Things to Do in St Maarten
Happy Bay Beach is a beautiful, small, and secluded stretch of sand on St. Martin’s northwest coast. Since it requires a short hike to reach the beach, crowds tend to go elsewhere. The secluded nature of the beach makes it popular with clothing-optional sunbathers.
With more than 2 million annual cruise visitors, St. Maarten has long been one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean. Located in the island capital of Philipsburg, it’s not only the gateway to the Dutch side of St. Maarten but also a popular choice for visitors heading to the French side of St. Martin.
Straddling the entire length of Philipsburg, Great Bay Beach is one of St. Maarten’s longest and widest beaches. Along its 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) stretch are lively beach bars, rum shacks, and street carts serving ice-cold beers and some of the capital’s best spots for dining and duty-free shopping.
Maho Beach can't boast that it's one of the most peaceful beaches in the world, but it certainly has a unique claim to fame, particularly if you're an aviation lover. This is because Maho Beach is located right next to an airport and the planes fly directly over the beach so low that you feel they might land on you.
Kids especially love watching the planes soar overhead multiple times throughout the day at Maho Beach, but even adults quickly get caught up in the wonder of seeing a large inflight plane so close up. Hang out by the fence on the edge of the beach closest to the airport and you'll even be able to feel the blast of the jets as a plane takes off – and probably some sand particles being swirled up around you. In addition to plane watching, Maho Beach is a fun place to swim and snorkel.
To make sure you don't miss out on seeing the big commercial planes land or take-off head over to Sunset Bar, which is located on Maho Beach and posts the flight schedule each day. You can also watch the planes from Sunset Bar while enjoying a drink and bite to eat.
Known for its rugged beauty, the uninhabited island of Tintamarre—part of the St. Martin Nature Reserve—is 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) off the northeast coast of St. Martin. A popular day trip, the island boasts historic ruins, large grassy fields of a former plantation, unspoiled beaches, and abundant wildlife.
Secluded Baie RougeBeach—set between two rocky bluffs in the lowlands along the west coast of St. Martin—is one of island’s most beautiful beaches. Its name hints at what makes it special: sparkling pink sands and red-hued rock formations, although the beach bar and a cave flooded with seawater, Devil’s Hole, also hold appeal.
Located just off of the west coast of St. Martin, Pinel Island is a haven of white sand and clear water perfect for kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders, snorkelers, and those who want a tranquil escape from the modern world.
The white sands of Orient Bay Beach are no secret in St. Maarten. This clothing-optional spot is a top attraction in the area, and sun worshippers come for its views of the bay, clear water, snorkeling opportunities, and many beachside restaurants and bars.
FindSaint Martin’s main airport on a map and you've found Maho Beach. How close is it, you ask? Well, if you’ve ever seen a photo of sunbathing tourists gawping as 747s approach the runway just yards above their heads, it was probably taken here. So come by all means and get your own snap, but you may well find that the roar of engines and the smell of jet fuel deters you from staying too long.
Thankfully things are calmer on Mullet Bay Beach, a short walk away. This is the tropical paradise you've always dreamed of: white sands, swaying palms, clear water. Waves can get surprisingly high here, making it a magnet for the island’s surfers. Mullet Bay is also the site of the island’s only 18-hole golf course.
The former 18th-century sugar plantation turned eco-park sits at the foot of Pic Paradise—the tallest mountain on St. Martin. The 150-acre (60-hectare) Loterie Farm offers visitors a chance to wine, dine, and zipline over the lush canopy and to spot monkeys along the gum tree hiking trails.
More Things to Do in St Maarten
St. Maarten has plenty of upscale shops, but travelers itching for a more authentic experience head to this weekend market in the French capital of Marigot. Anguilla fishermen arrive early with their hauls in colorful boats, joined later by fruit and vegetable sellers as well as spice vendors, filling the air with tropical aromas.
Divi Little Bay BeachResort is a secluded beach just outside Philipsburg on the western peninsula of St. Martin’s Great Bay. Postcard-pretty with soft, white sand and tranquil, turquoise water, the beach is popular spot for snorkeling and other watersports such as jet skiing, paddle boats, and parasailing.
