The Caribbean island of St. Maarten is a small one — only 37 square miles — but every inch of it seems to offer something different. This idiosyncrasy is due not only to the topography — beautiful beaches next to mountainous terrain — but also because it’s comprised of two completely different countries; half is Dutch and the other is French. But together, this island is a vacationer’s dream — calm and clear waters, gourmet restaurants for foodies, casinos for night owls — all while maintaining a relaxed vibe.
Where I’d wake up
The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa (www.westin.com/stmaarten)?has everything you need in a resort — an excellent beach, one of the most impressive pools on the island, great restaurants, a friendly staff, plus that world-famous bodacious Westin bedding. Although some tourists gripe it’s far from the action, that gives the resort a peaceful feel. Plus, taxis are docked out front for when you want to explore.
How I’d spend the morning
It’s impossible to go anywhere in St. Maarten without hitting one of its 37 pristine white sand beaches along the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to bring your snorkeling gear, and prepare for a morning on the beach.
Where I’d lunch
Drive over to Marigot, the chic capital on the French side. There are plenty of open patios to enjoy lunch — and a bottle of wine — most of which overlook the yachts docked in Marigot Bay. Afterward, visit the many high-end shops but beware, as they do shut down for siestas — and charge on the Euro.
Where I’d have dinner
St. Maarten is referred to as the culinary capital of the Caribbean and, boy, is it ever. The cuisine the island serves is miles above most Caribbean food. In Grand Case, French restaurants and bistros line the main drag but for an authentic taste, visit a “lo-lo,” an outdoor spot which prepares cheap and delicious barbecue and all the fixings you might need by some of the friendliest St. Maarten locals.
Renting a car is by far the most convenient (and cheapest) way to get around St. Maarten, although be warned: Some of the roads aren’t exactly groomed.