St. Maarten vs. St. Thomas: Which Is Best for You?

St. Maarten / St. Martin and St. Thomas are two very popular and beautiful Caribbean islands. If you’re trying to choose between them for your next trip, you might wonder which is better to visit, St. Thomas or St. Martin?

The answer depends on what type of trip you’re looking for. Read our comparison of St. Maarten vs. St. Thomas / St. Martin vs. St. Thomas to see which island will deliver the best experience for you.

St. Maarten vs. St. Thomas: Overview

These two islands are actually pretty different, although they do share some similarities such as breathtaking beaches and plenty to do.

St. Maarten is unique in that it’s one of two countries on the same island. The other country is St. Martin, and visitors can easily cross the border between them. St. Maarten is a Dutch country while St. Martin is a French territory.

The largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is popular with Americans because they don’t need passports to visit. It’s also a huge sailing destination as well as a prime spot for snorkeling and scuba diving.

St. Thomas has more of an American feel, while St. Maarten feels like a European outpost in the Caribbean. Foodies will prefer St. Maarten, as you can sample Dutch specialties then head to St. Martin for gourmet French cuisine. St. Maarten also has a more vibrant nightlife including casinos.

Both islands offer great duty-free shopping, breathtaking beaches, plenty of watersports, and the ability to go island-hopping. The best time to visit both St. Thomas and St. Maarten is December to April, although that is the high season. May is an excellent shoulder season alternative.

St. Thomas and St. Maarten are equally great for families, couples, groups, and solo travelers.

If you’re mainly interested in snorkeling or scuba diving, St. Thomas is best for you. If you’re looking for a wide variety of cuisine types, a party atmosphere, or casino gambling, then St. Maarten would be a better choice.

St. Maarten vs. St. Thomas: Location

Both St. Maarten and St. Thomas are in the eastern Caribbean. St. Thomas is in the U.S. Virgin Islands, just east of Puerto Rico. St. Maarten is part of the Lesser Antilles, slightly to the east of the Virgin Islands.

How far apart are St. Thomas and St. Maarten? They are just over 100 miles apart, or about a 2-hour flight. Flights from the eastern U.S. are about 4 hours nonstop to St. Maarten and 3 ½ hours nonstop to St. Thomas.

Do you need a passport to go to St. Maarten and St. Thomas? U.S. citizens will need a passport for St. Maarten but not for St. Thomas, while European citizens will need a passport for both.

Both islands are in the hurricane zone, so there is a chance for storms from June to November.

St. Thomas vs. St. Maarten: Activities

Both St. Thomas and St. Maarten offer plenty to do, whether you’re into beaches and watersports, outdoor activities, history and culture, or shopping.

The charming capital of St. Thomas, Charlotte Amalie, has interesting historic architecture and plenty of shops and restaurants to explore, in addition to museums and historic sites. St. Thomas also has the most active nightlife in the U.S. Virgin Islands, although it’s pretty laidback.

St. Thomas also has lush hills you can hike for amazing views, Coral World Ocean Park, a mangrove lagoon, and more for outdoor enthusiasts. There’s a scenic tram ride as well. You can easily island hop around the neighboring islands of St. John, St. Croix, and the British Virgin Islands.

Watersports abound in St. Thomas, including snorkeling and scuba diving along colorful coral reefs, as well as kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, and deep-sea fishing. There are also plenty of lovely beaches to relax on.

Calm waters on Sapphire Beach in St. Thomas

St. Thomas beaches have soft white sand and clear turquoise water. One of the best beaches in the Caribbean is Magen’s Bay. Other top St. Thomas beaches are Sapphire Beach, Coki Beach, Secret Harbor Beach, and Lindquist Beach.

Beaches on St. Maarten / St. Martin are also quite beautiful. Top options on the St. Maarten side are Mullet Bay, Simpson Bay Beach, Guana Bay Beach, Great Bay Beach, and Dawn Beach. There is also the famous Maho Beach, which offers the unique sight of planes flying close overhead.

You can find topless/nude beaches like Orient Bay and Happy Bay on the St. Martin side, in addition to scenic stretches like Grand Case Beach, Le Galion Beach, Plum Bay Beach, Petite Plage, and Friar’s Bay Beach.

Empty Anse Marcel beach and green hills in St. Martin

Things to do in St. Maarten include all sorts of watersports including snorkeling and scuba diving, outdoor activities like hiking, shopping, food tours, rum tasting, island-hopping, historic sites, museums, nature reserves, an eco-park featuring the world’s steepest zipline, and a zoo.

You can also explore the lovely towns of Phillipsburg in St. Maarten and Marigot Bay in St. Martin. Foodies will love the fact that there are over 400 restaurants here, which is more than on any other Caribbean island. You can dine at anything from casual open-air “lolos” to authentic Dutch cafes to gourmet French restaurants.

There are also plenty of nightlife options, from clubs to bars to casinos. In fact, St. Maarten has a good bit more to offer in terms of nightlife than St. Thomas.

St. Maarten vs. St. Thomas: Accommodations

St. Thomas offers a variety of places to stay, from smaller hotels to vacation rentals to luxurious resorts. Some of the best St. Thomas resorts are Bolongo Bay Resort, the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas, and Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove.

You can also find all sorts of choices on St. Maarten / St. Martin, from inexpensive inns to rental villas to swanky resorts. Great options include the adults-only Karibuni Boutique Hotel, Grand Case Beach Club Hotel, and the adults-only all-inclusive resorts Secrets St. Martin and Sonesta Ocean Point Resort.

St. Maarten vs. St. Thomas: Cost

The currency on St. Thomas is the U.S. dollar, while on St. Maarten it is the Netherland Antilles guilder. (Although St. Martin uses the euro.) St. Maarten tends to be more expensive than St. Thomas, but both are relatively affordable islands.

St. Maarten vs. St. Thomas: Cruise Port

While both of these islands are on many cruise ship itineraries, St. Thomas is possibly the top Caribbean port for cruises. This can make it quite crowded, but it also means that you can find tons of interesting excursions to do including unique activities like flyboarding.

There are two cruise ports on St. Thomas, Havensight and Crown Bay.

The cruise port in St. Maarten at Pointe Blanche is about a 20-minute walk or short water ferry ride from the capital of Phillipsburg.  You can also easily walk to Great Bay Beach from the pier. There is also a cruise port near Marigot on the St. Martin side.

Now that you’ve read our comparison, what do you think? Is St Maarten or St Thomas better for your trip? Let us know in the comments!

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