An island under two flags, St. Martin/St. Maarten is French and Dutch. Philipsburg is on the Dutch side and famous for its duty-free emporia and casinos. A short drive will bring you to Marigot, a charming French Colonial outpost featuring shops filled with French fashions and imported Gallic goodies, as well as beautiful beaches.
What to do in Philipsburg, St. MaartenThe most popular things to do in St Maarten revolve around its white-sand beaches, beautiful waters, and touristy commerce centers. Immediately after disembarking your ship, you’ll have many options for your day in port. Multiple ship taxis will whisk you to various parts of the island. Or, participate in an organized excursion and head out right from your terminal. If looking to stay closer to port, you’ll find the downtown area of Philipsburgh a scenic 15-minute walk from your cruise dock. There, you’ll find great duty-free shopping, cultural attractions, food & drink, and other entertaining attractions.
Island HopIt’s likely that St Maarten will be densely packed with other cruise passengers during your visit. If you’re looking to stretch your arms without accidentally slapping another cruiser, consider island hopping. You’ll have a few islands to choose from. The closest and most popular destination via ferry is the island of Anguilla. You’ll find it’s as sexy as its name. The ferry ride to Anguilla is roughly 25 minutes. Slightly further (45 minute water ferry) is St Barts. And close to an hour and a half away is the lesser-known island of Saba. This option is very popular for outdoor enthusiasts looking for authentic scuba diving and hiking experiences.
ShoppingCruise passengers favor St Maarten in their hunt for jewelry, liquor and electronic products. As with similar Caribbean ports, you’ll benefit from the island’s “duty-free” status. You can find more about St Maarten shopping below.
BeachesThe island is relatively small (37 square miles) compared to other Caribbean destinations, so you’ll find most St Maarten beaches are easily accessible from your cruise port. There are a total of 37 beaches near Philipsburgh, so choose wisely. See our Beaches section below for details.
Boardwalk ItAlong Great Bay, you’ll find that the boardwalk area has tons of options. Shop, dine, or rent water-sports equipment right there on the beach. Or, relax and just hang out under the picnic tables - great for people watching. For those last-minute planners out there, this is a great jumping off point to figure out your day.
Water TaxisAs soon as you get off your ship, you’ll find various options to get around the island via water taxi. We recommend this scenic option versus boring cab rides. For just $6, you can get one-day tickets for unlimited rides. You’ll find stops at The Captain Hodge Wharf, Walter Williams Jetty, and Bobby’s Marina.
Water SportsFor the adventure seekers, you’re in luck. There are numerous ways to take in the island’s beauty while also getting that heart pumping. Your “dry” adventures will include zip-lining, rock climbing, hiking and more. If you’re looking to get wet, some of the many tours offered include jet packs, fly boards, jet-skis, snorkels, scuba, and much more.
Shopping in Philipsburg, St. MaartenSt Maarten has great shopping options, particularly for those high-end purchases. The island claims it’s the “only destination the can truly lay claim to a tax-free status” in the French West Indies. For whatever political and economic reasons, importers pay no custom duties, VAT, or other direct taxes. As such, these savings can be passed down to you, the cruiser. If you’re looking for retail purchases, you’ll find most high-end boutiques on the island’s French Side (Sint Maarten). For electronics, alcohol, jewelry, tobacco and textiles, you’ll find what you’re looking for on either end. Here are the most well-known shopping venues on the island. Note: If you’re going on a shopping spree, know that the U.S. imposes limits to what you can bring home tax free. Specifically, you’re allotted $1,600 in goods.
Front Street, St MaartenJust a 20-minute walk from your ship, this cobblestone street is a must-do for anyone looking to shop while in St Maarten. From jewelry to popular designers (think Gucci, Cartier, Versace, etc) to crystal-ware, here’s where you’ll want to be. The open-air venue is on the boardwalk and offers a very scenic shopping experience. Feel free to use credit cards at the larger retailers, but some smaller vendors only accept cash.
Marigot, St MartinMarigot is the capital of the French side of the island, St Martin. Here’s where you’ll find high-end boutiques as well as small vendors selling local crafts. The Marigot Market (on Boulevard de France) offers spices, crafts, meats and fresh fish (maybe not advisable to bring back onboard), and other local favorites. The romantic outdoor market is located directly downtown and on the waterfront.
Beaches in Philipsburg, St. MaartenWith close to 45 miles of beautiful coastline, you'll find some amazing beaches near St Maarten cruise port. Each offers truly unique characteristics and there's a beach for everyone. Whether looking for water-sports or planning to lounge, you'll find a great St Maarten beach option below.
Orient Bay BeachOrient Bay is very popular among cruise passengers. Partially due to the abundance of water-sports activities available there. But, mostly thanks to the “clothing optional” portion of the beach. If you happened to forget your bathing suit on the ship, have no fear. You’ll be accepted among your fellow-naked sunbathers here. Not surprisingly, it’s located on the French side of the island.. oh, la la.
Maho Beach (airplane beach)This could possibly be the most popular beach on social media. If you’ve ever seen an image of, what looks like, an airplane disaster about to happen while bikini-clad onlookers raise their hands in the air, then you’ve seen Maho Beach. Located directly in front of the airport (and runway), you’ll find this popular attraction for thrill seekers. Sunset Bar & Grill is situated right there on the beach in case you need a couple drinks before witnessing this for yourself.
Mullet Bay BeachAt Mullet Bay, you’ll find plenty of amenities for the family, including restrooms, food, and umbrellas for rent. It’s been called the “most beautiful beach in Sint Maarten” by some.
Other Beach OptionsThere are 34 other beach options available to you while on the island. Depending on your preferences, you’ll find some better choices than others. You can catch a spectacular sunrise at Dawn Beach. Or, find extra-calm waters at Anse Marcel Beach. Amateur diver enthusiasts should head to Lucas’ Bay, while snorkelers should try Plum Bay Beach. Water sports fans should check out Guana Bay and hardcore surfers will be drawn to Burgeaux Beach.
Best cruise excursions in Philipsburg, St. MaartenWe've analyzed tens of thousands of cruise tours to find your ideal attraction while in port. Based on these reviews, here are the Best Cruise Excursions in Philipsburg, St. Maarten
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