Things to Do in Philipsburg
Straddling the entire length of Philipsburg, Great Bay Beach is one of St. Maarten’s longest and widest beaches. Along its 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) stretch are lively beach bars, rum shacks, and street carts serving ice-cold beers and some of the capital’s best spots for dining and duty-free shopping.
Maho Beach can't boast that it's one of the most peaceful beaches in the world, but it certainly has a unique claim to fame, particularly if you're an aviation lover. This is because Maho Beach is located right next to an airport and the planes fly directly over the beach so low that you feel they might land on you.
Kids especially love watching the planes soar overhead multiple times throughout the day at Maho Beach, but even adults quickly get caught up in the wonder of seeing a large inflight plane so close up. Hang out by the fence on the edge of the beach closest to the airport and you'll even be able to feel the blast of the jets as a plane takes off – and probably some sand particles being swirled up around you. In addition to plane watching, Maho Beach is a fun place to swim and snorkel.
To make sure you don't miss out on seeing the big commercial planes land or take-off head over to Sunset Bar, which is located on Maho Beach and posts the flight schedule each day. You can also watch the planes from Sunset Bar while enjoying a drink and bite to eat.
FindSaint Martin’s main airport on a map and you've found Maho Beach. How close is it, you ask? Well, if you’ve ever seen a photo of sunbathing tourists gawping as 747s approach the runway just yards above their heads, it was probably taken here. So come by all means and get your own snap, but you may well find that the roar of engines and the smell of jet fuel deters you from staying too long.
Thankfully things are calmer on Mullet Bay Beach, a short walk away. This is the tropical paradise you've always dreamed of: white sands, swaying palms, clear water. Waves can get surprisingly high here, making it a magnet for the island’s surfers. Mullet Bay is also the site of the island’s only 18-hole golf course.
Divi Little Bay BeachResort is a secluded beach just outside Philipsburg on the western peninsula of St. Martin’s Great Bay. Postcard-pretty with soft, white sand and tranquil, turquoise water, the beach is popular spot for snorkeling and other watersports such as jet skiing, paddle boats, and parasailing.
St. Maarten’s longest beach has all the ingredients of a perfect Caribbean paradise: soft white sand, clear and calm turquoise water, and gently waving palms. Though located just behind the Princess Juliana Airport, Simpson Bay is surprisingly quiet and unpopulated.
Built by the Dutch in 1631, Fort Amsterdam was the original colonial fort built and an important vantage point in the dispute over the island by the Dutch, French, and British. Located on a peninsula on the western side of Great Bay, the fort is now decommissioned, but ruins and 19th century cannons remain. It’s also a sanctuary for nesting pelicans.
Standing sentinel in the palm-lined Watney Square on Front Street, Philipsburg Courthouse is the centerpiece of the island’s Dutch capital. Built in 1793, the white wooden structure with crisp green trim has a bell tower topped by a pineapple—a classic Caribbean symbol for “welcome.” Once used as a jail, a post office, and a fire station, the building is currently a working courthouse.
Step into the world ofStar Wars—and the mind of legendary Hollywood makeup artist Nick Maley who helped create many of the franchise’s most memorable characters—at the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit in Phillipsburg. In the middle of a bevy of duty-free shops along Front Street, this museum and gift shop houses movie memorabilia, figurines, props, and holograms.
Off the southern coast of St. Maarten, the diminutive and isolated island of Saba is a thriving sanctuary for tropical plant and animal life. Though Saba doesn’t have any beaches, the pristine volcanic island is a paradise for hikers and a world-class destination for scuba divers.
Cole Bay Hill is the perfect perch for travelers to catch panoramic views of Philipsburg, St. Maarten’s Dutch capital, and nearby islands Saba, St. Eustatius, and Anguilla. In the mornings, sun glints off Simpson Bay Lagoon, the largest inland body of water in the Caribbean, and in the evenings, travelers flock here for sunset snaps.
More Things to Do in Philipsburg
Front Street is the main street and activity hub of Philipsburg, St. Maarten’s Dutch-side capital. Running along the inside of the bay, Front Street (Voorstraat) is home to some the island’s finest restaurants and shopping—including duty-free jewelry, electronics, and cigars—as well as historic wooden buildings.
Housed in a traditional 19th-century house, St. Maarten’s only museum is devoted to the history of the Dutch side of the island. Exhibitions at the small museum focus on the island’s indigenous cultures, geology, and colonial history, while archaeological finds on display date back as early as 500 BC.
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