Philipsburg, St. Maarten
Great for: Shopping, architecture, beach time, fine French cuisine, watching planes take off
If you’ve only got six hours: Head to Maho Beach, just across the fence from Princess Juliana International Airport, where planes take off within mere yards of the sand.
If you’re perpetually confused by the alternative spellings for St. Maarten and St. Martin, there’s a good reason. The island has both Dutch and French sides, each spelled accordingly. But that’s what makes a stop here so unique: It’s like a trip to Europe minus the nine-hour flight.
Stroll the Dutch Colonial architecture near the port, then take a short ride over to the French side, which is like a tropical Saint-Tropez with top-notch restaurants. Beaches on both sides of the island might be small, but are stunningly gorgeous — including the clothing-optional Orient Beach. And because the island has nonstop flights from The Continent, the shopping here is as good as you’ll find anywhere in the Caribbean.