St Maarten. French and Dutch Style Packed Onto One Caribbean Island Paradise.
The 3rd most visited cruise stop in the Caribbean and the smallest land mass with 2 different countries on it, this is St Maarten. Half Dutch and half French, over 1,7 million cruise passengers and about 1,5 million land based visitors come to the island every year. Most of these pass through Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side of the island.
St Maarten is popular for its incredible beaches and extensive duty and tax free shopping, and is very geared for tourists as this is what it survives on. Most of the tours of the island are beach based, and you can tour through Philipsburg on Segway and Cycling tours if you don’t just want to lie about on one of the sandy beaches and shop.
Along the Philipsburg beachfront is a road called simply “Front Street”, and it is packed with bars and shops. Most of the beach here is reclaimed from the sea, and the original beach front was quite a bit further inland. If this beach does not appeal there are another 35 across the island to visit.
Water taxis run constantly when ships are in port from the dock to the beach front, and cost about $7 return. It is about a 15 minute walk into town. Beach chairs and umbrellas cost about $20 for the day.
St Maarten is interesting because of the split between a French and Dutch side, is very up-market in feel and look, and has great beaches. It does have a European feel to it, and exudes that atmosphere and style, and so while it is a great place to visit it is not as rough and ready and authentic as other parts of the Caribbean. That, though, appeals to a lot of people.
There is a beach at the end of the busy international runway that people love to visit as planes take off and land really close, blowing visitors clinging onto the fence at the end of the runway almost away.
I liked St Maarten. It feels stylish and classy, and makes a good stop on a Caribbean trip as a contrast to some of the other islands.
Watch my video tour of St. Maarten and Philipsburg: