Getting Around St. Martin – St. Maarten
The best way to get around St. Martin and St. Maarten is in a rental car. But really, outside of walking, just about any means of navigating between the French and Dutch sides of the island is manageable. Having a car will allow you more mobility and you’ll find reasonable rental rates. Agencies are clustered on the outskirts of Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), located in St. Maarten. Unfortunately, traffic can be pretty heinous on both sides. The island buses also cater to tourists and are fairly cheap to ride. If you don’t like the idea of waiting on a bus, consider splurging on a taxi. And if you’re feeling adventurous you might want to use a scooter; there’s nothing like feeling the sea breeze in your hair – ahem, helmet.
Simpson Bay: Lambada Sunset Cruise of Sint Maarten
Enjoy a perfect ending to a beautiful day in paradise on an evening cruise around the coastline of Sint Maarten. This coastal cruise on board the Lambada catamaran is truly spectacular and a tour that you will remember forever. Enjoy sightseeing as the Lambada sails from Pelican Marina on Simpson Bay up the coast to Long Bay, straight into the setting sun. Great music and an array of tasty snacks and drinks are provided for your enjoyment aboard the boat. Enjoy the spacious decks of the boat and relax on the nets set up on the front of the bow while the experienced crew provide excellent service and cater to your needs.
St. Maarten Half-Day Tour of French & Dutch Sides
Tour the French and Dutch side of St. Maarten and discover why it is called the “Friendly Island.” Enjoy time on the beach at Grand Case, shop for souvenirs in Marigot, and experience the famous “Airport Beach” of Maho.
Enjoy a 4.5-hour circular tour of the French and Dutch sides of St. Maarten (St.Martin), and experience a true Caribbean welcome. You will drive northeast to Dawn Beach and Oyster Bay, crossing one of the symbolic borders before stopping at Corilita Natural Reserve for breathtaking views of the tropical wilderness. Continue to the viewpoint overlooking Orient Beach. Then, relax on one of the most serene beaches at Grand Case. Stroll along a pure white shore, or swim in the turquoise waters. Grand Case is the Caribbean’s gourmet capital, and you’ll find a diverse selection of local cuisine for lunch. Try some scrumptious Johnny Cake – a fried cornmeal pancake – or other traditional dishes. Now it’s time to shop in Marigot, the charming capital of St. Martin, where a lovely French atmosphere unfurls along colonial streets and the open-air bazaar. Next, explore the upscale area of Lowland, crossing another border back to the Dutch side to reach Maho Beach. Watch as the jumbo jets fly low over the sand to land at Princess Juliana International Airport. Your tour ends with a drive past Simpson Bay, stopping at Cole Bay Hill for one last picturesque view. If you wish, you can be dropped off in Philipsburg to explore on your own, instead of returning to the port.
St. Martin: 3-Hour Rhino Safari Excursion
Pilot your own watercraft along the St. Martin coastline on a guided snorkeling adventure. This excursion is the number 1 activity on the island, and the winner of 4 Tour of the Year awards. You’ll go home being able to say, I rode a Rhino!
A 4-time winner of the prestigious Tour of the Year award, Rhino Safari Excursions is a St. Martin original. Experience on-the-water excitement piloting your very own Rhino Rider on this 3-hour tour. These zippy 10-foot inflatable motorboats are yours to commannd for a thrill-of-a-lifetime ride on a vessel that’s safe, sturdy, reliable, and tons of fun! Unlike some other tours, you won’t be driving around in circles. Following your friendly guide, you’ll cruise safely alongside mega-yacht marinas and boat anchorages before exiting Simpson Bay Lagoon to the French-side capital of Marigot. On the way to a snorkeling site, you’ll admire the spectacular tropical coastline of St. Martin. Pass by the beautiful beaches of Galisbay, Friars Bay, Happy Bay, and Grand Case. Experience the breathtaking beauty of the best snorkeling site on the island, located within a protected marine reserve. Immerse yourself in the underwater world and meet its amazing inhabitants. Afterwards you’ll enjoy a complimentary drink in the dazzling Caribbean sunshine.
