Sint Maarten vs. Cayman Islands (The Uber-Famous and the Criminally Underrated)

Sint Maarten and the Cayman Islands are two islands that are dramatically distinct in culture, and in physical distance, which makes for an interesting comparison. Nonetheless, despite the differences, each one’s draws will certainly make them worth visiting. You can already tell via their post-card perfect beaches, vibrant cultures, and unique twists and flavors.
Sint Maarten vs. Cayman Islands
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Where are Sint Maarten and the Cayman Islands

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”.

The Cayman Islands is an exquisite collection of islands located right in the western Caribbean, right across the Caribbean Sea, adjacent to the famed Lesser Antilles where Sint Maarten is. The island group is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom in the Caribbean Sea, comprising of three principal islands: Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac. The Island group is located about 290 km or 180 miles northwest of Jamaica, and 437 km or 272 miles south of Cuba.

The Cayman Islands may not be as visited and celebrated as Sint Maarten, but the flavors of each of its three principal islands, plus, its relative charm, quaintness, and its gorgeous beaches make it worthy to visit. Plus, who doesn’t like smaller crowds? While Sint Maarten, together with Saint Martin continues to dominate every travel list and travel article around the world. Sint Maarten and the Cayman Islands help make the Caribbean the way it is today.

How far is the Cayman Islands from Sint Maarten?

The Cayman Islands is approximately 1,924 km or 1,196 miles from Sint Maarten, directly, which is a great distance to cover, to say the least. The only way to get in between is by flying, and you can do so with several airlines that provide access such as Cayman Airways, American Airlines, Caribbean Airlines, and many others. The average travel time is around 7 to 8 hours, depending on certain factors such as layovers, and transfers.

With an entire sea to cross, the distance to cover is quite dramatic. Sint Maarten is located right at the northern tip of the Lesser Antilles, at the eastern edges of the Caribbean, while the Cayman Islands is situated in the far west, right at the south of Cuba, and further west of Jamaica.

The Dutch 40%

Sint Maarten is the Dutch side of the island, occupying the southern 40%, a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, enjoying a certain level of autonomy, managing its own executive and legislative functions. First-time visitors will be surprised that Sint Maarten mainly speaks English, and Dutch is only one of the official languages often used in politics and education. Sint Maarten also speaks a variation of Creole.

The Dutch side of the island may take up a smaller land area but it is more of the powerhouse of the island, due to its economy and facilities, especially in the capital city. The capital of Philipsburg serves as the island’s commercial hub, where most of the island’s economy is centered. French Saint Martin may take the reins when it comes to the most picturesque beaches on the island that of Dutch Sint Maarten, but the island’s most important economic sources are housed on the Dutch side, such as the Princess Juliana International Airport and the Cruise Terminal.

Tropical and Cosmopolitan

Sint Maarten is the island’s main economic hub, best known for its shopping, dining, and festive nightlife, apart from being riddled with history and a landscape brimming with a blend of cultures from different corners of the globe. The Dutch side is considered as the cosmopolitan side of the island with its high-end shopping, important facilities, and energetic nightlife, while the French side is where you can come to relax and relinquish every single worry you have.

Sint Maarten offers refined cosmopolitan pleasures, together with quirky beaches that have that famous Caribbean turquoise blue. The island is also known for housing two cultures: Dutch and French. The seemingly non-existent border that splits the two territories makes it easy for guests to conquer both sides. Think hitting two birds with one stone, you may stay in Sint Maarten, but you also have the French delights of Saint Martin just a drive away.

Three Heads, One Ticket

One of the many island groups speckled throughout the Caribbean Sea, the Cayman Islands is an island group composed of three main bodies, the Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac. These islands are situated 437 km or 272 miles south of Cuba, and 290 km or 180 miles northwest of Jamaica.

The island group is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, with a certain degree of autonomy, often considered as self-governing. The island was believed to be discovered by Christopher Columbus on May 10, 1503, in his final voyage to the Americas. Sir Francis Drake briefly visited the islands in 1586 – which was followed by more settlements by the English, along with neighboring Jamaica.

The Cayman Islands was officially declared as a dependency of the Crown Colony of Jamaica on 22 June 1863. In 1962, Jamaica obtained independence from the British Crown and became an independent commonwealth state, while the Cayman Islands turned to a Crown Colony.

The Cayman Islands were a self-governing territory of Jamaica from 1958 to 1962, that is until Jamaica became independent in 1962. The islands then went directly under British rule. In over a decade a great portion of internal autonomy was given to the island through a new constitution, further revised and passed in 1994. The Cayman Islands government then focused on developing its economy via tourism and off-shore finance, both of which saw great growth from the 1970s onwards.

