Sint Maarten vs. Saint Martin (Everything You Need to Know About the Divided Island)

Two countries, one island, to get to one, you can get to both. Sint Maarten and Saint Martin may have had conflicts in the past, but now in the spirit of culture, and tourism has seen so much progress together. Well, if you share one beautiful island, smackdab a heap of culture to one strategic location in the Caribbean, all you have is this tourism powerhouse.
Sint Maarten vs. Saint Martin
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Whether you prefer the French attitude and refinement or the Dutch openness, and undertones, both sides can offer you the best of the best. From cuisine, language, culture, history, beaches, and fun, you can be sure to have every shade of their multicultural charm.

Is Sint Maarten the Same as Saint Martin?

People might say that both islands are the same because they are practically one island, but the difference in culture, from the language to the way of living has their nuances and subtle-to-not-so-subtle differences. For one, the names of each side speak for themselves. Saint Martin, often written as Saint-Martin is French, and Sint Maarten is Dutch, and that alone accounts for much.

Sint Maarten is the Dutch half, or rather, the southern 40% of the island, a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, enjoying internal independence, autonomous of its own executive and legislative functions. Culturally, Sint Maarten speaks English and Dutch as the official languages and speaks a variation of Creole.

The Dutch side of the island may be smaller in size and territory but has a larger population and economy. The capital of Philipsburg serves as the island’s commercial hub, often considered the cosmopolitan side. Albeit, the number of must-visit beaches in French Saint Martin outnumbers that of Dutch Sint Maarten, but it’s no denying that most of the island’s most important economic sources are housed in this side, from the Princess Juliana International Airport to the Cruise Terminal.

Saint Martin is the tropical gem of the island, the French side famous for its gorgeous beaches, relaxed attitude, European decadence meets Caribbean charm flavor and the French language. Many might argue that Saint Martin houses many of the best resorts on the island, and its relatively laid-back vibe is associated with the entire island’s vacation reputation.

Having 60% of the island’s territory, the French north is famed for the beauty it exudes, and the charm of the French flavor. Mostly speaking French, and a bit of English, it may be a bit more challenging to navigate the in and outs of this side, language-wise. However, the marriage of Caribbean-Creole, and French cultures, from traditions to gastronomy makes French Saint Martin a worthy excursion.

Is Saint Martin and Sint Maarten the Same Island?

Despite their myriads of differences, and parallels, Saint Martin and Sint Maarten are on the same island. Historically shared and divided by two former European colonial powers, the two territories had a long rich and colorful shared history.

The northern part of the island is occupied by the French collectivity of Saint-Martin, sometimes referred to as “Saint-Martin”, while the southern side is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Sint Maarten, a Dutch translation of the name of the island. Despite the differences and the historical conflicts, the two sides have cooperated, collaborated for a long time since their officiation in the late 20th to the early 21st century.

What Are the Two Sides of Sint Maarten?

Sint Maarten doesn’t have two sides, rather it is one side of the island of Saint Martin. The other one is Saint Martin or Saint-Martin, occupying the island’s northern side is essentially French. From the language, traditions, and gastronomy, this side is a perfect blend of the Caribbean, Creole, and French.

While Sint Maarten is on the Dutch side, occupying the southern 40% of the island. The Dutch were the first to build a settlement on the island after the Spanish left. Sint Maarten’s culture is pretty much the same as Saint Martin, only that it’s Dutch, but despite its cultural and historical parentage, is surprisingly anglophone.

You’ll be surprised at how there is so much to see, explore, and learn when you visit the island because of this arrangement. Visitors consider this small island to have big draws and far too many as well. It’s like winning two jackpots for the price of one.

Is Sint Maarten Dutch or French?

Sint Maarten is essentially Dutch. From its roots in history to its modern culture, the island’s Dutch side has retained its European parentage, perfectly blended with Caribbean and Creole flavors has made it an interesting place to explore. However, Sint Maarten is anglophone for the most part, with English as many of the educated population’s first language.

Are Saint Martin and Sint Maarten Different Countries?

Despite their relatively the same address, Saint Martin and Sint Maarten are different countries, with different laws, and different customs, cultures, and languages. A literal loose border and shared tourism are what make people mistake them for a single country. And quite frankly, because of the island’s tremendous beauty, and interesting quirks, we can’t really blame them.

Saint Martin is the French side of the island, more specifically a French collectivity in the Caribbean. Saint Martin does facilitate itself but it is still governed by the central French government, making it an overseas part of France. The culture, history, language, customs, and traditions on this side are a proud blend of Caribbean influences, Creole roots, and French parentage.

Sint Maarten, on the other hand, is a Dutch constituent country, with a certain level of autonomy, with a political association with the Dutch crown, and parliament. The Dutch side is, just like Saint Martin, also essentially Dutch, with a blend of Caribbean flavors, and Creole roots. However, despite its smaller area, Sint Maarten has more population, and is the economic center of the island, and is interestingly anglophone.

What Two Countries Own Saint Martin?

The island is divided into two political and cultural sides, one of France, and the other, the Netherlands. Saint Martin, often written “Saint-Martin” is owned and occupied by the French as a collectivity, one of the republic’s many overseas territories. Saint Martin became an official French Overseas Collectivity in 2007, was dubbed as the “French Side”.

While Sint Maarten became a constituent country in 2010, after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, a federation of the Dutch Caribbean islands. Sint Maarten is also one of the Netherlands’ overseas territories, occupying the southern 40% of the island.

Can You Travel to the French Side of Saint Martin?

With a visa to the island, or for some a visa-free travel privilege, you can travel to Saint Martin from Sint Maarten or vice versa without the usual hassle of border controls. There is no physical border between the French side of Saint-Martin and the Dutch side of Sint Maarten, so you can freely travel and explore both sides.

This is one of the island’s best draws as it allows visitors to explore two distinct sides offering an interesting variety and a wide array of things to explore and learn about. The island has a total of 37 beaches which has something for everyone, not to mention the slew of places and local spots to enjoy. Visiting the island, as they say, is like hitting two birds with one stone, a single ticket for two countries.

Why Is Saint Martin Half French and Half Dutch?

Saint Martin the island of two countries has a history as rich as the draws that riddle this tourist mecca in the Caribbean Sea. The island’s historical account can better explain how it came to be Saint Martin that many love today.

The island of Saint Martin was initially discovered by Christopher Columbus for the Spanish Empire on November 11, 1493, and named it after the saint who had a feast on the same day, Saint Martin of Tours. At first, the island seems lucrative for the Spanish because of its natural salt lakes, a commodity in Europe at the time.

The Dutch first came and occupied the island before the French did, having a conflict-ridden exchange of control with the Spanish for several years. As soon after the Dutch built Fort Amsterdam and artillery battery, the French and British took notice of the potential of the island and began occupying the island as well.

After the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Netherlands, Spain left their territories in the Caribbean, and saw no value for Saint Martin, and eventually abandoned it. In 1648 both the Dutch and French started to re-establish their settlements.

After some initial conflict, both sides came to a conclusion that none would yield their lands easily. So, to void yet again, an all-out war, both opted to sign the Treaty of Concordia in 1648, dividing the island in two.

The treaty was signed by the two then-governors of the island, Robert de Longvilliers for the French and Martin Thomas for the Dutch. The French would keep the area they occupied and the coast facing Anguilla to the north, while the Dutch would have the area of their pre-established Fort Amsterdam and the land around it on the southern coast.

Why Is Sint Maarten Divided?

Sint Maarten isn’t divided per se, but rather a division in itself. The island of Saint Martin is divided into two countries, the French collectivity of Saint Martin, or Saint-Martin, and the Dutch constituent country of Sint Maarten. The historical accounts purported that the island’s strategic location and its natural salt lakes have made it a key colonial piece for the former European colonial powers such as Spain, who first discovered the island, the Netherlands, France, and England.

After a period of conflicts that lasted for several years, the island came to the hands of the Dutch and French, which then had their own conflicts regarding their claim to the island. Conflicts eventually ended with an agreement to divide the island in the form of the Treaty of Concordia, signed in 1648.

What Is the Dutch Side of Saint Martin Called?

The island’s earliest colonial name was San Martin, after the discovery of the island by Christopher Columbus for the Spanish Empire in 1493. The Dutch that eventually settled on the island named it in the same respect, after Saint Martin of Tours, only with a Dutch translation, “Sint Maarten.”

