Top 5 Things To Do In St. Maarten
St. Maarten is one of the most developed and interesting islands in the Caribbean, and has no shortage of things to do to keep you busy during your visit. The island is divided into two sites, the French St. Martin and the Dutch St. Maarten. You’ll find that the Dutch side is substantially more developed and commercialized than the French side, however the French side offers a natural untouched landscape for those who would like to get away from the commercialism. We’ve created a list of our top 5 things to do in St. Maarten to help you better plan your day.
If you’ve always wanted to go scuba diving, but have never taken the time to get trained, you should definitely consider Sea Trek. Sea Treking involves wearing a helmet that is reminiscent of ancient scuba suits, and then descending to the floor of the ocean. Basically the concept is the same as scuba diving, however there is an air hose attached to the helmet, allowing you to breathe underwater. No need to worry about pressurization, compressed air, or expensive training. Instead, you’ll put on the Sea-Trek helmet and descend 10-15 feet below the ocean’s surface, where you’ll explore all of the wonders that lurk below. At the St. Maarten Sea Trek underwater park you’ll see shipwrecks, sunken cannons, an ancient submarine and a variety of coral and other marine life. For someone who has never been scuba diving, but has always wanted to try, a Sea-Treking excursion is a must. Those interested can choose between tours offered by the cruise ships, or by local tour companies, both of which provide an excellent experience. Sea Treking is consistently ranked one of the top excursions in St Maarten.
Both the Dutch and French sides of the island are well known for their amazing white sand beaches. There are literally dozens to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. If you’re looking for a more natural atmosphere, consider the beaches on the French side. If you’re looking for a more developed atmosphere with a variety of activities such as snorkelling, Seadoo rentals, kayaking and more, consider a beach on the Dutch side. Another thing to point out is that the French side is surprisingly more liberal than the Dutch side. Topless beaches are found throughout the French side, however this is discouraged on the Dutch side. The most famous topless beach is Orient Beach, so if that’s what you’re looking for, now you’ll know where to go!
St. Maarten is well known as one of the most popular shopping destinations in the Caribbean. Considered the second most popular Caribbean shopping destination, after St. Thomas, you’ll find all sorts of treasures while roaming the streets of Philipsburg. The island is most famous for discount jewellery, and is occasionally visited by North American jewellery buyers looking for items to resell back home. After spending the day shopping, be sure to check out some of the quaint restaurants located in either Philipsburg or Marigot. Both cities have a traditional European feel that differs greatly from the usual Caribbean atmosphere.
4) Go on an Island Tour
One of the best ways to see the island is to go on an island tour, which will show you both the French and the Dutch sides of the island. You will notice many distinct differences between the two sides, from the moment that you cross over the small bridge separating the two officially separate nations. Nevertheless, there’s no official border to cross, just a sign welcoming you to the French side of the island. During most island tours, you’ll drive past most of the interesting sights, stop for lunch somewhere in either the French or Dutch downtown areas, and have a chance to stroll the historic streets of Marigot. Depending on the tour, you’ll also learn a great amount about the island’s history. While this isn’t one of the more exciting excursions that you can consider, it is definitely one of the more relaxing options.
5) The Butterfly Farm
One of the most popular St. Maarten attractions is the butterfly farm. Most cruise lines offer tours to the island’s butterfly farm; however, if you’d rather go at your own pace and save a few dollars doing so, consider taking a taxi. Not only will you be able to visit the butterfly farm at your own leisure, but you’ll also be able to visit any other attractions that you wish to check out on the island. The Butterfly Farm (that’s its name), is located on the French side of the island and is operated by an Australian family. Since opening its doors to the public in 1994, it has expanded greatly to include tens of thousands of butterflies, and thousands of different species. While this isn’t an attraction that you’ll spend all day visiting, it’ll definitely keep you busy for at least an hour.
As noted above, St Maarten has no shortage of attractions and activities to keep you busy during your day at port. Whether you’re looking for adventure, or a casual day strolling the streets and browsing through boutiques, the island has something for everyone.