By Sara Falardeau
Saint Martin
Saint Martin
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Since its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1493, the tiny, sun-drenched island of St. Martin/St. Maarten has been coveted territory. For more than 150 years, Spain, England, Holland and France all vied for possession of the island’s protected waters and rich salt deposits, until a peaceful settlement in 1648 forged the unique chimera of culture that defines the island today. Known as the Crossroads of the Caribbean, the island is the smallest landmass to be shared by two sovereign nations: French St. Martin shares a peaceful, unguarded border with Dutch St. Maarten. For a double-dose of culture and charm, EscapeWizard recommends a visit to this 37 square-mile subtropical paradise.

Travelers to St. Martin/St. Maarten can easily book flights to the Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) via EscapeWizard (www.escapewizard.com/flight.php). When selecting accommodations, EscapeWizard suggests choosing a side of the island based on the ambiance you seek; click here (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl) to search for low pricing. Visitors desiring a luxe vacation experience with European flair will fall in love with the intimate accommodations, high-end shopping and incredible gourmet restaurants in St. Martin. Those seeking non-stop activity will certainly find it in the myriad casinos and vibrant nightlife of St. Maarten, which is a port for the many cruise ships that flock to the island. No matter which side you choose, EscapeWizard can help locate lodging to suit any budget and taste.

Once settled at your hotel, take advantage of St. Martin/St. Maarten’s biggest draw and best feature: the beach! With 37 beaches to choose from and every water sport imaginable, the island is a sun-worshipper’s dream. For an unforgettable beach experience, EscapeWizard recommends heading to Orient Bay. Ideal for sunbathers, this beach offers a mile of expansive white sand and a clothing-optional policy for minimal tan lines. Snorkelers and scuba-divers will love the beautiful coral reefs that protect its crystal-clear waters, as well as the convenient sports equipment rentals right on shore. Orient Bay also offers an array of beach bars and restaurants, so your next Piña Colada is mere steps from your beach chair.

For water sports enthusiasts, Simpson Bay is another must-see when visiting St. Martin/St. Maarten. The island is known as one of the best sailing spots in the Lesser Antilles, and as its largest lagoon, Simpson Bay is home to an impressive fleet of yachts and sailboats. Sailing regattas are an exciting spectator sport, and draw thousands of visitors to the island annually. EscapeWizard recommends planning your own sailing experience with a charter yacht or catamaran – there are many options available right on the bay. Spend the day sailing and exploring the nearby islands of St. Barths and Anguilla, then return as the sun sets and enjoy the nightlife: with back-to-back bars and casinos, the party continues until dawn at this blazing hotspot.

While vacationers may be tempted to spend the entire time in St. Martin/St. Maarten on the beach and in the water, EscapeWizard suggests visiting both capital cities of the island to fully experience the striking contrast in cultures. On the Dutch side, St. Maarten’s Philipsburg is a bustling marketplace with a mile-long commercial district of sales-tax and duty-free shops. Each shop tries to top the others to offer the best prices, meaning bargain-hunters will find fantastic deals on electronics, perfume, clothing and more. When your shopping itch is sated, take a walk along the Great Bay Beach boardwalk and stop at the beach bars, or try your luck in one of the many brightly-lit casinos nearby – all contribute to the frenetic pace of this exciting city.

By contrast, visitors will be struck by the genteel, Continental charm of St. Martin’s capital, Marigot. Take a stroll down the streets lined with beautiful colonial houses, or venture into the upscale boutiques offering couture fashions. For more casual, colorful shopping, don’t miss the Marigot Market – a mélange of sights and smells where locals sell spices, fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables, and handmade crafts in open-air huts along the water. When it’s time for lunch, tiny bistros and pastry shops beckon with delicious smells that recall the city’s French heritage.

Speaking of food, EscapeWizard urges foodies to explore the Boulevard de Grand Case, known as the cuisine capitol of the Caribbean. Not far from Marigot, this street in the town of Grand Case is famous for understated gourmet restaurants housed in brightly colored cottages, as well as open-air “lolos” or locally-run eateries on the beach. Boulevard de Grand Case boasts traditional French fare as well as fiery Creole cuisine in the tradition of the island’s original inhabitants, the Arawak Indians. In addition to the delicious food, local rum and fine French wines are sure to delight the palate.

Whether you seek relaxation or excitement, sun or shopping, fine dining or non-stop nightlife, St. Martin/St. Maartin has something for you. With two distinct cultural experiences and a beach for every square mile, less is truly more with this pint-sized Caribbean escape.
Hotels in Saint Martin
By Mark Osborne
Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa
144 Oyster Pond Road, St. Martin
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Let all your cares slip away on the beautiful white sand beaches of St. Martin, one of the Caribbean’s premier destinations for travelers looking to unwind. Internationally renowned for its scenery, shopping, and culture, the island is home to a wide variety of activities bound to fulfill any desire. Flights to the island are serviced by the Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), which is centrally located to several major tourist destinations. Travelers can chose from a number of transportations options upon arrival, including taxi, limousine and rental car. For travelers looking to add that extra touch of comfort to their vacation, The Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa offers world class accommodations in a distinctly island setting.  Complementary parking is available for guests who prefer the rental car option.

When arriving at the hotel for check in, guests are greeted by the amazing views and resort style accommodations that give The Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa its distinct look and feel. A variety of room options are available that will suit any families needs, with choices including ocean front, resort view, and suites. All rooms feature a balcony and full window French double doors that fill the room with natural light, letting the guest soak in the Caribbean sun. The rooms include walk in showers and unique island décor that are sure to give your stay the extra touch.

The Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa features a variety of exciting amenities, including the popular Hibiscus Spa, which offers a number of relaxing and rejuvenating face and body treatments as well as a collection of personalized skin care products. After a long day of lounging on the beach, guests can visit Blue Bubbles, where you can rent snorkeling gear, kayaks, and paddle boards to give your stay a hint of adventure. The resort includes an onsite casino, which has a number of table games and slot machines for guest to enjoy.

St. Martin offers travelers an unforgettable Caribbean getaway which is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and content. EscapeWizard.com looks forward to helping you save money on booking your stay (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl).