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Redirect: Editor's Picks: Offbeat St. Maarten

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Most cruisers know

St. Maarten

as the island with a Dutch side and a French side (

St. Martin

), but there's a third side, too -- the offbeat side.

There are an abundance of activity choices further afield for the cruiser who doesn't mind doing his homework and exerting a minimum of effort independently booking on his own. Here are a few of our favorites:

Go Sailing or Go About Learning to Sail: If you know how to sail, why not rent a small sailboat and explore the secluded bays and beaches along the coastline between French and Dutch sides?

Lagoon Sailboat Rental

(Airport Rd., Simpson Bay, 599-557-0714) will rent you a 20-foot sloop for $150/per day ($110/half day). Don't know how to sail? No problem! They'll provide a skipper (contact Lagoon regarding cost).

Breaking the Marigot Habit: Marigot is, as is the French side in general, a breath of fresh air for those burned out on the frenetic shop-and-stroll of Philipsburg's Front Street. However, many cruise ship visitors never leave the downtown grid of shopping and dining establishments on Marigot's main streets. Within a couple of blocks, however, is the growing complex of docks, shops and bistros called Marina Royale. A scant three years ago this was a thinly visited resource known primarily by yachties tied up at the Marina's slips. Now one can find tourists of every stripe chowing down on waterfront outdoor terraces. We're particularly partial to Tropicana (590-87-79-07) for its excellent selection of large, tasty salads.

Making a (Grand) Case Out of It: No question, there are great restaurants in Marigot -- but the unanimous vote for best dining in St. Martin goes to the fishing village of Grand Case, better known for its sauteing than catching of fish. And Grand Case is only about 20 minutes further along the road from Philipsburg, so it should be a minor increase in taxi fare. Plunk down your ship-issued beach towel on the beach off Grand Case Beach Club at the far end of town and enjoy soaking up some rays. If you want to snack rather than dine, the beach has a number of lolos, little kiosks that serve barbecue and local seafood. If you want to don your cover-ups and have a French lunch to remember, wander into the town. There is only one main street, but all 27 of Grand Case's terrific restaurants are found here.

You can stay here or choose to hike the hillside trails, but the real draw here is Ilet Pinel, an uninhabited tiny island. Some cruise lines offer a shore excursion here, but there are regular shuttle boats making the five-minute crossing throughout the day. You can kick back on the beach, enjoy snorkeling on the near-shore reefs on either end of the island and enjoy lunch in one of the island's two restaurants. Better yet, get your food to go and take it out on the beach for an impromptu picnic.

Stuff for Culture Vultures: Not everything to do in St. Maarten is beach-, dining- and shopping-intensive. The Sint Maarten Museum (599-542-4917, free admission), at 7 Front St. in Wathey Square at the heart of the village, has displays on the history, battles and culture of the island. Displays run the gamut from shards of pre-Columbian Arawak pottery to treasure salvaged from shipwrecks. Its equivalent in Marigot is Musee de Saint-Martin (Terres-Basses Rd., 590-29-48-36, admission $5), which includes displays of the history and culture of the island going back 1,500 years. For those wanting a gander at -- and perhaps a purchase of -- quality Caribbean art, there's Galerie Lynn (83 Blvd. de Grand Case, 590-87-77-24), Gingerbread Galerie (for Haitian art, Marina Royale, 590-87-73-21) and Greenwith Galleries (33 Front St., Philipsburg, 599-542-3842, multi-island).

--Photos appear courtesy of St-Maarten.com.

Updated October 10, 2019

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