St Maarten is a tale of two governments – the south side of this lovely Caribbean island is owned by the Netherlands Antilles and the larger northern half is owned by French Guadaloupe. Both sides of the island speak English as their second language and both sides accept the dollar, although goods on the french side tend to be more expensive. The island of St Maarten is easy to drive around and has excellent beaches, restaurants and duty free shopping.
St Maarten is known for its beautiful beaches all around the island, but the best is Orient Bay, close to your self catering villa. There is safe swimming in the exceptionally clear waters and the more remote end, away from the resorts is generally the place for naturists. There are some bars along the beach and plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas for hire, making this a beautiful place to spend the day.
Orient Bay is a beautiful beach area with plenty of amenities in the nearby towns. It is a rural area and has a peaceful air. Walk along the white sand beaches at the edge of the Caribbean waves or walk up the nearby hills and enjoy the views across to neighbouring St Barts.
There are many gourmet restaurants close to Orient Bay offering excellent international and French cuisine. You may see 15% dining tax on your bill, but there is no such tax – it is the restaurant’s way of adding a service charge, so don’t pay twice! Be aware that if you ask for water in a restaurant, it will be bottled water and you will be charged, often more than the price of beer or wine!
Shopping in Philipsburg, the Dutch capital, is a delightful experience. The small streets are mainly pedestrianized and run along the edge of the beach. Cruise ships do arrive on some days, filling the town with shoppers seeking duty-free bargains. St Maarten is known for its fine jewelry and there are plenty of shops selling everything from clothing and souvenirs to Rolex watches and designer bags.
This is the highest point on the island at 1400feet (427m) above sea level. The route from Friars Bay Beach does require 4-wheel drive as it is steep and winding, but views from the two viewing areas at the top are quite magnificent.
The butterfly farm is just a few miles south of your Orient villa at Orient Bay. The pleasant drive is well worth it to stroll among the hundreds of beautiful butterflies beneath a tented mesh cage.
As with most Caribbean islands, the temperatures throughout the year are a very reliable 29-32°C (84-89F). The islands receive slightly more rain in October and November, but this only amounts to around 2 inches a month and will not spoil your sunny Caribbean vacation on St Maarten.
The main airport for flights to and from St Maarten is St Julianna airport on the Dutch side of the island. It is about 20km from your holiday rental in Orient Bay, which is on the French side of the island.