Saint Martin, nicknamed “The Friendly Island,” is a territory in the Caribbean Sea divided between French and Dutch control. Saint Martin’s French half is known as the Collectivity of Saint Martin, while the Dutch half is called Sint Maarten. Saint Martin has a total area of about thirty four square miles, and has a population of nearly seventy five thousand residents. The island’s population is roughly evenly divided between the French and the Dutch, although the French half has slightly more land area. The two largest cities of Saint Martin are Philipsburg and Marigot, while the highest point is Pic Paradis. Saint Martin enjoys outstanding weather throughout the entire year, with a median temperature of about eighty one degrees Fahrenheit. The two islands closest to Saint Martin are Saint Barthelemy and Anguilla, which are British and French territories, respectively. Saint Martin was originally settled by Arawak Indians about twelve hundred years ago, although they were eventually supplanted by the more violent Carib Indians. The first European to discover the island of Saint Martin was Christopher Columbus, although the Spanish, the French, the British, and the Dutch all controlled the island over the next few centuries. The current arrangement of the island was reached in the early nineteenth century.
Saint Martin attracts about a million tourists during an average year, although that figure has been depressed somewhat since the start of the global economic downturn. Visitors to Saint Martin can stay in timeshares, resorts, and villas, although many choose to purchase or rent in the longer term. Both the Dutch and French halves of Saint Martin have their own unique tourist attractions. For instance, the French part of the island is a great place to enjoy sunbathing, shopping, and unique cuisine, while the Dutch half is the place to find beaches, clubbing, and casinos. Saint Martin’s shops are especially popular because of their steep discounts compared to American and European boutiques.