Philipsburg, St. Maarten
An island under two flags, St. Martin/St. Maarten is French and Dutch. Philipsburg is on the Dutch side and famous for its duty-free emporia and casinos. A short drive will bring you to Marigot, a charming French Colonial outpost featuring shops filled with French fashions and imported Gallic goodies, as well as beautiful beaches.
St. Maarten is busier than ever, as cruise lines call on Philipsburg with their biggest ships. (Sometimes there are a half-dozen in port at one time.) There’s also more to do once you disembark, with shopping and beaches serving as the primary attractions.
That can be viewed as either good news (more shopping choices, better deals and more beach activities) or bad news (more people) for this port of call, which, along with neighboring St. Martin, makes up the world’s smallest island inhabited by two countries.
Philipsburg is only four streets deep and one mile long, but it contains numerous shops (duty free) selling everything from electronics, alcohol and jewelry.
For gamblers, there are many casinos.
There is an abundance of beaches to chose from, some parts are nudist/clothing optional.
The disabled cruiser visiting St. Maarten
Where You’re Docked
The Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise & Cargo Facilities, St. Maarten’s pier and cruise terminal, is a boon to cruise passengers, especially those who find tendering unpleasant, inconvenient or physically challenging. In most cases, ships will dock there, where it’s less than one mile to the heart of Philipsburg. (Inexpensive water taxis are available for those who don’t want to walk.) On busy days when lots of ships are in port, tendering to Little Pier, right in the center of Philipsburg, is a possibility.
A five-minute walk from the cruise terminal (going toward Philipsburg) takes you to the small boat marina named Dock Maarten; pun intended. There, you’ll find shops, water taxis and boat tour operators and a popular waterfront bar and grill, Chesterfield’s.
Slightly farther, Philipsburg’s pedestrian-friendly downtown is a definite duty-free shopping destination; great buys can be found on electronics, liquor and jewelry.
Good to Know
Tourists tend to be robbery targets, so don’t flash valuables or cash, and do not leave anything valuable in a car or on the beach.
The local currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder on the Dutch side and the euro on the French side, but U.S. dollars are widely accepted. Banks and ATMs are readily available, and most establishments take credit cards (although you’ll have to pay cash at the smaller beach bars).
Although the official language is Dutch for St. Maarten and French for St. Martin, virtually everyone speaks English.
Take home a taste of the islands with chocolates from The Belgian Chocolate Box. The truffles and bonbons make great souvenirs, with more than 75 chocolate flavors to choose from — including Grand Marnier, guavaberry, raspberry, coffee bean and cognac.
Lunch in St. Maarten can vary from an authentic Caribbean meal and casual beachfront fare on the boardwalk to an extravagant culinary sensation — lobster thermidor is considered a specialty. Options abound on both the Dutch and French sides; the latter is a serious spot for foodies.
Points of Interest
- St. Maarten – a seven-
St. Maarten Accessible Excursions
Whether your cruise ship stops in
St. Maarten Accessible Guided Tour
This 4 hour accessible