Welcome to the beautiful island of St Maarten, a Caribbean gem that offers a plethora of activities for cruise ship passengers. Whether you’re visiting for a day or a few hours, St Maarten has something for everyone. From stunning beaches to vibrant cultural experiences, this island has it all.
St Maarten is located in the northeastern Caribbean, and it’s divided into two distinct sides: the Dutch side, known as Sint Maarten, and the French side, known as Saint-Martin. This unique cultural blend adds an extra charm to the island, providing visitors with diverse experiences.
One of the great advantages of visiting St Maarten during a cruise is that you have a limited amount of time, which helps you focus on the must-see attractions and activities. In this article, we will explore some of the top things you can do while exploring St Maarten on a cruise.
Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a food lover, or someone who simply wants to relax on pristine beaches, St Maarten has it all. So, get ready to immerse yourself in the island’s rich culture, enjoy breathtaking views, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Getting to St Maarten
Reaching St Maarten during your cruise journey is quite straightforward. The island is a popular port of call for many cruise lines, making it easily accessible for travelers. The main port of entry is the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facility in Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side.
Most cruise ships dock at the port, allowing passengers to disembark and begin their adventures on the island. The port area is well-equipped with amenities and services, ensuring a smooth transition from ship to shore.
Another way to get to St Maarten is by flying into Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), which is served by many major airlines. If you choose to fly directly to the island, you can take a taxi or shuttle from the airport to the main tourist areas, which are conveniently located near the port.
Once you arrive in St Maarten, it’s important to plan your time wisely to make the most of your visit. The island offers a variety of excursions and activities to suit different interests, so it’s a good idea to research and pre-book any tours or experiences you’re interested in. This will help you maximize your time on the island and ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience.
Whether you’re arriving by cruise ship or by plane, St Maarten’s warm and welcoming atmosphere will make you feel right at home. So, get ready to embark on a memorable adventure and explore all that this stunning Caribbean destination has to offer.
As the capital of the Dutch side of St Maarten, Philipsburg is a vibrant and bustling city with plenty to offer. It is a popular destination for cruise ship passengers due to its convenient location near the port.
One of the highlights of Philipsburg is its charming boardwalk, known as the Great Bay Boardwalk. Take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront, lined with colorful shops, restaurants, and cafes. You can do some shopping, try local delicacies like the famous Dutch Stroopwafels or fresh seafood, or simply enjoy the stunning views of the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea.
For a glimpse into the island’s history, be sure to visit the historic Courthouse. This charming yellow building, dating back to the late 18th century, now houses a museum where you can learn about the island’s history and culture. Don’t forget to capture some Instagram-worthy photos of the courthouse and the surrounding streetscape.
If you’re interested in art and culture, a visit to the St Maarten Museum is a must. Located in a beautifully restored historic building, the museum showcases the island’s heritage and features exhibits on local art, traditions, and natural history. It’s a great opportunity to delve deeper into the island’s unique culture.
Philipsburg is also known for its duty-free shopping, making it a paradise for shopaholics. Front Street is the main shopping street, lined with a wide range of shops selling jewelry, designer clothing, electronics, and more. Take advantage of the duty-free prices and pick up some souvenirs or treat yourself to a luxurious purchase.
For some relaxation and beach time, head to the famous Great Bay Beach, which stretches along the boardwalk. Sink your toes into the soft sand, take a dip in the clear turquoise waters, or rent a beach chair and umbrella to unwind and soak up the sun. The beach also offers various water sports activities, such as snorkeling, jet skiing, and kayaking, for those seeking a thrill.
Exploring Philipsburg offers a delightful mix of history, culture, shopping, and beachside relaxation. It’s the perfect way to start your St Maarten adventure and get a taste of the island’s unique charm.
Relaxing on the Beaches
When it comes to stunning beaches, St Maarten has no shortage of options. With its pristine white sands, crystal-clear waters, and breathtaking views, the island is a true paradise for beach lovers.
