Saint Martin: an island with two faces

Two countries on the same island, with two different atmospheres and two opposite characters: on the one hand, France and its gentle and calm lifestyle. On the other, the exuberance and nocturnal madness of the Netherlands. Going to Saint Martin is an idyllic experience, back-dropped by white sandy beaches and other heavenly locales.

The least one can say about this Saint Martin is that it is atypical. Will this small Caribbean island, dubbed the Friendly Island, be the new sun'n'fun destination? Suffice it to say it is quietly supplanting its neighbours. With an area of 87 square kilometres, it welcomes no fewer than 120 different nationalities and shares its territory between two countries. Dual citizenship for such a small territory the smallest inhabited island divided between two nations is the strange paradox for an island whose only possession are the whiteness of its beaches and the transparency of its waters.

On one side, there is Saint Martin, overseas community belonging to France. On the other, Saint Marten, autonomous state of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The two coexist on the same island, surrounded by the waters of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, but both territories have their own government, laws, health system, and electrical system. Two diametrically opposed atmospheres, one ring road. A few kilometres down the road, a sign announces that we have entered into Holland. No border guard, nor need of a passport to cross: European populations circulate without restrictions, right in the middle of the Caribbean.

Sometimes Dutch, sometimes French, Saint Martin is primarily international. Frequented by an American clientele attracted by its climate and lagoons, the island has kept its Creole charm, despite the tourist success. From the wooden houses of Cul-de-Sac to the hiking trails of Paradise Peak, pockets of undisturbed nature and authenticity make this island the tiny pearl of the Antilles. On the Dutch side, English is the dominant tongue, and there are more people, more noise, and more hustle and bustle.

The architecture is different, too the buildings are bigger. Low-cost shops with garish displays cater to the tourist trade, offering big discounts on watches, jewellery, high-tech, and photo equipment. A must for lovers of shopping… Welcome to Saint Martin!

Insight video - Discover Philipsburg and surroundings
Insight video

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