The quintessential beach vacation. The gastronomic capital of the Caribbean. This is St. Martin/St. Maarten. Two cultures - one 34 square mile island. For over 350 hundred years, the French and Dutch have coexisted on this small island, living amicably and creating a tourist destination that is the envy of the Caribbean. The former home of the Arawak people, then the Carib tribe, this island was settled by Europeans in the mid 1600s.
There is so much to do on this unique island. St. Martin/St. Maarten has activities to suit absolutely everyone. Everything from swimming to diving to boating is available on most of the beaches (36 in all), but the most active beach is Orient Beach on the Dutch side of the island. Orient Beach offers what you imagine when you daydream about what a Caribbean vacation could be like: turquoise water, white sand, and beach restaurants. You can Jet Ski, parasail, snorkel, and more.
Here are some other things to try:
• Shopping in Dutch Phillipsburg or French Marigot.
• Exploring a Yoda Guy. This is a unique movie exhibit on Front Street opened by creature effects make-up artist Nick Maley. Maley worked on the set of Star Wars among other major motion pictures.
• Enjoy secluded Long Beach, picturesque Cupecoy Beach, or action packed Orient Beach
The food in St. Martin/St. Maarten is something you will not soon forget. From the French Marigot to the Dutch Phillipsburg, the cuisine on St. Martin/St. Maarten is unrivaled by any other island. The influences of both cultures are evident in their cuisine. The French side of the island offers a variety of gourmet foods. The chefs are influenced by traditional French and West Indian cooking and use fresh seafood and tropical fruit in their preparation. St. Martin also has unique food stands called lolos where you can sample specialized food on the go. The Dutch side of the island is considered the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean. Worldwide cuisine such as Greek, Thai, Indian, German, and Indonesian are represented with impeccable flair. Much like the lolos on the French side, roadside grills dot the landscape on the Dutch side, offering savory barbeque and Johnny cakes for you to enjoy on the run. If you are looking for daily catch, my favorite restaurant is Lee’s Roadside grill in Simpson Bay – their grilled lobster is to die for!
St. Martin/St. Maarten has it all. There isn’t anything you could think to do on vacation that can’t be done on this versatile island. You have to see it to believe it.
Size: 34 square miles
Population: St. Martin: 36,000 & St. Maarten: 41,000
Language: St. Martin: French, English, Papiamento & St. Maarten: Dutch, English, Papiamento
Demonym: St. Martiner (French) and St. Maartener (Dutch)
Government: St Martin: France & St. Maarten: Kingdom of the Netherlands
Currency: St. Martin: Euro (€) & St. Maarten: Netherland Antillean guilder (ANG) plus US dollar (US$)
Main City: St. Martin: Marigot & St Maarten: Philipsburg
Main Airport: St. Martin: L’Esperance Airport & St. Maarten: Juliana International Airport
Telephone Country Code: St. Martin: 590 & St. Maarten: 599
National Dish: Conch & Dumplings
Entry Visa: All visitors to St. Martin/St. Maarten will need to have a valid passport and an onward or return ticket. Visas are not required for North Americans, European Union nationals and Australians. Some former Soviet states, Latin American countries and many African nationals will need visas, especially for the French side.
When To Go: The weather St. Martin/St. Maarten is warm year round. The temperature stays in the 80°F all year and is cooled by trade winds. The wet season is June through December, coinciding with hurricane season. The island is quite popular in March when things are in full with the Heineken Regatta and Carnival festivities. May through June is a great time to capitalize on reduced prices and quieter beaches. Also, November through early December is also good times to visit.
Marriage Requirements: The marriage requirements for St. Martin and St. Maarten are slightly different. Specifically:
St. Martin: An application file must be submitted to the President of the Territorial Council at least one month before the publication of the banns. The banns must be published in paper format at the Hotel de la Collectivite over a period of a 10 day period before preceding the day of the marriage ceremony.
St. Maarten: Requests for marriages must be submitted to the Civil Registrar at least 14 days prior to the date of ceremony.
Documents Required: In addition to the completed application for marriage, both the bride and groom will need their:
• birth certificates along with driver’s licences or other forms of identification
• certificates of no impediment or single status report
Also if applicable:
• divorce papers i.e. decree absolute and/or death certificate of spouse
• proof of parental consent if under 18, stamped and signed by a solicitor
• proof of name change by Deed Poll, stamped and signed by a solicitor
Residency Requirement: One week for St. Maarten.
Witnesses: The witness requirements are different for each part of the island.
St. Martin: Two witnesses are required. Foreign witnesses must present a valid passport or a birth certificate with valid photo ID.
St. Marteen: Six witnesses are required if the marriage is performed outside of the Marriage Hall and two witnesses if the Marriage takes place in the Marriage Hall.