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
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.
Beach Bar, Maho
Juliana International Airport
Pinel Island Snorkeling
Pinel Island snorkeling, St Martin (French side), St Martin in the
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.