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St Maarten Cruise Port Guide, Things To Do, Shore Excursions

Published:

Modified: September 26, 2023

by Audi Traynor

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Introduction

Welcome to St. Maarten, one of the most popular cruise destinations in the Caribbean! This vibrant island, situated in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, offers a unique blend of Dutch and French influences, making it a cultural melting pot and a fascinating place to explore.

 

St. Maarten boasts a beautiful natural landscape, with stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush green hills. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a mix of both, this island has something for everyone.

 

As a cruise traveler, you’ll have the opportunity to disembark at the bustling St. Maarten Cruise Port, located in Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of the island. From here, you can venture out to discover the many attractions and activities that St. Maarten has to offer.

 

In this comprehensive cruise port guide, we will take you on a journey through St. Maarten, highlighting the best things to do, recommended shore excursions, popular attractions, stunning beaches, and more. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, we aim to provide you with useful information to help you make the most of your time on this vibrant Caribbean island.

 

So, get ready to soak up the sun, feel the warm tropical breeze, and immerse yourself in the rich culture and natural beauty of St. Maarten. Let’s dive into this exciting Caribbean adventure!

 

Overview of St. Maarten Cruise Port

Located in the heart of the Caribbean, the St. Maarten Cruise Port is a bustling gateway for cruise travelers from around the world. This vibrant port welcomes numerous cruise ships, offering a wide range of amenities and services to ensure a memorable visit to the island.

 

The St. Maarten Cruise Port is situated in Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of the island. It is conveniently located just a short distance from Princess Juliana International Airport, making it easily accessible for cruise passengers arriving by air.

 

Upon arrival at the cruise port, visitors will be greeted by a lively atmosphere, with shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues lining the waterfront. The port area is well-maintained and offers modern facilities, including duty-free shops, souvenir stores, and local artisans selling handmade crafts.

 

One of the highlights of the St. Maarten Cruise Port is the boardwalk, known as the Great Bay Promenade. This picturesque pathway stretches along the waterfront, offering stunning views of the harbor and the surrounding mountains. It’s the perfect spot to take a leisurely stroll, browse through shops, or enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants that line the boardwalk.

 

For those looking to explore beyond the port area, transportation options are readily available. Taxis and rental car services are conveniently located near the cruise terminal, providing easy access to the island’s top attractions and landmarks.

 

It’s worth noting that St. Maarten is divided into two distinct sides: the Dutch side and the French side. The Dutch side, known as Sint Maarten, is where the cruise port is located. The French side, known as Saint Martin, is just a short drive away and offers a different cultural experience.

 

As you disembark from your cruise ship, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the unique blend of Dutch and French influences that define this island. From the colorful architecture to the delicious cuisine, St. Maarten offers a captivating mix of cultures that adds to its charm.

 

With its convenient location, vibrant atmosphere, and a wide range of amenities, the St. Maarten Cruise Port is the perfect starting point for your Caribbean adventure. Whether you choose to explore the island independently or join a shore excursion, you’re sure to create lasting memories in this captivating destination.

 

Popular Attractions in St. Maarten

St. Maarten offers a plethora of attractions that cater to every interest and preference. From stunning natural beauty to historical landmarks and vibrant entertainment options, this Caribbean island has something for everyone to enjoy.

 

One of the must-visit attractions in St. Maarten is Maho Beach. Situated near the Princess Juliana International Airport, this famous beach is renowned for its close proximity to the flight path. Visitors can experience the thrill of watching planes fly just a few meters above their heads as they land or take off. It’s truly a unique and exhilarating sight that you won’t want to miss.

 

For those seeking a more tranquil and secluded beach experience, Orient Bay Beach is the perfect choice. Known for its stunning turquoise waters and soft white sand, this beach offers a tranquil oasis to relax and unwind. Additionally, Orient Bay Beach is home to various beach clubs and watersports operators, making it an ideal spot for indulging in water activities such as snorkeling, jet-skiing, and paddleboarding.

 

No visit to St. Maarten is complete without exploring the charming town of Philipsburg. This lively capital city is a shopper’s paradise, with a wide range of duty-free shops offering luxury goods, jewelry, electronics, and Caribbean souvenirs. Take a leisurely stroll along the historic Front Street, lined with colorful buildings and quaint boutiques, and sample local delicacies at the street-side cafes and restaurants.

 

For history enthusiasts, a visit to Fort Amsterdam is a must. Built in the early 17th century, this fortress is a testament to St. Maarten’s colonial past. Explore the ruins, take in panoramic views of the island, and learn about the island’s fascinating history as you wander through the remnants of the fort.

 

Another popular attraction in St. Maarten is Loterie Farm. This lush nature reserve offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the island’s tropical beauty. Enjoy hiking trails, zip-lining adventures, or simply relax by the pool with a refreshing drink from the on-site bar. Loterie Farm is the perfect escape for nature lovers and adrenaline seekers alike.

 

At the heart of the island, you’ll find the famous border marker known as “The Friendship Monument.” This historic landmark symbolizes the peaceful coexistence between the Dutch and French sides of the island. Visitors can stand at the marker and have one foot in the Dutch side and the other in the French side, capturing a unique photo opportunity.

 

These are just a few examples of the many attractions that St. Maarten has to offer. From breathtaking beaches to cultural landmarks and thrilling experiences, this Caribbean gem is sure to captivate your senses and create lasting memories.

 

Beaches in St. Maarten

St. Maarten is renowned for its stunning beaches, each offering its own unique atmosphere and charm. Whether you’re seeking a lively party scene, a secluded cove, or a family-friendly spot, you’ll find a beach in St. Maarten to suit your preferences.

 

One of the most iconic beaches on the island is Maho Beach, located on the Dutch side of St. Maarten. This popular spot is famous for its proximity to the Princess Juliana International Airport, where planes fly just a few meters above the beach as they land or take off. The sheer thrill and excitement of watching these massive jets is an experience unlike any other.

 

Orient Bay Beach, on the French side of the island, is another popular choice. With its crystal-clear turquoise waters and stretching white sands, Orient Bay Beach offers a picturesque setting for sunbathing and relaxation. This beach is also known for its vibrant beach clubs, where you can rent loungers and umbrellas, and enjoy beachside restaurants and bars.

 

Mullet Bay Beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. This pristine beach, with its calm waters and soft sand, is perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Surrounded by palm trees and lush vegetation, Mullet Bay Beach provides a serene and tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

 

If you’re looking for a more secluded beach experience, head to Happy Bay Beach. Accessible via a short hike through the forest, this hidden gem offers a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. With its crystal-clear water, gentle waves, and soft golden sand, Happy Bay Beach is an ideal spot for sunbathing, picnicking, and immersing yourself in the natural beauty of St. Maarten.

 

For those traveling with family, Great Bay Beach is a fantastic option. Located in Philipsburg, this long and wide beach offers calm waters and a gentle slope, making it ideal for families with young children. Enjoy building sandcastles, playing beach volleyball, or simply relaxing under the warm Caribbean sun.

 

Simpson Bay Beach is another popular choice, especially for watersports enthusiasts. With its gentle waves and warm waters, this beach is perfect for activities such as snorkeling, jet-skiing, and paddleboarding. Take advantage of the rental services available and indulge in some adrenaline-fueled adventures or simply soak up the sun on the golden sand.

 

These are just a few examples of the beautiful beaches you can explore in St. Maarten. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, water sports, or a vibrant atmosphere, the beaches of St. Maarten offer something for everyone, ensuring an unforgettable Caribbean getaway.

 

Watersports and Outdoor Activities

St. Maarten is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers, offering a wide range of watersports and outdoor activities. Whether you prefer to be in the water, soaring through the air, or exploring the island’s natural beauty on land, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

 

One of the most popular activities in St. Maarten is snorkeling. Explore the vibrant underwater world teeming with colorful fish, coral reefs, and marine life. The calm and clear waters make snorkeling a fantastic option for all ages and skill levels. Local operators offer guided snorkeling tours to the best spots, ensuring a memorable experience.

