The island had been inhabited for around 1000 years before Columbus arrived here during his second voyage in 1493. Like many Caribbean islands, it was the Arawak Indians who were the first peoples here, and they settled on the island around 800 AD from South America. They named the island "Sualouiga" or " Land of Salt " for the many salt-pans and salty water that were found in abundance.
There wasn’t much fresh water on the island, with the main springs located around Paradise Peak, Mount William, Billy Folly, and in the Lowlands which is where the small population congregated. In the following centuries, the aggressive Amazonian Carib Indians from North America arrived and settled on the island.
On November 11, 1493, Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain, without actually stepping foot on it, and renamed it St. Maarten from the religious day of St. Martin of Tours; a day which is still celebrated today.
It was in 1631 when the Dutch settled on the island, in order to create a halfway house between their other two territories in Brazil and what is now New York. The Spanish overthrew the Dutch government, leaving. It took the Dutch 15 years however to get the Spanish to abandon the island, which eventually happened in 1647. It was in this joint ambition to keep the Spanish off the island that the French and Dutch residents on the island joined forces.
The Princess Juliana Airport was established in 1943, followed by the first hotel in 1947-and since, tourism has grown to be the island’s primary source of income.