St. Martin/St. Maarten is the smallest island in the world shared by two countries, France and the Netherlands. They have different languages, currencies, traffic patterns, food, styles of dress, electrical systems and even phone systems. So, you really get two experiences for the price of one. What they share in common is beautiful terrain-mountains, rolling hills, valleys and stunning white sand beaches.
The St. Martin side offers a more laid-back vacation, with colorful craft and food markets, festive beach and street parties, water sports, ecotourism and fabulous food.
The St. Maarten side offers a more active tourism experience: you can spend an afternoon power-shopping in boutiques amidst cruise ship day trippers and party with the locals at fancy clubs and bars well into the wee hours of the night, or explore the casinos.
You can literally adventure as you please. The island is only 37 square miles and there is no border control, fences or checkpoints. St. Martin/St. Maarten is also the perfect hub for island hopping with Anguilla and St. Barts, only a US$15 ferry ride away.
St. Martin has rightfully earned its title as the "culinary capitol of the caribbean," with its Afro-Caribbean cuisine, its fabulous French food and wine, as well as its original fusion cuisines from the 98 nationalities that live in St. Martin. You must visit Loterie Farms Hidden Forest Cafe or stop by Bellevue Farms, a Rastafarian organic farm/kitchen/market.
Gay Life: while it remains discreet at times it can be wild at other times. There's a gay beach and guesthouses and bars. American and European gays have established residences here. Try the Eros Club. Villa Rainbow is a gay guesthouse at the top of the island. Of note is the Tuesday night street festivals in the beachside village of Grand Case. Every fifty yards or so is another band playing amid arts, crafts, rum, food and trinkets.
Moderate hotels are Hotel Love in Grand Case and Palm Court in Orient Bay. A budget spot is Centrihotel in Marigot. Carnaval is spectacular the week of Ash Wednesday. You can manage quite well if you only speak english, but most people on the island are tri-lingual. The official language is French.