Flights to St. Maarten
To the uninitiated, it can be a little confusing. The Dutch territory of St. Maarten shares a Caribbean island with the similarly named French territory of Saint-Martin. But it's historically appropriate that this tiny island of only 37 square miles is currently shared by two nations. It changed hands a dozen or so times over the four centuries after it was claimed by Columbus for Spain, before falling into the hands of the Dutch and French centuries later.
There are two things you'll notice right away about St. Maarten. First, when you land, you'll see that the runway is situated right next to a lovely little beach. Dare we say - how convenient? As you fly in, you'll notice that the water here is an improbable, seemingly unnatural, turquoise color. Don't be alarmed, your friend's photos weren't altered. The water is that blue here.
St. Maarten Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) is the major gateway for the smaller Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. It’s named after the Dutch princess Juliana who landed there in 1944 a year after the airport opened. The airport has a small assortment of retail shops and bars and restaurants, plus free Wi-Fi throughout the terminals. One exciting characteristic of landing at St. Maarten Airport (or watching a landing from Maho Beach) is the low-altitude flyover approach due to one end of its runway being extremely close to the shore. It means you’ll get an up-close view of the shimmering turquoise sea right from the start of your vacation.
St. Maarten Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM)
- Transportation from St. Maarten International Airport is by ground and taxis are readily available.
- Several private tour bus operators and VIP car services serve passengers at the airport. You can visit the airport website for a full list.
- If you prefer to rent your own car, a number of rental agencies operate out of the airport.
BEACHES AND WATER ACTIVITIES
St. Maarten offers spectacular snorkeling and diving opportunities, and many good shops, including Dive Safaris and Scuba Zen on the French side of the island, provide equipment rental, training and excursions. There are also a number of sightseeing tours of the island by boat, from speed boats and sail boats to dinner cruises.
Two of St. Maarten’s renowned beaches are Orient Beach and Maho Beach. Besides the sun and surf, you can also partake in jet skiing, sailing, paragliding and other water activities from the beaches.
CASINOS AND ENTERTAINMENT
If an afternoon shower should keep you indoors, you can always try your luck at one of St. Maarten's casinos, which offer everything from roulette to Texas Hold 'Em. Two of the largest venues, Princess Casino and Casino Royale, also host a variety of live entertainment shows nightly - from lounge singers to mini Cirque du Soleil-like performances.
St. Maarten is a popular place for cruise ships to dock, so it’s filled with shopping opportunities, especially in the capital of Philipsburg. The bayfront road, Frontstreet, is the main drag and it’s dotted with boutiques, jewelry shops, restaurants bars and duty-free shopping. You’ll also find lots of local souvenirs, colorful paintings and homemade goods to remind you of your trip or bring home to friends and family.
It’s hard to pick a bad time of year to visit St. Maarten. With pleasant temperatures year-round and lots of sunshine, the weather is just as idyllic as the view. St. Maarten’s tropical climate means that it maintains an average annual temperature of 80°F. Top temperatures rarely climb above 89°F or dip below 68°F. The island sees two general seasons over the course of a year: the dry season from December-April and the wintering season from May-November. During the dry season, mornings and nights are a bit cooler. And despite the seasons’ names, the difference between precipitation during both is minimal. The rainy season usually correlates with hurricane season, which runs from June to December.