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- 18 Jan 2020, 3 nights
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St. Maarten is the Netherlands’ far-away island off the Caribbean coast. Its culture is mainly influenced by its homeland, but you can find hints of French heritage due to the island’s dual government (the French side is St Martin to the north). However, the landscape couldn’t be more different to its European counterparts. Coconut palm-lined beaches, monkey-filled rainforests and tropical reefs are some of the things you can expect from this dreamy island. And by night? You can sip on native guavaberry liqueur and enjoy St. Maarten's beachfront bars and casinos.
St. Maarten hostels are mainly based just outside Philipsburg, the bustling capital, in a green area of the island. Stay in a St. Maarten hostel with an authentic atmosphere, to fit in with the locals. You can meet like-minded travellers in a hostel’s shared dorms or in a communal patio area. Get the best of both worlds with free Wi-Fi, as well as tranquil settings such as herb and vegetable gardens to keep you connected to nature.
St. Maarten covers the southern part of the island and is made up of pretty towns and sandy beaches. Philipsburg has a lively beachfront street (Voorstraat) lined with bars and places to eat. To the west of the island, you’ll find Maho Beach, while to the south is Pelican Key – a perfect spot for snorkelling. There's also Simpson Bay, which is renowned for its casinos and entertainment. Along the east coast, surfing hotspot Guana Bay has more of a rugged beauty vibe thanks to its secluded position.
With its non-restrictive borders, you can explore both the Dutch and French sides of the island. Shallow waters encompass the island, making it ideal for beginner scuba divers. There are 20 sites in total, including shipwrecks and coral reefs. Pinel Island is a short kayak ride away, and has some more snorkelling sites, as well as secluded beaches. A 30-minute drive from Philipsburg is Loterie Farm, the island’s highest point where you can hike into the forest, or go zip-lining through the treetops. Another panoramic spot is Fort Louis – a historic site with views across the sea.
Princess Juliana International Airport is a 20-minute drive from Philipsburg. Here, there are bus services that will take you to different parts of the island. The town is also where cruise ships arrive and depart. You can get around by using the island’s network of minivans, which can take you from the Dutch side to the French side.