Sint Maarten vs. Aruba (The Best of the Dutch Caribbean)

Choosing two of the best of the Dutch Caribbean is a tough question to put down but it’s the subtle differences and nuances that make them different, the key is to find which one you would rather experience. The battle of the best of the Dutch Caribbean is a tough one to judge, but for the well-traveled, and the “wanderlusty”, it’s about everything these places can offer.
Sint Maarten vs. Aruba
Table of Contents

Where is Sint Maarten and Aruba?

Situated at the northern tip of the famous Lesser Antilles east of the Caribbean Sea, Sint Maarten occupies the southern half of the island shared with the French collectivity of the same name, only spelled the French way, Saint Martin. This bicultural island neighbors other smaller yet equally special islands such as St. Barts to the south, Anguilla to the north, St Barts, and St. Kitts and Nevis to the southeast.

Sint Maarten sits along the Leeward Islands, of the much bigger chain of the Lesser Antilles, the location itself is like a gold mine of beautiful islands. Think Calabasas in California. What makes Sint Maarten even more interesting is how it is shared with the French, which is also in itself one of the big names in the region.

Aruba lies right at the south of the Caribbean Sea. Sitting just north off the coast of Venezuela, north of the equator. Aruba is a slice of tropical paradise that is home to many magnificent beaches, diverse quirky terrain, and heat-regulating trade winds for days.

Tucked in the northern coasts of South America, and right at the southern tip of the Lesser Antilles, Aruba is a gifted slice of heaven in the Caribbean. The island’s unique climate and curious terrain make it extra special, especially for first-time visitors.

How Far Is Aruba From St Maarten?

You have to literally cross an entire sea to get to Aruba from Sint Maarten, as both islands are located are at the southern and northern tips of Lesser Antilles, respectively, encompassing the entire Caribbean Sea. Aruba lies approximately 961 km or 597 miles southwest of Sint Maarten, directly. The only way to get in between them is by flying over the Caribbean Sea, and would possibly take an hour to arrive.

Is Aruba Bigger Than St Maarten?

The island of Aruba is approximately 21 miles or 33 km long, 6 miles or 9 km wide, and has a total land area of about 75 square miles or 193 square km. The island is generally flat with few small elevations like hills. Its main draw, the white sandy beaches are prominent around its 40 miles worth of coast.

On the other hand, Sint Maarten is merely the southern 40% of the entire island of Saint Martin. The Dutch side is only 34 square kilometers or 13 square miles, a great deal smaller than the entire island of Aruba. However, if you measure the entire island, including the French side of Saint Martin, the island has a total land area of 95 square kilometers or 37 square miles, still smaller than Aruba.

Cosmo Chic

Apart from its many beautiful beaches, charming and colorful towns, and bustling cities, Sint Maarten is the island’s main economic hub, best known for its shopping, dining, and festive nightlife. The capital city also houses many of the island’s important points such as the international airport and the cruise terminal. The Dutch side is often labeled as the cosmopolitan side with a splash of tropical fun, where you can find a lot of things to do and enjoy.

Not to mistake Sint Maarten as an island, it is actually just a part of it. The island of Saint Martin is known for being a hybrid of two cultures: Dutch and French – Sint Maarten is the Dutch south. Sint Maarten shares the border with the French collectivity of Saint Martin to the north, so if you visit Sint Maarten, you basically hit two birds with one stone. Two countries, two cultures, twice the excitement, and double the fun.

The Famous ABC Island Sister

Aruba is a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands since 1986. This means that it has a level of autonomy with its internal affairs, especially with its executive and judicial functions, and managing the island’s currency, the Netherlands Antillean Guilder. While the Dutch government oversees foreign affairs and national defense.

Aruba consists of 8 regions for census, with Oranjestad as the capital city and largest most populated area in the entire island. These are mainly the Noord – Tanki Leendert, Oranjestad Oost, Oranjestad West, Paradera, San Nicolas Noord, San Nicolas Zuid, Santa Cruz, and Savaneta

Aruba is unique in terms of its landscape and natural features. Once you get there, you’ll find the peculiar inland terrains, stunning beaches, and fun-loving people, part of the island’s draws. Thanks to its laid-back atmosphere, fun, and dynamic evenings, stunning beaches, and cosmopolitan cities, Aruba has every draw that lures tourists.

