Both the French and Dutch sides of the island offer excellent beaches, from small, tranquil stretches of sand (such as Happy Bay) to family-friendly beaches such as Baie de l'Embouchure/Galion Beach (where the water is protected by a reef).
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Split between the French and the Dutch, but with no real boundary marks, St. Martin and Sint Maarten each have different governments, languages, cuisine, currencies, and attitudes in general. Although there isn't a strict border, once you've crossed over into the other country's land, you'll soon know it.
The Dutch Sint Maarten offers high-rise condos and timeshares that are popular with Americans. High-end shops such as Tommy Hilfiger line the cobblestone streets in Philipsburg, while nightclubs pulse long into the night. St. Martin, the French side, takes up the northern two-thirds of the island. Less developed than the Dutch side, St. Martin offers plenty of natural attractions, including the beautiful (and clothing-optional) Orient Beach, and Loterie Farm's tree-to-tree zip-line.