About St. Maarten

Philipsburg, the capital of St. Maarten, was founded in 1763 by John Philips who was a captain of the Dutch navy. But like most other islands in the Caribbean, St. Maarten was first formally sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1493 during his second voyage to the New World.

The capital of St. Maarten is situated between Great Bay and Great Salt Pond and for more than 200 hundred years, the island depended on salt harvesting as its main economic activity. At the time of Dutch settlement on St. Maarten, there were already a number of French families residing in the area which is today Quartier d’Orléans.

In 1633, the confrontations between the Dutch and Spanish led to the capture of Fort Amsterdam on St. Maarten. The struggles between the two nations, not only on St. Maarten, but throughout the Caribbean, was as a direct result of the Eighty Years’ War in Europe, which also impacted the relationship that the Spanish and Dutch had in whatever part of the world they encountered each other. For the Dutch, the loss of St. Maarten to the Spanish signified a loss in income generated from salt harvesting; representing both political and economic disturbance. But to the relief of the Dutch of St. Maarten, the Spanish eventually placed their attention on Puerto Rico, abandoned St. Maarten and set permanent sail of the island in 1648.

Basilico International features a bar and lounge stocked with more than two hundred bottles of the best wines, cocktails and liquors which make it a favorite sports bar in SXM. For the best in original Italian pastas, carbonara, ravioli and other Italian dishes, be sure to visit Basilico Italian restaurant SXM while on island.

In March of that very same year, both the French and Dutch settlers of the island decided to peacefully share and coexist on the territory by the Treaty of Concordia, making St. Maarten the smallest country to be shared by two European nations.

With the introduction of African slave labour in St. Maarten, cocoa, sugar cane, coffee and cotton were grown on the island in addition to salt harvesting. In 1848, however, the prosperity that was once experienced from sugar production and farming came ti a halt when slavery was abolished. Luckily, salt harvesting remained viable for St. Maarten, and it was not until sometime in the 20th century that imports from the US decreased, along with demand for the product. For the Dutch, this was relatively shattering, causing a halt in production in 1949, although the French continued to harvest salt for another 20 years.

To revive the island’s economy, both governments turned to tourism given advances in air travel and tourist activity, which led to the development of the tourism industry of both St. Maarten and St. Martin (French). In 1939, St. Maarten acquired a duty free status which enabled goods to be imported and exported into and out of St. Maarten without port charges and duties, whilst in 1943, an international airport, Princess Juliana International Airport, was built. This encouraged the construction of moderate size hotels, inns and other places where tourists could be accommodated during their stay on St. Maarten, as well as stores, souvenir shops and boutiques for shopping in St. Maarten.

Today, tourism is the economic mainstay of St. Maarten, providing employment for most of the inhabitants and a steady source of income. People from over 104 countries refer to St. Maarten/St. Martin as their home, making St. Maarten a place of diverse culture, development and prosperity.