The Rich Mix

Aruba’s long history with various European colonial powers, from occupations and colonization, resulted in how Aruba is today. The island’s present-day influences, however, were derived from its Caribbean, Latin American neighbors, and the USA as its number one tourist demographic. Upon arrival to the island, the interesting blend of Spanish, Indian, and Dutch influences can be easily be observed in their language, food, and attitudes.

The descendants of its colonial past, plus the gradual immigration over the years make up the Arubans of today. The island is mixed with different ethnicities coming from the near and as far as South Asia. The island still embraces its European parentage as the Dutch has occupied the island the longest, and still is politically and culturally associated with the Netherlands.

Another thing you’ll notice from Arubans is that they are usually warm, happy, and smiling. Their “One Happy Island” motto and campaign isn’t only for touristy promotion, it’s the general attitude of the people of the island.

How It Came To Be

Aruba was originally occupied by the Spanish for over 137 years, however, the local Indian people were shipped off to labor to other Spanish-occupied islands in the region, as conditions in the island were not meant for farming. Some Indians were forced to labor cattle and horse breeding operations on the island for the most part of the Spanish Rule. Then the Dutch came.

Aruba’s strategic location made it ideal for the Dutch’s conquests and expansion and was thus taken in 1636 from the Spanish. The Dutch also used the island to store salt sourced from the South American mainland for protection. Aruba also doubled as a naval base in the Caribbean to fend off the Spanish during the Eighty Years War.

The British invaded and seized control of Aruba during the Napoleonic Wars, like how it did with the French conquerors in the region. In 1816 they took it back and officially made Aruba part of the Netherlands Antilles since 1845, until the island calls for autonomy.

In 1986, Aruba separated from the Netherlands Antilles via the “Status Aparte”, where the island obtained an autonomous status in the Kingdom of Netherlands. The island’s inhabitants originally planned for full sovereignty; however, it was decided to be postponed in 1990. But since 1995 the plan was never pushed through.

Today, Aruba stands as one of the Netherlands’ constituent countries together with Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. With the local government having autonomy with internal affairs, such as laws, policies, and currency. While the Kingdom of the Netherlands handles foreign affairs and national defense.

One Happy Island

On top of hurricane-free weather all year-round Aruba is a proud home to some of the most stunning golden beaches in the region, and, the island is best described as having ideal conditions to enjoy a Caribbean getaway can offer. Decorated with Dutch-style buildings, a cosmopolitan vibe for the well-heeled, and quirky local concepts, you don’t only have the beaches to be in awe of, but the capital city as well.

Aruba’s small size can be overshadowed by bigger islands in the region with bigger names, and the next-door South American continent to compete against, Aruba has its own claims to fame. From its natural beauty, and curiosities like the desert terrains and the strong trade winds, to its commercial features like premier resorts, luxury shopping scenes, and fun evenings.

The “Happy Island” philosophy isn’t just all about beautiful white sand beaches, energetic nightlife, and many other curious finds, the island offers more than that. Aruba also has a mixed and diverse culture thanks to centuries of colonial rule, and immigration. In fact, thanks to a growing traveling community, expats are coming in by the number as well, especially retirees and moneyed millennials. You’ll see that the local scene is full of interesting and quirky details.

Which Is Better – Sint Maarten or Aruba?

If you know, or have been looking up the Dutch Caribbean for a while now, you’ll realize that every Dutch Caribbean Island has common themes going on. They’re all naturally gifted, have mixed cultures, and each local scene has quirks and gimmicks that seem to be drawing in tourists by the thousands.

The best destination is one where it offers the kind of experience you want to have in a Caribbean getaway. Both Sint Maarten and Aruba have their resorts, shopping scene, mixed culture, and an interesting nightlife scene, but the former has the French side to conquer as well, and Aruba has the most stunning beaches. At the end of the day, it will always be up to you.

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