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St. Maarten (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
St. Maarten (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)

11 Best Things to Do in St. Maarten for Cruisers

St. Maarten (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
St. Maarten (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
Contributor
Marissa Wright

Last updated
Apr 4, 2024

Read time
6 min read

As a popular destination in the Caribbean, St. Maarten has a wide range of thrilling activities to keep every type of traveler satisfied. Before creating your list of the things to do in St. Maarten and heading off into this tropical oasis, there are first a few things to note.

The Netherlands and France share the island. The Dutch side is on the southern half of the island, which is St. Maarten, also known as Sint Maarten and Saint Maarten. The French side is St. Martin and is on the northern half.

Each side of the island has a unique vibe and history that shaped it into the popular destination it is today. St. Martin is well-known for its beaches, shopping and fine dining establishments. In contrast, St. Maarten is celebrated for its more lighthearted vacation vibes of nightlife, stunning beaches and duty-free shopping.

Create your itinerary just right with our list of the top 11 things to do in St. Maarten and get the most action-packed, fun-filled port of call.

1. Relax on Maho Beach or Great Bay Beach on St. Maarten

Sunset on Little Bay Beach in St Maarten
Sunset on Little Bay Beach in St Maarten (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

Unsurprisingly, one of the top things to do in St. Maarten is to hit the beach. These Caribbean beaches are known for their breathtaking views, crystal clear waters, fun water sports and activities that entertain the whole family.

Maho Beach on Saint Maarten offers the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. Various water sports, like windsurfing and snorkeling, are available as well. Those who’d rather relax can visit one of the many beach bars for a tasty beverage. Great Bay Beach is another great beach option with its mile-long boardwalk, shopping, abundance of restaurants and stunning sand.

Beaches on St. Martin are worthy sites to explore, too, like Grand Case Beach with its private beach club called the Grand Case Beach Club and Cupecoy Bay Beach. The latter is set amongst limestone cliffs, possessing both incredible natural beauty and natural wind protection. At the top of the cliffs are shops and beach bars to entertain you when you’re bored of the beach.

2. Explore Philipsburg in St. Maarten or Marigot in St. Martin

Cruise port in Philipsburg, St. Maarten (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
Cruise port in Philipsburg, St. Maarten (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Wander the streets of Philipsburg or Marigot, the two largest cities on St. Maarten and St. Martin, respectively. It’s also easy to plan a hybrid city and beach day because Philipsburg’s popular shopping and restaurant area is close to the beach. The cities both boast different types of food, shopping and activities, making them two of the top things to do in St. Maarten/St. Martin.

Philipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side of St. Maarten and home to bright-colored houses with duty-free shops and many delicious restaurants to discover. Great Bay Beach runs along the Philipsburg boardwalk, so stopping at one of the beach bars and testing tropical cocktails is a common way to spend a few hours here.

On the French side, you’ll find Marigot, boasting vibrantly painted houses and beaches, markets, and restaurants to satisfy your cravings. Marigot has local Caribbean vibes and atmosphere while simultaneously having a more elegant side with fine dining restaurants and fashion.

3. Take an Island Tour on St. Maarten/St. Martin via Boat or ATV

Explore the island of St. Maarten with an experienced guide who can share the island's local history and show you to the hotspots. As one of the top things to do in St. Maarten, it’s a great way to get better acquainted with the island. There are many ways to familiarize yourself with the island and its cultural history, but the top two ways are on boat or ATV tours.

Boat tours travel around the island and allow you to experience hidden coves, the best beaches, and some even visit nearby islands. Most catamaran tours include food and drinks and come at premium prices.

ATV or other land-based tours usually make a two to four-hour loop of the island and show you the most popular spots, including Maho Beach, St. Martin Nature Reserve, Cupecoy Bay Beach and Orient Beach Bay.

It’s also possible to book comfortable tours in SUVs or electric buggies.

