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Introducing Sint Maarten

If you’re arriving on the island from a far-flung destination, chances are you’ll be landing on the Dutch side’s Juliana International Airport – one of the largest airports in the Caribbean and a transfer hub to many of the smaller islands orbiting nearby.

As the Sintillating side of the border, Holland’s land claim gets continuously tweaked and tuned as it strives to be the ultimate holiday destination for adults. The construction laws are not particularly stringent, so the artificial landscape feels a bit Vegas-in-the-‘80s. The capital of the Dutch side is Philipsburg, a gridiron town along a wide arcing bay that mostly functions as an outdoor shopping mall for cruise-goers with cash to burn.

Those in the know used to say ‘sleep on the Dutch side, eat on the French side’, but this no longer holds true. In the last few years many excellent restaurants have opened their doors here, giving the more traditional French dining venues a run for their money. Similarly, many boutique businesses have moved to the Dutch side from the French side to regain their large American client base. Although, on the other side of the equation, accommodation in Sint Maarten is gradually turning into one big mess of timeshares, so have a look at the lodging choices on the French side – even though they are priced in euros, you can still snag an excellent deal.

This section starts at the far end of the Dutch holding (relative to the airport) and works its way back from Philipsburg along the winding cobbled coast, past Simpson Bay and on through Maho Bay, Mullet Bay and Cupecoy Beach before crossing over onto the French half. Oyster Pond is split between both colonies.