Saint Martin, a Caribbean Island, is famous for its exceptional hospitality, laid-back vibe, and breathtaking natural beauty. It is also well-known for being split into European political jurisdictions: French Saint Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten.

There are a good number of visitors to the island each year. Further, it can be challenging for travelers to decide which side of the island best suits their travel goals, giving rise to the perennial Saint Marin vs. Sint Maarten debate. Since each region of the island has a unique history and development, each offers a different experience.

Saint Martin vs. Sint Maarten: one island, two countries

Saint-Martin: The French oversea territory

The Collectivité de Saint-Martin comprises the northern French part (Collectivity of St Martin). Additionally, it belongs to France’s collection of abroad entities. It is famous for its barefoot beaches and genuine French cuisine.

It is the smallest area with a compact population that two countries share – the French Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands – each controlling a segment of the island. A French Republic overseas collectivity, the Collectivity of Saint Martin is located in the northern part of the island.

Marigot, the island’s capital, is its largest city. Geographically speaking, the island is hilly and contains a lot of tall mountains. This indicates that the island has many valleys, which are where most communities are located.

Sint-Maarten: a Dutch overseas territory

The southern Dutch island of Sint Maarten is one of the four nations that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Sint Maarten is more culturally and linguistically diversified than its French neighbor in the north. Additionally, it is frequently claimed to have a more authentic Caribbean vibe.

Only Philipsburg, the island’s capital, is a proper town with a city-like ambiance. Princess Juliana International Airport (code SXM) is located west of the town of Philipsburg and southwest of Marigot and is a hub for surrounding islands such as Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Barths, Saba, Dominica, Tortola in the BVI or Nevis. Many international flights from Europe or the USA also land in SXM airport.

French is spoken in Saint Martin, Dutch and English are spoken in Sint Maarten

French is the official language of Saint Martin. Even though it’s less popular than on the Dutch side, English is nonetheless used. Saint Martin has a European vibe and a certain French charm.

Although English is commonly used, and happily so, Dutch is the official language of Sint Maarten. Virgin Islands Creole is also spoken because this side has a distinctly Caribbean vibe.

Saint Martin is renowned for its French cuisine

Although several Caribbean islands were once or are currently held by France, St. Martin unquestionably offers the region’s best French cuisine, earning the title of French gastronomic capital of the Caribbean on numerous occasions. Escargot here is on par with what you would find in France. It makes sense that Saint Martin is known as the “gourmet capital of the Caribbean” informally.

Every palate will be satisfied on the island of St. Martin, whether you’re a fan of seafood, a self-described BBQ master, a fan of hot sauce, or someone with an insatiable sweet tooth. A feast for the senses awaits visitors to this beautiful vacation spot. Buy some wine, cheese, and baguettes for yourself. Indeed, all these are available in convenience stores at reasonable prices.

Sint Maarten more developed than Saint Martin?

Many people prefer Dutch Sint Maarten since it is more developed. This indicates that the amenities and services are more plentiful on this side of the island. However, those who choose a more relaxed setting stay at French Saint Martin. In addition, it has a more “Caribbean vibe”. It draws travelers seeking an escape from the crowds. You can determine which side is ideal for you by contrasting these two aspects.

Sint Maarten culturally more diverse than Saint Martin?

Comparatively speaking, Sint Maarten is more culturally diverse than Saint Martin. In fact, linguistic diversity is also greater in Sint Maarten. Undoubtedly, many people claim that it has a more authentic Caribbean character. Consequently, this island offers a distinctive blending of many cultures. Yes, it has a unique personality and allure.

Compared to its Dutch counterpart, Saint Martin has a stronger European impact. The people still have a highly liberal outlook on life and conduct themselves in a manner that is extremely reminiscent of European culture. Compared to its French counterpart, Sint Maarten boasts a wider range of cultural blends and a livelier character that embodies Caribbean culture.

Saint Martin less “traditional” than Sint Marten?

Sint Maarten and Saint Martin’s cultures are heavily influenced by their Dutch and French ancestry. Still, Saint Martin is less traditional than Sint Maarten.

