Sint Maarten vs. Cancun (The Battle of the Caribbean Giants)

Sint Maarten and Cancun, two of the most famous destination in the Caribbean are like pitting two giants against each other. Let’s face it, when you look up the Caribbean, chances are Sint Maarten and Cancun will definitely come up. These two destinations have been dominating must-visit lists for ages, and here’s why.
Sint Maarten vs. Cancun
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Where are Sint Maarten and Cancun?

Sint Maarten is seated right at the northern tip of the Lesser Antilles, in the eastern Caribbean Sea, neighboring the other famous islands like Saint Barts, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and many more. Just to avoid confusion, Sint Maarten isn’t an entire island, but rather one side of it. The island of Saint Martin is home to two countries or territories of two European states, split in the middle, where Sint Maarten lies at the south, occupying 40% of the island, and the northern 60% is the French collectivity of Saint Martin, often written as “Saint-Martin”.

Cancun, on the other hand, is not on an island, but rather a city in Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula, famed for its ancient wonders, charming coastal cities, and gorgeous beaches brushed by the Caribbean Sea. Cancun is the most famous tourist mecca in the southeast of Mexico City, in the state of Quintana Roo.

If we’re talking about some of the best of the Caribbean, nothing best describes the ridiculous charm of the region by putting Sint Maarten and Cancun at the forefront, along with a few other bigger players of course. But Sint Maarten and Cancun have so many parallels that it’s ridiculous not to pit them against each other.

How far is Sint Maarten from Cancun?

Despite the two located in the Caribbean, Cancun lies a sea away from Sint Maarten. Sint Maarten is approximately 2,510 km or 1,559 miles east of Cancun, directly all the way across the Caribbean.

The best and the only way to get from Cancun to Sint Maarten or vice versa is by flying across the expansive Caribbean. It’s easy to fly in-between, thanks to the plethora of air carriers available that fly from Cancun Airport to Princess Juliana International Airport.

You can choose to fly with airlines such as United Airlines, Copa Airlines, Delta, and many others. With the great distance expect that your flight time could span around 7 to 22 hours, depending on a few flying factors, such as layovers, and transfers.

One Dutch, one French

Sint Maarten takes up about the southern 40% of the island of Saint Martin as a constituent country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with a certain level of autonomy exacting its own executive and legislative functions. English and Dutch are the official languages of the territory, with the former as the most widely spoken and used. This may come as a surprise to many first-time visitors thinking that a Dutch Caribbean territory would mainly speak Dutch but Sint Maarten is anglophone.

The Dutch side’s capital of Philipsburg serves as the island’s commercial hub, as it houses the entire island’s most important facilities such as the Princess Juliana International Airport and the Cruise Terminal. Sint Maarten may take up a smaller land area but it is an economic hub, staying true to its cosmopolitan charm.

The Cosmopolitan Charms

Sint Maarten is best known for its shopping, dining, and festive nightlife, alongside its quirky beaches that offer tons of aquatic activities and adventures. The Dutch side is often labeled as the cosmopolitan side colored with diverse cultures that made a home and a following there. French Saint Martin may be more French-Caribbean, but Sint Maarten has Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the rest of the Caribbean.

But when it comes to quirks, Sint Maarten is home to the iconic Maho Beach. This particular beach is especially famous for plane spotting, where beach-goers meet landing airplanes that fly just overhead. And if you want an extra thrill, you can also stand by the fences and watch as big planes prepare to fly, however, local authorities warn the public because it can be dangerous and have resulted in one death in recent years.

Fun Cancun

One of Mexico’s biggest tourist meccas, if not the biggest, is famous for its beaches, hotels, and resorts and its fun parties that can often become too rowdy. But before all the city’s dynamic energy, nightlife, resorts, and reputation in fun, ancient culture, and history, together with its stretches of beautiful white-sand beaches, and turquoise waters put this historical city on the map.

Cancun is undeniably rich in natural beauty, and culture. Located in southeastern Mexico, right at the westernmost reaches of the Caribbean, the city of Cancun was once an important center of the fabled and unique Mayan civilization, that thrived in the region of Quintana Roo thousands of years ago. Remnants of the iconic civilization can still be seen and felt today in the many wonders of Cancun, and a slew of towns and cities across Quintana Roo, such as thriving touristy coastal cities, temples, and ancient city ruins, speckled throughout the state.

As for its natural features worth noting, are its white-sand beaches, hugged by the famous turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean, one of the largest reef barriers in the world, thick forests, lagoons, and of course, the iconic cenotes. Apart from partying, shopping, strolling, and having a good time, Cancun offers plenty of things to do and learn from and places to explore.

Culture and Landscape

Cancun is the largest city in the state of Quintana Roo, in southeastern Mexico. Situated at the northern coastal edges of the Yucatan Peninsula, one of Mexico’s special regions, Cancun is bound to be one of the most interesting places in all of Mexico.

Parties, budget to upscale resort experience aside, the dynamic city was a place to behold even its earliest days, as the ancient Mayan people thrived here. Now, only remnants of the once-great civilization remain, but the blood of the Maya still live within the veins, and customs of the Mayan people of today living sporadically across the Yucatan, down to neighboring nations of Belize, and Guatemala.