St. Martin Tango Dinner Cruise
Sail from the Pelican Marina along Simpson Bay, and dine on a Caribbean-style dinner during a 3 hour cruise from St. Martin. Enjoy a full open bar and snacks as you travel the coastline. After sunset, return to the marina for a Creole buffet-style meal
Ride along the waters of Simpson Bay on a 3-hour dinner cruise from St. Martin. At Pelican Marina, board Tango, a large, 63-foot catamaran, sister ship to Lambada. Then you will set sail on a Caribbean-style dinner cruise. Show up in informal dress and relax as Tango sets off. You will be served drinks and snacks and can enjoy a full open bar while sailing the coastline of the island. Just after sunset, the anchor is dropped and a buffet dinner is served on board the catamaran. Dine on a sumptuous choice of Creole chicken, succulent baby back ribs, salads, breads, rice and beans, and steamed veggies. Afterward, you will be treated to dessert. Then enjoy music and dancing until the evening comes to an end.
Front Street & The Boardwalk
Whether arriving by cruise ship or spending time on the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin, Philipsburg, the capital of Dutch St. Maarten, offers some fun things to see and do, most within view of the gorgeous blue water of Great Bay.
Philipsburg is an area of only a few streets sandwiched between the Salt Pond and Great Bay. Do you like to shop? You can find a lot of items on Front street: from inexpensive souvenirs to diamonds and watches.
Want to find something to eat? Go to the Boardwalk for a variety of options ranging from very casual to elegant. Go for a swim in the Caribbean sea off Great Bay, lounge around on the beach, and return to the Boardwalk for a cocktail.
Philipsburg quiets down quickly in the evenings but it’s a great place to spend a day!
The Sint Maarten “America’s Cup” 12 Metre Challenge
Ever dreamed of sailing a real racing yacht?
The 12 Metre Challenge gives you the opportunity to be part of the crew sailing a real America’s Cup yacht. This is a truly unique experience and even better, you don’t need any sailing experience to join!
It’s one of my favorite things to do in St Maarten!
The 12 Metre staff is absolutely great and will make sure you have an amazing time.
Go to 12Metre.com for more information.
Sea Trek St Maarten – Walking Underwater!
Sea Trek St Maarten is a unique, easy, safe and exciting way to discover the underwater world in St Maarten. All you need to do is walk and breathe. The tour takes approximately 2.5 hours. We meet you at Bobby’s marina in Philipsburg to sign in and get the shuttle. It’s a 15 minute boat ride to Little Bay. On the Sea Trek platform you will receive a full safety/information briefing. There is safe dry storage for your belongings.
While you are underwater, the air pressure inside the helmet keeps the water at around shoulder height. You can wear prescription glasses and your hair stays dry. Assisted by a safety diver, you go down a ladder to reach our concrete track on the ocean floor, 20 ft down. The underwater time is approximately 25-30 minutes. There are several safety divers with you underwater at all times. After the trek, you climb up the same ladder. You will have some time to snorkel/swim if you want- gear is included. The boat has plenty of shade as well as sun. You will need underwater shoes – we provide them for free or you can bring your own.
Crazy Airplane Landings and Take-Offs at Maho Beach
Maho Beach on the Dutch side of the island, right next to the airport, is world-famous for all the low-flying airplanes.
People can actually be blown into the water because of the jet blast of larger planes taking off!
It’s definitely one of the most touristy things to do in St Maarten but it’s a must-see when on the island! Plus there is a fun bar, Sunset Bar and Grill, to have drinks while watching the planes come in.
Or go to the smaller and slightly less touristy Driftwood Boat Bar on the other side of the beach for a more relaxed plane spotting experience.
Grand Case & Its Festival
The small beach town of Grand Case, in St. Martin, the French side of the island, is often referred to as the Gourmet Capital of the Caribbean. With its high-quality restaurants and interesting mix of French, Caribbean, and Creole cuisine I believe this title is well deserved and I highly recommend dining here at least once.
The Grand Case Boulevard and the beach are lined with restaurants so there are plenty of options to choose from!
The “Mardis de Grand Case” start on the second Tuesday of January and are held every Tuesday evening for 12 weeks
A large craft market invades each side of Grand Case’s main street and you’ll find entertainment such as music bands, dancers, acrobats, carnival parades and a lively, multi-cultural vibe.
Well worth a visit if you happen to be on the island during these months!
