Caribbean Island Guides: St. Maarten

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About St. Maarten
Divided between the French and the Dutch and while each section retains its uniqueness, there is a marvelous harmony between the two. The French side offer great shopping, excellent cuisine and secluded beaches-----a Gaelic experience. The Dutch side is more informal and is a busy cruise port and is bustling with activity. A perfect marriage of cultures, the visitor will find much to see and do. Explore the island, visit the sites of interest, enjoy relaxing on the beaches or participate in activity such as sailing, diving and deep sea fishing. Best of two worlds!!!
Beautiful beaches abound and are the main attraction. Both the Dutch and French sides have a variety of gorgeous beaches. On the French East Coast there is the Butterfly farm. Also interesting is the Pic Du Paradis in the French Mountains, a blend of farmland and forest which make it perfect for hiking.Beautiful reefs underwater such as the Green Key Barrier Reef which offers beautiful views ( this is on the French side of the island) . One of the most famous scuba diving spots is Proselyte Reef where the coral built up on a sunken 200 year old frigate makes it most attractive for the underwater enthusiast
Scuba diving to the many underwater reefs etc is a very popular activity. Trips to neighbouring islands is very popular with the visitor. Casino gambling is legal on the Dutch side and is a major drawing card for that part of the island. Carnival is celebrated in both parts of the island and participating in this can add spice to your vacation. Duty free shopping makes St. Martin a shoppers delight and the main towns are well worth a visit. There is one excellent golf course at Mullet Bay Resort, but serious golfers can take a side trip to one of the neighbouring islands where there are several golf courses. Lots to see and do in St. Martin and it is fascinating to be able to experience the two cultures so easily. Be sure to visit the many excellent restaurants particularly the French cuisine.
First occupied by the Arawaks and Caribs, Columbus claimed the island for Spain in 1493, although he never landed there himself. Although the Spanish owned the island they took little interest and it used by the Dutch as an outpost, while a group of French settlers set up a colony also. The Spanish, then realising the importance of the island expelled the Dutch in the early 17th century. However the Dutch and French persisted in their efforts to retain control in the island, finally the Spanish gave up and in 1648 a treaty was signed dividing the island between France which gained 21 sq miles, and the Netherlands which got the remaining 16 sq miles. However, because of many disputes, the present day borders were not established until 1817. African slaves were brought over and a plantation based economy prevailed until slavery was abolished. Today the island has a thrieving tourist industry and the Dutch and French sides exist peacefully together.

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