Known for its impeccable hospitality, relaxed atmosphere and natural splendor, the Caribbean island of Saint Martin is also famous for being divided into two different zones of European governance: the French Saint Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten.
The island welcomes a fair share of travelers every year and for those making the trip, it can be difficult to know which side of the island best matches travel aspirations – leading to the ever- present Saint Marin vs Sint Maarten question.
Naturally, both parts of the island offer a slightly different experience based on their respective history and development. If you’re planning to stay in a luxury villa in Saint Martin, it is worth familiarizing yourself with the individual character of both sides, allowing you to plan the very best vacation retreat for your taste.
Bringing you the best of Saint Martin
To help find your way to the ultimate Saint Martin vacation, we’ve put together our thoughts on the five main differences between Saint Martin and Saint Maarten.
While a trip to this Caribbean haven will no-doubt be pleasant regardless of which side you choose, the similar yet distinct flavors of the two sides still have the power to shape your experience as a visitor.
From glittering casinos and a notably US-flavor in the Dutch zone to the slightly more European atmosphere that flourishes in the French Saint Martin, allow us to introduce you to the unique charisma of this island’s dual personality.
1. The island after dark
For many, no tropical vacation is complete without the freedom to while away the velvety nighttime hours away in a bar or nightclub, with fellow travelers and locals all around to share in the fun times. This is one of the main ways in which the two sides differ, as renting a villa in Sint Maarten is the best option for those who wish to party and stay out late.
With its network of glittering casinos in the areas of Maho and Simpson Bay, famous among eager partygoers as prime after-hours hotspots, the island’s festivities are seated in its Dutch area.
This is all the more emphasized by the fact that, in contrast, Saint Martin offers little to nothing in the way of nightclubs or casinos, with low-key bars being the more standard fare on this side. Orient Bay stands out as a happening party spot on the French side, and villas such as Villa O and Villa Turquoze provide luxury accommodation for up to eight people in the area.
2. A bubbling atmosphere vs. remote tranquility
Along with its selection of bars and nightclubs, the Dutch side of Sint Maarten has a more animated vibe than its French counterpart, as a result of the number of nightlife options and amount of tourists consistently flowing into Philipsburg.
So, if you’re the kind of person who relishes being immersed in a little more action and thrives off a vibrant, casual mood, the Dutch side is an excellent choice. On the other hand, those seeking a little more tranquility and refuge from the noise of the bustling area, a luxury villa rental in Saint Martin is a wiser option. Villas don’t come much more tranquil in Saint Martin than the Villa Grande Azure a magnificent new construction finished to the highest level.
3. Cultural influence
A very interesting part of Saint Martin is the way that it combines its Caribbean identity with an authentic French influence, which is highly noticeable in the food, language, and general social attitudes of the people on this side of the island. From the many pastry shops selling artisan baguettes and croissants to the prevalent French tongue that is widely spoken in Saint Martin, a vacation in the principality certainly comes with an immersion in unique overseas francophone culture.
While this offers boundless charm in many respects, some can also find this a little off-putting, especially those who don’t find strong European influences as being quite to their taste in a Caribbean vacation. Probably as a result of the greater number of tourists that are present on the Dutch side, the sense of European culture is slightly less prevalent in Sint Maarten, with the atmosphere being one of general tropical festivities instead of refined French customs.
The cultural influence is also more noticeably Caribbean in the Dutch area, with prominent multiculturalism and local, Asian, Indian and European presences all intertwining. On the other hand, fans of Saint Martin would argue that the Dutch side suffers from a bit of a ‘diluted’ feel as a consequence of these many strands of nationality. Both sides have different cultural merits, so it’s worth taking the time to consider the way that you wish to experience Saint Martin’s offerings.
4. Liberal perspectives
Another way in which Saint Martin is markedly different from Sint Maarten is how tolerant this side is of nudity on beaches, with many visitors finding themselves surprised by these liberal attitudes.
Although nudity isn’t officially permitted island-wide, there are many beaches in Saint Martin that provide the opportunity to bare all in sublime natural locations, such as the glamorous Club Orient or the secluded Petites Cayes on the northern shore. This degree of freedom can be very refreshing for many people and can be seen as a natural result of its European influence within this area. La Perla Classic is a two-person beachfront villa in Saint Martin located on the gorgeous Baie Rouge beach.
Of course, for many people, widespread nudity on beaches can prove a little much, in which case a rental in Sint Maarten is the better side of the island to go for. Witenblauw Estate is an example of a large 22-person beachfront villa you can expect to find on Sint Maarten’s south shore.
5. Practical considerations
There are also many practical levels that could have a significant impact on your decision whether to stay on the French or Dutch side of Saint Martin.
One is currency – while Saint Martin generally deals in Euros, Sint Maarten is more open to the use of different currencies such as US Dollars. Depending on the exchange rate between US dollars and the Euro, American visitors generally get a little more for their money in Sint Maarten.
It’s also worth noting that as a result of the greater concentration of people on the Dutch side, traffic can be a lot worse; a trade-off for the greater level of activity to be found in this area.
A win no matter what
Despite the set of differences between Saint Martin and Sint Maarten, the entire island benefits from the beautiful landscapes, quintessential friendliness and overall quality of life that are typical of the Caribbean region as a whole. Whichever side you find yourself on, the beautiful island of Saint Martin is sure to captivate your attention and bring you an unforgettable vacation experience.
With a wealth of knowledge and expertise on offer, Rental Escapes is ready to assist with organizing fine luxury vacations in a variety of destinations worldwide. Our expert help with discovering a new location can go a long way.
Alongside the necessary practical considerations involved in organizing a trip abroad, we go above and beyond to ensure your every expectation is met during your stay at one of our luxury villas in Saint Martin, whether it’s Saint Martin or Sint Maarten.
For more inspiration regarding your next holiday, consult Rental Escapes to start planning your luxurious holiday.