Sun lovers, water babes, sailors and divers will all be right at home in this Caribbean island, a popular getaway destination in the Netherlands Antilles. The most prominent physical feature in St Maarten is Mount Flagstaff, an extinct volcano, but the most important for visitors is the excellent beach that follows the south and west coasts. Beach activities and shopping at duty-free centres satisfy most tourists. The island is also popular with sailing enthusiasts and divers.Occupied since prehistory by Carib Indians, St Maarten was sighted by Christopher Columbus on St Maarten's day in 1493. However, the first European settlers were French and Dutch who, in 1648, partitioned the island. The island has remained under dual sovereignty ever since, the Dutch sector achieving partial independence from the Netherlands in 1954 with the establishment of the Netherlands Antilles.