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Diving in Sint Maarten

Diving in Sint Maarten is a colorful treat. Most sites are shallow and easily accessible. Divers can expect to see fascinating rock formations, shipwrecks and a variety of colorful sea life.

Diving in Sint Maarten

Quick facts

The area offers about 17 dive sites around the south and southeast sides of the island. On most maps, more dive sites appear, but many are now unused due to damage caused by coral bleaching or hurricanes. The sites still accessible are generally quite shallow. Typically max depths don’t reach 60 feet (18 meters), making this a wonderful island for those practicing their first bubbles. The environments are a mix of wrecks, both intentionally and unintentionally sunk, old coral reefs and encrusted rocks.

There are approximately 10 wreck sites around this side of the island, but the most famous is the HMS Proselyte which reached its final resting place in 1801. Before sinking, this ship was a part of the Dutch Royal Navy. In 1796, the crew mutinied and turned the ship over to the British Royal Navy which it served until 1801. This wreck is now found in the Proselyte Reef. Because it was a wooden ship, the only artifacts remaining are the canons and anchors, which are today encrusted by corals.

While there are many colorful coral reefs surrounding St. Maarten, some of the reef sites are actually rock formations encrusted with coral, hydroids and sponges. In particular, the Proselyte Reef was created by lava flows off the island’s volcanoes. In other areas, the old coral reefs were damaged by hurricanes that ravaged the area in the 1990s and 2000s. Today the old and dead reefs are covered by new coral growth, indicating a healthy recovery.

Diving on Saint Maarten is not limited to the 17 dive-able sites surrounding the island. Dive operators may also travel to Saba, Statia, Anguilla and St. Barts for additional diving opportunities. Divers can expect warm tropical waters which range from 79-82°F (26-28°C) and variable visibility depending on the site.

Sint Maarten is the perfect destination for learning new SCUBA skills while enjoying colorful underwater environments and a memorable vacation above the water.

When to go

Rain and temperature

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USD 2,195Per trip
USD 3,050Per trip

What to see

From big to small, the marine life found around St. Maarten runs the gamut. Divers regularly see sting rays, spotted eagle rays, moray eels, sea turtles, reef sharks, lobsters, sergeant majors, trumpet fish, blue tangs, blue chromis, barracudas, tarpon, filefish, flying gurnard, snake eels, nurse sharks, hundreds of reef fish and a variety of macro life. Habitats for these species include colorful soft corals, gorgonians, hydroids, sponges and lava rocks.

You’re sure to see a huge variety of marine life on this Caribbean island, so make your next dive adventure into St. Maarten’s warm waters.


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St. Maarten is the Dutch half of an island split between the Dutch and the French. In a rare instance of international peace, this island has been divided for nearly 350 years. The Dutch side is to the south with Philipsburg as its capital and a population of 37,000.

The island, originally named San Martín by Christopher Columbus who discovered it in 1493, was of little interest to the Spanish. The Dutch and the French, on the other hand, both sent colonies to the tiny island as it represented a strategic location between other colonies for both nations. After the island’s importance in the salt trade was discovered, the Spanish began to covet the island and took it as bounty during the Eighty Years’ War. During the 1600s, the Spanish abandoned the colony and the French and the Dutch both returned to the island. After realizing that the French were not going to give up their half of the island easily, the Dutch entered into the Treaty of Concordia in 1648, thus creating the smallest divided island in the world.

Today, the border between the French and Dutch sides on this tiny island is quite fluid. People cross back and forth between the two countries without ever realizing it. Four main boundaries exist, namely Belle Vue and Cole Bay, the French Quarter and the Dutch Quarter, Low Lands and Cupecoy as well as Oyster Pond. Peaceful cohabitation is the impressive outcome of the powerful treaty that makes this strange arrangement possible.

Although it may seem like one whole island, each side manages to retain its own cultural flavor. The Dutch side, in particular, is bustling with commercialism. This area has long been known as a center for both trade and tourism. Sint Maarten welcomes cruise ships regularly throughout the year and is therefore more developed than the raw beauty of the French side. At the same time, it is more informal and very culturally Dutch.

Sint Maarten is located midway through the Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. It is approximately 190 miles (300 kilometers) east of Puerto Rico and marks the point at which the chain of islands begins to curve to the south. St. Maarten’s climate is temperate year-round with average temperatures of 82 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Cooling trade winds blow throughout the year, keeping things comfortable. Rainfall is also minimal with about 45 inches occurring annually between late summer and early fall.

Other attractions

Sint Maarten is a Caribbean paradise known for its wide range of activities. Visitors can enjoy the 37 beautiful beaches scattered around the island. There are also a variety of hiking trails that can be enjoyed on foot, by horse or zip line. Boat and catamaran charters allow you to enjoy above the water views of the island while seaside restaurants will keep you full morning, noon and night. Speaking of the night, St. Martin’s discos are known for their quick calypso rhythms and rum-spiked drinks. Between days of diving and colorful evenings spent watching Caribbean sunsets, your St. Maarten vacation is sure to be unforgettable.

Getting there

Princes Juliana International Airport (SXM) in Phillipsburg is the main entry point for most international visitors arriving by plane. There is an additional, smaller airport mainly used for inter-island flights on the French side of the island known as Grand Case Airport.

It is also possible to arrive in St. Maartin by boat. Many visitors come by the ever-present cruise ships which dock in Philipsburg. There is also a small port near Marigot on the French side which mainly services private yachts.

Once on the island, it is easy to move around and visitors often cross the border without even knowing they have moved into a different country. Rental cars, taxis and buses are available for your convenience.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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