France and the Netherlands agreed to divide the island on November 11, 1648. The southern, Dutch half is called Sint Maarten and is part of the Netherlands Antilles, which is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands though not in the European Union. The northern, French half is called Saint-Martin and is part of Guadeloupe, which is an Overseas Department of France and therefore in the European Union.
Collectively, the two territories are known as, "St. Martin/St. Maarten", "St. Martins", or simply, "SXM". (SXM is the IATA identifier for Princess Juliana International Airport, the island's main airport.)
Sint Maarten, the "Dutch-side", is known for its festive nightlife, fun beaches, and plentiful casinos, while Saint-Martin, the "French-side", is known more for its sexy daylife of world-famous nude beaches, jewelry and clothes shopping, exotic drinks made with native rum-based Guavaberry liquors, and rich French Caribbean cuisine.
The island is served by many major airlines that bring in large jets, including Boeing 747s, carrying tourists from across the world on a daily basis. This fuels the island's largest revenue source, tourism.
SXM is home to several world-class accommodations, including hotels, villas, and timeshares. Some properties have over two hundred rooms, while others have fewer than twenty. Many are located directly on beaches and in upscale shopping districts. Villas pepper the coast, boasting private beaches. Some are private residences, while others are available to affluent renters.
Rental cars are the primary mode of transportation for visitors staying on island. The island is served by several well-known agencies. It is common and recommended to reserve a rental car over the Internet through a discount Caribbean specialist, well in advance of arrival. If any driving is expected off the major roads (such as to some of the more secluded beaches), a 4-wheel drive is recommended.
The island is prone to hurricane activity, especially in the late summer and early fall months and tourism is usually down dramatically during this time. Many shops, restaurants, and other local businesses close completely during hurricane season.