In contrast to its neighbor, French Saint Martin is a tranquil destination. However, expect a delightful French immersion that extends to the country’s fine dining establishments and pastry shops rather than nightclubs or casinos. The French side’s capital, Marigot, has a variety of shops and boutiques with a very European feel. Grand Case is well known for its assortment of upscale French eateries and its regional barbecue joints, known as “lolos”.

The teeny-tiny enclave of Sint Maarten has a vibrant nightlife loaded with unusual guava berry-based cocktails. Its rich, diverse charm is enhanced by bustling restaurants, trendy nightclubs, and glittering casinos with a very American flair.

Sint Maarten vs. Saint Martin: two different currencies

Talking about the currency, each side uses the currencies of their nations. The official money of Sint Maarten is the Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG). The primary currency in Saint Martin is the euro (EUR). Both countries do, however, essentially accept USD currency.

Saint Martin vs. Sint Maarten: which side has the best beaches?

Saint Martin is known for its nude beaches.

The Orient Bay of Saint Martin is a famous nude beach. There are many premium restaurants where you may eat at Orient Bay Beach, a beach where clothes are optional. St. Martin won’t let you down if you prefer a non-naked beach. Red Bay or Baie Rouge Beach, Friar’s Bay Beach, and Le Galion are all options. Ask the yacht captain where the many family-friendly beaches are in advance if you’re traveling with kids.

In addition to being one of the prettiest areas on the island for those who don’t mind the occasionally exposed bottom, Orient Beach is also home to several upscale beach clubs and fine dining establishments that appeal to both the Superyacht Set and VIPs with their distinctively St. Tropez ambiance.

Both Saint Martin and Sint Maarten have great snorkeling options.

White sand beaches with crystal-clear water are a blessing on the island. There are a total of 37 beaches on both islands. Mullet Bay Beach is one of the most excellent beaches in the Netherlands. This beach features white sand, blue waves, and beautiful scenery. Mullet Bay Beach is a perfect choice for beginner snorkelers because you can observe fish close to the beach. There aren’t enough bathrooms, and it is possible to hire beach umbrellas and chairs. On the beach, there are a lot of neighborhood pubs as well.

At Orient Bay beach, you can participate in a variety of water sports, like snorkeling. Additionally, compared to Great Bay Beach, many people prefer this beach for swimming and tanning.

Both Saint Martin and Sint Maarten have surf spots and kite surf spots

Both the Dutch and French sides are windier. This means that waves are common on the beaches on both sides. Indeed, they are the perfect spot for kite surfers and water surfers.

Sint Maarten vs. Saint Martin shopping scene

Sint Maarten is renowned for its duty-free goods.

It is well known that Sint Maarten is a shoppers’ paradise. Tourists can buy duty-free products here, including luxury electronics, designer clothing, booze, and cigarettes. Numerous duty-free businesses can be found on Philipsburg’s Front Street and Maho Village. There are several upscale jewelry stores, as well as a gorgeous boardwalk in Philipsburg. A magnificent beach boardwalk is surrounded by many vendors selling china, crystal, cigars, and souvenirs.

Saint Martin is famous for its luxury fashion.

If you plan to buy some high-end luxury products, then Saint Martin has many malls and shopping centers. Saint Martin is home to numerous stores selling designer jewelry and souvenirs. The Le West Indies shopping mall in Saint Martin houses many shops of luxury brands.

Must do activities in Saint Martin vs. Sint Maarten

Saint Martin’s activities are not to be missed.

Be sure to visit the Loterie Farm while you are in Saint Martin. To unwind and get back in touch with nature, visit this wonderland. Additionally, you may enjoy some of the best food, drinks, and activities at the pool and in the trees.

You cannot afford to miss touring Saint Martin’s Tintamarre Island, another hidden treasure. Flat island is another name for this island. This island is a fantastic place to go swimming and snorkeling. You can go swimming with turtles because there are lots of them in this area.

If you’re up for it, you may take a quick climb from Marigot to Fort St. Louis, where you can see the ruins of a French military post from the 18th century that guards Marigot Bay. The breathtaking views of the bay and the sparkling Caribbean Sea make it worth the climb.

Go to Belmonde La Samanna on the westernmost tip of Saint Martin if you’re seeking something more upscale. For yacht travelers looking for an A-list-approved haven in the Caribbean, this upscale resort perfectly captures the laid-back island lifestyle.

Visitors can stroll through thousands of different Caribbean butterfly species while they flutter above their heads or feast on the kaleidoscopic flora, allowing them to see the full range of their majestic nature-painted wings. The site is located on the east coast of Saint Martin, close to Orient beach.

The to-do list in Sint Maarten

  • A Ride on the Flying Dutchman: The Flying Dutchman is undoubtedly Sint Maarten’s best attraction. This world’s steepest zipline offers a beautiful view of Sint Maarten.
  • Get Close to the Airplanes at Maho Beach: Maho Beach is one of the nicest things you can do while visiting Sint Maarten. Aside from enjoying the white beaches, you can watch airplanes take off and land at the nearby international airport. In addition, if you want to watch the plane up close, you may either get a drink at the neighborhood bar or just walk into the crowd.
  • Enjoy the Best Rum: If you enjoy sipping rum, you should research Topper’s Rhum Factory. Take a tour here to find out how they produce this well-known beverage. Using elements from the area, this massive distillery creates 50 different varieties of rum. In addition to that, you can also check out Guavaberry Emporium. Sugar cane, regional rum, and guavas grown on the island are all used to manufacture the Guavaberry liqueur.
  • Visit Fort Louis: This is a perfect site for history buffs. This fort provides breathtaking panoramic views of Marigot, Philipsburg, and Simpson Bay. If you’re seeking refuge away from the crowded beaches, the short hike to this fort is a wonderful respite.
  • Create your perfume: A personalized aroma to reminisce about your time in St. Martin is the best souvenir to take home from the island. On the French side, Tijon Perfumerie makes high-end colognes, skin care products, and perfumes in their on-site lab. They also provide classes that last 60 or 90 minutes. Naturally, the experience concludes with a champagne toast, and Tijon Perfumerie maintains the formulations on file in case you order another bottle of custom perfume.
  • Enjoy the sun at Mullet Bay: Mullet Bay is considered one of the best beaches in St. Maarten because of its expansive stretches of fine white sand, clear blue sea, and protected coves, making it the ideal site to spend a sunny day. It’s a beloved area for locals and a well-liked swimming spot because of its crystal-clear, quiet waters. An 18-hole golf course surrounds it, and palm tree groves along its perimeter.
  • Enjoy a sail at dusk: One of the nicest things to do in St. Maarten is to end the day by sailing around the sea while holding a cocktail in your hand, just in time to witness a spectacular Caribbean sunset, a stunning shade of pink and gold. Many companies across the island offer catamaran sunset cruises, with most setting off from piers in Simpson Bay or Philipsburg.
  • Enjoy the Thrilling “America’s Cup” 12-meter challenge: Ever wished you could pilot a real racing yacht? The 12 Metre Challenge offers you the chance to join the crew of an actual America’s Cup yacht. Even better, you don’t need prior sailing knowledge to participate in this unique event. The personnel at 12 Metre is excellent and will make sure you have a fantastic time.
  • Scuba Diving and Snorkeling: While visiting St. Maarten, snorkeling and scuba diving are unquestionably two of the most thrilling and daring sports to partake in. One of the best snorkeling and scuba diving locations in the entire Caribbean is St. Maarten, which is famous for its crystal-clear waters, calm seas, and beautiful coral reef that is alive with marine life. These are all perfect conditions for snorkeling and scuba diving. Because of the government’s protection of the schools of beautifully colored fish that inhabit the seas surrounding St. Maarten, Saint Martin offers the most pristine snorkeling and/or scuba diving experiences. Additionally, the year-round tropical climate of St. Maarten is ideal for snorkeling and diving.

Read also: What is a bareboat charter?

Sint Maarten vs. Saint Martin: which one is the most crowded?

Sint Maarten is more visited than Saint Martin.

Many people would consider the Dutch side of Sint Maarten’s island more fun and exciting. This is because most of the exciting and entertaining things visitors enjoy are concentrated on this side of the island, including visiting beaches, museums, mouthwatering

 Caribbean-style restaurants, participating in water sports, visiting nightclubs, and visiting casinos. Sint Maarten also offers a wide range of nighttime activities, including festivals that take place annually and feature live music, dancing, and mouthwatering regional food. Anyone who travels to Sint Maarten will have a truly enjoyable time.

Saint Martin is less crowded and quieter than Sint Maarten

Without any second thoughts, Saint Martin is much quieter than Sint Maarten. There are several tranquil beaches in this area, which is notable for highlighting luxury and elegance. The most recent French fashion and extravagant luxury resorts are on either side of these beaches.

Contrarily, the French side of the island has a very different personality and a decidedly continental feel. The words “elegant,” “cosmopolitan,” and “stylish” properly describe the island’s north. Three words perfectly summarize French Saint Martin: tranquil, laid-back, and scenic.

Yachting in Sint Maarten vs. yachting in Saint Martin: what are the differences?

You can enjoy more nightlife, casinos, and shopping while shopping in Sint-Marten.

Sint Maarten is all about the bustling streets at night and the crazy clubs. So the best way to enjoy a vacation here is to spend time chilling in the casinos and shopping.

The Red Piano is one of the well-known locations. Church on Mondays is a famous band of Sint Maarten that plays at this location. In addition, Sint Maarten’s Lotus Nightclub is a popular hangout.

Saint Martin is better for yachties who want quietness and refinement.

Anyone planning a yachting vacation and confused about choosing a destination between Saint Martin and Sint Maarten, then surely, must go for Saint Martin. Yacht charters have always preferred St. Martin as the perfect yachting vacation destination. This is primarily due to the area’s expanses of bleach-blonde sands, laid-back mood, picturesque splendor, and dual culture.

Sint Maarten and Saint Martin are great for islands hopping on a yacht.

Tours to the neighboring islands are possible from both Sint Maarten and Saint Martin. Daily ferry service is available to Saba, St. Barths, Anguilla, and St. Eustatius from Saint Martin. Additionally, there is a ferry service to Anguilla and St. Barths from Marigot.

Read also: Best 8 and 10 Days British Virgin Islands Sailing Itineraries – Our Recommendations

So, Saint Martin vs Sint Maarten?

Pick Sint Maarten if you want more civilization and a multicultural vibe.

Even though the Dutch side of the island – Sint Maarten – is smaller, it has a bigger population. Furthermore, it boasts three times as many hotel rooms as Saint Martin. Philipsburg is one of the busiest ports of stop for Caribbean cruises, allowing thousands of passengers to disembark and explore the island. This further adds to the vibrant community on the Dutch side. Each year, the Dutch side also draws a sizable number of people to its famous events and festivals, such as Carnival and the Heineken Regatta.

The Dutch part, Sint Maarten, has more pubs and nightclubs than the French side. Henceforth, this contributes to a livelier ambiance. This is also due to the volume of tourists who visit Philipsburg regularly.

The Dutch side is a great option if you enjoy more activity and thrive in a lively, laid-back environment. In the Dutch region, there is a stronger Caribbean cultural influence and strong multiculturalism and overlapping native, Asian, Indian, and European influences.

Pick Saint Martin if you want to be alone or enjoy French’s finest culture.

Saint Martin is a better option for people looking for a little more peace and a haven from the busy area’s commotion. In Saint Martin, the environment and beaches are more tranquil and free from any kind of the hustle and bustle.

Without any doubt, both Saint Martin and Sint Maarten are different in many aspects. Still, both have plenty to offer travelers and tourists, especially those coming for yachting vacations. May it be the stunning beaches, majestic landscapes, timeless hospitality, and warmth both islands have the best to offer. Whichever side you decide on for a holiday, this stunning island will leave you in awe and bring you a memorable vacation.

A thirty-seven square mile island and home to two distinct nations, it has a variety of attractions. So, to experience the best of both worlds, you should be aware of what distinguishes each side. Overall, Sint Maarten is the best option for someone who wishes to take part in the steepest zipline ride and nighttime partying. On the other hand, Saint Martin is a superb option for a traveler who loves to unwind on the beach, spend time in nature, and indulge in fine cuisine.

Read also : Caribbean Yacht Charter: the Full Price List