Maho Beach is one of the most famous and unique beaches on the island. Located right next to Princess Juliana International Airport, you can witness planes flying overhead and landing just a few feet above the beach. It’s an exhilarating experience that you have to see to believe. Grab a beach chair, sip on a refreshing cocktail, and watch in awe as the planes come in for a landing.
If you’re looking for a more secluded beach experience, head to Mullet Bay Beach. This picturesque beach is nestled between two rocky cliffs and offers a quiet and serene atmosphere. The calm waters are perfect for swimming, and the palm trees provide shade for those seeking a break from the sun. Don’t forget to bring your snorkeling gear, as Mullet Bay Beach is also known for its vibrant marine life.
Orient Bay Beach, located on the French side of the island, is another popular choice for beach enthusiasts. This long stretch of powdery white sand offers a wide range of amenities, including beach clubs, restaurants, water sports activities, and even a clothing-optional section for those seeking a more liberating experience. Whether you’re looking to relax under a beach umbrella or engage in exciting water activities, Orient Bay Beach has it all.
For a more off-the-beaten-path beach experience, make your way to Happy Bay Beach. This secluded treasure requires a short hike through a beautiful trail, but the effort is definitely worth it. Once you arrive, you’ll be rewarded with a pristine and peaceful beach surrounded by lush green vegetation. It’s a slice of paradise where you can truly unwind and escape the crowds.
No matter which beach you choose to visit, make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen, a beach towel, and your sense of adventure. St Maarten’s beaches offer the perfect opportunity to relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy the natural beauty of the Caribbean.
Participating in Water Sports
For those seeking a bit of excitement and adventure during their visit to St Maarten, participating in water sports is a must. With its crystal-clear waters and ideal weather conditions, the island offers a wide array of thrilling activities for water enthusiasts of all levels.
One of the most popular water sports in St Maarten is snorkeling. Strap on a mask, grab a snorkel, and dive into the vibrant underwater world. Explore the coral reefs teeming with colorful fish, sea turtles, and other fascinating marine life. Some of the best snorkeling spots include Creole Rock in Grand Case and Pinel Island, where you can also enjoy a picnic on the beach.
If you’re looking for more adrenaline-pumping activities, try your hand at jet skiing. Feel the thrill as you speed across the waves, taking in the picturesque coastline of St Maarten. Whether you’re a first-time rider or an experienced jet skier, you’re bound to have an exhilarating time on the water.
Kayaking is another popular water sport in St Maarten, allowing you to explore the island’s coast at your own pace. Paddle through calm bays, glide along mangrove forests, and discover hidden coves and beaches. It’s a great way to get a workout while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
For a unique and exciting experience, try flyboarding. Strap on a jet-powered board, and with the help of water propulsion, soar above the waves. Feel the rush of adrenaline as you experience the sensation of flying. It’s an activity that will surely leave you with unforgettable memories.
If you’re a surfing enthusiast or want to learn how to ride the waves, St Maarten offers opportunities for both beginners and experienced surfers. Mullet Bay Beach is one of the favorite spots for surfers due to its consistent swell and ideal conditions.
Parasailing is another thrilling water sport that offers breathtaking views of St Maarten from the sky. Soar high above the island as you are tethered to a parachute, experiencing a sense of freedom and awe-inspiring beauty.
With St Maarten’s warm waters and diverse marine life, scuba diving enthusiasts will find plenty to explore. Dive into the depths to discover shipwrecks, underwater caves, and vibrant coral reefs. Whether you’re a certified diver or want to try a beginner’s dive, there are options available for everyone.
Whether you prefer to explore the underwater world, ride the waves, or experience high-flying adventures, participating in water sports in St Maarten is an exciting way to make the most of your time on the island. So, get ready to dive in and create unforgettable memories in the Caribbean’s aquatic playground.
Visiting the Butterfly Farm
One of the most enchanting experiences in St Maarten is a visit to the Butterfly Farm. Located in the French side of the island, near the village of Quartier d’Orléans, this tropical oasis is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful escape.
