|Though in its allegiance St. Maarten is as Dutch as cocoa and tulips, its 17 square miles feel like one king-size worldly resort, with continental cuisine and sports aplenty, an international cast of characters, and rampant duty-free shopping. Add to that a peaceful Caribbean coastline strung with a dozen exquisitely handsome coves and you have what some travelers deem the setting for a truly wonderful vacation. |
St. Maarten and its French neighbor, St. Martin, occupy the smallest piece of land in the world shared by governments of two nationalities. Passing back and forth between the two halves is a casual matter, and both cater to tourism; of the two, St. Maarten is the more developed (though St. Martin, of late, is catching up), with a handful of high-rise mega-hotels, casinos, discos, aquasports plus - for now at least - the island's one golf course. Philipsburg, the capital, is a small and charming town, but whatever historic flair it once flaunted has been generally eclipsed by a dazzling (and often crowded) array of boutiques crammed with every luxurious commodity under the sun, from perfume to porcelain to petits-fours. Indeed, this is a dangerous locale for the weak of wallet who venture forth unchaperoned.
Islanders, Dutch and French alike, are easygoing and friendly; English is readily spoken all over, and the softly undulating landscape is easy to explore by car. This island is also an excellent jumping-off point for short visits, by air, to nearby islands such as Anguilla, St. Barts, and Saba. But the coastline is St. Maarten's main attraction, and everywhere the water is busy with sailboats, Jetskis, windsurfers, and waterskiiers, parasailors gliding on high. Many of the big hotels also offer excellent instruction in these pastimes, particularly sailing.
There are, to be sure, classically romantic inns and quaint villages as well as sleek resorts, but this is not an ideal destination for travelers who dream of losing themselves in rustic native culture. St. Maarten is perfect, however, for your clients who count among their vacation essentials bountiful beaches, fine food, ample amenities, with a touch of glitzy nightlife thrown in for good measure.