4. Dive with Sharks in St. Maarten

Woman swimming with several nurse sharks in the crystal blue water in Nassau
Swimming with sharks in the Bahamas (Photo: Zoe Esteban/Shutterstock.com)

Take your adventure to the next level with a diving experience to see Caribbean reef sharks and nurse sharks. Most shark species around the island are found in the Man of War Shoal Marine Park. Book a diving excursion through Ocean Explores to get closer to Caribbean marine life.

5. Dive and/or Snorkel in War Shoal Marine Park, Cupecoy Beach, Kim Sha Beach or in a Shipwreck

Woman Snorkeling in the Open Clear Blue Waters (Photo: Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock)
Woman Snorkeling in the Open Clear Blue Waters (Photo: Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock)

Don’t miss out on some of the world’s best scuba and snorkel spots while in St. Maarten. Man of War Shoal Marine Park is the most popular dive site on the island and is home to a variety of sea life, including coral reefs, sea stars, lobster and sharks. For the best snorkeling, head to Cupecoy Beach or Kim Sha Beach for a great snorkeling session to explore the seabed and natural sea life.

Off the coast of St. Maarten, there are multiple dive sites with sunken ships that you can explore. Popular underwater shipwreck sites include Gregory Wreck, The Bridge, Proselyte, La Renee Shipwreck, Carib Cargo and Fuh Sheng.

6. Windsurf or Kitesurf in Orient Bay and Galion Beach

Orient Bay and Le Galion Beach are two of the top spots for windsurfing and kitesurfing on St. Maarten. Book a course with a local instructor or rent gear at popular surf spots like Saint Martin Surf Club.

7. Sail and Race a Yacht as a Crew Member in St. Maarten

Sign up for the America’s Cup Regatta, a yacht-racing event that simulates the experience of a true sporting event on the water. Cruisers can book the excursion onboard their cruise ship; no previous racing experience is required.

8. Strap on Your Hiking Boots and Hit the Many Trails in St. Maarten

Beautiful panoramic view over the hills in the jungle of the El Yunque national forest in Puerto Rico
El Yunque National Forest (Photo: Dennis van de Water/Shutterstock.com)

Two popular hiking trails are Froussards Trail (Sentier des Froussards) and the Fleming Property Trail. Froussards Trail is a smooth, family-friendly hike that lets you experience St. Maarten wildlife. Fleming Property Trail to St. Peters Hilltop is a moderate hike where adventure-seekers can enjoy sweeping views of Simpson Bay, lush hillsides and the lagoon.

9. Or Immerse Yourself in St. Maarten/St. Martin's Nature in Other Ways

Experience the unique nature on St. Maarten/St. Martin beyond just hiking. Loterie Farm is a nature sanctuary in the middle of the island where visitors can unwind at its well-maintained 135 acres. The nature sanctuary offers a lounge, pools, bar, eatery, hiking trails and zip lines.

While there aren’t panoramic views of the island, Loterie Farm is the perfect place to unwind while soaking in the beauty of the jungle, like at its Jungle Pool.

Schedule family favorite excursions like horseback riding at Seaside Nature Park. The 30-acre reserve is a hot spot for camping, hiking, snorkeling and more.

The Parotte Ville Bird Sanctuary gives visitors an up close and personal experience with a variety of exotic species. You can feed the gentle, friendly birds and pose for vacation photos.

10. Channel Your Adventurous Side and Zipline Through the St. Maarten Jungle

Multiple outdoor adventure companies offer ziplining as part of their fun-filled excursions. Fly through the jungle at two popular spots on the island. On the Dutch side of the island, cruisers can zip through the forest at the Flying Dutchman and on the French side at Loterie Farm.

11. Visit Topper's Rhum Distillery for Handcrafted Rums

If you enjoy high-class spirits, then you may like Topper’s Rhum Distillery. During the tour, you’ll taste some of their handcrafted rums with unique flavors and discover the history of their rum and how it’s made.

Visitors get to taste rum samples during and after the tour. Adults aged 18 and over can enjoy the rum samples. Children ages 2 to 17 can also join the tour but cannot sample the liquor.

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