As you enter the Butterfly Farm, you’ll step into a world filled with vibrant colors and delicate fluttering wings. The farm is home to hundreds of species of butterflies, each with its own unique patterns and behaviors. You’ll have the opportunity to witness the entire life cycle of these magnificent creatures, from tiny eggs to caterpillars, and finally, the stunning emergence of fully-grown butterflies.
Take a guided tour of the Butterfly Farm to learn more about the incredible transformation of these beautiful insects. Knowledgeable guides will provide fascinating insights into the life cycle, habitat, and behaviors of the butterflies. You’ll discover the importance of conservation efforts to protect these delicate creatures and their natural habitats.
During your visit, you’ll have the chance to observe butterflies up close as they gracefully flutter around the lush tropical gardens. The farm is carefully designed to create a natural environment for these winged wonders, with a variety of exotic plants and flowers that serve as nectar sources and host plants for the butterflies.
Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the awe-inspiring moments as butterflies land on flowers and gracefully rest on the foliage. Be prepared to witness these delicate creatures feeding on nectar, a sight that will surely leave you mesmerized.
If you’re lucky, you may even have the opportunity to experience a butterfly landing on you, as they are attracted to bright colors and floral scents. It’s an enchanting and magical feeling to have one of these gentle creatures perch on your shoulder or outstretched hand.
After exploring the butterfly-filled gardens, make sure to visit the gift shop, where you can find a wide range of butterfly-themed souvenirs and unique handicrafts. It’s a perfect opportunity to bring home a piece of this captivating experience.
A visit to the Butterfly Farm is not only a delightful and educational experience but also supports its conservation efforts. By promoting awareness and understanding of the importance of butterflies and their role in our ecosystem, the farm contributes to their preservation.
So, take a step into the magical world of butterflies at the Butterfly Farm in St Maarten and immerse yourself in the beauty of these delicate creatures.
Exploring the French Side: Marigot
A visit to St Maarten is not complete without exploring the charming French side of the island, particularly the picturesque town of Marigot. Known for its European influence, Marigot offers a unique blend of Caribbean and French culture, making it a delightful destination for exploration and relaxation.
Start your journey in Marigot by exploring the bustling Marina Port La Royale. This vibrant waterfront area is lined with colorful buildings and luxury yachts. Take a leisurely stroll along the promenade, browse through the boutique shops, and indulge in some people-watching at the waterfront cafes and restaurants. It’s an ideal spot to soak in the atmosphere and enjoy the views.
Head to Fort Louis, a historic fort overlooking Marigot Bay. Climb up to the fortress to enjoy panoramic views of the town and the sparkling turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. The fort dates back to the 18th century and offers a glimpse into the island’s colonial history. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning vistas from this elevated vantage point.
Next, explore the vibrant Market in Marigot, where you can experience the local culture and indulge in some shopping. Stroll through the colorful stalls filled with fresh produce, spices, local artwork, and handmade crafts. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and aromas of the market as you interact with the friendly vendors and sample some of the delicious local delicacies.
For a taste of authentic French pastries and cuisine, visit the pastry shops and cafes that line the charming streets of Marigot. Indulge in freshly baked croissants, macarons, and other delectable treats, or savor a leisurely lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants. The French influence is evident in the culinary offerings, providing a delightful fusion of Caribbean and French flavors.
Take a stroll through the quaint streets of Marigot, admiring the colorful colonial-style buildings and lovely boutiques. The town exudes a relaxed and welcoming ambiance, with its cobblestone streets and sidewalk cafes. Explore the art galleries and boutique shops, where you can find unique souvenirs, clothing, and Caribbean-inspired artwork.
Marigot is also home to the charming Fort Louis Marina, a picturesque harbor lined with elegant sailboats and yachts. Take a moment to sit along the waterfront and watch as the boats sway gently in the breeze. It’s a peaceful and serene setting that truly embodies the laid-back elegance of the French side of the island.
Whether you’re strolling along the marina, exploring the vibrant market, or indulging in French pastries, Marigot offers a delightful mix of Caribbean charm and European sophistication. It’s a destination that will transport you to a world where time slows down, and relaxation takes precedence.