The Ex-Briton

Due to centuries of British colonization, and the extensive periods of the use of African slaves, the Caymanians of today are descended from the emancipated slaves which make up the majority of the population. However, the racial diversity by the numbers isn’t really structured.

About one-fifth of Caymanians are of European, mainly British, ancestry; another fifth are blacks, the descendants of African slaves; and two-fifths are of mixed African and European ancestry. The remainder of the residents are of other mixed ancestry or are expatriates.

If you happen to speak English, you’ll find that it’s a breeze to talk to locals on the Cayman Islands as English is the official language and is mainly spoken by everyone on the island. Also, thanks to the nearby Hispanic influences and immigration in the region, Spanish is frequently spoken as a second language.

Ruled from Jamaica by the then-English empire, the Cayman Islands used to be governed through Jamaica, and with this came the influences. You can feel the heavy influences of Afro-Caribbean culture, intertwined with the British, especially with the overtones in architecture, languages are spoken, and food.

Super Chill, Criminally Underrated

First off, the spoken language is English, so if you’re from any anglophone country or at least speak English as a second language then you have one foot in the door already. The Cayman Islands is an underrated destination in the Caribbean because it is often overshadowed by other big-time players in the vicinity such as Jamaica, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.

According to English-speaking expats, settling in, or at least living on the island for a short period can be pretty chill, and smooth, and you can also say the same for the rest of your Cayman Islands experience as tourists. The island group, despite being British in influence, offers a laid-back charm due to its slow living.

With the Caribbean’s unrelenting fame, plenty if not all of the destinations in the region have built up and developed, now complete with every accommodation to every tourist woes, but not the Cayman Islands. You can say that the island remains relatively untouched.

If you’re looking for a quainter yet fun experience out of a tropical getaway island, the Cayman Islands can be pretty special. The island group provides everything you could want in a vacation in the Caribbean while being able to enjoy the island without the crowd, or at least lesser than the likes of Sint Maarten, or neighboring Jamaica.

You can enjoy the pleasures it offers such as the famous Seven Mile Beach, where you can easily stroll around; the islands’ very own mudslide cocktail in Rum Point; or go underwater and revel in Cayman’s submarine charms where you can explore over 365 dive sites.

And while you’re on the island, savor the palates of Cayman Islands in any of its 200+ restaurants around Grand Cayman, and eat out. Make sure to choose a local cafe and restaurant for the island’s unique bursts of flavors. The Cayman Islands isn’t called the culinary capital of the Caribbean for nothing.

The Flavors of the Caribbean

If you’re a foodie, chances are you may hear of the Cayman Islands as the culinary capital of the Caribbean. With more than 200 restaurants, each with their specialist, and signature dishes full of unique flavors, you’ll be sure to taste all of the Caribbean in the Cayman Islands.

These cafes and restaurants span from top-rated five-star dining to more budget-friendly adventures for the palate. Thanks to the extensive number of restaurants, you can expect to find various culinary exploits, from traditional Caymanian seafood, Caribbean, Thai, Italian, and even Asian fusion.

Apart from the wide range of culinary adventures for your curious palate, the island group is also known as a tax haven for the moneyed set. The island imposes no corporate or income tax on money earned outside of its territory – including dividends earned on investments, making the island group especially famous among wealthy elite and large multinational corporations.

The government has made it easy for individuals and business owners to protect, and even “hide” their assets and identities from others. Plus, with the Cayman’s relatively quieter reception among the tourist industry, the island group is quaint and relaxed, an ideal place to place assets where no one would look twice.

Which is better – Sint Maarten or the Cayman Islands?

Sint Maarten is two distinct islands that have made their respective names and reputations in the Caribbean and among the radars of the well-traveled. However, it is in the differences that gave them their charms, and ultimately their selling points.

Sint Maarten will forever be known as that quirky destination that shares the island with the French. This Dutch territory is known for its multicultural landscape, quirky tourist spots like a beach for plane spotting, a street perfect for low-tax shopping, and a nightlife scene that seems to pulsate throughout the Caribbean.

While the Cayman Islands prides itself on its quiet nature, its relaxed living, and a culinary scene that seem to encompass all of the Caribbean, if not all of the western hemisphere. You can expect to find everything you’re looking for in a laid-back tropical getaway experience, with a front as a tax haven and expansive gastronomy.