Where are Sint Maarten and Saint Barts?
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”.
Saint Barthelemy, or famously called “Saint Barts”, is located in the same area as Sint Maarten, right at the northern end of the Lesser Antilles, a chain of islands at the eastern edges of the Caribbean Sea. Saint Barts lies not far from Sint Maarten, just some 28 km or 17 miles southeast from Philipsburg, directly.
These two jewels of the Northern Lesser Antilles are that Sint Maarten and Saint Barts both make a lot of noise in the travel community because of their reputation among a certain set of travelers. Sint Maarten is famous among every type of traveler, especially those who love its multicultural landscape, and quirky concepts, while Saint Barts is famous among celebrities, seasoned travelers, and the well-heeled set.
How far is Sint Maarten from Saint Barts?
As mentioned, Sint Maarten is only approximately 28 kilometers or 17 miles northwest of Saint Barts, directly. With the proximity of the two islands, it’s easy to jump in one and take the next trip to another, especially with Saint Barts’ association with Saint Martin, both being of French descent.
Thanks to the distance between them, you can travel either by flying or taking a ferry. You can fly either from the Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten, or the Gustaf III Airport in Saint Barts with airlines such as St. Barth Commuter, Winair, and Air Caraibes, which can take around an average of 15 to 30 minutes.
If you want to take the seas and go a slower pace, you can take a ferry from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten to Saint Barts, or vice versa, from Saint Barts’ capital of Gustavia. The average travel time can take around 45 minutes to an hour, depending on other factors, of course, such as sea conditions.
The Dutch Half
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.
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.
The Rich and Famous
Saint Barts is the shining jewel of the French Caribbean Islands, and probably one of the most famous and iconic destinations in the entire Caribbean. When you say Saint Barts, you’ll automatically think of its beauty and the awe-inspiring beauty of the Caribbean Sea, and the islands favored scenery by the rich and famous.
Saint Barts’ reputation among the moneyed lot and a favorite among the stars is best given by its array of ridiculously stunning beaches, luxurious feature such as yacht clubs, designer boutiques, and high-class resorts. In this island, beauty and luxury comes in a single package.
The island was initially settled by the French which was then traded off to the Swedish and turned into a colony for a great deal amount of time. But just like many histories in the region, the island was later given to the French after the Napoleonic Wars, along with Guadeloupe which was also in Swedish control for a year.
As the island became assimilated as a true French island, the citizens were given full rights in 1946, but economic prospects were scarce which made living conditions challenging, until the 1970s. Organized tourism, with the boom of resorts and hotels came in the 70s but was first introduced in the 1960s. The industry flourished even more after the construction of the island’s landing strip that can accommodate mid-sized airplanes.
With its rising reputation in the tourism industry, more resorts and hotels developed the island, locals were having stable jobs, and life somehow prospered. The island’s reception to organized tourism has further encouraged the development of the island into not just another Caribbean destination but rather one of the most luxurious there is, if not the most.
High Profile Island, High Profile Guests
If you’re the type who can travel to Saint Barts just because, consider already feeling like an A-lister because the island feels like it’s made to be exclusive, especially around its urban areas. The island’s size is one to think about, only 25 sq km or less than ten square miles, and less than 10,000 inhabitants, the island can feel private.
Many if not most of Saint Barts visitors are rich business owners, and high profile celebrities which can certainly make you feel a certain type of way, but for those who frequent the island, especially the well-traveled, and the locals, this is a part of everyday life, so the starstruck feeling isn’t really custom.
Saint Barts may be celeb-friendly, and easy-going with the wealthy but it isn’t all about that. For one, the island also has everything you could ever ask for in a dream Caribbean getaway. Just like most, if not all, of the other islands in the region, Saint Barts also boasts that Caribbean classic beautiful white-sand beaches and crystal-clear turquoise seawater. Also, the island is home to 22 beaches, with many barely resembling or even catering to mass tourism. Saint Barts’ beaches usually have few people on them, even during the high season. Talk about exclusivity.
For the Well-Known and the Well-Heeled
Now, Saint Barts continues to thrive thanks to its tourism-loving culture, but when you actually visit the island, you can guarantee to get what the hype is all about. For the well-known, and well-heeled Saint Barts isn’t a place to hide their starshine, but rather to get their feet wet, hair down, and seeing the island, while being seen themselves.
Just like Europe’s Monaco, the island’s capital Gustavia provides the well-heeled and high-rolling set the security and the privilege to flaunt what they’ve got. In the city’s port, you will see dozens upon dozens of some of the most expensive superyachts man has made. You can say it is one of the world’s go-to places for the rich and famous to enjoy as their money and name allows them to.
Which is better – Sint Maarten or Saint Barts?
The first thing you have to account for is, the budget, or how much you’re willing to spend, wisely and conspicuously as both are not the place for the stingy, and small-budgeted. Sint Maarten even competes with Aruba’s prices, as the two are considered to be some of the most expensive islands on the island. Saint Barts is a playground of the rich and famous so expect higher prices, and luxury quality services, apart from public beaches that may be beautiful but are rarely crowded.
Sint Maarten is ideal for travelers who have a bigger budget, a large appetite for cultures, and an adventurous palate, as Sint Maarten is a place meant to be explored, learned, and enjoyed. Thanks to the island’s anglophone culture, and multicultural landscape you can have everything you will ever need for a Caribbean getaway brimming with fun and excitement.
Saint Barts on the other hand is best reserved for those who love exclusivity and don’t mind the high rolling prices, and luxury the island provides. The island is best known for the type of visitors that frequent its islands, and if you want to feel like the A-lister that you are, with the respective budget this might be the ideal place.
At the end of the day, no matter how big your budget is, like a credit card without a credit limit, you can definitely go for either one, but it is your desired experiences that can set the tone for your decision-making.