The country has the very Dutch name of Sint Maarten. This is not surprising, since it's a Dutch constituent country. It shares the island of Saint Martin with France and lies east of Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands.
The capital, Philipsburg, is also the largest of the towns on Saint Martin Island. It's located in the south and has an unusual lay-out along a narrow strip of land. To the south it borders Great Bay and to the north the Great Salt Pond. Philipsburg has some historical sights, including the fascinating Fort Willem, but is mainly known for the great shopping to be had here. It's also the place where cruise ships dock.
It's very easy to get to the French side of the island as well. The capital of Saint-Martin is Marigot on the west coast. In the north, at Grand Case, you'll find the best places to eat, with a huge array of gourmet restaurants.
The point of a Caribbean vacation is to spend time at the beach. Saint Martin Island has plenty of great beaches to choose from and you'll also find a great array of water sports, including snorkeling and diving, surfing and sailing. For the thrill of a lifetime, make the twenty-minute drive west to Maho Beach. Here, airplanes coming in to land at Princess Juliana International Airport fly over the beach at such low altitudes that your friends will think you've used photo-editing software to create the amazing photos of you with a Boeing just above your head.
While many of the activities on offer on Saint Martin Island are centered in or on the water, you'll find plenty to do on those days when you want to stay dry as well. Go for a hike or a ride on horseback, try a canopy tour, play golf or tennis or, for something different, wage a paintball war. On the French side there is a popular butterfly farm while on the northern shores of the Great Salt Pond you'll find Sint Maarten Zoo.
The tropical climate makes Sint Maarten the perfect year-round destination. High season is from January to April, when it's dry season too and nights are slightly cooler. However, the rainy season is a great time to visit too, since showers are short and you'll still get plenty of sunshine, especially since the days are longer at this time of year.
You can visit during a shore excursion while on a Caribbean cruise. However, to really enjoy Sint Maarten, you'll need to spend some more time here. Fly in from Amsterdam, Paris or several destinations in the USA, Canada, the Caribbean or Panama and be ready to swap your winter clothes for swimwear and that cup of hot cocoa for tropical punch.
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