Get There: US Airways offers direct flights from Philly to St. Martin that clock in at around four hours (about $730). Rent a car for the scenic 40-minute cross-island drive to the hotel.
Stay: It’s hard to find: You’ll wind up a hill, enter a passcode to gain entrance to a gated community, and then finally come across it—Karibuni Lodge. A secluded enclave of only six suites (from $250 per night), the two-year-old boutique hotel is perched on a hillside on the island’s north shore (the French side) and is as chic as it is hidden. Colorful rooms open up to prime views of the Bay of Cul de Sac and the tiny isles dotting it, and French expat owners Marion and Erick and their daughter Manon have mastered the art of appearing when you happen to need them, then vanishing when you don’t.
Eat/Drink: Suites at Karibuni Lodge are outfitted with kitchenettes for light cooking, but you can’t miss the hotel’s famed restaurant, Le Karibuni. It’s tucked among coconut palms on the tiny island of Pinel, a five-minute boat ride from the hotel, and serves up the freshest fish you’ll ever eat. The fishing village of Grand Case is where you’ll find the island’s restaurant row—charming French bistros and authentic lolos (food stalls that serve up terrific fare). Sol e Luna turns out impeccable French cuisine; for Italian, Spiga is unmatched. (Tip: Many places on the French side offer a one-to-one conversion rate if you pay in cash.)
Explore: Head to Orient Bay for parasailing, jet-skiing and inconspicuous gawking—the beach is famed for its clothing-optional stretch.
Shop: Hit French capital Marigot on Wednesday and Saturday mornings for the markets—more than 100 stalls packed with crafts and souvenirs. Shop high-end (Longchamp, Montblanc) along Rue du General de Gaulle.
Relax: While Karibuni Lodge offers gratis boat rides to Pinel, it’s more fun to paddle one of the resort’s kayaks there. Guests of the lodge get reserved lounge chairs on the beach, well-deserved after that kayak ride.