Aerial photo of Simpson Bay Lagoon where one could rent a yacht, visit a boat rental or tour agency to find the best way how to get around the island of St Maarten / St Martin



No, St. Maarten is not part of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) – But we get some of the confusion.


A very frequently asked question is whether St. Maarten is part of the United States Virgin Islands. It is not; Dutch Side St. Maarten is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, whereas French side St. Martin is part of the French republic. Neither is part (or territory) of the United States of America.


Having said that, there is some legitimate grounds for this often asked question. Let us explore five similarities – and some of the greatest differences between St. Maarten / St. Martin and the United States Virgin Islands.



Similarity 1: St. Maarten and USVI are Neighbors (sort of)


First and foremost, some confusion is understandable from a geographical point of view. St. Maarten / St. Martin and its northern neighbor Anguilla are the first islands to the east of the United States Virgin Islands. They are adjacent parts of the long chain of islands of the Caribbean. The distance from St Maarten to the United States Virgin Islands is (only) 197 kilometers or 122 miles. Contrary to St. Maartens way closer neighbors Anguilla, Saba, Statia, St Barths and St.Kitts however, the islands of the USVI are neither within sight nor reachable by ferry from St. Maarten.



Similarity 2: St. Maarten and the USVI Are Both Top Ranking (and Neighbor) Cruise Ports of Call


St. Maartens A.C. Wathey Cruise Port in capital Philipsburg has won many accolades as popular cruiseport. On many of the cruise itineraries of ships passing by Philipsburg as a port of call, the USVI island of St. Thomas can also be found. When coming from a western direction, not knowing where the USVI archipelago ends, we understand the question if St. Maarten is still within the group – or just outside.



Similarity 3: St. Maarten is Popular Within the United States


Though within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France respectively, St. Maarten and St. Martin have historically been very popular amongst American visitors. Well over half of the island’s stayover guests originate from the United States; many Canadian guests adding even further to the importance of the Northamerican continent for St. Maarten. Also for the United States Virgin Islands, most visitors originate from the United States. 



Similarity 4: the Dutch Connection


As was done with Dutch side St. Maarten, which is still an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Dutch made an attempt to add the Virgin Islands (both the current British and United States Virgin Islands) to their trading empire. The Dutch had posts on all larger Virgin Islands throughout the 17th century. Whereas St. Maarten remained attractive for its salt deposits, the Dutch found the Virgin Islands not providing enough return and retracted their posts. The British Virgin Island “Jost van Dyke” still reminds of one of the Dutch leaders.  



Similarity 5: Both island areas speak English!


Dutch and French might be the legal languages on St. Maarten / St. Martin, English is by far the most spoken language on island by both locals and visitors. Another clear similarity with the US Virgin Islands.



Difference 1: A Different History


After the short relation between the Virgin Islands and the Netherlands, for a long time it would be the Danish that came to rule what later became the United States Virgin Islands. Many town names like Charlotte Amalie and Kristiansted still remind of Danish royalty and history. This era came to an end when the Danish sold the islands to the United States after the first world war. (Interesting sidenote: over the past centuries, on various occasions, prominent St. Maarteners have suggested to leave the Kingdom of the Netherlands and join the United States. In that case, a similarity instead of a difference between the two Caribbean areas would have come into being!)



Difference 2: European vs. American nationalities


It needs no explanation that both St. Maarten / St. Martin and the USVI are first and foremost Caribbean islands, with typical regional geographical, natural and cultural features.


The French side St. Martin however is part of the European Union. Dutch side St. Maarten is an associated EU territorial entity or OCT, carrying the European Union passport also.


That clearly is a large difference with the United States Virgin Islands whose citizens carry a US passport. Traveling between the United States and the island of St. Maarten / St. Martin  however is easy. 






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