General – This island is divided into two parts, Sint Maarten is the Dutch side while Saint Martin is the French side. It is a favorite cruise destination because the cruise port can handle numerous large cruise ships at one time.
The cruise ships dock at the Dutch Sint Maarten while the French Saint Martin is smaller with a decidedly different character.
Where You’re Docked – The cruise ships dock on the Dutch side close to the town of Philipsburg. The cruise ship docking area includes a large shopping village with several food and drink outlets. The Dutch town of Philipsburg is less than half a mile away walking along the water. The town on the French side is Marigot and is decidedly French in character with a number of good bistros and restaurants.
Transportation – From the cruise dock there is a boat shuttle service that goes directly to the Philipsburg dock for about US$5 one way or US$8 for a day pass. It will require a taxi or a minibus to reach Marigot and you should be cautioned that with several large ships in port traffic can back up badly late in the day returning to the cruise ships, so allow plenty of time for the trip back. Taxi service is reasonably priced with a trip to the other side of Philipsburg costing less than US$5. A minibus to Marigot should be about US$15.
Money – While the two half’s of the island have their own currency the U.S. dollar is welcome on the Dutch side but Euros are usually required on the French side. Giving a 15% gratuity is common practice also.
Port St Maarten has a web site with a schedule of ship arrivals here.
Loterie Farm where you can hike, relax in a pool cabana or take a zip line through the treetops on the 135 acres of forest and farmland located near the foot of Pic du Paradis.
Marigot – A sleepy town on the French side noted for good traditional French food, shopping and beaches.
Shopping is great throughout the island thanks to its duty-free status, but the best bargains on jewelry, china, electronics and more are found on Front Street in Philipsburg.
Pic du Paradis Mountain take a taxi up to the top at 1,492 feet it offers an incredible view of all of St. Martin/St. Maarten, as well as the nearby islands of Anguilla, Saba and St. Eustatius. Also known as Paradise Peak, you can visit Loterie Farm (found at the base of the mountain) and hike up to the top, or you can take a taxi to the end of the road and walk about 10 to 15 minutes to the summit overlook.
National Nature Reserve of St. Martin. Established in 1998 it was created to preserve the island’s five main ecosystems: coral reefs, mangroves, seed plant herbariums, swamps, and dry coastal forests. Located on the east coast of the island, the waterfront marks the western border of a triangular area that starts from Anse Marcel beach in the north, then reaches out to the east of Tintamarre Island, and back down to Oyster Pond Lagoon. Free but requires some extended hiking.
The main attractions on this island are the beaches with over a dozen great choices.
- Philipsburg – The main town on the Dutch side features a large beach right in the town.
- Maho Bay Beach – Located at the end of the main airport runway. People seem to like to stand in the jet blast as planes land and takeoff. There is also a nice bar on the beach.
- Orient Beach – A beautiful beach near Marigot on the French side. Topless and nude bathing is common.