St Martin is a unique country in the Caribbean, and no discussion of St Martin island can start without first acknowledging the strange fact that the entire island is split in two – one part belongs to France, the other to Netherlands. They have different names for each side of the island, St. Martin and St. Maarten. The French side has more land, the Dutch side more people. The Dutch side has more beaches and shops – but the French side has the two greatest selling points of the island – Orient Beach and Grand Case. The former draws visitors from all over the world for it's shining natural beauty, and the latter is equally famous for its remarkable food. You may come for the beaches, but some of the most treasured memories of a St. Maarten/St. Martin vacation can be of nothing more than the endless string of famous restaurants that dot the resort town of Grand Case.
Shoppers are also drawn to vibrant St. Martin island – the best of French apparel and accessories can be found in the Northern capital of Marigot. The Dutch capital of Philipsburg, counters with quantity – the unrivaled number and quality of shops featuring everything from high fashion to glittering jewelry run along Front Street, the main thoroughfare of the city. Specialty stores and art galleries are interspersed amongst the boutiques and shops of the entire island, both sides offering a vibrant display of paintings and exhibits of the finest Caribbean artists. Wandering the teeming streets of either capital city is the highlight of many a St. Maarten/St. Martin vacation.
St. Martin villas and hotels are scattered throughout the island and are not necessarily near one of the island's 37 acknowledged beaches. Even near the famous ones, such as Orient Beach St. Martin has only a few nearby hotels. Thus car rental services are widely used for exploration of the island, and can be a serious fund-saving exercise – the mere trip across the border into the more popular French area - originating from the international airport on the Dutch side of St. Martin island – is far from cheap. And although there are many services and restaurants to accommodate tourists of any budget, taxis have an unfortunate habit of emptying one's wallet in quick measure here. For those without a car, staying near Orient Beach St. Martin is a fine idea – one of the Caribbeans" most visited beach, the snorkeling, sailing and fishing located here is beyond compare, regardless of what side of the island you find yourself on.
The nightlife of any St. Maarten/St. Martin vacation revolves around the bars and casinos along the southern coast. This is one of the main attractions of the Dutch side of the island – they have to do something to compete with the food of Grand Case and Orient Beach St. Martin, and gambling is forbidden on French land.