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.
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
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