St. Maarten

St. Maarten

St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the island, is more developed for tourism than the French side, with big hotels and time-share developments. Its capital, Philipsburg, is a favorite destination of cruise ships, and it’s wall-to-wall with tourists when ships are in port.

The French and Dutch sides of the island, although culturally distinct, have a shared history dating back to the early 17th century. Early settlers banded together to ward off the Spanish, then divided the 37-sq-mi/96-sq-km island between themselves. The hilly, southern Dutch side is the smaller half, covering 16 sq mi/41 sq km.

The Arawak Indians named the island Soualiga, or Land of Salt, and the Great Salt Pond, near Philipsburg, remains a prominent geological feature. The capital’s sheltering Great Bay has attracted international traders for centuries, and St. Maarten is still known as a duty-free shopper’s paradise. With its sheltered harbors, trade winds and proximity to other islands, St. Maarten is also a yachting hub.