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13 Best Things to Do in St. Maarten on a cruise


St. Maarten is one of the most well-known cruise ports in the Caribbean. Often a stop on 7-night itineraries to the Eastern Caribbean, its popularity stems from the stunning beaches, vibrant towns, and diverse culinary scene. 

Even if you've been before, there are numerous activities to keep guests with varying interests satisfied during their visit. Whether you're seeking a relaxing beach day, cultural tour, or unique experience at the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit, St. Maarten offers something for everyone. 

Here's a list of the 13 best things to do in St. Maarten while limited on time. 

Read more: Best Caribbean shore excursions

Go airplane spotting at Maho Beach

Maho Beach

Aviation fans should plan to visit Maho Beach. Situated adjacent to Princess Juliana International Airport, beachgoers can enjoy the turquoise waters while planes approach the runway roughly 100 yards from the ocean. 

Dishing up everything from nachos to airline-inspired pizza, juicy burgers, sandwiches, and more, Sunset Bar & Grill is a popular spot to relax and watch planes land with a cold drink. 

Though you can book transfers through your cruise line, arranging your own transportation is more cost-effective. Plus, it gives you more flexibility; you can spend as much time at Maho Beach as you'd like—so long as you return to the ship before all-aboard. 

Take an ATV or Jeep tour of the island


If it is your first time visiting St. Maarten, you may want to take an island tour to get an overview of everything offered. Plus, they're a great alternative for those who don't want to spend their day on a large bus. 

In addition to time on the beach, ATV and Jeep tours allow guests to explore the lush landscapes and hidden viewpoints that many visitors don't see sticking to the main highlights. Sometimes, they will include a stop at local restaurants, so you can sample local cuisine. 

When booking, read the company's policies. Many have age restrictions, so you must confirm whether your younger child can tag along. St. Maarten Cruise Excursions, for example, says the tour isn't recommended for guests 7 years and younger, and all drivers must be at least 18. 

Taste high-class spirits at Topper's Rhum Distillery


Tours of the 6,000-square-foot distillery start at $25 per adult and $12.50 per child. During the tour of the award-winning facilities, you'll have the opportunity to sample different artisanal flavors, see the bottling process, and visit a lab to learn how the flavors are developed. 

Topper's Rhum Distillery is about 25 minutes from the cruise pier. If you don't want to make the trek just for some alcohol samples, pair the distillery with a visit to a nearby beach, such as Simpson Bay Beach or Kim Sha Beach. 

Another way to enhance your visit is by exploring the local restaurants. Révil Matin and Pineapple Pete have incredible ratings and are less than a five-minute walk from Topper's. However, take note of the hours of operation, as many restaurants within walking distance are only open for dinner. 

Go snorkeling


Snorkeling is popular throughout the Caribbean, as the crystal-clear waters allow swimmers to see the vibrant marine life. Most snorkeling tours combine the activity with a beach break, ensuring participants get plenty of time in the ocean. 

Celebrity Cruises "Beach and Snorkel Adventure," for instance, is a 3.5-hour experience that takes guests through Simpson Bay Lagoon, before heading out the ocean for some snorkeling. Afterward, you will have an opportunity to see planes land at Maho Beach. 

Kick back and relax at Orient Beach


Maho Beach isn't the only beach in St. Maarten. In fact, it's not a great option for those seeking a serene beach day. Orient Bay, often referred to as the "Saint-Tropez of the Caribbean," is another popular choice for beachgoers. 

Known for its long stretch of white sand and clear blue waters, Orient Bay offers a more tranquil atmosphere compared to Maho Beach. However, water sports are available, such as jet skiing and parasailing. 

Plus, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy a delicious beachside meal, from Coco Beach with barbequed meats and ceviche to Kontiki's sushi and sashimi. 

Charter a private boat


Though one of the more expensive ways to spend your time in St. Maarten, chartering a private boat is a luxurious experience that cannot be compared to standard sailing tours. 

You will have the freedom to explore the stunning coastline, beaches, and marine life at your own pace. Onboard, you'll receive personalized service and top-tier amenities, such as catering and handcrafted beverages. 

Billy Bones Boat Charter's website states a half-day tour starts at $850, while a full-day tour will cost you upwards of $1,300. Both prices include up to ten passengers. If you're sailing with a large group, that breaks down to $85 per person for the half-day tour and $130 per person for the full-day experience. Additionally, both tours include an open bar, snacks, snorkel gear, fuel, and crew. 

