Saint Maarten is one of our favorite places in the world and it’s also a popular cruise port on many Caribbean cruises. We’ve visited the dual island nation multiple times and have a popular guide for what to see and do if you’ve stayed on Saint Maarten as we always did. But we get enough questions from cruise passengers about what they can squeeze in with about eight hours in port. Quite a lot, actually! Saint Maarten/Saint Martin is small enough that you can easily see some of the best beaches, have a little adventure and sample some of the island’s delicious cuisine. We put together this list of our top recommendations for five things you should definitely do if you’re headed to Saint Maarten on a cruise:
1. Fly High at Loterie Farm
St. Maarten’s highest point is Pic Paradis and located high in the treetops of the island mountain is Loterie Farm and the Fly Zone Xtreme. It’s a combination zip-line and obstacle course and not for the faint of heart. You’ll get a work out on crossing the cables and bridges and a heart pumping adrenaline rush as your soar through the jungle from treetop to treetop.
The Fly Zone Xtreme tour leaves Tuesday – Sunday at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm. Closed Mondays. Reservations are not accepted and the course is on a first come first serve basis, so get there early to guarantee your spot. The cost is €55 per person and you must be 18 years or older. The tours lasts 2 hours and you must wear close toed shoes. You can hire a taxi for a few hours and cool off at one of the nearby beaches, like Friar’s Bay, before returning for a bit of exploring in Phillipsburg.
2. Explore Saint Maarten on ATV
Saint Maarten/Saint Martin is small enough that we typically circumnavigated the entire island several times over the course of our stays. That means that you can cover quite a bit of ground and visit several of the island’s most famous beaches while on your cruise. This half day ATV tour leaves from Phillipsburgh, where your ship ports, and you’ll have time to enjoy Orient Beach and Grand Case on the French side. Grand Case is the culinary capital of the Caribbean, where French meets Caribbean cuisine. We promise you’ll never eat so well as in this tiny village! After lunch, you’ll have some time for a little shopping in Marigot where you’ll no doubt find the perfect souvenir from the island. Finish off the tour at one of our favorite spots: Maho Beach. Grab a guavaberry colada and watch the planes land. But we don’t recommend standing in the jet blast unless you want to head back to the ship very, very sandy.
3. Explore Phillipsburg
If you want to hang out closer to the ship, Phillipsburg has many shops to explore as well as a beach. Don’t miss this opportunity to visit the Guavaberry Emporium on Front Street and taste Saint Maarten’s legendary liqueur. Just be sure to check with the ship and know the rules about what quantities of liqueur you can bring back on board if you’re purchasing some as a souvenir. If you still have time, pay a visit to the St. Maarten Zoological Park. It’s the largest in the Caribbean and you’ll find an amazing variety of birds, including local species, there.
There are a lot of great beach front restaurants serving up the fresh catch, Caribbean lobster and conch fritters. We particularly like The Greenhouse, which has a lively environment with crab races and live music.
4. Kayak to Pinel Island
Pinel Island is a little slice of heaven just off the Cul de Sac on the French side. There’s a beautiful shallow reef surrounding the island, making it a great spot for snorkeling right from the beach. You can hire a taxi to take you out to the Cul de Sac and rent your kayaks. If you don’t have your own snorkel gear, you can rent that too. The Yellow Beach Bar on Pinel Islands serves up an incredible lobster lunch from freshly caught Caribbean spiny lobsters. You’ll probably even see the lobster traps set up when you snorkel around the island.
5. Shop, eat and hike in Marigot
Marigot is the French capital of Saint Martin and its streets are lined with chic boutiques and delicious restaurants. We highly recommend stopping at Le Galion for lunch and asking for a table with a view of the port. Don’t miss climbing up to the top of Fort Louis, the island’s largest historical monument. It was built in 1767 and provides a stunning panoramic view over the leeward side of the island.