Apart from the city’s nearby ancient features, Cancun also boasts its gifts from Mother Nature herself, especially with its aquatic features. The city is famed for its white beach that stretches up to 21 km or 31 miles shaped like a number “7”, giving visitors plenty of space and water to have fun under the Yucatan sun.

The beach stretch of the city is incredibly note-worthy but what’s even more mind-blowing is the beauty that lies beneath the waters adjacent to Cancun. The second-largest reef barrier in the world, the Mesoamerican barrier reef lies just off the coasts of the Yucatan that stretches from Cancun down to Belize, and Honduras. This underwater feature alone is enough to make the city a worthy visit in Mexico.

The Cancun of today is the best example of Mexico’s many tourism development projects that started in the 1970s to attract more visitors in turn raking in income for the nation. The city thrived, thanks to the myriad of remnants of the ancient world and its natural features, together with carefully planned urban development, Cancun has since then seen a seemingly unrelenting boom.

You can expect to be enthralled at every modern and ancient thing the city can offer, especially with your first time to come. From premier shopping, quality dining, budget to high-end stays, and all-out fun and learning with the availability of the several tours that can take you in the city’s many draws.

The Tourist Mecca of Mexico

First off, when you look up Cancun online, you’ll be flooded with so much information about the city, and for far too many good reasons. The city is famous for the energy it has, and the experience it provides its visitors that come from different places all over the world. From budget travelers to the moneyed set, to the curious explorers to party animals, Cancun has everything to offer for all kinds of travelers to its streets, beaches, and cenotes.

While Cancun might not have the insular charms of other big game Caribbean islands such as Puerto Rico, The Bahamas, or even Jamaica but it has amassed its own following, thanks to its ancient charms, and neighboring towns and cities that are connected to the city in many ways. Plus, when you’re in Cancun, you can always have the rest of Mexico while you’re already in the country.

Even though Cancun is technically in the Caribbean, it is still considered a part of an even stronger contender in the west: Mexico. The country alone is like a different world in itself, composed of a variety of cultures, each with its own histories, worth knowing about, and Cancun is one of those gems. It may be just a city but it is as culturally and naturally rich as many of the Caribbean islands, maybe even richer.

With a staggering 1.5 million visitors in 2021, surmised to be higher than 2019’s number, Cancun remains at the top of the Caribbean’s most visited destinations, despite global crises. While it may have a tough time competing with the Caribbean islands, Cancun is one of the most famous vacation destinations among North Americans, especially among Canadians.

Cancun has long dominated the tourism industry of the west that it has grown into a quintessential part of the Caribbean in itself. Without Cancun, one of the few peninsular gems of the region, the Caribbean Sea wouldn’t have been as celebrated and elevated as we all know it to be.

The Queen of the Yucatan

Cancun is best known for its natural charms and the remnants of its stunning ancient history still in view, which none in the Caribbean can ever match. Where else can you find what remains of the ancient world sitting not far from a cosmopolitan center, just a small stroll away from upscale resorts, and people from different parts of the world? Plus, the cenotes that dot the peninsula, just a ride away outside of the city are even worth the excursion. You can already tell how gifted Cancun is.

If you’re more of a party-loving, social butterfly, well, Cancun is known to host many of the world’s biggest parties, while having some of Mexico’s, and even the Caribbean’s biggest clubs. You are bound to get caught in parties for a few nights while you’re in the city. Parties also played a big part in building the city’s reputation. You can often hear Cancun being mentioned in US films and TV shows because of its fun reputation.

Apart from the ancients and the parties of today, the city is also known for its beach. Cancun’s famed 21 km or 31 mile stretch of white sand beach is probably its famous draw. With this much stretch of turquoise blue water and white sand, you are bound to always find something worth doing, maybe windsurfing, a beach bar to check out on, a leisure beach stroll, or even a nap on the sands.

However, given the city’s reputation in the tourism industry, you can expect to compete against huge crowds and tourists of all kinds, while that may make or break your desired experience, these crowds are there to stay. Well, at least during the peak season of December through April. But there are always ways to get around this, such as visiting during the shoulder season.

Which is better Sint Maarten or Cancun?

Sint Maarten and Cancun are both rich in culture, and history, except that Sint Maarten doesn’t have ruins, cenotes, and parks, which can be dealmakers, but Cancun doesn’t have a whole another culture on the other side of its borders. If you look at these two distinct destinations it’s hard to decide because of how different and similar they can be.

Cancun has a cosmopolitan feel to it, complete with shopping, good dining, and a party scene that is often unmatched, while Sint Maarten can compete with its cosmopolitan landscape, it can’t however be at par with Cancun’s resorts and parties, but Sint Maarten does have it multicultural dynamic that can satisfy your cultural curiosities. But when it comes to the costs, Cancun is greatly and undoubtedly cheaper.

However, the best tie-breakers will always be you. Whatever you decide to experience will always help you determine which place you want to check out, or at least, you want to check out first if you’re well-budgeted. Sint Maarten and Cancun are gems of the Caribbean that help defined it to how we came to know it today. Rest assured that your decision, no matter which one, will be the right one for you.