by lush green mountains. All the beaches have amazing views and a variety of plant and animal life.
  9. Duty-Free Shopping: St. Maarten is known around the world for its duty-free shopping status and incredible shopping centers. The entire island is duty-free. This makes St. Martin a go-to destination where you can buy luxury goods at low prices.

What are the travel requirements of Sint Maarten?

The travel requirements of entry into the island of St. Maarten are a valid passport from your country of citizenship and proof of return for onward travel. Naturalized citizens must present their original naturalization certificate and photo ID to enter St. Maarten. Tourists traveling from the United States, Canada, Australia, the EU, and Britain do not require a visa upon entry into Saint Martin unless they plan to stay more than 90 days.

In addition to a valid passport and proof of return from St. Maarten, travelers arriving from countries outside of the United States, Canada, Australia, and the EU are required to have a visa prior to entry into the country, regardless of the length of their stay. This visa should be obtained before departing from their country of residence by contacting the local French embassy in their country.

Are there border crossings in St. Maarten between the Dutch and French side?

No, there are no border crossing restrictions between the French side of St. Martin and the Dutch side of St. Maarten. Since there is no physical border division in Saint Martin between the French and Dutch sides of the island, people can move about freely through both the French and Dutch sides.

What are the best months to visit Sint Maarten?

The best time of year to visit St. Maarten is between the months of January and June. During this time the climate is dry and there is not as much rain as there is during the rainy season. It would be better to avoid traveling to St. Maarten during the months of July to December to avoid hurricane season.

How is the climate in Sint Maarten?

The climate of Saint Martin is tropical all year round. The weather is hot and sunny with a daily average temperature of 77 F (25 C) between the months of January to March and 82 F (28 C) from June to October.  At night the temperature rarely drops below 68F (20 C). The annual amount of rain is 40 inches per year. February and March are the months with the least rain and the months with the most rain are from August to November.

Is traveling to Sint Maarten safe?

Yes, Saint Martin is generally considered a safe island to visit. The crime rate is relatively low compared to other countries. Most crimes are petty theft crimes that occur due to valuables being left out. As when traveling to any other tourist destination, safety precautions should be taken such as being aware of your surroundings, traveling in groups, and traveling around the island with a minimum amount of jewelry, cash, and other valuables.

In Saint Martin, one of the biggest crimes is passport theft, so be sure to bring your original driver's license with you as well as a photocopy of your passport. If you are renting a car, It may also be wise to purchase rental car insurance, as rental cars are sometimes broken into on the island. Along with purchasing insurance, be sure to not leave any valuables on the seats of the car.

What should you know about the culture of Sint Maarten?

The culture of Saint Martin is generally very friendly, the locals are known to be happy and helpful to tourists. For this reason, St. Maarten is often called “The Friendly Island”. The French side of the island is known for its peaceful laid-back nature and the Dutch side of the island is known for its more lively and vibrant nature.

There are currently 120 different nationalities on the island of St. Maarten, but there have been many influences from the past that have contributed to the vast culture of the people of Saint Martin. The culture of the island stems from Dutch, French, British, and African heritage.

What languages are spoken in Sint Maarten?

The languages spoken on the island of St. Martin are English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Creole, and Papiamento. English is widely spoken in both French Saint Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten, as it is the official language of both sides of St. Maarten.

What should you wear in Sint Maarten?

The standard of dress in St. Maarten is generally informal. With the warm climate, it is best to wear lightweight clothes with cotton fabric. Some commonly worn items are sports clothes for the beach, jeans, polos, shorts, dresses, sandals, and boat shoes. Swimwear is common for the beach, but it is not considered proper in town, so it's best to bring a cover-up.

What is the currency in Sint Maarten?

The official currency in St. Martin depends on which side of the island you are on. In French Saint Martin the currency is the Euro and it Dutch Sint Maarten the currency is the Netherlands Antilles Florin, also known as the Guilder. The US Dollar is commonly used all over St. Maarten and there are many currency exchange locations on the island. Saint Martin has a tourist-based economy, the restaurants, hotels, and other tourism-related places account for a large share of the island's income.

Where should you stay in Sint Maarten?

There are marvelous beachfront hotels on both the French and Dutch sides of St. Maarten that cater to all sorts of vacationers.

The best hotels on Saint Martin are listed below.

