Friday, September 26, 2014

Enjoy A Great Caribbean Getaway On St Maarten

By Karina Frost

The Caribbean is the perfect destination if you're looking for sand, sun and sea. Best of all is that it's a year-round destination and you don't have to wait for summer to enjoy warm weather. There are many great places to visit in the region but for one that offers something different, you may want to go Dutch: that is, St Maarten.

The Netherlands has several constituent countries in the Caribbean, one of which is Sint Maarten. It's not an entire island, like most other Dutch constituent countries, but covers part of an island known as Saint Martin. Anguilla lies to the north and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to the west. The part of Saint Martin that isn't Dutch is French and is called Saint-Martin.

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.

The capital of the French side, which is called Saint-Martin, is the town of Marigot. It lies in the west. For the best food on the island, however, head north to Grand Case, which is renowned for its excellent 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.

For those days when you want to do something other than beach activities, visit attractions such as Sint Maarten Zoo or, in French Saint-Martin, the butterfly farm. If you prefer something more active, head for the golf course or tennis court, go horse-riding or hike in the interior. Adventure sports that are perfect for the kids too include paintball and canopy tours.

The best time to visit is, well, any time you want. Humidity and night-time temperatures are a little lower in the first third of the year, when it's dry season. However, this is high tourist season too. Low season coincides with the rainy season, which here only means short showers before the sun comes out to play again.

Many people visit Sint Maarten as part of a Caribbean cruise. If you want to stay longer, though, it's best to fly here. There are regular flights to destinations throughout North America as well as The Netherlands and France to the island's main airport, Princess Juliana International Airport.

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