This is a perfect half-day trip from St Maarten and a place I often went to on a day off while I lived in St Maarten.
Pinel Island is a cute little island set in the heart of St Martin’s Marine Reserve.
The island is just a 5-minute ferry ride from French Cul de Sac. It is considered one of the better places for snorkeling and loved by kayakers and stand up paddling enthusiasts.
The main beach is lined with sun loungers and umbrellas and a great way to spend a few hours on the beach.
But behind this main beach there’s an untouched part of St Maarten. Follow the tiny trail to get to the Northern side of Pinel Island where you will find a wild beach protected by a reef and with a completely different feel than the other, more crowded side of this tiny island.
Pinel island is the place where residents of St. Martin/St. Maarten go to relax, especially on weekends.
The island offers a few cute little restaurants and makes for a perfect relaxing day of swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing.
How to Get to Pinel Island
The end of the road at French Cul de Sac opens onto a wide sandy area where you will find the ferry that takes you to the island.
Or you can rent a kayak or paddleboard to make your way to Pinel Island. I rented a paddleboard once, on a very windy day, and I can tell you, Pinel is further away than you might think! But it’s good exercise and a lot of fun.
Orient Bay, or in French “Baie Orientale”, is a 2 mile long, white powdered sand beach, protected from the Atlantic waves by a reef.
Orient Bay is the only beach on St. Martin with a large number of beach bars and restaurants directly located on the beach.
Water sport facilities are available such as jet skis, sailboats, paragliding, and some kids activities.
The beach is reputed as much for its natural beauty and setting as it is for being the island’s main clothing optional beach. Although clothing is optional everywhere on the beach, only a small section on the south end is used as a real nude beach.
The trendy beach bars with great cocktail menus and frequent beach parties give this beach a cool vibe and I love spending the afternoon or evening here.
Note: there is often a lot of seaweed on this beach.
This is one of my favorite places to visit in St Martin. If you need a change from all those white sandy beaches and the crystal clear water, go inland to the Loterie Farm, on the French side of the island.
Loterie Farm is a secret hideaway nestled in the hillside of Pic Paradis where you can wine, dine, climb, hike and zipline over the treetop canopy.
The bar/restaurant looks like a luxury treehouse and the pool area with its comfortable cabanas and tropical vegetation is truly lush
It’s not the cheapest option but at least stop by for a drink or a hike through the unspoilt, green hills.
Fort Louis, Marigot
Marigot is the capital of the French side, St. Martin. And the town’s old fort, Fort Louis, offers some incredible views of the island!
A relatively short walk on a well-maintained path with steps takes you up to the fort. It’s not a difficult walk but in the summer it can get quite hot!
But, it’s well worth it for the incredible view of the island.
Note: the Dutch side also has a fort, called Fort Amsterdam. You can also hike up to that fort, but it is less impressive than Fort Louis.
Nightlife in Sint Maarten
Yes, Sint Maarten is known for having good nightlife. And here I mean specifically the Dutch side.
Although going out for a good meal is great in Grand Case on the French side, if you are looking for a more lively night out, you want to be on the Dutch side.
The best area for nightlife in Sint Maarten is Simpson Bay. Here you’ll find many bars and restaurants, plus a few casinos, within walking distance of each other.
Pineapple Pete is one of the most popular restaurants. They offer a wide range of dishes, from local favorites to burgers. It’s a place with a lively vibe, and they even have a game room with pool tables in case you want to hang around after dinner.
Buccaneer is the popular spot for sunset drinks. Don’t expect too much from their food, and their service is often slow, but the setting is great.
Soggy Dollar is a local favorite for a night of drinking and dancing, Dinghy Dock is often packed as well, and Roxxy is your more trendy dining & clubbing location on the beach
But, really if you are going out for the evening in Simpson Bay, just visit a few different places, and stop wherever the crowds are.
You might decide to spend several evenings here because you can’t possibly visit everything in one night!
Maho is another area with several bars, restaurants and casinos. It’s easy to walk between the different places here as well and there are several larger hotels here, in case you don’t want to drive home. Because of the large hotels though this is definitely more of a touristy nightlife area and was never my favorite.
Oh and yes, Sint Maarten is known for having several ”gentleman’s clubs” as well, if that’s your thing.