  • Hotel L’Esplanade: Located in Grand Case, St. Martin on the French side of the island. This is a family-owned hotel that was established in 1992. The hotel has 24 spacious studios, lofts, and suites that contain private terraces with fully equipped kitchens. The hotel also has a spa and a yoga studio. Several beaches as well as ferry access to Pinel Island are located nearby.
  • Hommage Hotel: Located in Baie Rouge on the French side of the island near Terres-basses. This waterfront hotel has 147 luxury rooms and suites with terraces that have a lovely view. The hotel has an aqua spa as well as artwork spanning across the entire property from international artists in the hotel's museum garden.
  • Holland House Beach Hotel: Located in the heart of Phillipsburg, directly on the beach this hotel offers its guests a private beach experience. Attendants on the beach offer you drinks and meals while you lounge in the sun. The hotel has 55 rooms and suites and balconies and terraces with ocean views. This is a family-friendly hotel with interconnecting rooms. There is a lot of shopping nearby in Wathey Square and historical sites such as Fort Amsterdam and the museum of Saint Maarten are nearby.
  • Hotel La Plantation: This hotel is located on the north Atlantic coast of Saint Martin near Orient Bay. The hotel has 52 rooms, a freshwater swimming pool, and a lounge area. Water sports can also be enjoyed nearby, and you can rent kayaks, surfboards, and snorkel equipment from the hotel.
  • Belmond La Samanna: Located in French Saint Martin, Belmond la Samanna is a stunning beachside resort that offers a luxurious stay for its guests. There are 83 rooms, suites, villas, and cottages. There is a private infinity pool as well as snorkeling and kayaking gear that is available for guests to rent. The hotel also offers a champagne sunset cruise.
  • La Playa Orient Bay: This seaside hotel in Orient Bay is directly on the beach. There are 56 rooms with furnished patios and kitchenettes. An onsite water sports center provides access to equipment for parasailing, jet skiing, and banana boating.

What should you eat in Sint Maarten?

St. Maarten is one of the culinary capitals of the Caribbean. Full of local eateries and fine dining establishments. Immigrants from all over the world have helped the island to cultivate a rich culinary experience.

Some of the most popular foods in St. Martin are listed below.

  1. Conch and Dumplings: A spicy dish made from a large sea snail that is seasoned with herbs and spices and cooked in a pressure cooker. This dish is usually paired with fluffy dumplings and topped with gravy.
  2. Callaloo: A Caribbean staple, a hearty soup made with fresh kale, spinach, and callaloo (which is a spinach-like vegetable). This thick soup is seasoned with thyme, pepper, and local hot peppers.
  3. Johnny Cakes: Similar to American pancakes, except they are made with cornmeal. They are very popular with the locals on St. Maarten and are often served with breakfast. They are smaller than American pancakes and fried in corn oil and served with honey butter, syrup, or jam.
  4. Codfish Fritters: Also known as salt fish, the fish is sauteed with onions, green pepper, thyme, tomato, celery, and local hot sauce.  It's blended with flour, milk, and eggs and deep-fried in corn oil.
  5. St. Maarten Spareribs: Found at many of the local “lolos” on the island and cooked on the grill and tossed in spicy and savory barbecue sauce. This traditional recipe is passed down for centuries and is unique to the island. Each island in the Caribbean island has its own take on it.
  6. Locri: A simple and delicious meal made of rice chicken and a medley of vegetables and seasonings. Cooked together in one pot while the flavors mix into one another. It is an enjoyable dish and a staple of St. Maarten cuisine. Some think of it as a Saint Martin-style Spanish paella.
  7. Crabmeat-Stuffed Shells (Crab Backs): This meal features freshly cooked crab meat sauteed with onions seasonings, tomato, and Worcestershire sauce. The mixture is placed back into the original crab shells and sprinkled with breadcrumbs.
  8. Guavaberry Liqueur: A cold and refreshing beverage that is unique to St. Maarten. It's the national drink on both the French and Dutch sides of the island. Made from small guavaberry fruits that grow locally, this is used in a variety of drinks and cocktails on the island.

What are the best tours in Sint Maarten?

Some of the best tours on the island of St. Maarten are listed below.

