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Previously the Netherlands West Indies or Dutch Antilles/West Indies, the Netherlands Antilles is composed of two groups of islands in the Caribbean: Curacao and Bonaire, off the Venezuelan coast, then Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten, southeast of the Virgin Islands. These islands are autonomous territories under the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Because of tourism, petroleum and international finance, the islands enjoy a high capita per income, and is more developed than other countries in the Caribbean. The islands have a mixed culture, mainly due to their location and the origins of the population. Majority are descendants of European colonists and African slaves, while the rest are a mix of immigrants from other Caribbean islands, Latin America, East Asia, and even Portugal (Sephardic Jews who escaped persecution in their homeland in the 17th century). The United States has also been a strong influence. Consequently, the Netherlands Antilles honour of a fusion of traditions, and even have their own version of Carnival.

Philipsburg, Sint Maarten

When the Spanish closed their colonial fort on Sint Maarten in 1684, a few Dutch and French soldiers hid on the island and decided to share it. Soon after, the Netherlands and France signed a formal agreement to split Sint Maarten in half, as it is today. Philipsburg displays its Dutch heritage in its architecture and landscaping. The island offers endless stretches of beach, beautiful scenery and great shopping.

Attractions
  • Orient Bay, the French Riviera of the Caribbean, with over 1 1/2 miles of white sand beaches.
  • Sint Maarten's popular Butterfly Farm to discover the delicate nature and dazzling colours of hundreds of butterflies.
  • Kayaking through the saltwater lagoons to discover egrets, plovers, heron and pelicans; or, a snorkeling expedition through Shipwreck Cove to explore the undersea world of coral reefs and exotic fish.
  • Sint Maarten’s 500 duty free shops - with prices up to 50% below those in the U.S.
  • The America's Cup shortened course, which you can actually join with the help of professional sailors who will give you a quick lesson on the Stars and Stripes, one of the most famous sailboats in the world.

Sint Maarten

Sint Maarten has the distinction of being part of the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations, France and the Netherlands, in a spirit 350 years. Sint Maarten is the Dutch half, while St. Martin belongs to the French and the Dutch.

Sint Maarten has a busy cruise port and bustling commercial district and has long been an active center for trade and tourism. It appears more developed than St. Martin, and yet more informal. It remains very Dutch in flavour, specially when it comes to architecture and landscaping. On the other hand, St. Martin is as French as any Caribbean island can be.

Both St. Martin and St. Maarten enjoy pleasant weather all year round and have scenic beaches. As you can easily cross over from one to the other, you can even treat yourself to two cultures in one. You can read more about St. Martin on this site.