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Philipsburg, St Maarten
Philipsburg, St Maarten

This small island is split between France (60%) and the Commonwealth of the Netherlands (40%).  St Maarten is the Dutch side and is short for Sint Maarten. The French side is Saint Martin.   St Maarten is located just south of Anguilla in the northeast corner of the Caribbean.  It is due east of the Virgin Islands and north of St Kitts.  The entire island is about 33 square miles and the width is under 15 miles.  Simpson Bay Lagoon is the largest lagoon in the Caribbean and is shared by the two countries.  The capital of French St Martin is Marigot.  The capital for the Dutch side and cruise port for the island is Philipsburg.  The island has a permanent population of about 75,000.

Philipsburg, St Maarten

Philipsburg, St Maarten

Attractions in St Maarten:

Things to see and do:

  • Philipsburg - Take a $6 per person all day water taxi from the port to the center of town. It’s only a few minutes, so you can also save some money and get some exercise on the short walk to town.  Rent two beach chair and an umbrella for the day and you’ll also get a bucket of 6 beer for your $15 fee.  Wander the beach front and the shops in a pleasant environment where there are no vehicles.

  • Marigot – Take a cab to Marigot to see the main village on the French side of the island.  Published taxi fares were high at $36 return for two people.

  • Grand Case – excellent dining and beaches at the north end of the island

  • Pinel Island – Take a cab for $50 return for two people and then $7 each for the water taxi to Pinel Island. You might also want to rent lounge chairs and umbrellas at the beach if you aren’t snorkeling.

  • Maho Beach, Princess Juliana International Airport – About half way from Philipsburg to Marigot, on the lagoon, put yourself in harm’s way a few feet from the end of the runway at the international airport. You can regularly find hundreds of tourists at the narrow strip of beach as they risk damage to the skin, their eyes and their camera lenses.  Better yet, watch from the Sunset Beach Bar, a few feet away from the direct jet blasts.

  • Sea Trek Helmet Diving

  • Orient Beach – experience the French influence of optional clothing at some sections of this beach

  • St Maarten Zoo – a zoo in the Caribbean, really

  • Simpson Bay Lagoon – kayaking in the largest lagoon in the Antilles.

St Maarten Tours:

Hotels in the St Maarten:

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Sunset Beach Bar, Maho Beach, Princess Juliana International Airport

Pinel Island Snorkeling

Pinel Island snorkeling, St Martin (French side)

Pinel Island snorkeling, St Martin (French side), St Martin in the distance

We ventured to Pinel Island as part of a Carnival excursion in 2007, but you can also easily make the trip on your own, save some money and leave the cruise ship crowds behind.  Standard taxi fare from Philipsburg to Pinel Island is $50 for two, which is published at the information booth at the cruise ship terminal.  The regularly scheduled ferries to the island run $7 each.  You enter the water at the end of a lovely beach with lounge chairs and umbrellas for rent.  The fish are at the tip of this very small island, which exposes you to some swells from the open water.  There were numerous fish, including schools of sergeant majors and tangs that would eat out of your hand.  The open ocean made my wife sea sick, so she told me she was heading back to shore.  As she couldn't wear her glasses or contacts snorkeling, she became disoriented and began swimming toward mainland St Martin instead.  I noticed her error, swam after her, grabbed her and set her off back in the right direction.  A bit more excitement than I'd wanted.  A lovely spot for snorkeling.

Pinel Island snorkeling, St Martin (French side)

Pinel Island snorkeling

Pinel Island snorkeling, St Martin (French side)

Pinel Island snorkeling

Pinel Island snorkeling, St Martin (French side)

Pinel Island snorkeling

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