  • The Best Catamaran Day Sail in St. Maarten: This is a family-friendly 5-hour yacht excursion from Simpson Bay. You will go to both the French and the Dutch sides of the island visiting several famous beaches. You can go snorkeling, paddle boarding, and swing from a tarzan swing. The tour provides a locally made lunch from the bar and costs $119 U.S. Dollars per person.
  • The Original Eco Tour Full-Day Around the Island of Sint Maarten: You will take a full-day cruise around St. Maarten with stops at Grand Case, Creole Rock, and Tintamarre Island. Explore the lovely natural beauty of Tintamarre, enjoy an open bar and see the island's lovely sights. The price of this tour is $133.00 U.S Dollars per person.
  • Captain Bob Most Popular Speed Boat, Snorkeling, and Beach Tour with Lunch: This is a 6-hour speed boat tour. Visiting both the French and Dutch sides of Saint Martin. On this tour, you can go snorkeling, relax on the beach, sip drinks, and have unlimited snacks all for $129 US Dollars per person.
  • Sky Explorer Flying Dutchman Schooner Ride and Sentry Hill Zip Line: This tour involves going to Saint Martin's highest point and seeing the excellent views of the island from the zipline. Two zipline rides are included, all costing $139 US Dollars per person.
  • St. Maarten Luxury Catamaran Full-Day Group Charter SXM Tour: Spend a full day cruising on a luxury catamaran visiting different shores. Taking in the views and swimming and snorkeling. See the planes take off at Maho Beach. Go fishing and kayaking and enjoy lunch on board mid-day. There is an open bar with unlimited snacks and refreshments. This costs $186 US Dollars per person.
  • 3 Island Adventure with a stop at Tintamarre to swim with Turtles: Explore the coast of St. Maarten on this full-day cruise. There is a lot of equipment offered for use on the tour such as paddleboards, snorkeling gear, and floatation devices. There is a barbeque for lunch and signature cocktails are served. Lunch and snacks are provided. The tour costs $136 US dollars per person.

Where in Sint Maarten should you visit?

Some of the top places to visit in Saint Martin are listed below.

  1. Maho beach
  2. Cupecoy beach
  3. Loterie Farm
  4. Pic Paradis
  5. Front Street
  6. GuavaBerry Emporium
  7. Mullet Bay Beach
  8. Simpson Bay
  9. Grand Case
  10. Phillipsburg

What should you know about the best beaches in Sint Maarten?

Some of the top beaches in St. Martin are listed below.

  1. Great Bay Beach: One of the most popular tourist destinations on St. Maarten. Great Bay Beach has a mile-long boardwalk, shopping centers, numerous bars, restaurants, and casinos.
  2. Little Bay Beach: This destination is known to be one of the safest beaches for kids on the island since the waters are current-free and there are a lot of aquatic and kid-friendly activities available.
  3. Orient Bay Beach: This beach is known for the many beach clubs, bars, hotels, and restaurants that line the beach. It’s a great spot for tourists looking for a fun and action-packed day or night out.
  4. Maho Beach: This famous beach is located right at the end of the Princess Julianna airport runway. A vantage point that makes it possible to see airplanes flying and landing directly overhead. An incredible sight to see.
  5. Mullet Bay: A quieter and less crowded beach situated near the popular Mullet Bay golf course and resort area. This beach is a great place to enjoy all types of water sports such as jet-skiing, parasailing, and surfing.
  6. Kim Sha Beach: This beach Is known for its vibrant nightlife and is a perfect spot for party-goers.
  7. Happy Bay Beach: A secluded cove with a rugged and natural beauty that is typically uncrowded.
  8. Grand Case Beach: Located in the culinary capital of the island, Grand Case Beach is home to many gourmet restaurants, beachfront bars and is known among tourists for its fantastic nightlife.
  9. Baie Rouge: This beach gets its name from the reddish-pink color of the sand. The pretty pink sand gets its color from the crushed coral pieces that wash up onto the shore. This beach is often referred to as the “Pink Beach”.
  10. Tintamarre Island: A secluded and uninhabited island lying off the coast of French St. Maarten. This small island has rugged red cliffs and sparkling blue waters teeming with colorful marine life and is a prime spot for snorkeling and hiking.

What are the best museums in Sint Maarten?

Some of the best museums in Saint Martin are listed below.

  • Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit
  • St. Maarten Museum
  • Roland Richardson Art Gallery
  • Tropismes Gallery
  • Artcraftcafe Gallery
  • Amuseum Naturalis

How is the transportation in Sint Maarten?

The transportation conditions are generally good on the island of St. Maarten. The best way to travel throughout Saint Martin is to rent a car. The conditions for traveling throughout Saint Martin are relatively good. Roads are paved and vehicles do not normally require 4-wheel drive. There are no toll roads on St. Maarten. There is traffic at times during certain hours in the tourist frequented locations.

For those deciding not to rent a car when on the island, there are other options such as buses and taxis that are readily available all throughout Saint Martin. Uber and Lyft are not available in Saint Martin.

Where is the airport in Sint Maarten?

Princess Juliana Airport is located on Airport Rd in Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. This is the main airport in St. Martin.

When departing from Saint Maarten you can arrive at Princess Juliana Airport, by renting a car, taking a taxi, or a minibus.  Princess Juliana airport is located 10 minutes away from Marigot, 25 minutes away from Phillipsburg, and 30 minutes from the town of French Cul-de-Sac. The price to rent a car is upwards of $35 US Dollars per day, the price for traveling by taxi to the airport usually ranges from $10-$30 US dollars depending on where you're coming from, and the fare for a minibus ride is $2 per person.

What are the best things to do in Sint Maarten?

The best activities to do on Saint Martin are listed below.

  • Sailing, Yachting or Boat Tours
  • Hiking in Guana Bay
  • Ziplining
  • Topper’s Rum Distillery Tour
  • Visiting one of 37 beaches
  • Loterie Farms
  • Snorkeling
  • Jet Skiing
  • ATV tour
  • Surfing
  • Parasailing
  • Watch the planes at Maho Beach
  • Shopping at the duty-free shops
  • Visiting historical sites like Fort Amsterdam
  • Island Hopping on nearby islands like Saba or Tintamarre Island
  • Scuba diving at Saba island with sea turtles and coral reef

How to I get around the island of Sint Maarten?

The best ways to navigate Saint Martin are listed below.

  • Car: The best way is by rental car. This will allow you greater mobility. You can rent a car for as low as $35 per day. Rental kiosks are located right outside the airport. There are often traffic jams in busy tourist areas. Driving is on the right side of the road. You can navigate on the island by GPS or by purchasing a map from one of the shops on the island.
  • Scooters: This is an exciting and efficient way to navigate travel on the island. This method is only advised you've had experience maneuvering one before. You can rent a scooter for $60 for a full day.
  • Bus: This is the most affordable way to get around. Unfortunately, the minibusses aren't very efficient and there are no schedules to follow.  It costs somewhere between $1 and $1.50 for a one-way trip.
  • Taxi: Taxis are a great option later in the evening when minibusses are less likely to run. They're unmetered, so you must agree on a fare before entering the cab.  Some taxis, especially those on the Dutch side, only accept U.S. dollars

Is traveling with pets allowed in Sint Maarten?

Yes, traveling with pets is permitted if the animal is at least 3 months old, has a recent letter of good health for the veterinarian, and has up-to-date vaccinations. The airline must be consulted about the requirements of animal transport.

How many days do you need for sightseeing in St. Maarten?

Three days is the minimum number of days needed to see and experience the best things St. Martin has to offer. This gives enough time to experience the island's diversity, see both the French and Dutch sides, and participate in fun activities and experiences.

Is Sint Maarten walkable?

Yes, most of the roads in Saint Martin are suitable for walking. Saint Martin's roads are paved very well. However, it is not recommended to walk in areas outside of Simpson Bay, Grand Case, Maho, or Orient bay or far away from your resort. Some of the terrain in  Saint Martin is quite hilly with a narrow sidewalk. Renting a car or public transportation is the best way to navigate the island.

What is needed to enter St. Maarten?

All travelers must have a valid passport from their country of residence to enter Saint Martin, as well as a return ticket for departure from the island.

In addition to a passport and a return ticket, travelers arriving from countries outside of the United States, Canada, and Europe will also be required to have a visa prior to entry into the country. This visa should be obtained before departing from their country of residence by contacting the local French embassy in their country.

All travelers will be presented with an immigration card on the airplane upon arrival at Princess Juliana Airport in Dutch Sint Maarten. It is important to know the address that you will be staying on the island to be able to present to immigration at the airport.

Is Sint Maarten safe for tourists?

Yes, Saint Martin is generally considered a safe island for tourists to visit. The crime rate in St. Martin is low compared to other countries. As when traveling to any other tourist destination, safety precautions should be taken such as being aware of your surroundings, traveling in groups, and traveling around the island with a minimum amount of jewelry, cash, and other valuables.

One of the biggest crimes on the island is passport theft, so be sure to bring your original driver's license with you as well as a photocopy of your passport. If you are renting a car, it may also be wise to purchase rental car insurance, as rental cars are sometimes broken into on the island. Along with purchasing insurance, be sure to not leave any valuables on the seats of the car.

Are there any snakes in Saint Martin?

No, snakes are not known to frequent the island of St. Martin. Fortunately, there are very few harmful animals located on the island. While swimming in the water it is advisable to watch out for sea urchins and jellyfish and sharp coral. However, there are very few reports of tourists being injured due to animals on Saint Martin.

Have there been any shark attacks on Saint Martin?

There are several species of sharks located in the waters surrounding St. Maarten. Experts say that they are generally not a threat and that they most commonly are located offshore in deeper waters and are rarely located close to shore. Shark attacks are so rare on the island, there has only been one non-fatal shark attack reported in St. Maarten, and it was in the year 2005.

Last Updated on November 26, 2021