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St. Martin/St. Maarten: 1 Island, 2 Nations

On just 37 square miles of lush hills and white sand in the Caribbean, two nations have peacefully coexisted for more than 350 years. Visitors can cross between Sint Maarten, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and Saint Martin, owned by France, at their leisure, with no border checkpoints. But despite the close quarters, each nation maintains a distinct culture and attractions. Decide which side if more your style, or explore both:

Sint Maarten: The Dutch side of the island is where cruise ships dock, and it offers tourists plenty of entertainment, including shopping, casinos and nightlife. At Orient Beach, sunbathers can mingle at beachside bars and rent lounge chairs or jet skis (clothing is optional). At tiny Maho Beach, planes arriving at the Princess Juliana International Airport pass thrillingly low over beachgoers -- but beware of the jet blast. Fort Amsterdam, near the capital of Phillipsburg, is a scenic and historical way to pass an afternoon.

Saint Martin: Venture to the French side and stroll its colorful capital, Marigot. Here you can browse upscale shops and dine on Caribbean-influenced French cuisine. Saint Martin is known for its secluded beaches and luxury accommodations. When you’ve had your fill of sun, tour unique attractions like a coffee plantation or butterfly farm.

Search for discounted airfare to St. Maarten with this sale from American Airlines, or book a discounted all-inclusive getaway. Many cruises also dock in St. Maarten, such as this seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise, now discounted 45%, or this January cruise aboard the Navigator of the Seas, which includes a $50 credit.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, Chicago
Thursday, September 1, 2011
See more Tips from
Kelsey Rexroat