Caribbean Travelweb

Guide To St. Martin

Special Note - While we maintain two seperate travel guides for St. Martin and St. Maarten, you will find many references including the entire island.

The smallest island in the world ever to have been partitioned between two different nations, St. Martin/St. Maarten has been shared by the French and the Dutch in a spirit of neighborly cooperation and mutual friendship for almost 350 years.

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, offers superb shopping opportunities, watersports and great cafes.

The border is almost imperceptible. and people cross back and forth without ever realizing they are entering a new country. The only marker is a monument between Union Road and Bellevue, testifying to centuries of peaceful cohabitation and the treaty that made the arrangement possible.

Getting There

Jet service to St. Martin is into Princess Juliana International Airport at Simpson Bay in Dutch St. Maarten. L'Esperance Airport in Grand Case, French St. Martin can only accommodate up to 20-seat planes.

From Europe

Air France operates between 5 and 7 direct flight a week in low and high season respectively from Paris (Roissy Charles de Gaulle).
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana airport on the Dutch side.
Flying time : approx. 8 hours

Air Caraibes, the regional airline of the French Caribbean, operates 3 direct flights a week on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday from Paris Orly Sud.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.
Flying time : approx. 8 hours 30 minutes

Corsair has daily flights from Paris Orly Sud via Pointe-à-Pitre (flight Pointe-à-Pitre/Saint Martin operated by Air Antilles Express).
Flights take off and land at L'Espérance Airport, Grand Case on the French side.
Flying time : approx. 9 hours.

KLM operates direct flights from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport Amsterdam (Netherlands).
High season (November to March) : 3 weekly flights on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
Low season (April to October) : 2 weekly flights on Thursday and Saturday.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.
Flying time : approx. 8 hours.

From USA

American Airlines has 1 direct flight daily from New York and Miami.
3 direct flights daily from San Juan.
American Airlines operates a number of connections and daily indirect flights to other US cities.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

United Airlines operates flights from Chicago twice weekly.
United also operates connecting flights to other US cities.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

Delta has daily direct flights from Atlanta.
Delta also operates a number of connecting flights to other US cities.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

JetBlue has daily flights from New York.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

Spirit offers low-cost flights from Miami.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

From Canada

Air Transat has direct weekly flights from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

Air Canada has direct flights fromToronto in high season.
Weekly flights all year round via Pointe-à-Pitre.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana International Airport on the Dutch side.

COPA has direct flights on Tuesday and Saturday from Panama
Copa Airline operates a number of connections and daily indirect flights to other South American and US cities.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

From The Caribbean

LIAT offers direct flights from Antigua, Saint Croix, Saint Kitts, Saint Thomas, San Juan and Tortola.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport, on the Dutch side.

Caribbean Airlines has flights from Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Jamaica and Suriname.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

Winair offers direct flights from Anguilla, Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis, Saba, St-Barts, Saint-Kitts/Nevis, Statia, Dominica and Tortola.
Flights take off and land from Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

Insel Air has 4 flights weekly from San Juan during the summer (monday, tuesday, friday, sunday) - 3 flights weekly during the rest of the year (tuesday, friday, sunday).
Flights from Willemstad, Curaçao.
Flights take off and land at Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

Air Antilles Express has express Daily flights Guadeloupe, Martinique and Guyana.
Flights take off and land at Espérance Grand-Case Airport on the French side.

Air Caraibes offers daily flights Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana and Brazil.
Flights take off and land at Espérance Grand-Case Airport on the French side

St. Barth Commuter has direct daily flights Saint-Martin and St Barth.
Arrivals and departures from Espérance Grand-Case Airport on the French side.
Arrivals and departures from Princess Juliana Airport on the Dutch side.

St. Martin is also serviced by a number of Charter Airlines, please check with your travel agent.

