How to find a vacation rental on St. Maarten or St. Martin

You can find a vacation home for your budget and your time frame, if you know where to look. Rental homes can offer a more intimate experience than a hotel. You’ll have one major decision to make when choosing a vacation rental: whether to rent a property from an owner, or rent through a service.

Where to go: St. Maarten or St. Martin?

St. Martin & St. Maarten Deciding for an Island Part

The island has two parts. The Dutch part, which is now the independent country Sint Maarten, and the French part, which is governed like a community of France. There are no border checkpoints between and often you won’t even realize whether you are in the formerly Dutch part or in the French part.

St. Maarten is busier, more densely populated, has more hotels and high rise apartment buildings, and has adopted the American way of life to a larger extent.

The French part has only a few hotels, plenty of restaurants, and is not as bustling, and as a result, maintains a more relaxed Caribbean life style.

Beaches are appealing on both sides. The French side beaches reflect a more liberal life style. The longest beach is at Orient Bay at the French Atlantic side and offers most beach entertainment.

St. Maarten – St. Martin language and currencies

English is widely spoken in both parts. There is no risk of getting lost due to being unable to speak French. The official currency of the French part is the Euro, and the Netherlands Antilles Guilder on St. Maarten. The reality is that the US dollar is accepted everywhere.

When to go to St. Maarten or St. Martin?

Decide on what time of the year you intend to travel. If your dates are flexible, you might find it easier to obtain your dream vacation rental. Some properties are booked well in advance. February is the peak season month and reservations often made a year before. High season on St. Maarten – St. Martin is between Christmas and Easter. The tourist season has usually about 25% higher rates than off season; Xmas and New Year can have a 100% – 250% premium. August to November is the period with the highest risk of hurricanes, and usually some days of torrent rainfall in September. Many restaurants are closed in September, as well.

How to start your search for a vacation rental?

You may want to start on Google with a search term, such as “St. Maarten condo vacation rentals”. The results might be overwhelming. Other alternatives are VRBO or Flipkey, which present between 1,000 – 2,000 properties in a rather disorganized way. Specialized websites, such as focus on St. Maarten and St. Martin only, and organize the properties by beaches, areas, owner managed or agent managed, villas or condos, and other criteria.

Which criteria are important, which can you neglect?

After looking around on various St. Maarten and St. Martin related websites, you will be overwhelmed by the large choice. Now it’s time to consider a few selection criteria:

Beach front: Nice to have, but significantly more expensive. There are not many properties at the beach front as the island protects beaches and does not allow to build more buildings right on the beach.

Distance to the airport: There is no point on the island, which is more than 30 minutes away from the International SXM airport. Why care about?

Restaurants, Supermarkets, and Beach Bars: None of these points of interest are ever far away.

Towns: The two major towns, Philipsburg on St. Maarten and Marigot on St. Martin only have very few hotels and almost no vacation rentals.

Beaches: None of the beaches are overcrowded. A favorite for many visitors is Orient Beach on the French side, which has plenty of beach facilities, such as bars, restaurants, beach chair rentals, and watersport activities.

North, South, West, East: The East side is towards the Atlantic and often has refreshing trade winds, whereas the South and West have romantic sunsets.

Cost and prices: As most services are quoted in US dollars and the local economy is very competitive, no significant differences exist between the island parts.

Rent by owner or rent by agent?

Owners sometimes show more flexibility on rates and apply their personal care for you and the property. Rental agents offer some consulting and choice as they manage several properties. Payment with agents might be easier as they are more experienced and offer more choice (credit card, bank in the USA, etc.).

How to contact owners and agents on St. Maarten and St. Martin?

Fill in the request form of the website and wait 24 – 48 hours. If the response is only a one liner with “Yes” and “the rate is…”, don’t give up. Owners are often inexperienced and require a bit of push and follow up. Some media, like CNN, recommend calling owners. Not really the best way! Often owners are busy people, living in other time zones, e.g. France, or do not speak English sufficiently to feel comfortable on a garbled phone call.

Consult the webpage before asking redundant questions. You don’t need to ask about payment procedure, rental car bookings, and airport pick up before you know whether the property is available at the requested time frame.

How to pay the vacation home on St. Maarten and St. Martin?

30% to 50% of the rental fee is requested right after booking, the remainder usually 60 days before arrival. Checks, wire transfers, credit cards, and PayPal are the most common. Owners usually cannot accept credit card payments. Credit card merchant accounts are restricted to businesses and are expensive to maintain. If you wish to pay with a credit card, either use PayPal, if made available by the owner, or go for an agent managed property. The payment risk is widely exaggerated by the media. Most owners of a vacation property are fairly wealthy people. The owner would not risk conducting fraud when offering their easily identifiable property, which everybody can find and review on the Internet.

Arrival on St. Maarten and St. Martin

Most visitors arrive at the International Airport of St. Maarten (code SXM). Book your rental car in advance. You will need one when renting a vacation home or condo. Most owners cannot pick you up at the airport as they don’t live on the island. Follow the driving directions received before your trip. A housekeeper or an agency associate is waiting at the vacation property for your arrival. The owner or agent of an expensive vacation villa expects you to pay a cash security deposit. Nobody wants to find their vacation home being trashed after a week.

Is a vacation rental right for you?

– A vacation rental saves money
– Provides more space than a hotel room
– Is more comfortable than many hotels
– the most important one: provides privacy!

If you expect a reception desk to walk to for assistance and services, it is better to decide for a hotel. If you require breakfast, room service, and various amenities, such as in-house massage services or a tennis court, you will feel more comfortable in a hotel. A vacation rental may not provide fancy shampoo bottles, the housekeeping might not work on Sundays, and the villa owner will not be solving minor issues, such as changing a light bulb, as it is up to you. If you set your expectation level right, chances are almost 100% that you will be very happy with a vacation rental by owner or agent.

Happy Bay – St. Martin


St. Martin/St. Maarten is number one Caribbean vacation destination. Find out why!