The beautiful island of St. Martin (also known as Sint Maarten or Saint-Martin depending on whether you're from the north or south) is still very popular with cruise shippers and sun seekers, not to mention the throngs of gamblers and shoppers who flock to Cole Bay, Phillipsburg, and the rest of the Dutch side each year in search of Vegas-style games rooms and duty-free shopping.

Meanwhile, sands shimmer and shine against an electric-blue sea at Orient Bay in the north, cocktail joints spill into the tide at Mullet Bay, and the untrodden and secluded smuggler's coves of Pinel Island in the east are still marked by the footsteps of pirates.

The markets in Marigot are also popular, and the fusion of Dutch and French cultures creates an intriguing mix.

On Maho Beach, watch KLM Fly

Okay, so the beaches on both the Dutch and French sides of St. Martin are unquestionably more beautiful.

People don't flock to the sands of Maho for the sun and sand (though the sun and sand aren't bad!). When the colossal aircrafts of KLM and other airlines begin to descend, the majority of people come to gaze upwards into the sky.

Why? Because the Princess Juliana International Airport's runways are only a few metres away, landings here bring Boeings and Airbuses within an arm's reach of the ground, rumbling every coconut cocktail and sandcastle in sight!

At Casino Royale, try your luck at craps

Casino Royale, which looms in bright colours over the Princess Juliana Airport runways and the beaches of Maho Bay, is one of the largest and most popular places to play poker and craps on St. Martin, which is known as the Caribbean's Las Vegas.

The reputation appears to be well-deserved, as this massive games hall in the Maho Village Resort spans 21,000 square feet and features seemingly endless rows of one-armed bandits and betting machines, in addition to 20 or more card tables.

In the Dejavu Lounge, there are also regular nightly entertainments such as Carib samba bands and mega cocktail parties!

Visit the Old Street shops

Old Street, lined with pretty rows of 19th-century townhouses painted in ice-cream hues, has grown to become one of the shopping epicentres of this shopping-mad Caribbean enclave.

The emporiums here were brimming with potential bargains for the budding souvenir hunter because they were duty-free for much of their length.

Away from Marigot's mega-malls, this strip is home to some of the island's best craft stores, with local fabrics and bespoke clothing adorning the shelves alongside handmade jewelry and, of course, platters of Carib foods from the hole-in-the-wall restaurants (check out nearby Back Street for some of the best).

Take in the sights from Fort Louis

While the historic bulwarks and towers of the French colonists who once commanded the ports and straits over Marigot Bay are crumbling, the trek up the winding paths that begin at the end of Rue du Fort Saint Louis to see this crumbling historic site is still worthwhile.

Louis, one of the island's largest forts, was once the site of armed battles between the Caribbean's major European powers, and some rusted cannons can still be seen peppering the lookouts today.

The panoramas, which stretch for 180 degrees across Marigot harbor and the hills above Bellevue, encompassing the deep-blue ocean and even the silhouette of Anguilla Island in the distance when the skies are clear, are what really draw the crowds.

Conquer Loterie Farm's zip lines

Loterie Farm is an all-round resort that hugs the green and pretty edges of Pic Paradis hill. It was built on the land of a historic plantation.

It has a series of eateries on-site, from the earthy Bamboo Room to the Hidden Forest Café, and its well-manicured gardens are peppered with sparkling pools and tree house-style cabanas.

Most visitors, however, come to get their hearts racing and their adrenaline pumping by trying their hand at the series of Tarzan-style zip lines and swinging rope bridges that the people of Loterie have installed throughout the surrounding jungle canopy.

Simply show up and request admission to the appropriately named Fly Zone!

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