Entry Requirements

Upon arrival at Princess Juliana International Airport (Dutch side) all passengers must present a FULLY COMPLETED immigration form. These forms are generally handed out in the plane before landing.
It is ESSENTIAL that you know the precise address of your accommodation on Saint Martin before you arrive.
french citizens

French citizens flying into Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), on the Dutch side, must be in possession of a valid passport and a return ticket or continuing ticket.
French citizens flying into Grand-Case airport, on the French side, may enter on a valid French identity card.
st martin st maarten island
eu nationals

EU nationals arriving into Grand Case Airport must be in possession of a valid passport, official French identity card or French residency card (carte de séjour). Visas are not required.
us and canadian nationals

US and Canada nationals must be in possession of a valid passport and a return ticket or continuing ticket. Naturalised citizens must present an original naturalisation certificate with an identification photo.
other countries

Travellers from other countries must present a valid passport and a return ticket or a continuing ticket.

Nationals from the following countries require a visa to enter Saint Martin (in alphabetical order):
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia, Moldavia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Mariana Islands, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Palestine, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, St Christopher (St Kitts) & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Salomon Islands, Samoa, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Travelling between St. Martin and St. Maarten

There is no physical border between the French and Dutch territories and people and goods may travel freely between the two sides of the island.

Helpful Visitor Information

Getting Around


For getting around from place to place a car is virtually indispensable although most hotels offer shuttle service to the casinos on the Dutch side of the island. Rental agencies are located at both airports and at the major hotels. Driving is on the right side of the road, and most of the roads are in fairly good repair. Motorcycles and mopeds are also available for hire.

Drivers must hold a French or international driving licence, which covers them across the territory.

Taxi Service

Regular taxi services run between Marigot, Philipsburg, the other areas of the island and the airports. Please note that taxis do not have meters but charge according to a fixed fee, and that some taxis, especially those on the Dutch side, only accept US Dollars. Taxis leave from outside Grand Case Regional Airport, the ferry terminal on Marigot waterfront (French side) and Princess Juliana International Airport (Dutch side).

Mini Bus

Group taxis (minibuses) cover most areas of the island. There is no fixed time table however there are dedicated bus stops. Simply wait at of the bus stop and raise your hand to alert the driver when a minibus arrives. Buses generally accept Euros and US dollars.


In St. Martin, Euro is the legal currency currency, and in St. Maarten it is the Antillean florin or guilder, but U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. Banks are open Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, with an additional hour on the French side Monday to Thursday 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm and on the Dutch side, Friday 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm.


Hotels on the French side typically add 5% occupancy tax per person, but a small gratuity is greatly appreciated for exceptionally good service. Restaurants also add a service charge to the bill. For taxi drivers it is customary to tip between 50 cents and a dollar, while porters at the airport usually get $1 per bag.


Choice of clothing should be casual and comfortable but neat. Swimming attire is not appreciated in hotel lobbies or for walking around town. At night dress remains somewhat informal, but jackets and shawls are recommended since casinos and restaurants can get a little chilly.


Officially, French is the language of St. Martin and Dutch in St. Maarten, but almost everyone speaks English, and many speak Spanish as well. French Creole and Papiamento, a Creole language of the Netherlands Antilles, is spoken here locally, especially in the southern parts of the island.


Dialing from abroad, the country code for French St. Martin is (590)590 followed by the local number witch is six digits long. The country code for Dutch St. Maarten is (599)5 followed by the five digits of the local number. Calls between the two countries are also international. From St. Martin to St. Maarten, remember to use the prefix 00599 54 then the number for fixed phones or 00599 55 or 00599 5 the the number for cellular. Calling the other way requires the prefix 00 (590) 590 then the number for fixed phones or 00 (590) 690 the the number for cellular. Phone cards, which must be used for all public phones, must be prepaid and bought at the post office or at some stores in downtown Marigot.


Electrical appliances run at 220 volts (50 Hz), following the European standard, in St. Martin, and at 110 volts (60 Hz), after the American standard, in St. Maarten. Visitors to the island should bring the appropriate converters, depending on where they plan on staying.


