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All You Need to Know for Your Vacation to St Maarten

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Welcome to one of the Caribbean's most beloved islands. A popular cruise destination, we’ll help you find the best way to spend your vacation to St Maarten.


In this guide we're going to cover everything you need to know for visiting this small island paradise, as well as answer some questions you may be having like "is St Maarten a country?" or "What currency does St Maarten use?". 


After working on cruise ships for years, we spent many port days visiting St Maarten, and have gotten to explore it from top to bottom. We absolutely love this island, and know you will too!

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Is St Maarten a Country?

St Maarten is particularly interesting, because it is not its own country, nor belongs to just one country.  The island is actually divided in two, being held French and half dutch. While the dutch side has more Caribbean influence, the French side is fully a part of the country of France.


The great thing though, is that this doesn't affect your ability to explore. Even though you are technically crossing a border in the middle of the island, there is no border control or anything to worry about.


By looking at the map below you can see the border that divides the French side (north) from the Dutch side (south).

map of St Maarten

St Maarten belongs to two different countries.


Where is St Maarten?

St Maarten is a small island found in the Caribbean Sea. It is located in the Eastern Caribbean, east of the British Virgin Islands, and north the islands of Montserrat, Dominica, and St. Lucia.

where is st maarten

St Maarten is a small island located in the Eastern Caribbean.


Vacation to St Maarten: Getting There

St Maarten is an island that can be reached by both air and sea. The airport is the Princess Juliana International Airport, and is located on the Dutch side of the island.


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There are international flights from US cities such as New York, Newark, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, and Fort Lauderdale. Paris, France and Toronto, Canada have one flight daily each. Also there are plenty of flights from other Caribbean islands such as San Juan, Tortola, St Barts, Jamaica, Antigua, and more.

flight vacation to St Maarten

The airport is located right next to the beach on the Dutch side of the island.

Many people also vacation to St Maarten by visiting on a cruise ship. Most of the big cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Disney all stop in St Maarten as a day trip. The port is located on the Dutch side, in the capital of Philipsburg.


Entry Requirements for Your Vacation to St Maarten

Being that St Maarten belongs to two countries, the entry requirements can be a bit confusing. Here is everything you need to know for entering the island of St Maarten.


Visa Requirements for St Maarten

There are many nationalities that are able to visit St Maarten without a visa. Those that can visit without a visa, can stay for 30 days without having to apply for a visa. If you do need a visa, you can apply for one at your local French embassy.


Americans and Dutch nationals can visit St Maarten for up to 6 months, and those from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the EU can stay for up to 3 months. While the French side of St Maarten does belong to France, you won't have to go to customs while crossing the border (although there is a stand that welcomes you to France).


Covid Entry Requirements for St Maarten

As of November 22nd, 2022 all extra requirements due to Covid have now been lifted.


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Vacation to St Maarten: Local Adjustments

Each Caribbean island is different, and things can of course get quite confusing when an island is split by two countries. Here are a few things to keep in mind when going on vacation to St Maarten.


What Language Do People Speak in St Maarten?

On the Dutch side of the island you will mostly hear English, while on the French side everyone speaks French. That being said, with English you'll get by fine throughout the whole island.


Currency Used in St Maarten

Despite both sides of the island being European, the currency is actually different for the both of them. The French side uses the Euro, while the Dutch uses the Dutch Caribbean dollar. It is much more common to be able to use the USD on the Dutch side, while many establishments on the French side will only take euros or credit card.


What Plugs are Used in St Maarten?

On the Dutch side, the outlets are the same as the US and the majority of the Caribbean. The electrical outlet types are A and B, with two square pins. They have 110 voltage and 50 Hz standard. On the French side, they use the same plugs as Europe, with two round pins. The voltage is 220V and 60 Hz. Depending on what side you stay on, you may have to bring an electrical adapter.


Can You Drink the Water in St Maarten?

The water in St Maarten is safe to drink from the tap. However, if you'd like to buy bottled water, we suggest doing so from the Dutch side, as it's much cheaper.


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Vacation to St Maarten: Things to Do

This small Caribbean island has two countries is one, so plenty to offer when it comes to finding things to do in St Maarten! Here our 10 of our favorite activities.


