St Maarten/St Martin

With two nations in one island, an island with two names, St Maarten offers a range of vacation options from casinos, to beaches, to jungle-escapes. St Maarten combines exotic locales, French cuisine, Caribbean relaxation, and Dutch tolerance in one heady mixture. This 37-square-mile island sits pretty in a sparkling aquamarine sea surrounded by coral reefs teeming with tropical fish life. Visitors have a choice of accommodation from charming Creole style cottages to elegant resorts and beachside villas. Dining options offered can vary from casual beach bars and barbecues to grand fine dining restaurants.

Activities

History buffs and the lovers of the quaint have ample options to explore the cobblestone streets in Philipsburg on foot. The spectacular views from the ruins of the hillside fort of Louis overlook the French side town of Marigot, along with its harbor, and extending all the way to Anguilla in the far distance. Clean, lovely beaches are perfect for strolls, snorkeling, beach-bars, and sunning. There are parasailing, and Jet-Skiing options at Orient Bay and surfing and windsurfing off many beaches around the island. The jungle canopy further inland offers rope bridges, tree-to-tree canopy zip-line flights, hiking, biking, and more. Philipsburg offers duty free shops and stores that sell the famous Guavaberry rum. The area offers a range of high-end labels while Marigot, on the French side offers French Riviera style boutiques and the Harbor-side marketplace has a morning selling spices, local and exotic fruit and many local handicrafts.

Dining and Entertainment

Bars on St Maarten vary from rickety beachside rum shops to up-market, neon streaked, hot and happening nightclubs. Casinos appeal to the tourists, as do the hotspots in Simpson Bay that are open all day. Downtown Philipsburg is a great place to take in some salsa, do the rounds of clubs, and enjoy free entertainment. Most Simpson Bay restaurants and Orient Bay beach bars host frequent beachside barbecues featuring steel bands, along with local music and dancing.

Known as the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean, St Maarten has numerous top-notch restaurants, especially in Grand-Case, catering to every possible taste preference. From Creole and mixed island specialties such as crabe farci or accras, to the best of international cuisine dished up by European chefs and their apprentices, the island has it all.