No vaccine required unless coming from an affected zone.

Water dessalination plants provide totally safe drinking water additionally, Fondor and La Magnifique are local bottled waters .

A broad range of medical services are available.

Poisonous Plants

The Manchionneel tree is extremely poisonous, and it grows all over the island but mainly along the beaches. It can be recognized by its deep green leaves and attractive green fruit that look like little apples. Both the sap and the fruit are caustic and will burn the skin. In case of contact or ingestion, contact a physician or a pharmacist immediately.

Activities and Attractions


St. Martin is famous for its beaches. They are great in number and each distinctively attractive. You will find them with waves high enough for surfers, and calm ones for the small kids. There are busy and deserted beaches for the honeymooners. Tiny beaches between rocky cliffs and some which seem to stretch endlessly. One thing they all have in common, they are clean, the sand is white, and the sea is crystal clear.


Deep Sea Fishing is available and you can angle for yellowtail snapper, grouper, marlin, tuna, and wahoo. Costs (for four people) range from $400 for a half-day to $700 for a full day. Prices usually include bait and tackle, instruction for novices, and refreshments. Ask about licensing and insurance. The Marlin Cup occurs in the month of May and the Saint-Martin Billfish Tournament takes place every year in the month of June.

Diving & Snorkeling

The water temperature is rarely below 70°F (21°C), and visibility is usually excellent, averaging about 100 feet (or more). Beginners and night divers will appreciate the tugboat Annie, which lies in 25 feet to 30 feet of water in Simpson Bay. The coral reefs offer a wide variety of sea life. Dive operators may be found at many of the major resorts and hotels as well as at a number of independent shops around the island. Instruction from beginning to advanced is readily available, and certified divers should remember to bring their licenses as well as their diving logs. Equipment may be rented easily, and snorkeling is especially inexpensive.

Some of the best snorkeling on the Dutch side can be found around the rocks below Fort Amsterdam off Little Bay Beach, in the west end of Maho Bay, off Pelican Key, and around the reefs off Dawn Beach and Oyster Pond. On the French side, the area around Orient Bay, Caye Verte (Green Key), Ilet Pinel, and Flat Island is especially lovely and is officially classified, and protected, as a regional underwater nature reserve.


The island's waters and winds make it ideal for exploring or relaxing by boat. Small boats, like Sunfish and Sailfish, may be rented out at many of the hotels, and larger craft can also be chartered from a number of different operators around the island for longer trips to more isolated spots like the Ilet Pinel. Sailing instruction is also included if desired. For racing enthusiasts, a number of regattas are held here every year usually at the end of March.


If you're thinking about windsurfing you should definitely go to Orient Bay Beach, the most popular beach on the Island for sailing activities. Orient Beach lies on the northern part of the French side on the Windward Atlantic coast. The possibilities are endless here: flat water sailing; swell and chop sailing between Green Key and Pinel Island; speed runs to Pinel from Club Orient; or wave sailing in the reef at Green Key!


For those who want to experience the natural beauty of the island on foot, there are 25 miles of clearly defined footpaths running through the mountains and along the shore, revealing some truly spectacular panoramas.

Horseback Riding

Island stables offer riding packages -- from novice to expert -- for $25 to $40 per hour for a beach ride. Ask about full-moon and sunset rides. You can arrange rides directly or through most hotels.

Tennis & Squash

Tennis remains one of the favorite pastimes in St. Martin, and there are more than 70 courts over the whole island. Many of these are to be found in the hotels where non-guests are welcome but may be subject to a fee. Squash is available at a number of sports clubs and fitness centers. Tennis pros are on hand in several of these places to give instruction for a modest fee. It should be kept in mind that appropriate attire, although not necessarily tennis whites, is required on nearly all of the courts.


