Hi there traveler!
Have you been thinking about a trip to St. Maarten? Well you’re in good company! This is yet another beautiful Caribbean island.
St. Maarten (notice the spelling) is the Dutch side of the dual nation island of St. Martin. The other side is French and is spelled St. Martin.
The Dutch side (St. Maarten) takes up 30% of the island, but offers a more diverse array of hotels. The English language is widely used here, and the US dollar is also widely accepted. And this is where you’ll find all the casinos.
The great thing about the island as a whole is that you’re getting 2 nations for the price of one. There is no border crossing and you’re free to roam the island as you please. Take advantage of this! Rent a car and go exploring; there is so much to see and do.
But for now, let’s take a look at the Dutch side and all it has to offer.
Little Bay Beach is located at the south end of the island. It’s got calm waters and excellent visibility which makes it a favorite spot for snorkelers.
The outcrop of Fort Amsterdam protects this small but pretty beach. Many snorkeling excursions use the rocks as the best spot to explore the life under water.
Head down to Dawn Beach for powdery white sands, fantastic beach bars, and great windsurfing.
Dawn Beach is famous for its gorgeous sunrises (hence the name). So if you’re in any way a morning person, definitely check that out!
The waves on this beach can be rough, so it’s not the best for swimming. Do check it out for windsurfing though, it’s a great ride!
Guana Bay Beach is located on the southeast coast of St. Maarten. Here you’ll see beautiful views of St. Barts island.
This beach is known for being the best beach on the island for surfers. The waves are fantastic, but it’s recommended that only strong swimmers swim here because of the heavy undertow.
Although many beaches around St. Maarten are quiet and tranquil, you won’t find that serenity at Maho Beach.
Maho Beach is the most truly unique beach in the world because of its proximity to Princess Juliana International Airport. This makes it a popular place for photographers and thrill-seekers to sit on the sand and watch jumbo jets fly overhead.
Nowhere else in the world will you get this close to a landing jumbo jet, so make sure to head to Maho Beach for this once in a lifetime experience!
If you’re looking for a more relaxing place to spend your day, then head to Mullet Bay Beach.
This beach is perfect for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and relaxing on the gorgeous white sand underneath the palm trees.
One of the main reasons to visit Mullet Bay Beach is because of the spectacular sunset views. Pack a picnic and watch the sky change color at the end of the day.
One of the best things to do in St. Maarten is to explore the waters. On average the water is about 81 degrees year round. And there are multiple ways to get out there and experience the marine life.
There are many spots around the island for great snorkeling.
The water is fairly shallow here, about 60ft or less, and there’s a mixture of artificial reefs, old coral reefs, and rock formations.
One of the most famous spots is Proselyte Reef. This reef was formed by lava flows.
There is an abundance of marine life here. And you will not be disappointed!
As stated earlier, the diving is shallow here, about 60 feet. Explore the remains of the frigate HMS Proselyte on the south side of the island. On the north, you will see many layered rock formations.
If you haven’t been diving before but would like to learn, St. Maarten is a great place to give it a try.
Both Dive Sint Maarten and Ocean Explorers offer affordable and professional dive courses.
There are over 35 dive sites along St. Maarten/St. Martin. Get ready to see a variety of fish, turtles, and you can even opt to swim with sharks!
If you aren’t a certified diver but still love the idea of exploring the underwater world, snuba is the perfect thing for you.
If you’re not familiar, snuba is a mix of scuba diving and snorkeling. With snuba, you can enjoy the freedom of breathing underwater without having to carry an air tank. The snuba tank is attached to a raft on the surface of the water and connected to you by a long hose.
This is a really cool activity on its own, but also a great lead in to scuba diving if you’re nervous or unsure.
When you snuba, you can dive down as far as 15-20 feet. And since you do have an air tank, you can stay underwater for a lot longer than if you just dive under here and there while snorkeling.
There are a variety of sailing tours to choose from. You can charter your own boat or book a spot on a group trip.
Some group trips are more intimate than others. Some are family friendly. And some are party excursions.
You’ll definitely want to check out your options depending on your tastes and the people you’re traveling with. But there are options for all types: family/multi-generational, couples, friend groups, etc.
If you’re looking for something different and adventurous, check out the 12 Metre Regatta company. Here you can take part in a race with yachts that are used in the actual America’s Cup competition.
Kayaking in the Caribbean is such an amazing experience, and paddling your way around St. Maarten is no exception.
The waters are beautiful and there is so much to see. Simpson Bay is a popular spot to rent kayaks or take a tour (more on this later).
You can also head out to Pinel Island. Pinel Island is a small island just off of the St. Martin (French) side of the island. And it’s part of the St. Martin Marine Reserve.
If you’re staying on the St. Maarten (Dutch) side, you’ll have to make your way to the ferry port on the French side. But it’s not far. Then you can rent your kayaks and tool around and make your way over to Pinel.
Here you can rest and relax from your kayaking. Lay on the beach and soak up the sun. And even grab a bite to eat at one of the bar & grills.
Another one of the best things to do in St. Maarten is glass-bottom canoeing.
Canoeing in a glass-bottom boat offers another fun way to experience the marine life. Kids love looking at the fish gliding below. And then there is no added hassle of packing snorkel gear.
Check out Coconut Beach Watersports. You can rent boats by the hour or take a tour that will guide you along Simpson Bay and the lagoon. The tour is great due to the guides’ knowledge of the area and marine life.
You can also learn how to windsurf or kitesurf while visiting St. Maarten. Some people might not know the difference between the two.
And while they both are versions of surfing and utilize the winds to propel you forward, they are very different beasts!
