}}"La Samanna has a wonderful gated beach, Long Bay, which is considered one of the best on the island. Only part of it is private, so you can visit Long Bay no matter where you stay. Prune Bay is wonderfully isolated and quiet, while beaches like Orient Bay are busy and bustling with the 'lolos,' the local word for the little beach bars serving fresh fish and jerk chicken. The water around St. Maarten is absolutely crystal clear and beautiful."

"Le Pressoir, on the French side, is in one of St. Maarten's oldest homes and has a French country atmosphere. The most popular restaurant on the French side is Mario's Bistro, where the dining room juts out over the water. It's very romantic, and the food is great. Le Chanteclair specializes in fish and Creole specialties, all with a French flair. At all of these restaurants, you have the same quality of food and the same level of fine dining as a big city restaurant in the U.S., but you might be sitting at a table and have this wonderful breeze coming off the water. It's not quite as formal in its decor and presentation, but the meals are exquisite. Everything's much more casual, like the French side of the island itself."

"Two great beach bars are Calmos Café on the French side in Grand Case. It's right on the beach and has great music. On the Dutch side, Cheri's Café is most popular, with live Caribbean bands nightly. People always rush off to the casinos, which are on the Dutch side. There are several, but the biggest one is the Casino Royale in the Maho Beach Hotel. It's open until 4 a.m."


"There are regular trips you can take by water over to St. Barts, which is, of course, the small French island favored by the rich and famous. You could also hop a boat or a plane over to Anguilla. St. Maarten is the major hub for the entire Caribbean, so there's no end to where you can go."