This 37-square-mile island, ringed with white-sand beaches, has been living with a split personality since 1648, when it became the smallest parcel of land to be peaceably shared by two countries: France and the Netherlands. Other than a modest sign declaring “Bienvenue Partie Française,” you’d never know you were crossing an international border as you pass from one side of the island to the other. Dutch St. Maarten, in the south, bustles with sprawling resorts, wide boardwalks, lively beach bars, and late-night casinos. Meanwhile, sleepy French St. Martin, in the north, with its harbor full of brightly colored boats and houses built up into the cliffs, is reminiscent of a Mediterranean ﬁshing village. Thanks to the French inﬂuence, you’ll also ﬁnd some of the best food in the Caribbean.
Taking advantage of duty-free jewelry shopping at Passions, in Marigot, which stocks well-known fashion designers such as Dinh Van, Girard-Perregaux, and Jaeger LeCoultre.
Enjoying live music, piña coladas, and light snacks—zucchini soup shooters, salmon and caper bruschetta, tonka bean crème brûlée—at Ocean Lounge Restaurant & Bar, an open-air lounge in Philipsburg.
Indulging in one of the island’s lolos (tiny restaurants specializing in Creole cuisine), such as Rosemary’s, a little shack on the Marigot waterfront.