Philipsburg is the capital of in Sint Maarten on the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean sea. It is a busy port for cruise ships and one of the Caribbean's best shopping spots.
If you are staying on the island for multiple days, don't be afraid to explore. Minibuses, vans with "bus" license plates, pick up all over town. Rides are $1.50 and are payable when you get off. The minibuses go all over the dutch side and the french side. A very cheap and simple way to get around. Rent a car; it is very simple to get around and people are friendly. You can get around the island in about 1 and a half hours total time. Be warned, Sint Maarten drivers are aggressive and streets are narrow. It is not uncommon for a driver to swing out from a parking space into heavy traffic. Don't leave anything of value in the car.
Beach behind downtown shops
- Lay out on the beach. Even the beach right off Front street has fantastic water.
- Have a horse back ride down the beach at coconut grove.
- Have a Carib. Prices range from .75 to $2. At that price there is nothing finer than sitting in the sand and knocking back a cold one.
- Check out the Courthouse. Notice the Pineapple on top? That made it onto the national flag.
- Watch incoming and outgoing planes on the beach at the end of the runway at Maho Beach. Schedules are posted at the Sunset Beach Bar. Its more fun than it sounds especially when a 747 from France comes in on Thursday afternoon!
- On the beach behind the Front St shops on the Boardwalk, you can rent chairs for the day. An example of an option would be: 2 lounge chairs with cushions, a table and ashtray, an umbrella and a bucket of beers (5 coors light, corona, or heineken) for 20 bucks plus tips. The kid that runs it is really cool and when he isn't busy you can hang with him and have a couple beers. He will get food from the restaurants on the boardwalk and you can use clean bathrooms for no charge. Yes someone will charge you for anything you do, even use a bathroom. You can watch the ships in during the day but if they are in port, it will be very busy. Skip this on busy port days.
Shopping is duty free on the island. Front street is lined with shops selling every trinket and piece of jewelry you could desire. Several marquee brands, like Cartier, have outposts here. For a better deal check out the market in the middle of town. Prices start out at about the same as all the other tourist shops but haggling is allowed and encouraged. Just be willing to walk away and prices plummet, especially if you're the only one looking.
- We shop on Front St. when the ships are in port. It will be really busy with a few of them in town but all the shops open and towards the end of the day you can get good prices as most shoppers are back on board by 5pm. At 3:30 to 4 shop owners start dealing the best.
Lolos pop up all around Sint Maarten after the sun goes down and are a cheap and delicious way to get a little taste of the Caribbean. Be sure to try the BBQed chicken and Johnny cakes. Johnnies at pondfill 34 is fantastic. Chicken is $3 and Johnny cakes are 50 cents.
(see same topic for Saint Martin)
- Trattoria Italiana is located at the end of an ally way behind the Casino Royale in Maho. Eating is generally pricey on the island but you can get REALLY good food (and lots of it) for a fair price. A pizza with a few toppings, antipasto for two, side of spaghetti for two three beers and an iced tea will run 40 bucks or so plus tip. Its a good NY style thin crust pie with a few slices left over to bring back to the hotel. Nice people that run the place too.
- Subway Sub shop at the end of the Maho strip. Its just like the U.S. shops. In the morning you can get a FRESH 12oz coffee and a ham,egg,cheese,onion and pepper omelet sandwich for less than 5 bucks. All fresh made too. Its clean and the two women are super nice. They open at 8 am. Good for a quick sandwich on the beach during the day too. It is not the best but its good and reasonable.
Try local drinks such as Guavaberry Liqueur which is sold in the authentic store at the head of the main streets in the heart of the town of Philipsburg.
(see same topic for Saint Martin)
The two official currencies on St. Martin are the Euro on the French side and the Florin (Netherlands Antillean guilder or florin) on the Dutch side. US dollars are also accepted across the island. There are many change points and banks on St. Martin.