 

If you’re looking for a thrill, parasailing is a must-try activity in St. Maarten. Soar high above the turquoise waters and enjoy breathtaking views of the island and the sparkling Caribbean Sea. The adrenaline rush and the feeling of freedom as you glide through the air are truly unforgettable.

 

For those with a sense of adventure, jet skiing is a popular choice. Rent a jet ski and explore the coastline at your own pace, speeding through the waves and feeling the wind in your hair. Jet skiing is a thrilling and exhilarating way to discover the beauty of St. Maarten from a different perspective.

 

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is another fantastic watersport that allows you to explore the calm and shallow waters along the coastline. Balance on the board and paddle your way through the crystal-clear waters, enjoying the tranquility and the stunning views around you. SUP is suitable for all ages and fitness levels, making it a fun family activity.

 

If you prefer to keep your feet on land, hiking is a great way to experience the natural beauty of St. Maarten. The island boasts various hiking trails that wind through lush tropical forests, offering stunning vistas and glimpses of local wildlife. One popular trail is the Loterie Farm Trail, which takes you through the island’s lush foliage and rewards you with breathtaking views from the top.

 

Another land-based activity is exploring the island’s countryside on an ATV or buggy tour. Hop on a vehicle and traverse rugged terrains, natural trails, and scenic routes, discovering hidden gems and panoramic viewpoints along the way. This adrenaline-filled adventure allows you to experience the island’s wild side and create unforgettable memories.

 

Whether you choose to dip into the crystal-clear waters or conquer the land, St. Maarten offers a wide array of watersports and outdoor activities to suit every taste. From tranquil snorkeling adventures to thrilling jet ski rides and scenic hikes, there is no shortage of fun-filled experiences waiting for you on this Caribbean gem.

 

Shopping and Dining in St. Maarten

St. Maarten is not only an island of natural beauty but also a fantastic destination for shopping and dining. From luxury boutiques to local markets and a wide variety of culinary offerings, this Caribbean gem has something to please every shopper and food enthusiast.

 

When it comes to shopping, St. Maarten is known for its duty-free status, making it a haven for those seeking luxury goods at affordable prices. Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side, is a shopper’s paradise with a wide range of duty-free shops along the iconic Front Street. Browse through high-end fashion brands, jewelry stores, electronics shops, and souvenir boutiques, where you can find unique Caribbean treasures to bring home.

 

For a more authentic shopping experience, head to Marigot, the capital of the French side. Here, you’ll find quaint boutiques and local markets offering a variety of goods, including local artwork, handmade crafts, and traditional Caribbean spices. The Marigot Market is particularly famous for its vibrant atmosphere and the opportunity to sample local flavors.

 

After a day of shopping, indulge in the flavors of St. Maarten’s culinary scene. The island is home to a diverse array of restaurants, ranging from casual beachside shacks to fine dining establishments. Try local specialties such as jerk chicken, conch fritters, and fresh seafood dishes. If you’re feeling adventurous, sample some of the island’s popular street food like Johnny cakes or saltfish fritters. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a refreshing rum punch or a locally brewed beer.

 

For a unique dining experience, head to Grand Case, known as the gourmet capital of the Caribbean. This charming village is dotted with world-renowned restaurants, offering a fusion of flavors from French, Creole, and Caribbean cuisines. Enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner on the beach, savoring delicacies prepared by award-winning chefs, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culinary culture of St. Maarten.

 

St. Maarten is also famous for its vibrant nightlife. After a delicious meal, explore the bars and nightclubs that come alive after sunset. Join in the lively atmosphere, listen to live music, and dance the night away to a mix of Caribbean rhythms and international beats.

 

Whether you’re looking for the perfect souvenir, a high-end shopping experience, or culinary delights, St. Maarten offers a diverse and exciting shopping and dining scene. Prepare to indulge in the flavors, find unique treasures, and experience the vibrant atmosphere that this Caribbean island has to offer.

 

Cultural and Historical Sites

St. Maarten is not just a tropical paradise; it is also rich in culture and history. The island is home to a variety of cultural and historical sites that offer a glimpse into its fascinating past and vibrant present. From colonial fortresses to museums and cultural landmarks, there are plenty of opportunities to delve into the island’s unique heritage.

