Marigot, St. Martin’s capital city is sleepier and noted for its charming sidewalk cafes and outdoor market held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Besides an amalgam of spices and generic handicrafts that are typically sold by St. Martin’s Haitian immigrant community, the market also sells surprisingly expensive avocados and coconuts -- $2 and $5 respectively. We suspect those are tourist prices. But note: Even the best bargaining won’t help lower those prices. (Haitians as we know, are tough folk.)
The French side is the quieter side and where you'll find the large stretches of private, quiet beaches. Resorts, hotels and guesthouses can be just a ten to twenty minute ride from Dutch St. Maartin’s Princess Juliana Airport (pictured above.)
Unfortunately, because this is such a livable island there is traffic, which is often times horrific. It appears that everyone has a car. Add to that the fact that tourists who want to get around off their resorts need rental cars too. (This might also be why some people call the island the New York and LA of the Caribbean.)
Philipsburg, a commercial shopping district with endless opportunities to spend is St. Maarten's capital. Here you'll find everything you'd find in a mall, suburban shopping centers, or whatever else you want to spend your money on. For anyone who has cruised to this island, they probably hit the Dutch side as that's where ships dock and where tourists flock. They're out looking for deals from many of the Guyanese-owned jewelry stores. It is Philipsburg where you can unload some dough on diamonds, rubies and emeralds on the cheaper.
St. Maartin is also where the casinos, chain hotels and strip clubs are congregated. There are more dining and nightlife options on the Dutch side. These options are housed in what looks like multiplex-like strips malls. Of course there are beaches on both sides. Some nudie ones!
Richardson, ever a fan of the French side, has another thought about the differences between the two cultures: "The Dutch side is where you can go if you want to look for trouble. Then you sleep it off on the French side."
· Princess Juliana Airport Still Unsafe But Like, Totally Fun to Watch [Jaunted]
· Saint Martin [Wikipedia]
Full Disclosure: Shira Levine was a guest of the Tourism Board of St. Martin aka The French Side.
[All photos by Shira Levine]