St. Maarten’s longest beach has all the ingredients of a perfect Caribbean paradise: soft white sand, clear and calm turquoise water, and gently waving palms. Though located just behind the Princess Juliana Airport, Simpson Bay is surprisingly quiet and unpopulated.
Fort St. Louis is St Maarten’s foremost historical attraction. The installation stands guard on a steep hill overlooking Marigot, the “capital” of French Saint Martin, looking over its wide bay. It was built in 1767 on the orders of France’s last pre-revolutionary king, Louis XVI.
The tricolor of republican France might wave over the fort these days but you can still see the formidable walls and cannons which protected the colonial settlement from other European powers as well as pirates. There is historical information posted around the site, but you will probably find your eyes keep wandering to the outstanding view, sweeping over the coastline and the Fort-Louis Marina and then out to sea, all the way to neighboring Anguilla.
One of the Caribbean’s great snorkeling destinations, Creole Rock is a small rocky outcropping just off St. Martin’s northern coast. Teaming with the life above and under the sea, the reef is part of a protected marine reserve. It’s also an important bird rookery where pelicans and brown boobies come to lay their eggs.
Built by the Dutch in 1631, Fort Amsterdam was the original colonial fort built and an important vantage point in the dispute over the island by the Dutch, French, and British. Located on a peninsula on the western side of Great Bay, the fort is now decommissioned, but ruins and 19th century cannons remain. It’s also a sanctuary for nesting pelicans.
While numerous Caribbean islands are still controlled by distant European powers, St Maarten or Saint Martin is the only one split between two, the smallest territory in the world to be so divided. But at the point where French Saint Martin meets Dutch St Maarten on the island's east coast, you won't find checkpoints or border guards, just the clear, calm waters of Oyster Pond. This protected cove welcomes ocean-faring yachts to a picturesque marina and it is also the berth for ferries to St Barth.
There’s no beach at Oyster Pond but nearby Dawn Beach is great for both swimming and snorkeling, with a reef just a few yards from the shore. For a change of pace, take a short drive north to the tiny fishing village of Orléans, which boasts some of the island’s oldest traces of the French colonial era as well as a popular butterfly enclosure, La Ferme des Papillons.
One of St. Martin’s most family-friendly beaches, Le Galion Beach is the perfect beach day for visitors traveling with young children. The turquoise waters of the beach also known as L’Embouchure or Baby Beach are clear, mellow, and very shallow—even 300 feet (91 meters) from the shore. It’s also one of the few area beaches that discourages nude sunbathing.
Standing sentinel in the palm-lined Watney Square on Front Street, Philipsburg Courthouse is the centerpiece of the island’s Dutch capital. Built in 1793, the white wooden structure with crisp green trim has a bell tower topped by a pineapple—a classic Caribbean symbol for “welcome.” Once used as a jail, a post office, and a fire station, the building is currently a working courthouse.
As the capital of French St. Martin, Marigot is a unique fusion of French and West Indian culture, alive in the ambiance, cafes, bakeries, wine shops, and the Creole gingerbread houses along Rue de la République. History buffs gravitate to Fort Louis, built in 1789 to overlook Marigot Bay.
Step into the world ofStar Wars—and the mind of legendary Hollywood makeup artist Nick Maley who helped create many of the franchise’s most memorable characters—at the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit in Phillipsburg. In the middle of a bevy of duty-free shops along Front Street, this museum and gift shop houses movie memorabilia, figurines, props, and holograms.
Off the southern coast of St. Maarten, the diminutive and isolated island of Saba is a thriving sanctuary for tropical plant and animal life. Though Saba doesn’t have any beaches, the pristine volcanic island is a paradise for hikers and a world-class destination for scuba divers.
Cole Bay Hill is the perfect perch for travelers to catch panoramic views of Philipsburg, St. Maarten’s Dutch capital, and nearby islands Saba, St. Eustatius, and Anguilla. In the mornings, sun glints off Simpson Bay Lagoon, the largest inland body of water in the Caribbean, and in the evenings, travelers flock here for sunset snaps.
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