1. Rent an ATV

What better way explore the island than an ATV? They’re fun, allowed on the road like normal cars, and can even go places that other vehicles cannot. You can rent one just outside the port, or book one in advance online.

Getting around your vacation in St Maarten

The most fun to get around on your vacation to St Maarten is by ATV.


2. Get the Island's Best Views at Pic Paradis

if you rent an ATV a great place to go is Pic Paradise. It’s the highest point of the island so you can just imagine how great the views are. Getting there is really only possible with car or ATV. 

Pic Paradis, St Maarten
ATV, vacation to St Maarten
Pic Paradis, best view in St Martin

Pic Paradis is the highest point on the island.

3. Spend the Day at Loterie Farm

Located on the french side of the island, Loterie farm has lots to offer. You can do a ropes course, and also hike a trail up to Pic Paradis for some great views of the island, while surrounded by monkeys. 


Loterie Farm ropes course, vacation to St Marrten
Loterie Farm, Vacation to St Maarten

The day pass will give you access to the luxurious pool area, perfect for cooling off from the Caribbean heat. There are also VIP cabanas available, along with a full restaurant and bar.


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Located on the French side, you can take the local bus towards Marigot, and then it is just a 10 minute walk up the hill near Pic Paradis.

Loterie Farm, Vacation to St Maarten
Loterie Farm pool, vacation to St Maarten

Finally, you can also do zip lining at Loterie Farm. Check the tour below to sign up in advance.

4. Watch the Planes Fly at Maho Beach

The two best things come together in one- a beach and an airport. Maho beach is located right next to the airport so you can watch planes fly right over your head- insanely cool and totally instagramworthy.

Maho Beach, Vacation to St Maarten

Maho Beach is famous for the planes flying right over it.

5. Head to the French Capital of Marigot

The capital located in the French side is one of the best places to visit on the island. Marigot has a nice harbour and some great restaurants. Make sure you have some euros, because this part of the island technically belongs to France!


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6. Check Out Downtown Phillipsburg

A 10-15 minute walk or a short ferry ride away, you can find the downtown area. Here are where all the shops are, along with tons of restaurants and bars lined across the beach. This is the perfect area to enjoy the beautiful Caribbean water, without having to travel far from the ship (if you are cruising).

best beaches in St Maarten

Just outside of the port you can enjoy the beautiful beach of the capital, Phillipsburg.

7. Take a Dip at Orient Bay Beach

Orient beach is located on the French side of St Maarten, and is one of the most popular on the island. It not only known for its blue waters and soft sand, but also due to the fact that clothing is optional here.


8. Sail to Pinel Island

Pinel Island is a small island in the northernmost part of the St Maarten. You can take a small boat from the dock, which is accessible only by driving up there, but it is totally worth it. Crystal clear water, boats, food, & drinks-what more could you want?


Pinel Island, vacation to St Maarten
Vacation to St Maarten, Pinel Island

Pinel island is a beautiful slice of paradise you can reach by boat trip.


Here are some of the boats that go to Pinel Island:

9. Explore the Island by Catamaran

Charter a boat and see every area of this beautiful island. With turquoise waters, gorgeous views, and stops to snorkel and swim, there’s no one who wouldn't love this (unless you get sea sick of course)


Here are a few amazing boat rides to choose from:


10. Take a Hike

Located right in Philipsburg right outside the port, is a visible hill. In order to get here, you just need half hour to make it up, and half hour back. As crew members with sometimes limited time in port, we would hike up this hill to get some great views of the Dutch side.

Hike on Vacation to St Maarten

Just outside the port there is a hike with great views.


Vacation to St Maarten: Getting Around

Taking a vacation to St Maarten definitely requires that you visit both sides. Here are the different ways to navigate around the island to see it all.


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Rent an ATV in St Maarten

This is by far our favorite way to get around the island. Being that it's very small, it's very easy to get around, and you'll find ATVs on the road just like cars.


Right in Phillipsburg is where you will find all of the ATV companies, but we have a guy that we know who is very reputable, so feel free to reach out to us if you want a safe deal, without getting ripped off.

ATVs St Maarten
Atvs in St Maarten

Getting around the island in ATV is our favorite.

