St Maarten is a true anachronism….. carved in two when France and the Netherlands disputed who owned what. So they commissioned two men to walk in opposite directions around the island. When the met again, the straight line that connected the starting and finishing points defined the Dutch “half” and the French “half”. The French got more. After hearing about it for decades, we certainly expected it to be much more developed than it is. As a guess, less than 1/3 of the island is developed and the rest appears to be pretty well protected in a more-or-less natural state (“natural” only because many of the plants have been imported over the centuries). Initially we stayed for 4 days in Grand Cos (“cause”) on the French side at the Blu Emeraude a very small “boutique” hotel (8 rooms) right on the beach. At any given time there were never more than 8 or so people on the beach. Walking distance to quality French and Creole restaurants, and live reggie music all on the beach. One night our dinner table was over the surf lapping at our feet. Then we moved to try the Dutch side at the Simpson Bay Resort. Also lovely but in a different way. Our room was right next to the pool which was always quiet. No usable beach at this location. From here though we launched on a round-the-island all day snorkeling adventure from a small boat. We made it about 2/3 of the way around the island with numerous stops for snorkeling but had to turn back when we got to the Atlantic side because the seas were too high for our little boat. The Dutch side is also the local Amsterdam….. casinos, red-light houses, and sidewalk bistros on the beach with great music and knock-out drinks. Many more tourists but still not crowded. Just more of a buzz.