Travel: The Caribbean: St. Martin

Take a European holiday at the beach

This well-developed, cosmopolitan island, with its two national faces — the French northern half of St. Martin and the Dutch southern part dubbed St. Maarten — gives off an air of Continental (dine on fine French cuisine, enjoy buzzing nightlife), while its still-distinct Caribbean roots lend the essential carefree vibe (hang for an afternoon in a dive-ish rum hut). Be sure to explore all sides at all elevations; not simply sand for miles, the island has pretty green peaks that make picturesque backdrops to the beaches.

[sidebar]STAY
Finally get that beach home with shared ownership at Dawn Beach Club (dawnbeachclub.com), which is connected to the Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort & Spa. Condos sleep up to eight (perfect for family time) and start at a modest buy-in of $17,000 (plus association fees). Think Time Share 2.0: Owners have access to Westin amenities like three restaurants, a spa, a casino and a private beach, plus laundry and cleaning service — and ocean views, of course.

EAT
For fine French dining with a local twist, L’Estaminet in Grand Case in St. Martin is a must. Also, while you’re out shopping or sightseeing by day, make sure to pick up a bottle of the island’s own Guavaberry Rum. Or, even better, stop into any bar on the island to try a Guavaberry colada.

DO
St. Martin’s terrain is ideal
for a great sightseeing drive or hiking; the highest point, Pic Paradis, rises to 1,391 feet. For a break from the beach, head to the Butterfly Farm (thebutterflyfarm.com), a large, mesh-
canopied butterfly zoo that boasts dozens of kinds of the most beautiful and interesting butterflies and moths, all flying freely (unless they’re landing on your — hint! — brightly colored shirt).

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