Where are Sint Maarten and Saint Lucia?
Sint Maarten and Saint Lucia are some of the Caribbean’s best pearls, sitting pretty across the Lesser Antilles. Both islands offer some of the most picturesque views and beautiful landscapes. 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”.
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.
Saint Lucia neighbors another French Caribbean, the island of Martinique to the north, and another sovereign archipelago to the south, the islands of Saint Vincent and Grenadines. Saint Martin, a hybrid of a Dutch constituent country, Sint Maarten, and a French collectivity that shares the name “Saint Martin”, neighbors Anguilla to the north and another French territory, Saint Barthelemy to the south.
How Far Is Saint Lucia From Saint Martin?
These two beautiful islands in the Caribbean are situated far apart from each other. Saint Lucia is approximately 512 kilometers or 318 miles south of Saint Martin. You can get in between these islands is by flying, via regional air carriers, like Air Caraibes and Air Antilles. If you decide to take it slow and see the scenic nautical route, you can take a ferry with L’Express des Iles either from Fort-de-France from Saint Martin, or Castries from Saint Lucia.
The Anglophone Dutch
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.
Cosmopolitan and International
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 Helen of the Caribbean
Unlike many of the Caribbean Islands, Saint Lucia is a sovereign nation, completely independent from any European state. It has been an independent state since 1979 from the British commonwealth. When you visit the island, you can easily tell the island’s British flair, and multicultural undertones alluding to its long and often tumultuous history. Saint Lucia has been dubbed one of the most fought over islands, if not the most in the Caribbean, and with good reason.
First taken by the French for a long period, destroying the original inhabitants, the Arawak, and Caribs, the island was actually colonized by a French pirate named Francois Le Clerc and not the Spaniard Juan de Cosa, as some accounts would assert. Le Clerc managed to push away the Spanish via the Pigeon Island by attacking them in the 1550s which eventually turned the island into an important historic town attracting tourist masses today.
The eventful colonial history of Saint Lucia has made it incredibly famous among historians and culture buffs. The island has been fought over too many times that it has been likened to the mythical Helen of Troy with a spin as the “Helen of the Caribbean”.
As history reports, the Dutch, French, and British colonial powers fought over the islands several times over. The Dutch first laid hands on the island, by building Vieux Fort in the 1600s, but the Caribs fought and drove them out. Then, the British sent 400 settlers to the island in 1639 in the hopes to turn it into a colony but were wiped out by the Caribs soon after.
Then the French West India Company took their chance and came in 1651 and bought the land from the Caribs to make it a French colony. However, the English after having knowledge of the French moving in sent over a thousand men to take back the island after their failed attempt years prior. Ended in armed conflict that lasted until 1814, the French surrendered the island to the victorious English.
After ceding to the English, which then became the British Empire for the rest of its history until 1979, where it gained full independence, which eventually gave them a thriving economy and a sovereign government.
Two Titles, One Beautiful Island
The island is as exciting as the media normally make it seem, riddled with geothermal activity, diverse landscape, enchanting rainforests, white and volcanic sand beaches, and teeming aquatic life, full of corals of different colors. Saint Lucia is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful islands in the region. These features, plus the high-end resorts that speckle the island have elevated the island to the top of the world’s must-visit lists.
Due to its top-rated beauty, the island was even ranked as the top honeymoon destination by the World Travel Awards, nine times. Apart from its natural gifts, a huge credit to this ranking is due to the many insanely beautiful resorts that are said to be very accommodating, and service-oriented, catering to almost every whim of holidaymakers.
But as you set your foot upon the island, you’ll be met with some of the loveliest people in the world. Descended from the original Carib inhabitants, emancipated slaves from the colonial years, and a slew of other people groups that migrated to the island, one of the island’s best draws are its people. And they know how beautiful their island is.
Beauty Weighs Heavy
Dubbed as the “Helen of the Caribbeans” or “Helen of the West”, Saint Lucia may be riddled with conflicts, exchanges, and occupations for the most part of its history but the island is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful out there. It is in this same beauty that its romantic magic sets in. Also coined as the “honeymoon capital of the Caribbean”, there is so much that Saint Lucia can offer.
Bearing two titles, Saint Lucia isn’t a stop, or a question when traveling to the Caribbean, it is a must-visit destination, especially for the coupled up. The island is also friendly to the single and ready to mingle, of course. Romantic cues aside, Saint Lucia’s beauty is meant to be fought for and conquered, just like how the Achaeans fought to reclaim Helen in the Greek tradition.
The island’s association with Helen of Troy has even given many of its natural features references, like some sort of likeness to the mythical woman’s body parts – such as the Piton mountains being her breasts, and the Sulphur Springs in Soufriere her private part. All of which, plus its classic Caribbean beaches, and charming towns something for lovers, newlyweds, and even the single and searching a well-deserved adventure.
Which is better – Sint Maarten or Saint Lucia?
These two islands are just some of the best in the Caribbean. Sint Maarten and Saint Lucia are both complete with a vibrant culture, interesting history, and gorgeous natural features, but what sets them apart is the kind of experience they can give to curious visitors.
Sint Maarten provides a cosmopolitan feel, thanks to a variety of cultures that found their way to the streets and palates of the island. The Dutch constituent country is also brimming with fun and excitement as its adventures take you from its interiors to the neighboring islands, and end with a nightlife full of energy.
While Saint Lucia prides itself on its natural beauty, simple living, and a setting best reserved for romance. Its natural features, from the mountains to sulphur springs, the island was made to be conquered and to fall in love with. So, if you’re the type who loves to romanticize and the outdoors, Saint Lucia stands as a beacon of beauty and love, just like Helen herself.