The north side is Saint Martin (French) and the South side is Sint Maarten (Dutch). The French side is bigger than the Dutch side. It is said that when both sides decided to set the boundary, Dutch people walked slower than French people because the Dutch drank Gin while the French drank wine. Most people speak English well on this island. Lots of them are bi-lingual or tri-lingual. Both Euros and dollars are accepted on the French side. Dollars are almost the main currency on the Dutch side.
Some say this island is the ‘Land of diversity’. I see it, especially in the Dutch side as there are many Chinese business signs on the main street and there are people from everywhere. During day time, Phillipsburg (Capital of Dutch Side) is filled with passengers from the cruise ships. One day, I saw five mega cruise ships. The bars and restaurants near the cruise ships reminded me of South Beach in Miami. The Public bus system is very convenient on the island. If driving a rental car is a challenge you do not want to endure, by taking three different buses, one can go around the whole island both French and Dutch side (about two hours of bus rides). For a short visit, it is worth it to visit Maho Beach (Dutch Side) to see a 747 landing and taking off real close above from the beach. . Visiting Oriental Beach (French Side) can be done in a half day (either by taking bus or taxi). Picture taking is prohibited at the south portion of Oriental Beach which is nude beach. Seeing a medical doctor is real simple and inexpensive on this island. A Doctor’s visit in French side costs $40 and Dutch side $32. It was strange to see a doctor’s office in French side without a nurse or any assistant, just a doctor, a one person business. Dental care was also inexpensive on the island. John paid 80 Euros (about $100) for one tooth filling including teeth cleaning in French side. By the way, Heineken beer is cheaper than Coca-Cola in Dutch side. In French side, it is worth to visit ‘Supermarket U’ in Marigot (Capital of French Side) for wine and cheese. There is a good bakery next to the ‘Supermarket U” for French bread, Croissant, and sweets. After walking around in Marigot, it is worth to have an expresso and a sweet in a café and watch the people wandering and all kinds of fashions regardless of age, gender, and nationality. For the boaters, the Dutch side offers a variety of Marine business, best-known in the Caribbean. This is the main reason we sailed 1,400 miles directly to this island from the U.S. We wanted to ensure the boat is well-prepared for sailing to many islands from now on. We stayed in Marigot about two weeks so we did some hiking. There are many hiking trails on the island. Some of the trails are very difficult to find. The trail I liked is “Froussard’s Track” trail (2.5 hours hiking itself or a half day including bus ride). Another hiking experience is going up to the peak of the island (Pic Paradis) and hiking down to the city. We got lost many time because the trail was often covered with plants like a jungle.
Overall, staying on this island for two full days might be enough for a short visit but a week will be necessary to enjoy the culture, turquoise water, hiking, and food.