The smallest island in the world ever
to have been partitioned between two different nations, St.
Martin/St. Maarten has been shared by the French and the
Dutch in a spirit of neighborly cooperation and mutual friendship
for almost 350 years.
The border is almost imperceptible. and people
cross back and forth without ever realizing they are entering
a new country. There are four boundries, Belle Vue / Cole Bay,
French Quarter / Dutch Quarter, Low Lands / Copecoy and Oyster Pond,
testifying to centuries of peaceful cohabitation and the treaty
All the same, each side has managed to retain
much of the distinctiveness of its own national culture. The
French tend to emphasize comfort and elegance. The beaches
are secluded, the luxury resorts provide lavish accommodations,
and the restaurants offer the finest dining experiences
anywhere in the Caribbean. The latest French fashions can be
found in many of the shops, and the smell of fresh croissants
and pastries mixes everywhere with the spicy aromas of West
Indian cooking. Small cafés and charming bistros add
a decidedly Gaelic and cosmopolitan flair to the place. On
the whole the atmosphere remains very relaxed.
On the other hand, St. Maarten with its busy
cruise port and bustling commercial district, has long been
an active center for trade and tourism. More developed and
at the same time more informal, it is very Dutch in flavor
and still has strong ties with fellow compatriots in the other
Netherlands Antilles. Between the two different cultures in
St. Martin and St. Maarten, vacationers will be able to find
just about every kind of activity they might want for a perfect
holiday in the sun.
Located midway through the chain of islands
in the Caribbean, just as the Antilles begin to curve to the
south, St. Martin is sunny and warm year-round, averaging 82
degrees Fahrenheit in summer and just 2 degrees cooler in winter.
The island is buffeted by cooling trade winds that keep things
temperate all year long. Average annual rainfall comes to about
45 inches, most of which occurs around late summer and early