Go2Guadeloupe > Travel Guide > St Martin  
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200 Km in the north west of Guadeloupe, Saint Martin is an exceptional destination. People often come to visit because of the uncomparable beauty of its beaches, you can take advantage of its status of a free-port to shop untaxed, and when night falls you can discover its trendy and lively atmosphere which earns Saint Martin the reputation of the Saint Tropez of the Caribean.

As on all the islands of the Petites Antilles, the first inhabitants came from what we know today as Venezuela. The island, known then as Soauliga by the Arawaks, was already split in two in those days, with the pic du Paradis (424 m) as the border zone. Columbus came about during his second voyage on Saint Martin's day, giving the island the name it still has today.
The salt of the salines became the object of the first Dutch desires who built the first fort for the defence of the island : the fort Amsterdam. At its feet Philipsburg developped rapidly and became the capital of the Dutch part of the island. In 1648 the division of the island between France and Holland who had cohabited peacefully for more than three centuries. Before the advent of the sugar cane, Saint Martin lived on the culture of indiago initially and then, cotton. Marigot, the capital of the French part of the island, was born following the success of the cane at the beginning of the 18th century, due to the quality of the bay for the embarkation of merchandise. Fort Louis, built in 1789, protected the entrance of its bay.
Following the end of the cane sugar; salt cultivation returned until the beginning of the sixties. Then, Saint Martin headed with determination towards the tourist industry with the success that we now know today and this, thanks to the series of different tax exemption laws.

Nowadays, the island is a real well structured touristic paradise which is perfectly equipped and appropriate for essentially American clients. In this context, although French and Dutch are the official languages, in practise, the island is English-speaking. Nonetheless, the ''French touch'' is particularly appreciated and has earned it a good reputation of prestige and expertise amongst Anglo-saxon clients. Disembarking from huge cruise boats, alomst half a million American tourists spread out into the streets of Philipsburg each year and invade the duty-free shops. Indeed, Saint Martin takes advantage of its free port status to improvise as a detaxed shopping paradise. Philipsburg: the capital of this commercial eden with its shops dotted along Frontstreet, its main street where jewellers', perfume shops and hi-fi, video shops and preferably Cuban cigar shops. In the French side, in Marigot, it is more of an atmosphere of luxury and fashion ''à la française'' with an unbelievable merging of all the prestigious labels that this universe comprises. A superb marina and the ''West Indies'', which is a superb commercial center, are all here to embellish the port of Marigot.

In this luxurious atmosphere, it wouldn't be surprising to come across some stars and other privileged jet-setters in the Winter in Saint Martin who, after Saint Moritz, come to party till they drop under the sun of the West Indies. In Saint Martin, there are many things to do. From beach bars in Orient Bay to night bars in Marigot, from the casinos to the many clubs in town, all are competing to attract as many nightbirds as possible and to let this saint martinois party get underway. Its reputation has spread all over the West Indies to such extent that it has been renamed the Saint Tropez of the West Indies !

But what also attracts a lot of tourists is without any doubt the 36 very beautiful beaches of the island, that look like they have beed pulled out of an album of dream postcards. Deserted or '' trendy'', wild or man-made, all of them have their charm. Orient Baie remains the main beach of the island and is also the most popular. Many hotels have grown along its tongue of white sand so as to create a veritable town and a major touristic pole of Saint Martin. It is alos the paradise of water sports : paraascending, sea scooters, windsurfing, surfing and flysurfing. A few strokes away from Saint Martin, there are many magnificent small islands and banks of white sand. Many day trips are organised to Pinel, Tintamarre, Sandy Island or Prickly Pear. On the agenda, anchoring then swimming in the turquoise waters with a mask and flippers and a barbecue of fish for lunch. Finally,deep sea diving enthusiasts will appreciate the many diving spots and particularly some of the archeological under water sites off the bay of Philipsburg.

Town hall:
Tel: +590(0)590 87 77 59

Tourist board of Saint Martin:
Tel.: +590(0)590 87 57 23
Fax: +590(0)59087 56 43