St. Maarten is a place where culture, food, beauty, and nature collide to create the perfect paradise for anyone who visits! Although it only covers roughly half of a 37 square mile island, the community of St. Maarten is a memorable place to visit. It’s most famous for the Maho Beach, a small strip of sand behind the airport runway where you can get blasted by a 747 taking off, but there are many other things to experience on the island!
This “country” is not technically a sovereign nation, since it’s still under the Dutch Crown, but it is semi-autonomous and definitely has its own distinct vibe. While Dutch is the official language and the Euro the official currency, most people on the island speak English as a primary language and use dollars.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit St. Maarten depends on what you like to do. During the winter, the weather is mild and the ocean is rough, perfect for surfing, sunbathing, and spending time outdoors. In the warmer months, the weather is more humid, but the ocean is clear for scuba diving and snorkeling. Summer is the rainy season, which means occasional hurricanes, so many travelers steer clear of this time. Tickets are cheapest in March and most expensive during the Christmas season. It’s ideal to purchase a ticket three months in advance to get the best price.
The weather in St. Maarten is perfect. It’s almost always 82 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit! Winter is fairly dry, while summer is humid and rainy. Unlike many other Caribbean islands, this island is fairly dry and sees a lot of sunshine all year. St. Maarten gets a major hurricane every few years, as well as the occasional tropical storm.
Like any overseas travel, a trip to St. Maarten should only be undertaken if you have routine vaccinations. If you are up to date on your MMR, DTP, chickenpox and polio shots, you should be fine. The Center for Disease Control also recommends hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines.
Top tourist attractions
St. Maarten’s top tourist attraction is Maho Beach, or the “Airplane Beach.” You’ve likely seen videos of this place! Grab a drink from the beach bar and settle down to watch the planes fly in just overhead for landing.
Another popular tourist attraction is the Philipsburg Boardwalk. This beachside walk is the perfect place to enjoy ice cream, relax in the sun, or do some duty-free shopping.
The many casinos on the island are also a major draw. No matter where you are staying, you’ll be likely to find a casino near you.
Secret gems location in the island
If you love Star Wars, don’t miss the Yoda Guy museum in Philipsburg! The creator of Yoda works and houses his art here. You’ll likely find him at his desk, drawing away.
Although more hiking opportunities can be found on the French half of the island, St. Maarten has its fair share of trails. Check out the desert side of the island when you take the Guana Bay hike. It can be tough to find, but locals will be able to direct you.
Mullet Bay Beach is close to many of the main tourist attractions on the island, but it tends to be the domain of locals and expats. Don’t feel shy joining this crowd for a beach afternoon! This is perhaps the most beautiful beach on the island. Walk along the jagged rocks to find a perfect cliff-jumping spot and a geyser.
1. Don’t stick to the tourist scene. There’s too much to discover! Don’t be afraid to rent a car and go exploring.
2. Don’t leave valuables in your car, and get rental car insurance. Break-ins are common, so don’t tempt thieves with bags and phones left in your vehicle.
3. Try local food! There are a lot of popular restaurants in St. Maarten, but you can get the real deal at roadside stands and front-yard barbeque sales.
4. Volunteer! There are many ways visitors can volunteer while on the island. This gives you the true “local” experience. Contact Player Development SXM, K1 Britannia, or the Sint Maarten Nature Foundation to see if you can help.
5. Go outside. Don’t hole up at casinos and clubs the whole time. Discover the natural world of St. Maarten!
8) Avoid This:
Like any other destination, St. Maarten has some not-so-great aspects. Don’t waste your time with them. First, don’t do anything that sounds ridiculously expensive. For example, you can drive yourself or take a bus to many attractions rather than pay triple-price for tours. Secondly, don’t order food unless you know the price. “Tourist price” is a real thing on the island… you shouldn’t pay extra just because you smell like sunscreen. Finally, speaking of sunscreen, don’t forget to wear it! This is the tropics, after all, and you will get burned.
9) Accommodation Recommendations
1. Atrium Beach Resort and Spa is a good place to stay for a decent price. It’s located outside the major tourism areas in a nice residential area, so you’ll get peace and quiet.
2. Mary’s Boon is tucked away into a beautiful beachside area of Simpson Bay. You can get rooms under $100 a night here, and still enjoy the amenities this spa and resort has to offer.
3. Commodore Suites is the best place for foodies to stay! The hotel is located in Simpson Bay, the dining district of the island.
1. Holland House Beach Hotel is a classic Sint Maarten hotel. Located on the Philipsburg Boardwalk, it’s just a short taxi ride away from the cruise terminal. It also has stunning views of the bay!
2. Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. Love all-inclusive? Try this! Sonesta is in the middle of Maho’s exciting atmosphere. Hang out at the resort all day, or check out the bars, clubs, and casino in the area.
3. Princess Heights is a luxury condo hotel with one of the best views on the island. It’s located on Dawn Beach, a well-kept stretch of white sand that looks out at nearby St. Barth’s.
10) Local food recommendations
St. Maarten has so many food options! Try local flavors on the Philipsburg Boardwalk at the Lazy Lizard, or head to Avantika for excellent Thai in Simpson Bay. One expat favorite is Fat Tony’s in Cupecoy, where you can nosh on ribs in an open-air setting while chatting with other diners.
11) Did you know
Denzel Richardson is originally from this region? If you’re a Colorado Rockies fan, you likely remember this player from the 2011-2015 seasons. Richardson grew up playing baseball in Philipsburg and returns regularly to inspire and teach local little leaguers.
12) Proverb from St. Maarten
St. Maarten has become a hub for people all over the Caribbean— and all over the world, for that matter. Because of this, the local sayings are global in nature. One common Caribbean anecdote is “All monkeys have the same face,” meaning that people who associate tend to be similar.
13) 5 places things to do with your kids
Although it’s often portrayed as a gambling and drinking destination, St. Maarten is actually a very kid-friendly place! There are many things you can do with your kids in St. Maarten. Here are five of the best:
1. Tiki Hut. Your kids will love the boat ride to Tiki Hut, but they’ll be even more excited when they discover everything they can do on this floating platform and restaurant! Tiki Hut has everything you and your kids need for a fun day, including relaxing, snorkeling (life vests are included, as are snorkel masks), feeding fish, and walking the “plank.” As a plus, it’s located beside a cliff with cannon ball firmly lodged into the side—can you spot it?
2. The Sint Maarten Zoo. St. Maartin’s small animal park is no San Diego zoo, but it’s a fun place to spend an afternoon with kids. They’ll enjoy petting the animals, teasing the monkeys, talking to the parrots, and playing on the pirate ship.
3. Seaside Nature Park. If you have horse lovers in your family, you can’t miss this! Plan a morning of horseback riding on the beach here, or let your littles play with the animals in the petting zoo.
4. Fort Amsterdam