With more than 2 million annual cruise visitors, St. Maarten has long been one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean. Located in the island capital of Philipsburg, it’s not only the gateway to the Dutch side of St. Maarten but also a popular choice for visitors heading to the French side of St. Martin.
St. Maarten’s small size makes it easy to explore the island on a half- or full-day shore excursion, either by small boat or minivan. Popular destinations on St. Maarten include Maho Beach, Simpson Bay, and Oyster Bay, where activities include swimming, snorkeling, and boat cruises. Many tours also run to St. Martin, where highlights include the capital of Marigot, a cruise across the Simpson Bay Lagoon, snorkeling at Creole Rock, or the beach resorts of Grand Case Beach and Orient Beach.
Alternatively, the town of Philipsburg itself offers plenty of opportunities for duty-free shopping, as well as a large selection of beachfront bars, casinos, and restaurants around Great Bay.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Shore excursions usually include port pickup and drop-off.
- Tours typically last between four and six hours.
- Bring your passport with you if you plan to cross between the French and Dutch sides of the island.
- Be sure to pack your swimsuit, towel, and sun protection—most tours offer a chance for swimming or snorkeling.
How to Get to Philipsburg from the St. Maarten Cruise Port
Cruise ships dock at the AC Wathey Pier & Port Facility around 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) south of Philipsburg center. It’s an easy 20-minute walk into town, but water taxis also make the short trip, leaving from Captain Hodge Pier (signposted at the terminal). Regular taxis are also available outside the cruise terminal.
In St. Maarten, the local language is Dutch and it's French in St. Martin, but almost everyone speaks English. The official currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder on the Dutch side and the euro on the French side, but American dollars are accepted everywhere. Most shops and restaurants also accept credit cards.