The Caribbean island of St. Maarten / St. Martin is divided into two countries.
The southern half (13 square miles) is Dutch and is called Sint Maarten, the northern half (20 square miles) is French and is called Saint Martin.
Cruise passengers love this port because you can experience two different cultures on one island.
St. Maarten is known for its 37 beaches, casinos, multicultural cuisine (everything from Chinese, Indian to Vietnamese and Creole) and excellent shopping.
Philipsburg is the capital of St. Maarten and is home to A.C. Wathey Pier – the cruise port that can accommodate up to six cruise ships a day.
St. Martin offers cruisers picturesque views, quiet beaches, and many opportunities to indulge in French and Creole cuisine.
Visitors to Marigot, the capital of St. Martin, can spend the day eating, relaxing in the sand and shopping at high-end designer stores or open air craft markets.
A day in St. Maarten / St. Martin is included in many, if not all, Eastern Caribbean itineraries.
Primary Language Spoken: English, Dutch (St. Maarten), French (St. Martin)
Currency: US Dollar (St. Maarten), Euros (St. Martin – some places do accept US currency but it’s recommended to check beforehand)
Where Do Cruise Ships Dock?
Cruise ships dock at A.C. Wathey Pier in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. The wharf can host up to six cruise ships a day – approximately 15,000 visitors a day.
While there are several stores and cafes at the dock, as with many cruise ports in the Caribbean, the majority of tourist attractions are just outside of town. Cruisers will need to take a taxi, bus, rental car or water taxi to get to them.
There is a visitor information center at A.C. Wathey Pier where cruise passengers can book tours of the island, pick up maps if they want to explore St. Maarten on their own, or take taxis to beaches or other points of interest on the island.
Cruise passengers can opt to walk to the heart of Philipsburg and Front Street, the main shopping and dining area – it is less than a mile away from the pier.
Getting Around St. Maarten / St. Martin
Taxi – There is no shortage of taxis at either cruise dock. For cruisers traveling with young children that require a car seat or booster seat however, we recommend bringing your own or booking an excursion/tour in advance with a taxi company that has car seats and booster seats. Taxi operators in St. Maarten are under government regulation and rates are per person and destination.
Taxi Vans and Open Air Safaris – If you have a large travel group, an economical way to see the island is with a taxi van or open air safari tour. These types of tours visit multiple attractions and points of interest, giving you a good overview of St. Maarten and St. Martin.
Car – Renting a car is a great way to explore both St. Maarten and St. Martin at your own pace. There are a handful of car rental agencies at the pier. You can arrange to have a rental car waiting for you at the dock ahead of time as rates increase drastically for on-site rentals. Some rental agencies offer special rental packages for cruise passengers.
Walking – There are several duty-free shops and food vendors at the pier however most of the popular stores and restaurants are found in downtown Philispburg. Walking to downtown Philipsburg (Front Street area) can take up to 20-minutes depending on your speed.
Kid-Friendly Beaches in St. Maarten and St. Martin
There are many family-friendly beaches on the Dutch and French side. Below are 5 of the most frequented beaches by cruisers with kids:
Great Bay Beach – Located right in Philipsburg, this beach is easily accessible to the cruise crowd, so your kids can get right to the business of sand castles and swimming. Cafes, restaurants, and shops are just a stone’s throw away.
Little Bay Beach – This beach is separated from Great Bay Beach by the Fort Amsterdam peninsula, which protects it from being completely overrun by the tourist crowd. Little Bay Beach is becoming known as quite the bird watching spot, which makes it a fun and educational location for a beach day.
Mullet Bay Beach – This beach is another kid-friendly option for those looking for a quiet day by the water in St. Maarten. There is ample parking here along with a few Lolos (snack bars) and food and drink vendors. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent.
Le Galion Beach – This beach in St. Martin, which is located close to the Butterfly Farm, is known to have perpetually calm waters, which is perfect for smaller children. There is also a beach restaurant that makes it easy to keep everyone fed and hydrated while they enjoy the sun and sand.
Orient Bay Beach – Cruise passengers can easily find a bus or taxi to Orient Beach in St. Martin (French side) from the cruise dock. This beach is popular with tourists because of its views, shops, water sports, and French-inspired restaurants. Do note that Orient Beach is known as a clothing optional beach and the south end of the beach is reserved for naturists.
Family-Friendly Activities & Attractions
If you’re looking for more than a beach excursion, check out one of these attractions. Each one is family-friendly, offering something for kids of all ages, and the adults, too.
Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit – Located in Philipsburg, this Star Wars-themed non-profit museum isn’t just kid-friendly, but appeals to adults and movie-lovers of all ages. The owner, who helped create Yoda, is usually on-site to meet visitors.
Loterie Farm – Located deep inland, Loterie Farm is a nature reserve with strong ties to St. Maarten’s cultural history. The farm was established in 1721 when plantation slavery was still legal. Families can enjoy hikes, a Tarzan-style obstacle course (for the smaller kids), a zip-line adventure (for older kids and parents), and a variety of different lounges and restaurants.
Adrenaline Rush at Maho Beach – Maho Beach is located at the end of the main runway at Princess Juliana International Airport. Visitors flock here to watch planes take off and land right in front of–and above–you. Although the beach area is quite small and swimming conditions are not optimal, your kids will think you unbelievably cool for taking them to this beach.
Where to Get WiFi in St. Maarten / St. Martin
There are several restaurants and cafes in Sint Maarten and Saint Martin that offer complimentary WiFi for paying customers.
Read More About Caribbean Cruises with Kids:
- Best Water Shoes for Toddlers and Kids
- Cruise Port Guide – St. Thomas with Kids
- Cruise Port Guide – Nassau, Bahamas with Kids
- Which Caribbean Itinerary is Best – Eastern, Western or Southern?