St. Maarten is one of the most popular ports of call in the Caribbean. No other destination has become more synonymous to cruising than St. Maarten. This little island consists of two countries, The French St. Martin and The Dutch St. Maarten.
This 37-square mile island is only 1,219 miles from Miami, which is almost the same distance from New York to Miami. The first settlers in this island were the Arawaks. Since Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493, the Dutch, English, French and Spanish have had their hands on the island. Thus you can see a multi-cultural influence in this tiny city. Most of the locals speak more than three languages.
English is widely spoken, followed by Dutch in the Dutch side and French Creole on the French side. The locals speak Spanish and Papiamento too.
Today, St. Maarten is divided between Holland and France and visitors can cross over from one country to the other without the need to go through checkpoints.
Here are seven activities you can do in St. Maarten/St. Martin:
One: The Beaches
The beaches in French St. Martin are secluded with white sand, sandstone cliffs and crystal blue waters. In Terres Basses, on the northern shore is Baie Rouge, off Marigot and Baie Longue is located on the southern side. These beaches provide ample place to lounge, swim and savor local cuisine.
These beaches are located on the western part of the island near Simpson Bay Lagoon. Bring your towels and enjoy your quiet day at the beach where the rich and famous have their beach homes in this lowland area of St. Martin.
Or take a five-minute ferry ride from French cul-de-sac to Ilet Pinel to a quiet beach suitable for families with young children because of the shallow calm waters. The ferry runs every 30 minutes.
Orient Bay is where most cruisers head to when looking for activities on the beach. The locals call it Orient Beach. Occasionally you may spot nude beach walkers early in the morning or late evening.
On the Dutch side of the island, hop over to Simpson Bay Beach or Cupecoy Beach. Cupecoy Beach has white sand, sandstone cliffs and shoreline caves. Be careful when you are swimming or snorkeling because the surf may be strong. This Dutch side beach is the closest to French St. Martin.
Two: Maho Beach and unique airplane landings
The Princess Juliana International Airport is located near Maho Beach. Visitors from all over the world come to this beach to swim and also to get the thrill of seeing airplanes flying overhead as they approach the runway of Princess Juliana International Airport. Airplanes fly barely 50 feet above you as they slide through and land at the nearby airport.
Zip-lining through treetop canopy in Loterie Farm. This 135 acre farm at the foot of Pic Paradis mountain offers different levels of zip-lining courses to visitors, from beginners to experts. We suggest heading over to L’eaulounge for a swim after your adventures at Loterie Farm.
Four: The French Quarter of Marigot
Get an authentic crepe in French St. Martin or buy a baguette from a local bakery. French St. Martin has authentic French restaurants, bistros and cafes. The Marigot Market is an open-air market along the waterfront, which is a great place for bargain souvenir hunters. Island souvenirs and jewelry are sold along with vegetables, spices, fresh fruits, fresh fish and clothing.
Five: Ocean Horseback Riding
Seaside Nature Park horseback riding is one activity not to be missed in St. Maarten. Ride on the beach as you see the other Caribbean islands like St. Barts, St. Eustatius and Saba in the distance.
Six: ATV Quad Adventure
Drive through rough terrains, beaches and lush countryside on your ATV.
Seven: Butterfly Farm
This enclosed tropical garden has hundreds of variety of butterflies from around the world. These exotic butterflies from South America, South East Asia, Australia and Africa including the Caribbean Longwings butterflies are amongst the many butterflies you will encounter as you walk around the enclosed area.
St. Maarten has an array of duty free shops found all over the island. Downtown Philipsburg has the most shops with great prices and variety. Dutch St. Maarten use Antillean guilders and the French St. Martin use Euros. For exchange rates, please use Travelmath’s currency converter calculator. However, US Dollars are widely used in most stores.
St. Maarten is one hour ahead of U.S. East Coast time. To check the time difference from your city, please use Travelmath’s Time Converter.
Want to escape the winter cold? Please read Travelmath’s blog for tips and suggestions for the best winter vacations.