 

One of the standout historic sites in St. Maarten is Fort Amsterdam. Dating back to the early 17th century, this imposing fortress played a crucial role in the island’s history. Explore the ruins and learn about the colonial heritage as you take in panoramic views of the surrounding areas. The fort is a testament to the struggles and battles that took place during the island’s colonial era.

 

Another must-visit cultural attraction is the Museum of Sint Maarten. Located in Philipsburg, this small museum provides an insightful journey through the island’s history, culture, and traditions. From artifacts and exhibits showcasing the Arawak people, the original inhabitants of the island, to displays on the colonial period and the impact of slavery, the museum offers a comprehensive overview of St. Maarten’s past.

 

A visit to the St. Maarten Museum is highly recommended for history enthusiasts. Housed in a historic building, the museum features exhibits on the island’s natural history, cultural diversity, and important events that have shaped the island’s identity. Gain a deeper understanding of the local heritage and the people who call St. Maarten home.

 

For a glimpse into the island’s cultural heritage, head to the Amuseum Naturalis. This open-air museum celebrates the natural and cultural history of St. Maarten. Explore the various exhibits, including botanical gardens, replicas of traditional homes, and interactive displays on local flora and fauna. The Amuseum Naturalis offers an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

 

As you explore the island, you’ll come across various historical landmarks and cultural sites that highlight the island’s diverse heritage. Keep an eye out for the “Friendship Monument,” located at the border between the Dutch and French sides. This iconic landmark symbolizes the peaceful coexistence between the two sides of the island and is a testament to the island’s unique cultural blend.

 

Immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting Marigot, the capital of the French side. Stroll through the vibrant streets, browse through local markets, and savor the flavors of French and Creole cuisine. Get a taste of the island’s cultural diversity and experience firsthand the fusion of French and Caribbean influences.

 

These cultural and historical sites offer a fascinating glimpse into the vibrant past and present of St. Maarten. From colonial fortresses to museums and cultural landmarks, explore the island’s rich heritage and gain a deeper appreciation for the unique blend of cultures that makes St. Maarten such a captivating destination.

 

Shore Excursion Options

When visiting St. Maarten on a cruise, you’ll have the opportunity to embark on a variety of exciting shore excursions. From exploring the island’s natural wonders to immersing yourself in its cultural heritage, there are plenty of options to suit every interest and preference.

 

One popular shore excursion is a sailing trip around the island. Hop aboard a catamaran or sailboat and cruise along the coastline, enjoying breathtaking views of the turquoise waters and picturesque beaches. Stop at secluded coves for swimming and snorkeling, and indulge in a delicious Caribbean-style barbecue prepared on board.

 

For nature lovers, a visit to the St. Maarten Butterfly Farm is a must. Explore the tropical gardens and learn about the life cycle of butterflies, as well as the conservation efforts to protect these beautiful creatures. It’s a serene and educational experience that allows you to connect with nature.

 

If you’re seeking adventure, consider a zip-lining excursion through the lush rainforest canopy. Strap into a harness and glide through the treetops, enjoying panoramic views of the island’s mountains and coastline. This adrenaline-fueled experience offers a unique perspective of St. Maarten’s natural beauty.

 

History buffs will appreciate a visit to the historic Fort Louis in Marigot. Take a guided tour and learn about the fort’s role in protecting the island during colonial times. Marvel at the panoramic views from the top and imagine the battles that once took place in this strategic location.

 

If you’re up for some underwater exploration, a scuba diving excursion is an excellent choice. Dive into the crystal-clear waters and discover the vibrant coral reefs, encounters with tropical fish, and the possibility of sighting sea turtles and rays. Certified divers can explore deeper dive sites, while beginners can take introductory dives or snorkel alongside the dive group.

 

For a taste of the local culture, consider a visit to Grand Case Market. This bustling market offers an array of locally grown produce, authentic spices, and unique crafts. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, interact with the friendly locals, and sample traditional Caribbean snacks and delicacies.

