Although it’s only 37 square miles, St. Martin is one Caribbean island you don’t want to miss. What’s so special about this little piece of paradise? For one thing, it’s the world’s smallest dual-national island. The northern half of the island is French, and the southern half is Dutch. Fortunately, for the Anglophone crowd, English is spoken almost universally on the island (although you’ll still have the chance to practice that French you learned in high school, if you like).

Besides the mix of cultures, Saint Martin also has a variety of landscapes. On the northern coast, you can wade through long grass while watching the surf crash on the beach below. In the east, desert hills are populated with red-topped cactus that look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. In the south, you can join the masses of tourists on white sand beaches, in casinos, and down charming Dutch-style streets. In the middle, the island’s summit rises up from tropical rainforest, where you can get an occasional glimpse of wild monkeys.

Some of the best things to do while visiting St. Martin are easily accessible and not too expensive. The first thing you’ll want to do as soon as you arrive is visit famous Maho beach, where airplanes fly in for landing just a few hundred feet overhead! Yes, this is that island. You’ll never have another experience quite like watching the tropical sun get blotted out by the wings of a massive jet. Many visitors also take advantage of St. Martin’s position as the gateway to Anguilla, Saba, and St. Barth’s. While St. Barth’s is expensive and even Saba can be pricey, it’s possible to make a fun day trip to Anguilla for under $100.

St. Martin is also popular for its Casinos, clubs, and bars, but tourists who stick to nightlife miss out on the heart of the island’s culture and beauty. If you really want to engage with the rhythm of life on St. Martin, you can meet locals in the restaurants and beaches a few miles away from the tourist centers of Maho and Philipsburg. Take a walk through tamarind tree-lined paths, buy fresh mangos from the Rastafarian farm, or pay a visit to the Marigot gallery of local artist Roland Richardson.

Whether you love beaches, shopping, or adventures, St. Martin is an excellent destination for you. You have to visit to truly understand why St. Martin has remained one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean for travelers all over the world.

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