Within Walking Distance
The handsome boardwalk that stretches along the Philipsburg waterfront from your St. Maarten cruise has superb views of Great Bay harbor. On Wathey Square, the Courthouse combines northern European sobriety with Caribbean brightness. East of the Courthouse, down a little shopping alley, the tiny St. Maarten Heritage Museum has an impressive collection of Arawak tools, shipwreck salvage, and slave beads.
Fort Amsterdam has looked out over the blue waters of Great Bay since 1631. Ruins and a couple of rusty cannons are all that remain of the original fort, but the site affords grand bay views. On the other side of the bay is Bobby’s Marina, which offers a variety of adventures. Whether you’re a beginner or expert boatmen, you can experience the thrill of racing with America’s Cup Regatta excursion. If you’d rather be under the water than on top, Sea Trek is a must excursion.
Beyond The Port Area
With Carnival cruises to St. Maarten, you can explore Marigot, the charming portside capital of French St. Martin. With traditional Creole gingerbread-trim houses ringing the harbor, Marigot has real French flair. Explore the French and Dutch sides of St. Maarten with Butterfly Farm & Marigot excursion. For the more adventurous sightseer try Power Rafting Adventure – Snorkel, Shop & Beach. With crumbling walls and a French flag flapping in the breeze, Fort St. Louis was built in 1767 to protect the waterfront warehouses. Duck into the Museum of Saint Martin to see the first-rate collection of Ciboney, Arawak, and Carib artifacts excavated from the island.
Beaches In St. Maarten
Some 39 beautiful white-sand beaches—some bustling, some serene—are right outside your Carnival cruise to St. Maarten. On the Dutch side, mile-long Great Bay Beach right off the boardwalk in Philipsburg has calm seas and great views and you can see it all with Scenic Coastal Hike. If its thrills you’re after, the Golden Eagle Catamaran Sail & Snorkel, or Rhino Rider & Snorkel Adventure offers the ultimate water experiences. Farther west, Mullet Beach has a gentle bay for swimming and snorkeling.
On the French side’s northeast coast is Orient Beach, offering food, drink, watersports, music, and both topless and nudist beaches. South of Orient Beach, the calm, shallow waters of Coconut Grove and Galion Beach are a popular spot with kids and windsurfers. Many people take the 10-minute boat trip to Pinel, an idyllic little islet framed by jade peaks for a perfect beach day, complete with a crystalline lagoon.
Shopping in St. Maarten
St. Maarten is a true free port—no duties are paid on any item coming in or going out—and neither side of the island has a sales tax. Shops in vintage storefronts can be found on the busier Dutch side and are concentrated in Philipsburg, along narrow Front Street and its warren of alleyways. In French Marigot, shops sell European brands and fine French wines and cheeses. Many stores here close for a 2-hour lunch break around noon.