Sint Maarten, Saint-Martin, What’s the Difference?

For those cruising to the Eastern Caribbean, one of the popular islands to visit is the island of Saint Martin.  Or is it Sint Maarten?  Actually, it’s both!  St Maarten, as it’s referred to by the Dutch, is the smallest island which is divided by two countries.  One side of this northeast Caribbean island is controlled by the French (Saint-Martin) and the other controlled by Netherland (Sint Maarten).

St Maarten is approximately 34 square miles with the highest elevation at 1,358 feet which is Pic Paradis on the French side of the island.  Most cruise ships calling this island will dock on the Dutch side of the island in Philipsburg, though some smaller ships will dock on the French side in Marigot.

When you first arrive into St Maarten by cruise ship, you will immediately notice the amazing color of the water in contrast with the sand beaches of the city.

In the years that we have been cruising we have seen a lot of changes to Philipsburg.  They have greatly expanded the port area.  Here are some older pictures when the renovations were taking place.  It still looks pretty much the same by the port today.

One of the biggest questions we are asked is “what can I do on St Maarten?” There are a variety of shore excursions available, both on land and on the sea, some that are very active and some that are fairly laid back. One very popular shore excursion has you sailing in the bay on boats like those used for the America’s Cup.

There are a variety of excursions that will take you to both the Dutch and French sides of the island. One that we did was a bus tour that started in Philipsburg and went over to Marigot and allowed us some time to explore Marigot before heading back to the ship. This tour did not stop at any beaches, but a word of caution. On the French side of the island, many of the beaches are “clothing optional”.

For more information on St. Maarten, please check out So my big question is “What do you want to do the next time you are in St. Maarten?”. Post your answers here or on Facebook on Travel On A Dream’s page. Then come join us on the ToaD Fantasy sailing, October 20, 2012 on the Disney Fantasy!

One response to this post.

  1. Went parasailing on the french side, clothing optional was in full force. Most of it was the over 60 crowd 😦


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