There is a great 18 hole championship golf course at the Mullet Bay Resort. Surrounded by water and palm trees. Just watch out that you don't hit the ball in the water, you might have to go diving for it


Everybody agrees, no-where in the Caribbean will you find so many great restaurants as on the half Dutch, half French island of St.Maarten/St.Martin! In just a week you can taste the World's best cuisine from France... Italy... Spain... Germany... America... Creole... you name it, it's here. From elegant restaurants to bistros, brassieres, and barbecue shacks called lolos, there is something for every taste and budget.

Duty-Free Shopping

One of the great attractions of the island has been the duty-free shopping available on both sides of the island. Luxury items from all over the world, French and Italian clothing fashions, Dutch and Japanese electronics, Indonesian batiks and Chinese embroidery, jewelry, leather, crystal, liquors, and fine porcelain, free of all taxes and customs, are regularly offered at bargain prices. The French side also provides a more leisurely shopping experience since the crowds from the cruise ships tend to be attracted more to the Dutch side.


French St. Martin does not have any casinos; however, just a short ride away, are eight casinos on the Dutch side. Most hotels provide round-trip transportation to the casinos.

Attractions Around the Island

Orient Beach, Grand Case
The island's most popular beach features a clothing-optional area on one end.

Loterie Farm, St. Maarten/St. Martin
Hiking trail; Farm; Nature reserve

The Butterfly Farm (La Ferme des Papillons), Philipsburg
Farm; Nature center. This popular attraction is home to numerous species of rare butterflies.

12 Metre Challenge, Philipsburg
Visitors can participate in a mini-America's Cup boat race in actual boats from the 1987 competition, including Dennis Conner's famous Stars & Stripes.

Oyster Pond, Marigot
This pristine mile-long beach offers great swimming and scuba diving and is less known than some of the island's more popular beaches.

Maho Bay, St. Maarten/St. Martin
Maho Bay, on the southwestern shore, is Sint Maarten's main resort area. It feels a bit like the Las Vegas Strip: while little more than a block long, it's dense with multistory buildings housing exclusive jewellers, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and a huge resort and casino. Maho Bay has a nice enough beach except that it's at the very end of the airport runway. The area is even marked with a sign warning beach goers that 'low flying and departing aircraft blast can cause physical injury!'

St. Maarten Museum, Philipsburg
This small museum, in a converted 1800s house, covers the culture and history of the island.

Cupecoy Bay / Beach, St. Maarten/St. Martin
If you're looking for a beach that's quiet but not totally secluded, Cupecoy is a good choice. Its white sands are backed by low sandstone cliffs that have been eroded in such a way that they provide a run of small semiprivate coves.

Frontstreet, Philipsburg
This crowded street is a popular tourist center for duty-free shopping.

Orient Bay, St. Maarten/St. Martin
Very nice beach.

Red Bay (Baie Rouge), Marigot
This large beach has very gentle waters.

Museum of Saint Martin: On the Trail of the Arawaks (Musee de Saint-Martin: Sur la Trace des Arawaks), Marigot
This museum explores the history and culture of the island, beginning with the Arawak natives who inhabited the island before European contact.

Dawn Beach, Philipsburg
A popular tourist beach on the island's east coast.

St. Maarten Zoo, St. Maarten/St. Martin

Concordia Hill, Marigot
The site where the Treaty of Concordia was signed in 1648, establishing joint control over the island by the French and Dutch.

Prickly Pear, Marigot
This small pristine tropical island is perfect for a relaxing afternoon of snorkeling.

Paradise Peak, Marigot
Those who hike to the top of the island's highest mountain are rewarded with wonderful views.

Fort Amsterdam, St. Maarten/St. Martin
Historic site

Wathey Square, Philipsburg
The unofficial town center, featuring an 18th-century courthouse and a tourist information booth.

Proselyte Reef, St. Maarten/St. Martin
This reef is perhaps the best known dive site on the island and was the site where the H.M.S. Proselyte, the remains of which are still buried within the reef, once crashed.

Colombier, Marigot
This small village, located between Grand Case and Marigot, is famous for its beautiful serene setting.


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