 

If you’re looking for a relaxing day at the beach, opt for a beach break excursion. Choose from a variety of stunning beaches, where you can soak up the sun, swim in the clear waters, and enjoy beachside amenities such as loungers, umbrellas, and beach bars. Some beach break excursions also include water sports activities for those seeking a bit of adventure.

 

These are just a few examples of the many shore excursion options available in St. Maarten. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, cultural immersion, or a combination of all, you’re sure to find the perfect excursion that allows you to make the most of your time on this beautiful Caribbean island.

 

Tips for Cruise Travelers in St. Maarten

If you’re planning a cruise to St. Maarten, it’s helpful to know a few tips to make the most of your time on the island. From navigating the cruise port to exploring the top attractions, here are some valuable tips for cruise travelers visiting St. Maarten.

  • Plan in advance: Research the island’s top attractions and shore excursions before your cruise. This will help you prioritize your activities and make the most of your time on the island.
  • Book shore excursions early: Popular excursions tend to sell out quickly, so it’s advisable to book your preferred activities in advance to secure your spot.
  • Be mindful of time: St. Maarten operates on Atlantic Standard Time (AST); make sure to adjust your watch accordingly to avoid any confusion or missed opportunities.
  • Pack essentials: Don’t forget to pack essentials such as sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a swimsuit. The Caribbean sun can be intense, and you’ll want to be prepared for beach visits or outdoor activities.
  • Bring cash: While credit cards are widely accepted, having some cash on hand is useful for small purchases, tips, and transactions at local markets.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water, especially in the tropical climate. Staying hydrated will help you stay energized and enjoy your time on the island.
  • Respect the customs and culture: St. Maarten is a culturally diverse destination with Dutch and French influences. Be respectful of the local customs and traditions, dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and greet locals with a friendly “good morning” or “bonjour.”
  • Use reliable transportation: If you choose to explore the island independently, use reliable transportation options such as licensed taxis or reputable car rental companies to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
  • Take precautions: As with any travel destination, it’s essential to take precautions to protect your belongings. Keep an eye on your personal belongings, especially in crowded areas and at the beach.
  • Embrace the relaxed pace: St. Maarten has a laid-back and leisurely atmosphere. Embrace the island’s relaxed pace, savor the delicious Caribbean cuisine, and take the time to soak in the natural beauty and enjoy the friendly locals.

By following these tips, you can enhance your cruise experience in St. Maarten and create unforgettable memories on this captivating Caribbean island.

 

Conclusion

St. Maarten offers a captivating Caribbean experience for cruise travelers, with its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and wealth of attractions. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a mix of both, this island paradise has something for everyone.

 

From the moment you arrive at the St. Maarten Cruise Port, you’ll be greeted with a warm and lively atmosphere. Explore the charming streets of Philipsburg, indulge in duty-free shopping, and sample delicious cuisine at local restaurants.

 

Venture beyond the port area to discover the natural wonders of St. Maarten. From the world-famous Maho Beach to the serene Orient Bay Beach, the island’s beaches are some of the most beautiful in the Caribbean. Dive into crystal-clear waters, try exciting watersports, or simply relax and soak up the sun.

 

Immerse yourself in the island’s rich history and culture by visiting colonial forts, museums, and cultural landmarks. Learn about the island’s past at Fort Amsterdam and the St. Maarten Museum, or explore the natural beauty and wildlife at the St. Maarten Butterfly Farm and Amuseum Naturalis.

 

Make the most of your time on the island by taking advantage of the various shore excursion options. Sail along the coast, snorkel in vibrant coral reefs, zip-line through the rainforest, or explore the vibrant streets of Marigot.

 

Before your cruise to St. Maarten, remember to plan ahead, book your shore excursions in advance, and pack essentials such as sunscreen and swimwear. Respect the local customs and embrace the relaxed pace of the island, allowing yourself to fully appreciate the beauty and charm of St. Maarten.

 

So, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, St. Maarten is sure to leave a lasting impression. Explore the island’s natural wonders, immerse yourself in its culture, and create unforgettable memories on this enchanting Caribbean gem.