Enjoying the Local Cuisine
One of the highlights of visiting St Maarten is the opportunity to indulge in its rich and diverse local cuisine. With a fusion of Caribbean, French, and Creole influences, the island offers a culinary experience that is sure to tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.
Start your culinary journey by trying some traditional Caribbean dishes. Sample the flavorful jerk chicken, marinated with a blend of aromatic spices, or savor the succulent grilled fish, often served with a side of plantains or rice and peas. Don’t miss out on the chance to try some hearty goat stew or delicious conch fritters, a local delicacy.
For seafood lovers, St Maarten is a paradise. Feast on freshly caught shrimp, lobster, and conch, prepared in a variety of mouthwatering ways. Whether it’s grilled, fried, or turned into a delectable seafood pasta, the island’s seafood offerings are sure to impress.
While exploring St Maarten, be sure to visit one of the local food stands or snack shacks. These hidden gems offer an authentic taste of the island’s street food culture. Try a Johnny Cake, a popular local snack made from fried dough, or indulge in some tasty saltfish fritters, a popular appetizer. Wash it all down with a refreshing coconut water straight from the husk.
The French influence on the island is evident in its cuisine, and Marigot, the French capital of St Maarten, is an excellent place to experience it. Indulge in some flaky croissants, creamy brie cheese, and delicate pastries at the local French bakeries. Treat yourself to a French-inspired meal at one of the waterfront bistros, where classics like Escargot, Coq Au Vin, and Crème Brûlée are sure to delight your palate.
No visit to St Maarten would be complete without trying some of the island’s signature cocktails. Sip on a refreshing Guavaberry Colada, made with the local Guavaberry liqueur, or enjoy a traditional rum punch infused with tropical fruits. You can also visit one of the island’s rum distilleries for a tasting tour and an opportunity to learn about the history and production of this beloved Caribbean spirit.
St Maarten is a place where food brings people together. Embrace the local dining scene and enjoy the warm hospitality that accompanies every meal. The island’s culinary offerings will not only satisfy your appetite but also provide a window into the vibrant culture and flavors of this beautiful Caribbean destination.
Shopping in Philipsburg
If you’re looking for a shopper’s paradise, look no further than Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of St Maarten. This bustling town boasts a diverse range of shops and boutiques, offering everything from luxury brands to locally made souvenirs. Whether you’re in search of high-end fashion, jewelry, electronics, or unique Caribbean crafts, Philipsburg has it all.
Front Street is the main shopping street in Philipsburg and is famous for its duty-free shopping. Here, you’ll find an array of designer boutiques, international brands, and jewelers. Take your time exploring the shops, where you can find stunning jewelry, watches, and luxury clothing at more affordable prices.
If you’re a lover of fine jewelry and gemstones, Philipsburg is a treasure trove. The island is known for its duty-free jewelry shops, offering a wide selection of precious gems, diamonds, and luxury watches. Whether you’re looking for a unique piece to commemorate your visit or shopping for a special occasion, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye.
For a more local and authentic shopping experience, head to the open-air market in Philipsburg. This vibrant market is filled with stalls selling a variety of crafts, artwork, clothing, and souvenirs. Browse through unique handmade items such as wooden sculptures, hand-painted artwork, locally made jewelry, and colorful sarongs. It’s a great place to find one-of-a-kind mementos to take home.
Don’t forget to explore the side streets of Philipsburg, where you’ll find smaller boutique shops and local artisans. These hidden gems offer a chance to discover unique fashion, accessories, and home decor items. It’s a great opportunity to support local businesses and find something truly special.
While shopping in Philipsburg, take breaks to indulge in some delicious local cuisine. The town is dotted with quaint cafes and waterfront restaurants where you can refuel with tasty treats and refreshing beverages. Try some traditional Caribbean dishes or savor the island’s beloved Dutch Stroopwafels while enjoying the beautiful views of the Caribbean Sea.
As you shop in Philipsburg, keep an eye out for special events or promotions that may be happening during your visit. The town occasionally hosts shopping festivals and sidewalk sales, offering even greater deals and discounts.
