St. Maarten Princess Julia International Airport (SXM)
To the uninitiated, it can be a little confusing. The Dutch territory of St. Maarten shares a Caribbean island with the similarly named French territory of Saint-Martin. But it's historically appropriate that this tiny island of only 37 square miles is currently shared by two nations. It changed hands a dozen or so times over the four centuries after it was claimed by Columbus for Spain, before falling into the hands of the Dutch and French centuries later.
There are two things you'll notice right away about St. Maarten. First, when you land, you'll see that the runway is situated right next to a lovely little beach. Dare we say — how convenient? As you fly in, you'll notice that the water here is an improbable, seemingly unnatural, turquoise color. Don't be alarmed, your friend's photos weren't altered. The water is that blue here.
Dive, Shop, Eat
St. Maarten offers spectacular snorkeling and diving opportunities, and many good shops, including Dive Safaris and Scuba Zen on the French side of the island, provide equipment rental, training and excursions. But if an afternoon shower should keep you indoors, you can always try your luck at one of St. Maarten's nine casinos which offer everything from roulette to Texas Hold 'Em. Or simply lose yourself in the many fine shopping and dining escapes that make the European Caribbean so extraordinary.