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St. Maarten

St. Martin

With an area of only 37 square miles, the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin is the smallest land mass in the world to be divided between two governments. Its dual owners are the Dutch and the French, who have shared the tiny and paradisical island more or less peacefully for almost 350 years. This understated absence of conflict testifies to one of the island's most precious and attractive characteristics--its unusual serenity.

St. Maarten is also known throughout the Caribbean for its eclectic nightlife. The evening ritually begins at sunset, when cafes and night clubs open their doors and the music of steel drum bands floats along the beaches. The island's festive spirit peaks during carnival, a vibrant, two-week festival of feasting, street dancing, parties, and parades.

Although less developed than the Dutch side of the island, St. Martin (pop. 36,000) has seen a great deal of building in the past several years. Some of the best resorts on the island are found on the French side, as well as a strong Mediterranean ambience, with open markets and outdoor cafes. French is the official language, though people dealing with tourists usually know some English. Marigot, the capital on this side of the island, St. Martin Travel and Vacation Informationoffers superb shopping opportunities, watersports and great cafes.

The island's sugary-white beaches are spiritually restive and abundant, and walkers who encounter them are often struck by their splendid seclusion. Off-shore, St. Maarten's life-rich waters provide superb boating and fishing, as well as excellent diving areas. The inland region, with its gentle valleys and hills, is ideal for biking, horseback riding, and exploration. All these offerings have made St. Maarten a famous tropical destination, and the island is dotted with world-class resorts. Private guest houses are also an increasingly popular form of lodging, catering to visitors seeking traditional Caribbean hospitality.

The reefs around St. Maarten/St. Martin are rich and teeming with marine life. They are also often located close to shore, accessible to snorkelers as well as divers.

One of the most popular dive sites is the wreck of the British man-of-war HMS Proselyte, which sank in 1801. Today its haunting remains lie atop a reef a mile south of Great Bay. Another common destination is the freighter Teigland, sunk deliberately on Cable Reef in 1993. It has already begun to attract animal life and underwater vegetation.

Climate 75 - 85F 24 -29C
Water Temp 76 - 82F 24 -28C
Visibility 75 -125 ft 23 - 38 m

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