Take a hike


If other beachy destinations are on your itinerary, consider venturing to Pic Paradis. At nearly 1,400 feet in elevation, it's St. Maarten's highest point. While the hike is considered challenging, the stunning panoramic views are worth the sweat. 

Back Bay offers an easy, 1.3-mile trail. You can start at Point Blanche or Guana Bay. Either way, you'll pass Devil's Cupper, a natural pool that's a great place to stop for a refreshing dip. 

Other options include Sentier des Froussards and the Fleming Property Trail. The latter takes you to the top of Sint Peters Hill, which sits at an elevation of roughly 1,040 feet, while the trail from Anse Marcel to Petite Cay (Sentier des Froussards) is known for its natural beauty and picturesque views. Note that you can find it on Google Maps under the Dutch name of Wandelroute French Dump naar Ance Marcel.

Go shopping

Front Street St Maarten

Front Street is a busy thoroughfare in Philipsburg, just steps from Great Bay Beach. You'll find everything from well-known jewelers like Pandora to local souvenir shops and even the Sint Rose Shopping Mall. Don't forget to stop by the quaint Old Street. While tiny, it's home to a clothing boutique, jeweler, and small café. 

Marigot is the main town and capital of French St. Maarten known for its vibrant markets and charming harborfront. Marigot Market is your go-to for handmade souvenirs, local art, and delicious treats, including street food, fresh juice, or pastries. 

If you're making your way to Marigot, carve out time to visit Fort St. Louis, an 18th-century military fort that offers stellar views. 

Eat like a local during a food tour


Though St. Maarten is known for its beautiful beaches, it's also a great place to embark on a culinary journey sampling dishes like conch and dumplings, callaloo soup, Johnny Cakes, and locally caught fish. 

Pre-arranged food tours are easy to book, so you do not have to research different restaurants or worry about transportation. Plus, having a knowledgeable guide is beneficial, as they'll give you valuable insight into the culture and history of St. Maarten that you'd miss out on if you did a DIY food tour. 

Seagrape Tours offers a 5-hour Culinary Foodie Tour for $169 per adult. You may be able to book a food tour through your cruise line, too. 

Saddle up and go horseback riding

(Image taken from St Maarten Cruise Excursion's website)

While not a full island tour, you can take in breathtaking views of St. Maarten on the back of a horse, winding along the scenic coastal trails. 

For just $75 per person through St Maarten Cruise Excursions, you can embark on an hour-long horseback ride, ending at a stunning beach where you can take a dip in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. You can book a private tour, too. You must have a minimum of two participants, and the cost is $100 per rider. 

All rides are suitable for beginners. The trained horses know the trails well enough that you can spend time focusing on the beauty of the island. 

Explore the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit

Yoda Guy
(Image taken from The "Yoda Guy" Movie Exhibit's Facebook page)

In the heart of Philipsburg near Great Bay Beach is the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit, a non-profit museum started by Nick Maley, a special effects make-up artist known for his work on Yoda in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope and Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, among other projects. 

Described as "the most unique enterprise in the Caribbean," visitors can learn about the techniques that helped bring renowned characters like Yoda, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, the Terminator, Alien, Highlander, Superman, and more to life. 

Due to the small staff, hours vary, so you must check the website or give them a call to confirm when they're open. 

Go zip lining

Pelicans Peak Elizabeth
(The author at Pelican Peak before riding the Flying Dutchman in January 2023)

The Flying Dutchman, the steepest zip line in the world, is located on St. Maarten. Riders sit in a secured harnessed chair and are sent on a 1,050-foot drop that descends over 2,800 feet. 

It's a one-and-done experience, though. Those looking for a longer adventure will want to consider tours offered by Rainforest Adventure. In addition to the Flying Dutchman, guests can be escorted to Sentry Hill where they're harassed up to take flight over the mountain ridge.  

Alternatively, the Flying Dutchman is a great activity to pair with an afternoon at the beach. After spending about an hour on the zip line tour, you can take a short ferry to Great Bay Beach or a taxi to one of the other beaches on the island. 

Learn about birds at the Parotte Ville Bird Sanctuary 


The Parotte Ville Bird Sanctuary is home to 26 species and about 140 birds, including sun conures, one of the world's friendliest and most colorful birds. There are also ring-neck parakeets, black-headed caiques, and more. 

Visitors receive a short tour of the sanctuary, which was founded in 2015 by George Parotte. Admission costs $10 per person. Upon arrival, every visitor will receive some birdseed to feed the residents! They'll often land on the serving dish or even your shoulder! 

It is not within walking distance of the cruise pier, so you'll have to hire a taxi. You can expect it to cost around $15 per way for two adults. 

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