Whether you’re a shopaholic or simply looking for unique souvenirs, shopping in Philipsburg is an experience not to be missed. So, get ready to indulge in some retail therapy and bring back a piece of St Maarten with you.
Exploring the Natural Beauty: Loterie Farm
If you’re a nature lover seeking a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of St Maarten, look no further than Loterie Farm. Nestled in the lush greenery of the island’s rainforest, Loterie Farm is a hidden gem that offers a serene and picturesque retreat.
Located on the French side of the island, Loterie Farm is an expansive nature reserve that combines pristine natural surroundings with a touch of luxury. It’s a perfect destination for those looking to reconnect with nature and indulge in outdoor activities.
One of the highlights of Loterie Farm is its hiking trails, which wind through the rainforest and offer spectacular views of the island. Lace up your hiking boots and embark on a guided tour or a self-guided exploration of the trails. As you navigate the paths, you’ll encounter lush vegetation, towering trees, and the sounds of exotic bird species. Keep an eye out for wildlife, such as iguanas, butterflies, and tropical birds.
A unique feature of Loterie Farm is its treetop adventure course. Challenge yourself on zip lines, rope swings, and suspended bridges that allow you to navigate through the canopy of the rainforest and take in breathtaking views. It’s an exhilarating experience that offers a new perspective on the natural beauty of the island.
After a day of adventure, relax and unwind by the spring-fed pool at Loterie Farm. Surrounded by palm trees and tropical foliage, the pool area offers a refreshing oasis where you can soak up the sun, cool off in the clear waters, and enjoy a drink from the on-site bar. It’s a serene setting that invites you to unwind and recharge.
For those seeking ultimate relaxation, Loterie Farm offers a spa that provides a range of rejuvenating treatments. Indulge in a massage or a facial, allowing the skilled therapists to pamper you amidst the serene natural surroundings. It’s the perfect way to enhance your experience and leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized.
Before you leave Loterie Farm, be sure to visit the on-site restaurant, known for its delicious farm-to-table cuisine. Sample flavorful dishes made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients while enjoying stunning views of the forest. The restaurant also offers a selection of refreshing cocktails and beverages to complement your meal.
Loterie Farm is a true oasis of natural beauty and tranquility, offering a perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. Whether you’re hiking through the rainforest, soaring through the treetops, or simply unwinding by the pool, a visit to Loterie Farm is an unforgettable experience that allows you to connect with the untouched beauty of St Maarten.
A visit to St Maarten during a cruise offers an abundance of activities and experiences that showcase the beauty and vibrancy of this Caribbean gem. From exploring the charming capital of Philipsburg to relaxing on the stunning beaches, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Immerse yourself in the unique blend of Dutch and French influences that define the island’s culture, and indulge your senses in the local cuisine. Whether you’re savoring traditional Caribbean dishes, French pastries, or sampling the island’s famous rum cocktails, the culinary delights of St Maarten will leave you craving more.
Take advantage of the opportunity to participate in thrilling water sports, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, or jet skiing, in the crystal-clear Caribbean waters. Explore the natural beauty of Loterie Farm, where you can hike through lush rainforests, zip line through the treetops, and relax by the pool.
Don’t forget to explore the French side of the island, particularly the charming town of Marigot, where you can experience the blend of Caribbean and European influences. Discover the vibrant market, indulge in French cuisine, and enjoy the picturesque marina.
And of course, no visit to St Maarten is complete without some retail therapy in Philipsburg. From luxury brands to local crafts, the shopping scene in Philipsburg offers an array of options to suit all tastes and budgets.
As your cruise adventure comes to an end, take with you memories of the stunning beaches, the warm hospitality of the locals, and the natural wonders that abound in St Maarten. The island’s unique blend of Caribbean charm and European influences creates a captivating atmosphere that leaves a lasting impression.
So, whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a cultural experience, St Maarten has it all. Embark on a journey to this captivating destination during your cruise and discover why it’s one of the Caribbean’s most beloved gems.