Pro Tip: At 90% of Cruise Ports, forego the cruise-offered wicked expensive tour and instead rent a car. Renting a car means you don’t have to get shuttled around like cattle for the day, and you get to tailor the day to exactly what you want to do. Most pre-made tours require you to make a few concessions on what you want to do, so to me this is the best option. Only downside, it requires a little bit of research beforehand. But lucky for you, that’s what I’m here for.
St. Maarten is the perfect port to rent a car because they have car rental agencies just a few feet from when you step off the ship! We opted for an open Jeep Wrangler so that we could feel the Caribbean wind in our hair as we drove. St. Maarten’s main attractions are lots and lots of beaches, so you can either do an entire beach day or….
First stop: Maho Beach. This is the famous beach where planes fly SUPER LOW OVER YOUR HEAD as they touch down on the runway behind the beach. Not only do you have a super unique experience of the low fly-overs, but the beach is wonderful itself. The beach restaurant and bar is also a great place to hang out and take in the view. Warning: DO NOT stand close to the fence that encloses the runway. The gust from the airplanes’ engines is powerful (duhhh) and earlier this year somebody died from standing to close. There are signs all around the beach that say this, but as I witnessed while I was there, very few people actually heeded the warnings. So let me tell ya, HEED THE WARNINGS. Just a tip 😉
As you drive to your first destination, make sure to pull over on the side of road when you see flamingos – where else have you ever seen wild flamingos?! There are crowds of them at some places along the drive between the port and Maho Beach, and it’s an amazing sight. Photos can’t do it justice.
Second Stop: the Boardwalk in Philipsburg. This boardwalk is on Front and Back Streets, and has lots of cute shops and the path is right along the beach, shaded by beautiful palm trees. We spent a couple hours just wandering along the beachfront and the little alleyways. A few things you should definitely grab: freshly cut mango, fresh-squeezed juice, and some ice cream from the many creameries along the walk.
If you have a lot of time, you could also road trip all the way to the Butterfly Farm and the Parotte Ville Bird Sanctuary, but both of those are in the opposite direction from the port as Maho Beach so it may not be possible to do it all. The map below isn’t exact, but it will give you an idea of what a roadtrip would entail. Do what interests you most. If you’ve been to any of these sites, comment below what you would recommend most!