The sun-soaked paradise of Sint Maarten is a magical oasis with sugary beaches and azure water. The 13-square mile Sint Maarten draws travelers from around the world.

Some travelers arrive by cruise ship to the Philipsburg's port. A major hub in the Caribbean, the capital's port accommodates up to eight ships at one time, and it recently welcomed the world’s largest ship – Icon of the Seas.

The Dutch side of the unique two-nation island is also known for its world-famous landing approach which brings in planes over crowds at the hugely popular Maho Beach. Sint Maarten is also celebrated for shopping, dining and adventure. 

Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Dutch Antilles cityscape at the Great Salt Pond.
A tropical climate and lush natural habitats await you year-round © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

When should I go to Sint Maarten?

The short answer is anytime. Located in the Lesser Antilles among the northernmost Leeward Islands, Sint Maarten enjoys a tropical climate with average temperatures ranging from 74℉ (23 ℃) to 90℉ (32℃). 

With roughly 8 to 10 hours of sun a day, summoning your inner beach bum will be easy work whenever you go.

Visiting during the off season (June to November) means fewer crowds, lower hotel rates and cheaper flights, but it also coincides with hurricane season when the heat intensifies. Though hurricanes rarely occur you should bookmark the National Hurricane Center for up-to-date information before and during your stay. 

High season (December to April) brings higher rates as the weather mellows and famed events like Carnival and the Heineken Regatta kick-off. 

How much time should I spend in Sint Maarten?

Plan to spend at least a long weekend, or better yet book five days. Besides unwinding on pristine beaches with amazing snorkeling, Sint Maarten is a hit with shopaholics. 

Philipsburg is filled with scores of shops selling luxury goods and local merchandise. Shopping is a big draw (approximately two million people visit each year) because of the country’s duty-free status, saving you up to 30% on purchases compared to in the USA. 

The culinary scene reflects the mashup of approximately 114 nationalities in Sint Maarten.

While inland, nature enthusiasts will want to check out the jaw-dropping vistas on a hike, or head on a zipline, schooner and gondola adventure.

Wellness-seekers will find a once-in-a-lifetime spa experience through Serenity Spa at an idyllic cliffside gazebo on Maho Bay near Princess Juliana International Airport, where planes land over the beach.

Situated above peaceful turquoise water, the magical spa setting contrasts with the faint din of beachgoers cheering as planes land.

You can also tailor your trip to the history-buff in the family with an itinerary that includes the Concordia Monument, the sight marking the border of Saint Martin, and Fort Amsterdam, the 1631 Dutch military fortress. 

Cruise ships docked at pier on the Dutch side of St. Maarten. Passengers wanting to go to town are tendered to the smaller Hodge Pier in Philipsburg.
Keep abreast of cruise ship schedules if you want to avoid the crowd in Philipsburg © Ruth Peterkin / Shutterstock

Is it easy to get in and around Sint Maarten?

Nonstop international flights from major U.S. cities, Amsterdam and Paris bring a flurry of international travelers. A large share of visitors come ashore from massive ships such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, docking close to Philipsburg’s vibrant boardwalk. 

Taxis or buses are available but for maximum flexibility you should consider renting a car. More adventurous travelers should inquire about renting an ATV, a family-friendly buggy or scooter.

Top things to do in Sint Maarten  

Make a classic Johnny Cake in Sint Maarten 

Attend a Johnny Cake class at Fleming’s Cafe with charismatic chef, Lennox Fleming. The personalized classes are curated to fit the interests and size of a group and can be arranged through email ( or Facebook messenger. 

A Johnny Cake is a fried, cornmeal flatbread, a staple in Sint Maarten and throughout the Caribbean. A highly versatile food, the Johnny Cake is a go-to whether you’re dunking them in soup or making sandwiches. 

Since it’s no fun to begin a cooking class on an empty stomach, indulge in chef Fleming’s local “musts” like banana fritters and saltfish before pivoting to measure, mix, knead and fry up delicious Johnny Cakes. 

Whether by land or sea, enjoy the natural wonders of Sint Maarten

There are 37 beaches on Sint Maarten from secluded hideaways like Indigo Bay or the lively Maho Beach. Visitors flock to Maho Beach to snap a photo of incoming aircrafts.

You can dive into sea life at any one of the 35 dive sites around the island or enjoy the top-notch snorkeling at Mullet Bay and Cupecoy Beach where you can revel in colorful busy reefs. Check out shipwrecks teeming with marine life in Simpson Bay and Little Bay with the floating Tiki Hut. 

 Head into the rainforest to ride the Flying Dutchman, the steepest zipline in the world. Securely strapped in a seat suspended by cable 2,800ft above ground: don’t forget to admire the view as you hurtle down 1,050 feet at a 42% grade. 

