If you had to pick a single island to represent the variety of travel experiences available in the entire Caribbean, St. Martin/St. Maarten would be a good choice. It has two nationalities, French and Dutch, which provide a good sampling of the different European cultures that have left their mark on the West Indies.
The island has coral reefs for diving and snorkeling, spreads of beautiful white sand for sunbathing and all the duty-free shopping you could dream of. It's partly exclusive and upscale, with pricey restaurants and boutiques, partly geared to the mass tourism of cruise ships and large resorts. You will also find an island that's well connected to the outside world, with fine hotels, glitzy casinos, Wi-Fi access island-wide and excellent restaurants.
Note: St. Martin/St. Maarten sustained widespread damage during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. Recovery will take months or even years. Travelers should investigate current conditions prior to planning a visit. That said, nature has quickly reasserted itself, returning tropical foliage and stunning beaches to their original splendor. Infrastructure is a little slower to replace, but is well on its way. On St. Martin, the French government is insisting that reconstruction follow best storm safety practices, so it will take some time to rebuild, but when complete, island structures will be safer than ever. Likewise, on the Dutch side, when the airport is fully operational in 2020, it's expected to be a state-of-the-art facility. Many beaches have reopened, although few have restroom facilities, and most island excursions are back in business. 60% of St. Martin restaurants have reopened, while almost all of St. Maarten's restaurants are already open. Meanwhile, prospective visitors can expect attractions to be quieter than usual. Hotel room availability has reached 50% of pre-storm numbers, with many resorts expected to open in 2019, although a few won't open until 2020.
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