The internet is full of Photoshopped photos and one that often shows up accompanied by choruses of "This is so fake!" is the iconic photo of a large passenger plane swooping low over a beach swarming with tourists as it comes in for landing. You have may have seen it if you spend much time on the internet. The most amazing part about this photo (above; credited to katsuhiro7110) is that it is actually real! This surreal-looking photo is just one of the many amazing features of a lesser-known and entirely underrated island in the Caribbean called St. Martin.
St. Martin, aside from its famous airport, is also unique in the fact that it is divided into two parts. This division dates back to colonial times and has a profound effect on what each side has to offer visitors.
The northern half of the island is the french colony of Saint-Martin. It has everything from beautiful shopping areas that maintain the island feel to old forts from colonial times. For those who want to relax on a beach, there are many picture perfect types of beaches to choose from. Several are clothing-optional, so if you aren't prepared, you may get a surprise. The French culture is abundant with American overtones all while nested in a Caribbean island. It is the perfect getaway for people wanting to relax and escape to a paradise running on "island time."
The southern half of the island is the Dutch colony of Sint Maarten. While it lacks the relaxing, comfort driven feel of the northern half, it is exceptionally intriguing. You never know what you’ll experience if you have an open mind for adventure, like going to a random event you heard on the radio. (If you are there during the annual "Goat Beauty Pageant" and you love adventure, go and thank me later. Meeting the amazing and welcoming locals at the pageant is one of my most memorable moments of any vacation.) The Dutch half of Sint Maarten is the iconic bustling island culture people think of when they imagine old trading ports. The urban feel is easily worth the visit for the excitement, but you should exercise caution and be prepared for the litter (mainly an alarming number of Guinness bottles).
Regardless of which side you spend your time on, you can look forward to moments you will always remember and locals who are always friendly and welcoming.
So which side do you think you would prefer? Check back in the weeks to come as we explore this amazing island and cover the can't miss locations Saint-Marten/Sint Maarten has to offer!