 A colorful restaurant called L'Escargot (the snail serves French food in Philispburg near many popular shopping areas.
A global menu is on offer across over 300 restaurants on the island © Teacherdad48 / Getty Images

Eat food from around the world in Sint Maarten 

As we mentioned: foodies love Sint Maarten for its diverse and highly-acclaimed cuisine which reflects its many cultures from Pacific Islanders to Europeans, Asians and varied Caribbean nations — this island has the highest number of nationalities per capita.

If you adore Mediterranean cuisine, flag Azul, a stunning restaurant perched high with views of the famed Maho flight path.

For Asian fusion, try Aziana located on the historic Rolandus Canal and order the Babi Pangang, a Dutch-Indonesian-Chinese-styled grilled pork dish – a phenomenon in the area. 

If you’re hankering for New Orleans fare, head to NOLA, a Bayou Bistro in Simpson Bay. And with French Saint Martin just across the border, fine French cuisine is at your doorstep in Cupecoy Bay at the Rendez Vous Lounge.  

Shop-til-you-drop in Sint Maarten 

Take advantage of Sint Maarten’s duty-free status and head to Philipsburg—a shopper’s dream—with flea-market stalls, upscale jewelry stores and designer labels David Yurman, Mango and Dior. 

Peruse the colorful Guavaberry Emporium, the country’s national liqueur. The centuries-old rum is made from a berry growing wild in the center of the island which, despite its name, doesn’t taste like guava, instead it has a woodsy, bittersweet flavor. Drink the famed liqueur neat, like the locals do, or use it to create cocktails.

For a taste of The Netherlands, stop at AMAsterdam for a cold Heineken and Instagram-pose in a giant wooden shoe. At Amsterdam Cheese and Liquor Store find an astonishing array of Dutch cheese and talk with friendly cheese aficionados about taking up to 20 pounds (9kg) of cheese home with you.  

Party at Maho Village in Sint Maarten 

The main nightlife is found in Maho Village. Feeling lucky? The Casino Royal is the biggest on the island showcasing 21,000 sq ft of gaming. Stroll down the street for live music at The Hole in the Wall, late night dancing at the Moonbar Rooftop,  or disappear into the clubby White Rabbit Piano Lounge.

 By day, check out the newly opened carnival museum We Culture celebrating the history of the high-octane spring festival—and likely inspiring a future visit.

Sint Maarten is a perfect base for island hopping

With its large international airport, Sint Maarten serves as a gateway to surrounding smaller islands. Take a ferry in Simpson Bay and in 45 minutes, you’ll find yourself on the upmarket French island of St-Barthélemy

Anguilla, a British territory, is just a 25-minute boat ride away, and for a full day-trip, consider dreamy Saba, a 1.5-hour ferry journey (each way).

How much money do I need for Sint Maarten?

The Netherlands Antillean guilder is the official currency, but the US dollar is equally accepted. 

As a tax-free zone, expensive brands are available for less than in the USA. Sint Maarteen can be pricey compared to neighboring islands, but there are deals to be found. There is also an abundance of supermarkets for those wanting to self-cater on a budget. 

Average daily costs

Hotel room: US$100 – US$500
Bed and breakfast: US$55 – US$600
Dinner for two (3-courses): US$100 – US$140
Pint of beer: US$2 – US$6
Rental car/day: US$40 – US$80
Taxi: US$8 – US$35
Bus: US$1 – US$3

Plane flying low over the beach in Sint Maarten
Get caught up in the infectious thrill of waving in a low-flying plane at Maho Bay © Kotax San / 500px

Things you should know before going to Sint Maarten

Sint Maarten is different from Saint Martin. Although Saint Martin and Sint Maarten share one island, they are distinct nations. Occupying the less-developed northern two-thirds of the island, Saint Martin is a French Overseas Collectivity and Marigot is the capital. 

However, crossing between the countries is hardly apparent: the binational island boasts the longest open border in the world.

Be mindful of the cruise ship schedule

When planning your much-awaited shop-til-you-drop outing to Philipsburg, consult the cruise port schedule. Though the renowned port and services are extensive, crowds can be challenging. In the 2023 winter season, a record-setting six ships arrived on the same day, bringing ashore 30,349 people. 

My favorite thing to do in Sint Maarten

As an avid traveler, I thought Maho Bay’s landing path over the beach wouldn’t draw me in, but I was so wrong. The number of photos and videos on my phone prove that I was ga-ga just like every other tourist in Sint Maarten.

My inner child took over and I couldn’t stop marveling at planes of all sizes swooping in over the azure water. The vibe was infectious as beachgoers cheered, clapped, jumped and waved to incoming planes.

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