Saint Martin

Living on Saint Martin

Iyna Bort Caruso

St. Martin is a small island--about 37 square miles with 37 beaches to go along with it--and yet it has a global thumbprint. Scores of nationalities call it home.

The island is situated between the Atlantic and the Caribbean, southeast of Puerto Rico. An international airport on the Dutch side offers non-stop service from many major American and European cities. New York is just about three-and-a-half hours away and Miami two-and-a-half.

The northern part of the island is St. Martin, a French overseas collectivity. The euro is the official currency and French laws apply.

The southern section of the island is Sint Maarten, which officially became a country within the Dutch kingdom in 2010. Currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder, although the U.S. dollar is widely accepted throughout the island.

The population is roughly equally divided. However, two-thirds of the landmass is French with most of the development situated along the low-lying coastal zones. The French side is quieter and its natural wonders more prominent. The Dutch side has the island’s only real city--the capital of Philipsburg--with a cruise port and casinos.

Elaborately decorated and pastel-colored homes are a tradition. The architect Ali Tur left his mark here in the 1930s when he added a modern, innovative mix to classic West Indian design on the French side, while half timbered homes are more common on the Dutch side.

There are no restrictions on real estate purchasers by international buyers, many of whom take advantage of the strong and consistent rental market. North American and Northern European buyers are attracted to vacation home options.

Terres Bassses, or The French Lowlands, is an exclusive gated community of glamorous estates set on rolling hills. The area of Baie Oriental, or Orient Beach, is sometimes called the French Rivieria of the Caribbean. Porto Cupercoy, on a cove on Simpson Bay Lagoon just across the border from Terres Basses, is a Mediterranean-inspired village with a marina able to accommodate mega-yachts.

The yachting lifestyle is popular on the island and one that is bolstered by an exquisite selection of waterfront villas and private docks.