Is the Dutch Side of Saint Martin Safe?

According to previous visitors, and tourism and travel portals, Sint Maarten is considered to be generally safe for tourists and locals. The Dutch side has maintained a rather low level of risk, and crime, with most violent crimes surrounding drug activity that mostly concerns locals.

However, despite the lack or low levels of threat, one must still be cautious. Wherever you go, no matter what country or island that is, no city or place is perfectly safe for everyone, so to be vigilant is always key. It’s best to err on the side of caution, rather than letting yourself became an open target for any sort of crime.

Which Side of Saint Martin Is French?

The French side of Saint Martin, usually written as Saint Martin, and often Saint-Martin, is the northern side of the island. The French territory takes up about 53 square kilometers or (34 square miles) or roughly 60% of the island to the north-facing the neighboring island of Anguilla.

Saint Martin, the French Side, is often touted as the more relaxed side of the island, thank its obvious French attitude. The northern side also has beaches that are just the right kind of picturesque, because of how quaint the northern side can be.

If the southern Dutch side is the more cosmopolitan side where a lot is happening, expect the northern French to be more “laissez-faire”, refined, charming, and lesser people, the only thing you need is to bring a bit of French with you, as they don’t really speak English, unlike Sint Maarten.

Is the French Side of Saint Martin Safe?

The French Side, just like Dutch Sint Maarten, is also proven to be generally safe for most people, with crime and various forms of threat to a low level, allowing for people to enjoy this gifted albeit tiny island. However, it is still best to exercise caution wherever you go, as danger can only happen to those asking for it. Avoid remote, and dimly-lit areas at night, and do not walk alone in the dark.

What Is the French Side of Saint Martin Known for?

With an obvious juxtaposition and contrast, you can easily divide and associate Saint Martin to its many draws on either side. For one, the French side of Saint Martin is essentially French, think tropical south of France, with a burst of Caribbean and Creole flavors, seemingly endless sunny days, and a very French attitude, laid-back, relaxed, and laissez-faire.

The French side is home to the island’s most scrumptious cooking and restaurants, and the best beaches that are just gorgeous and awe-inspiring, that is often associated with the island’s enduring fame and char. Apart from those, when you say French, fashion and shopping always go hand in hand, here you can always find either a stylish person or a designer boutique.

What Is There to Do on the French Side of Saint Martin?

French Saint Martin just maybe one side of the island, but even this small stretch of French territory packs a ton of interesting things to do, and check out. You just have to have an open mind, a well-planned budget, and a list of the many famous things on this side of the island.

To start, when in Marigot you can hike up Fort Louis overlooking the bay, it is one of the island’s largest forts, along with Fort Amsterdam on the other side. The structure was once the site of armed battles between the major European powers of the Caribbean warring for dominance and territory in the region. You can still see old cannons prepped on the lookouts.

Cultural and historical value aside, what draws the crowds are the ridiculous panoramas, sweeping 180-degrees across Marigot harbor and the hills above Bellevue, providing views of the deep-blue ocean and even a view of neighboring Anguilla Island in the distance.

Apart from the historic landmark of Fort Louis, you can also check out the plethora of worthy things and places in Marigot itself. And the best thing to do first is to wander down the winding streets of the French Caribbean capital. You can take one too many snaps on the colonial houses, that are both colorful and holds so much history.

These Saint Martinoise-style houses are now home to boutiques for luxury clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, and other specialties on the island. You can also shop with a little less worry as the island is tax-free, you can spend a little without the guilt and fear.

Head to Marigot Market as you wander around the town. Here you can truly immerse yourself with the local culture, with the open-air market open every day. You can sample dozens of local products being sold here. From farm-fresh produce to specialty items.

Another interesting thing to do on an island is to leave it and explore around. Take a boat charter from Marigot, and head to interesting places right on the waters of the island. You can go deep-sea fishing, or even visit the smaller tranquil islands just off the coasts of Saint Martin, such as Tintamarre, and Prickly Pear.

One of the island’s few icons, the Loterie Farm is a resort right at the edges of the famous Pic Paradis. You can explore the resort’s manicured gardens, treehouse-inspired cabanas, and the many restaurants that line the property.