Rent a Car in St Maarten

If you don't feel comfortable or confident driving an ATV, a rental car is also a great option. There are jeeps available for rental in the port area of Phillipsburg, and the cheaper option is to get a car from the airport.


If you want a car from the airport, we suggest booking in advance, as there wasn't always availability when we went to St Maarten.


Here is a site we usually use to book our cars:

If you are cruising, it might be worth it to just get one straight from the port area, and if you are staying on the island for vacation, we suggest going through the airport.

Jeep, vacation to St Maarten

Getting a jeep is a fun way to travel around the island and go in a group.

Local Buses

Local buses run throughout almost the entire island of St Maarten. If you are cruising, you can just walk 10-15 minutes into town and the downtown area is full of buses, especially if you would like to go to Marigot. The bus may take a little longer, but is far cheaper than getting around any other way.


Taxis

We suggest taxis as the absolute last option. They are extremely overpriced, but sometimes may be the only option. Taxis are priced per person, so it doesn't matter how big of a group you go in. Uber is not available, so if you need to get somewhere fast, taxi is the best alternative.


Where to Stay for Your Vacation in St Maarten

If you're looking to be in a busier atmosphere, and be close to more bars, shops, and public transportation, then the best area to stay for your vacation in St Maarten will be in Philipsburg. This is the capital of the Dutch side of St Maarten, and where both the airport and cruise terminal are located.


Look for places to stay in Philisburg:

Booking.com

If you're looking for a more relied vacation, there are plenty of hotels located along the beach, the best ones being on the French side of the island. Marigot is another great area to stay that has plenty of restaurants and shops, and is pretty centrally located on the island.


Look for places to stay in Marigot:

Booking.com

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St Maarten Local Food & Drink

The food in St Maarten is unique because the island is separated in two. The French side is much more connected with its European roots, while the Dutch side is a little bit more of the Caribbean style.


On the French side, you should definitely get French pastries or a crepe. Check out the restaurants in Marigot for some traditional French dishes. Over on the Dutch side, we suggest you to a try some local restaurants. Near Maho beach are some food trucks, which is as authentic as it gets.


Caribbean cuisine usually has some sort of barbecued meat, accompanied by rice & beans, coleslaw, plantains, or corn. Local restaurants also have better portions, and better prices than the places you will find on the beach.

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Is St Maarten Safe?

St. Maarten is a very safe island, and we always felt that the people were super friendly and helpful. While the Dutch side has a super Caribbean vibe, the French side feels like a small slice of European paradise, which makes you feel even safer.


We find St Maarten to be a great destination for all types of travelers. It is daily friendly, but also has plenty to do for those that want a little more adventure.


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Things to Know When Visiting St Maarten

Here are a few other things to know for visiting the island of St Maarten.


Weather in St Maarten

Being in the Caribbean, St Maarten has hot and sunny weather year round. It gets very humid and wet in the summer months from June to September, while the winter months are a bit more mild and dry.


What Is the Best Time of Year to Go To St Maarten

As a Caribbean island, our personal favorite time to vacation to St Maarten is during the winter months. January and February are particularly quieter months with much better weather, while the summer is unbearably hot and crowded.


Do avoid coming in the late summer/ early fall season as this is hurricane season. St Maarten has already suffered majorly from previous hurricanes. Although now much has been rebuilt, it is an area prone to this natural disaster.


What Should I Pack for St Maarten?

Here are a few things we think you should bring on your vacation to St Maarten:

Other Things to Keep in Mind During Your Vacation to St Maarten

  • There are some great viewpoints around the island, but are best found just driving around.
  • The French side only takes euros so make sure to have some on you or hit an ATM for places that may not accept card
  • Traffic can be really terrible the afternoon so make sure to give yourself ample time to get back to the ship if you are on a cruise.
  • Taxis are located in the port, but if you go downtown, there are tons of buses that will go all over the island.
vacation to St Maarten

St Maarten is a fun cruise port, and where we had our very first Instagram post together!



St. Maarten is one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean, and is the only one that has two different countries in one. With its stunning beaches, rolling hills, and colorful houses, it makes a great place to stop. Want to see more great destinations in the area? Take a look at our other  Caribbean travel guides.


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