More people are probably familiar with windsurfing. Here the sail is attached to the surfboard, and you stand on the board, hold on to the bar attached to the sail, and twist and pull to stay in the winds.
With kitesurfing, you’re attached to the board AND the parachute. You will use the handles attached to the parachute/kite to catch the air and then wield around the water.
Check out Wind Adventures for rentals and lessons.
Check out Caribbean Paddling for excellent excursions around St. Maarten.
Paddle boarding is great for a variety of reasons. It’s easy to learn and fun for many ages. You also get a great view of the sea life beneath, something that can be a little tricky while kayaking or canoeing.
Stand up paddling is typically done singularly, but you can also rent tandem boards meant for two.
Carribean Paddling company offers excursions to Pinel Island and St. Barths, among others.
If you’re into fishing, what better place than the Caribbean to get out on the open sea?
You’ll find many charters that will take you out for either a half-day or full-day excursions.
Be aware a full day excursion is a solid 8 to 8.5 hours on the water. That’s a long time. And don’t forget about the trips to the marina and back to your hotel. Full-day excursions are definitely for the die-hards here.
If you’re traveling with little ones, you might want to stick with the half-day outing. But you know your travel buddies best!
Look into Coconut Reef Power Boats & Charters for a variety of sea outings. Their staff will be able to best advise you on the perfect trip for you and your crew.
There are a ton of land activities here! If you’re an active traveler, get ready to go go go. And for those who are more on the chill side, there’s plenty for you too.
Honestly, renting bikes or taking a bike tour is such a great way to get to know the area. You get to cover a lot of the island this way, find some amazing views, and learn a thing or two from your guide if touring.
There are a number of routes all along the island, on the West coast, the East coast, circling around a lagoon… You can cross the border with ease and see much of the island.
If taking a tour, there are ones that focus on beautiful sightseeing spots, some that offer a historical trip through Philipsburg, and even one that ends with a beautiful sunset and rhum tasting.
Also depending on your preference, there are mountain bikes, road bikes, and electric bikes to rent.
The guides are very well versed on what to suggest based on ability levels and interests.
Trisport is a great company to check out for rentals or tours. They offer a variety, are knowledgeable, and eco-friendly.
Atv or scooter rental is another option if you want to get around the island and do some fun-filled exploring.
Again, you have the opportunity to rent and explore on your own. Or join a tour and be taken around the island (both sides, Dutch and French).
The tour will bring you to epic vistas, spots to swim, and to a market or two. Bring sunscreen, towels, suits, and your license (and probably some spending money!).
For both the scooter and the ATV you can ride single or double. Drivers need to be 18+ years old and have a valid driver’s license.
Johnny’s Scooter & ATV Rental is located on the Dutch side and has great guides that are informative and really personable. Their tours last about 4 hours.
Like so much of the Caribbean, St. Maarten lends itself to some incredible hiking!
There are trails for all levels of hikers. And as always, it’s important to check ahead for conditions and recommendations.
Like all other activities, you can hike on your own or join a tour. Tours will take you to some epic spots for pics, as well as teach you about the land and its history.
You can’t miss either way.
Look into AllTrails for hand-curated maps, trail guides, and even driving directions (as a side note: you can get the AllTrails app on your phone and use it for many locations!)
Beyond sports-centered activities, there are plenty of tours you can take to enjoy and learn about the island.
If you’re into Harley Davidson motorcycles, you’re in luck!
You and your crew can cruise around St. Maarten in style with Harley Davidson Tours.
Take a half day tour to visit the beaches, feed iguanas, and eat at a local Creole restaurant. You’ll start in Cole Bay and enjoy a personalized experience throughout the island for about 6 hours.
Not a bad way to see the sights 😉
For something completely different from riding Harleys, visit Seaside Nature Park!
This is a 30 acre nature reserve that is a welcome respite from the development of the rest of the island.
You can go horseback riding through different trails. There are private rides, a champagne sunset ride, and a beach ride that allows you to enjoy the cool Caribbean surf with your horse.
There’s also a petting zoo (hint: this is a perfect stop if you have kiddos with you!)
Definitely something worth checking out that is fun for all ages.
St. Maarten even has something for budding artists and art lovers alike.
There are a few different tours that will take you around various art galleries to explore different local artists and their work.
Check out Viator’s site to book a half day tour that includes a local guide, a list of local artists to visit, and refreshments.
In my humble opinion, there is nothing better than a food tour.
St. Maarten does not disappoint! Flavors of St. Martin is all about connecting people to St. Maarten’s culinary culture.
Enjoy delicious and authentic Dutch, French, and Creole cuisine on your journey, and learn about the history and culture of the island.
There is a walking tour offered that takes you through Phillipsburg and introduces you to all the local cuisine (also allowing you to skip the lines to get your tasty treats). The guides will share with you recommendations for the best shopping and restaurants to try out for the rest of your trip as well.
You can also take a bus tour that will drive you around to both sides of the island, stopping at four different restaurants. This tour lasts about 4 hours.
**This won’t be on your tour route, but I do recommend visiting the Guavaberry Emporium and learning all about the official liqueur of St. Maarten.
You’ll find the emporium in Philipsburg. They have a variety of rums as well as hot sauces and spices to bring home and enjoy.
Definitely worth checking out.
It’s honestly incredible how many things there are to do on St. Maarten, especially considering its size (only 37 sq miles!).
The island’s culture is warm and vibrant. And there is truly something for everyone.
If you haven’t been to St. Maarten yet, it’s definitely worth looking into. Make sure to plan ahead and use reef-safe sunscreen!