However, most tourists with a knack for the adventure head up to get the famous thrill, some are even keen to try their hand on the series of ziplines, and swinging rope bridges that the people from Loterie Farm have installed all throughout the jungle canopies.

If you happen to book tickets to Saint Martin in February, March, and April head down to the old fishing town of Grand Case, where the town celebrates the local culture with a big artisanal market every Tuesday. Grand Case Tuesdays during this season feature parades, full of Carnival dancers and music. You can see the full spectrum of the colors of Saint Martin’s culture.

Between the Baie Rouge, and Pointe du Bluff, you can find the underrated gem of Le Trou de David or David’s Hole. A beautifully carved hole by nature is believed to be a collapsed sea cave chamber with vertical walls, and a pair of arches opening to the sea. The hole has a diameter of 25 meters or 82 feet, and a heigh of 10 meters or 33 feet.

Is There a Difference Between Sint Maarten and Saint Martin?

Being two different countries, and cultures on a single island, it’s easy to mistake them for being one and the same, but Sint Maarten and Saint Martin are two distinct places. For one, both sides are occupied by two different European states, and thus have different cultures, customs, traditions, and languages. The languages used on the island just might be the best telltale sign of all.

With enough thorough research before visiting, you can already note their differences, however, it is these differences that play a huge factor in the experience you want to have, which can help you decide on which side to stay in.

What Is the Difference Between Sint Maarten and Saint Martin?

Sint Maarten is Dutch, and it still retained all of its Dutch undertones, perfectly blended with the spice of the Caribbean, and the majority of the population’s Creole roots. The cosmopolitan flavor of the Dutch side is also evident that it can often be used as a contrast against the French side’s relaxed, more resort feel.

With that, Sint Maarten is jampacked with fun, especially if you like to spend your money on experience and fun. The Dutch side is known for its nightlife, and casinos, which is a huge draw for many high-rolling, party-loving tourists. Sint Maarten is said to be the more animated and dynamic side.

French Saint Martin is home to many of the island’s most beautiful beaches, best restaurants, and resorts, and tops everything off with that classic slow, laid-back French attitude as if you’re in the south of France, but tropical.

The French side could almost feel like a refuge from the noise and energy of the Dutch side, as it offers tranquility and a more intimate experience with the island. And with its French parentage, Saint Martin is known for the best food, especially its artisan baguettes and croissants. You can taste a bit of that coveted French culture on this side.

When it comes to cultural influences, if you’re looking for a more mixed, and interestingly blended flavor, it’s best to stay on the Dutch side, as Sint Maarten is noticeably more Caribbean and mixed, thanks to the influx and prominence of multiculturalism. While French Saint Martin isn’t as diluted and stays French-Creole for the most part.

Should I Stay on the French or Dutch side of Saint Martin?

If you’re more the party-loving, thrill-seeking, and possibly, high-rolling type, the Dutch side of Sint Maarten offers plenty of experiences for your liking. Thanks to Sint Maarten’s more hip, and cosmopolitan setting, it is a plus for people who love to have both the beach, and the city to their palms.

However, if you’re looking for a quiet, laid-back, more relaxed experience, the French side’s draws are more than enough to provide you just those. Saint Martin is lined with the most beautiful and relaxing beaches and resorts on the island, with the best cuisine, and a rather tranquil and chill vibe, compared to Sint Maarten’s animated and dynamic flavor.

Getting thoroughly researched information on each side of the island gives you an overview of their differences. These distinct features of each side of the island give you an idea of what ultimately decide on. At the end of the day, it is what you want to take away from an experience that helps layout factors that help you decide which, is which.

Which Side of Saint Martin Is Better – the French or the Dutch?

What can ultimately decide which is better is what you want to take away in your Saint Martin Island experience. Each side has its draws and put-offs, but what truly sets them apart is the experience they can offer to people.

If you love having the city and its cosmopolitan flavors, with lively beaches, and interesting nightlife, then the Dutch side of Sint Maarten is for you. However, if you prefer a more tranquil experience, the best food, and a top-notch beach experience then the French side of Saint Martin is the place to be.

However, just because you choose one side over the other, whatever one lacks, the other can easily compensate, and you can thank the relatively non-existent border for that. You can chill by the tranquil beaches on the French side, then party hard on the Dutch side at night. Easy.