What to do in Saint Maarten in one day, the top places to visit in the island
Located in the Caribbean Saint Maarten is known for its gorgeous beaches, exciting nightlife, and welcoming locals. Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway or a family vacation, this place has something for everyone. In this blog post, I’ll list the best places you should definitely visit on your trip to this island.
Saint Maarten vs. St Martin: Understanding the Differences between the Dutch and French Sides of the Island
First of all, do you know why St Martin has different names is popular known as Two Nations, One Island? Saint Maarten and St Martin are two different sides of the same island, which is located in the Caribbean. The island is split into two distinct parts: the Dutch side (Saint Maarten) and the French side (St Martin).
The Dutch side is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is located in the southern covering an area of approximately 34 square kilometers with a population of around 42,000 people. The official language of Saint Maarten is Dutch, although English French and Spanish are widely spoken.
On the other hand, the French side, known as St Martin is located in the northern part of the island, covering an area of approximately 53 square kilometers with a population of around 36,000 people and the official language is French.
While the two sides of the island have their own distinct cultures and traditions, they are both popular tourist destinations. Despite their differences, the two sides have a friendly relationship and you are likely to visit the entire island in the same trip. Passport is not necessary and visitors can easily transit between the two nations.
What to do in Saint Maarten in one day
We visited the country during our trip with Royal Caribbean and to avoid the crowds from the cruise ships, we decided to hire a guide. Here are the places we like most during our visit:
Philipsburg – the Dutch capital of Saint Maarten
Philipsburg is the closest place from the port. The Dutch capital of Saint Maarten is known for its colorful buildings, duty-free shopping, and of course more beautiful beaches. If you plan to walk, go in direction of Front Street to find the top stores. From simple souvenirs to famous boutiques, there is something for everyone in this charming downtown.
My favorite building was the Guavaberry Emporium. Even though the place is closed, the top attractions and points of interest are easy to explore. If you enjoy cheese and rum tasting there are plenty of options to try. In case you are visiting the city with a tour guide, I recommend to leave Philipsburg to the end of the day, once it’s easy to return to the ship walking or taking a cab.
Simpson Bay Lagoon and Cole Bay
Perfect spot for great pictures or an entire day at the beach. The Simpson Bay lagoon is one of the largest natural harbors in the region. Surrounding districts like Marigot, Cupecoy and especially Simpson Bay and Cole Bay are a main regional hub for yachting and sailing. This area is also popular for Scuba Diving and snorkeling.
From this place you can see Mullet Bay Beach the Topper’s Rhum Destilary is right in the corner, in case you want to taste a tradicional rum made in Saint Maarten. In case you prefer to shopping, close by is Cole Bay, a small town with the Blue Mall, a modern shopping complex that’s home to a variety of high-end shops and boutiques.
The views from the hill at AJC Brouwer Road are gorgeous.
Maho Beach – the airplane beach
Watching the planes come in for a landing right above our heads was an exhilarating experience. The crystal clear waters and soft sandy beach are the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable day, but what makes this beach truly unique is its location just a few feet away from the airport runway.
Although it’s recommended to check the airport schedule before planning a visit to Maho Beach, the airplanes can be seen flying very low over Maho Beach several times a day and visitors can expect a lot of tourists with their cameras pointed to the sky every day. The busiest time for airplane landings and takeoffs at Princess Juliana International Airport are between 11am and 5 pm and the airport runway is closed during the night.
There are great stores and nice bars right in front of the main parking at Maho Beach too 😉 You cannot miss this place!
Marigot – the French capital of St Martin
Marigot is known for its charming French-Caribbean architecture, colorful markets, and picturesque harbor. Located in the heart of the town, the Marina Royale is the perfect spot to start your visit. Across the street, visitors will find the Marigot Market, a colorful outdoor market with variety of local vendors offering fresh produce, spices, local crafts, and beautiful souvenirs.
Rue de la République, is the most famous street in the city. Popular for its houses and architecture that has been untouched since the 19th century. For the best views, trek up the stairs and walk amongst the remains of Fort Louis, while taking in the views of the whole Marigot capital and the beautiful Fort Louis Marina, which is a popular spot for yachts and sailboats.
Grand Case Beach
According to our guide this is perfect place to eat! Grand Case Beach is home to a variety of beachside restaurants and bars, offering visitors a chance to enjoy delicious French and Caribbean cuisine while taking in the stunning views. Visitors can sample fresh seafood, barbecue, and tropical cocktails, while enjoying the warm Caribbean breeze and the sound of the waves. We chose Villa Royale and the food was spectacular!
With a Beach club ambience, one of the unique features of Grand Case Beach is the annual Grand Case Beach Party, which takes place every Tuesday evening during the high season (January to April). The event features live music, food and drink vendors, and a lively atmosphere that’s popular with locals and tourists alike.
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach enjoys the reputation of being the “St. Tropez of the Caribbean. With beautiful condos and a residential atmosphere, the stunning strip of white sand with clear turquoise waters is the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. While Plage Naturiste at the southern end is the designated nudist stretch of the beach, you will find that many visitors adopt a clothing-optional mindset all the way along Orient Bay Beach.
Here visitors will discover some beautiful exotic gardens, multicolored, Caribbean-style houses, in additional to see some iguanas crossing the streets. It’s a rich part of the French side of St Martin. Bikini Beach is right on the side and offer great restaurants with oceanfront views.
Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach is located in the heart of Philipsburg. If you want to spend the day around the port this is great place to go.
One of the unique features of Great Bay Beach is its proximity to the city center. Visitors can easily walk from the beach to Philipsburg’s main shopping and dining areas, or take a short taxi ride to other attractions on the island. The beach is also home to a variety of beachside bars and restaurants, offering visitors a chance to enjoy a cold drink or a meal while taking in the stunning views of the Caribbean Sea.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day in the sun or an afternoon of shopping and dining, Great Bay Beach is a must-visit destination on St Maarten. In addition, if you are planning a busy day around the island, this a great spot to finish your trip and and take great pictures of your ship. From here you can easily walk back to the port while enjoying the high-end boutiques at the main streets in this lovely town.
Joycelyn Hanley – which has great reviews on TripAdvisor was our travel guide in the island and we highly recommend her services. In case you need here is her contact: [email protected]
I wish you a great trip to this magical island.