I haven't been to St. Martin in several years, and have only stayed on the French side, but here's what I can tell you: Renting a car/jeep is the way to go--you'll want to explore the island at your own pace and without the hassle of cabs. Generally speaking, the Dutch side is much busier than the French side. As I recall, Philipsburg is the St. Maarten/St. Martin port for the cruise ships, and I think there are two primary streets in Philipsburg--Front Street and one other--where shopping is plentiful. Many of the main shops have sister locations in Marigot, the main town on the French side. There is gambling at the hotels in and near Philipsburg, but none on the French side. There are numerous beaches on the island--all open to the public, and most are easily accessible. Orient Beach (referred to above as the "nude beach") has tons of water activities--parasailing, windsurfing, etc. N.B. I believe women are permitted to go topless at all the beaches on the French side (as are, of course, men). I really liked Baie Longue, where a mile and a half of white sand almost guarantees you to have lots of space to yourself and great walks along the water. No facilities, however. Other beaches are better for snorkeling, kid-friendly water, reading a book under a shady tree, eating/drinking/restroom facilities, etc., but I can't recall their names. There are numerous small markets on the island, and there is a large supermarket called Match on the French side, I think it's near Marigot. I remember the prices being reasonable but not cheap. We stocked up on baguettes, cheese, wine, beer, water and would bring snacks/lunch with us to the beaches. Grand Case is well-stocked with restaurants, some better than others, but unfortunately I can't remember any names at the moment. At the time we visited, the value of the franc against the dollar was so low that all of these restaurants were comparatively cheap to NY. I assume now, however, that the adoption of the Euro has eliminated that advantage. (You used to be able to pay with American dollars all over the island but would receive change in francs or guilders, and I assume you'd now receive Euros.) The row of barbeque in Grand Case referred to above is definitely worth going to. Shopping--I have no idea if this holds any interest for you, but one used to be able to get great deals in Marigot on products manufactured or originating in France. For example, we stocked up on Christofle silver, and ended up paying about 50% of what we would have paid in the US. Various brands of Limoges china were also cheaper than at home, but not as good a bargain. I think the lower prices had something to do with St. Martin being a French territory so that various import/export taxes did not exist and were not passed on to the consumer. I could be wrong about that, though, and can't speak to whether such discounts still exist. The locals are very friendly and will be eager to help make your trip a good one. One caveat--theft has reportedly increased over the years. We never had a problem, but I would advise not leaving any valuables in your car--even in the trunk--while at the beach. A number of beaches require a decent walk from car to sand, which leaves your car out of your sight, and we were told that such circumstances lend themselves to theft of items left in the car. If you are going soon, spring/summer is a great time to visit. The temperature is only about 5 degrees warmer than winter and there are far fewer tourists--making many beaches almost your own! Have a good trip!