St. Maarten is arguably one of the most popular cruise ship destinations in the eastern Caribbean. This island is home to 2 different colonial heritages-the French and the Dutch- with Marigot and Philipsburg being the respective capitals. The cruise ship terminal is located in Philipsburg but the 37 square mile island is easily accessible. Both sides of the island boast shopping, beaches, and many unique Caribbean experiences. With limited time in port, we have put together our list of the 5 Best Things to Do in St. Maarten on a Cruise to help you make the most of your visit to the island.
St. Maarten Cruise Port
5 Best Things to Do in St. Maarten on a Cruise
Visit Loterie Farm
While in St. Maarten, be sure to visit this 150 acre estate for a day full of fun and adventure. This former sugar plantation was completely destroyed by a hurricane in 1995 and remained rundown until purchased by BJ Welsh in 2003 with the goal of preserving the island’s remaining rainforest.
This nature retreat now offers a variety of activities for tourists to enjoy. While visiting, you can take a guided 2 mile hike through the forest to learn about the history of Loterie Farm and experience the lush plant life. If you want to be a bit more daring, you can try out the Fly Zone (45-60 minutes) or Fly Zone Extreme (90-120 minutes) challenge courses complete with zip lines. There is even a kid friendly challenge course available for your little ones!
If you want to make a day out of it, there is also a restaurant, lounge, and even private cabana rentals. With so much to offer, Loterie Farm make our list of the 5 Best Things to Do in St. Maarten on a Cruise.
Located in the Dutch capital of St. Maarten, Philipsburg, Front Street is a shopper’s delight. This approximately 1 mile stretch boasts all your favorite retailers advertising bargain prices. So whether you are looking to score a deal on jewelry, liquor, or electronics, be sure to check out Front Street.
Old Street and Back Street located nearby are also popular shopping destinations in Philipsburg. And, when you are done shopping, you can even take a quick dip in Great Bay which is located on the beachside parallel to Front Street. You can also find many restaurants and bars along the Great Bay Boardwalk.
Great Bay Beach – Photo Credit Scott Smith |Source |CC By 2.0
If you want to explore Marigot, the French capital of St. Maarten, you will also find a large shopping district with upscale French boutiques. If you are out to score a Louis Vuitton handbag or some Chanel perfume, then be sure to head to Marigot.
Views of Marigot
You might also want to check out the open air market for local goods. Be sure to take a break and grab something to eat at a local bistro or café; you’ll be glad you did!
sandwich from Sarafina’s in Marigot
Check out the Views with an Island Tour
An island tour is the best way to check out all of the island highlights during your stop in St. Maarten. If this is your first visit to St. Maarten, you will be able to get a taste for what the island offers and decide what you would like to explore on future visits. We would personally recommend booking a tour with Bernard’s Tours.
Dividing Line of French and Dutch Nations in St Maarten – Photo Credit Edap Meijer|Source| CC By 2.0
Island tours will include a “border crossing” between the French and the Dutch sides of the island, so be sure to have your camera ready to grab a picture of the obelisk located at the border. For nature lovers, St. Maarten has an Iguana Farm and Butterfly Farm to explore the flora and fauna of the island.
Pic Paradis, located between Grand Case and Marigot, is the highest point on the island and boasts one of a kind views of St. Maarten and neighboring islands. Oyster Pond, located at the border of the French and Dutch sides, offers another picturesque view of the marina and St. Barth’s.
A View of Simpson Bay in St Maarten
Harold Jack look out point, located on Cole Bay Hill and about a 10 minute drive from the cruise terminal, is another popular spot to catch great views of Simpson Bay. Wherever you chose to visit on your island tour, these amazing views of St. Maarten will definitely make your list of the 5 Best Things to Do in St. Maarten on a Cruise.
Make it a Beach Day
A visit to any Caribbean island would not be complete without spending some time on the beach, that is why a beach break makes our list of the 5 Best Things to Do in St. Maarten on a Cruise.
As previously mentioned, if you are looking to dip your toes in the water without venturing too far from the cruise terminal, you can head to Great Bay. This lively Boardwalk area has plenty to offer with nearby shopping on Front Street and plenty of restaurants and bars.
Orient Beach is one of the island’s biggest and most popular beaches. It was voted one of the top 25 beaches in the Caribbean for 2015 by TripAdvisor. Here, you will find a large number of restaurants and bars as well as several watersports. Be advised that this beach is home to Club Orient, a clothing optional resort on the southern end, but the rest of the beach is more conventional and bustling with activity.
Maho Beach, located adjacent to Princess Juliana International Airport, is another tourist hub. It was also voted one of the top 25 beaches in the Caribbean for 2015 by TripAdvisor. Although the beach itself is rather small, it is a once in a lifetime experience to watch jumbo jets takeoff and land directly overhead. There is also the lively Sunset Bar and Grill where you can grab some food and drinks and check out the plane arrival times.
If you are visiting Maho Beach, be sure to stick around to see the KLM747. It is unlike anything you have ever experienced!
Mullet Bay is another popular beach for tourists looking for sun and relaxation. Although it is located about an hour from the cruise pier, this white sandy beach is worth the travel distance. Somewhat less busy since the major resort was destroyed by hurricane, but the waters here are as crystal clear and inviting as ever.
Experience the America’s Cup Regatta
This St. Maarten 12 Metre Challenge has been voted the number one excursion in the Caribbean for 10 years, so it rightfully tops our list of the 5 Best Things to Do in St. Maarten on a Cruise. We had booked this excursion during our visit to St. Maarten in 2014, but the tour was unfortunately cancelled. Hopefully, we will get to experience this adventure in the near future.
Stars and Stripes from 12 Metre Challenge – Photo Credit James Whatley |Source|CC By 2.0
If you’ve ever dreamed of racing a yacht, now is your chance of a lifetime. During this approximately 3 hour excursion, you can become a member of the “crew”. Each member of your sailing team will be assigned a duty, of varying levels of difficulty depending on your desire to actively participate, and then it’s off to the racecourse, going head to head with other racing yachts.
Canada 2 Ship from 12 Metre Race – Photo Credit Tom Mascardo |Source |CC By 2.0
This is a friendly competition led by trained team members, so no prior sailing experience is required. Win or lose, your teammates and rivals will celebrate with the captains at a victory party following the race. This will surely be a day filled with fun and excitement and the highlight of your cruise vacation!
Have you been to St. Maarten on a cruise? Do you agree with our list of the 5 Best Things to Do in St. Maarten on a Cruise? What is your favorite activity while visiting this island? Drop us an anchor below to tell us about your experiences and help your fellow cruisers make the most of their next visit to St. Maarten.