French or Dutch side?
Saint Maarten is split between France and the Netherlands, with the French side occupying the northern 60% of the island and the Dutch occupying the remaining southern portion of the island. Your flight into the island will arrive at Princess Juliana airport on the Dutch side – be sure to wave at all the crowds on Maho beach!
Most of the nightlife is situated on the Dutch side of the island, including the casinos. The French side is quieter, and more tranquil, with more of a European feel to it. The Dutch side has assumed a more cosmopolitan vibe.
St Maarten activities
You can also come ashore and enjoy all the island has to offer. For the more adventurous there is parasailing, skydiving, scuba diving, hiking and biking. There is plenty of duty-free shopping, fine dining, relaxing spa-treatments, or you could fit in a round of 18 holes at the Mullet Bay golf course. You can visit the rum distillery, butterfly farm, or just take a drive around the island and enjoy the stunning views.
A few key things about St Maarten
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Main Yacht Charter hubs in St Maarten
It matters where you do your chartering. Below are some must-visit yachting hotspots in the St. Maarten
Philipsburg comprises four parallel streets a mile long squeezed into the narrow piece of land between Great Bay and the salt pond. This is the capital of the Dutch side of St Maarten. Here you will find endless duty-free shopping and lively bars on Front Street, as well as an up-market casino. This is where the cruise ships offload their guests and as such there is plenty to offer here.
Yacht charters starting in Philipsburg will depart from the picturesque Bobby’s Marina, started by Bobby himself in 1968.
Simpson Bay Lagoon
Many of the charter yachts are based out of the marinas in Simpson Bay Lagoon. Surrounding the marinas, you will find many options for eating ashore and enjoying the vibrant nightlife on offer. Simpson Bay is only a short 10-minute taxi ride from Princess Juliana airport.
Marigot is the capital of the French side of St Maarten and another center for charter yachts. With its abundance of shopping, good eats, public markets, and cultural sites, it makes for a good stop on any charter, even if you don’t start your trip here. Marigot provides a scenic and protected anchorage.
10 Best Anchorages & Spots to Visit in St Maarten
The island of Tintamarre is a short 3NM hop from the NE side of St Maarten. The island is now uninhabited, but you will still see some evidence of it having been lived on previously. Now though, you will have the island to yourself to relax and enjoy. The island provides perfect opportunities for swimming and snorkeling.
Orient Bay is one of the busiest beaches on the island, and for good reason. The pristine powdery white sand and clear blue water makes it one of the biggest attractions on the island. The vibe at Orient Bay is incredible with many people enjoying the restaurants, bars, and beach activities. There is also a naturist end of the beach for those who like their suntans without any lines.
From your anchorage, you will enjoy marvellous sunsets with a view out towards Anguilla island and Creole rock. During the day, the long sandy beach is ideal for swimming, lazy walks and snorkelling. Grand Case also has some good shopping and fine restaurants from which to choose.
A small island situated on the north east side of St Maarten, this is the tropical paradise that locals like to frequent. Pinel is very laid back with plenty of beach bars from which to choose. This is the perfect destination for yacht charters as the island is inaccessible other than by boat, and as a nature preservation area no one is allowed to stay ashore overnight.
No trip to St Maarten is complete without a visit to the Sunset Bay & Grill at Maho beach, where you will see jets right up close landing and taking off from the international airport.
Gustavia - St. Barts
Any sail over to St Barts would not be complete without a visit to the capital. High-end shopping opportunities abound for all the cruise ships and megayachts that hang out in St Barts. Or you can get away from it all and go visit one of the forts with beautiful views overlooking the harbour.
Anse de Colombier - St Barts
A beautifully protected bay far from the crowds of St Barts, this is a wonderful anchorage for snorkelling, sealife, or just hanging out in your hammock aboard.
They don’t call this Baie Longue (Long Bay) for nothing. The white sandy beach stretches miles south towards the Dutch side of the island. The bay is nicely protected from the trade winds reducing the waves to a nice quiet lapping against the sand. The perfect location for viewing the sunset over Saba island to the west.
The bay gets its name from the slightly pinkish sand that colors the otherwise white sandy beach. This is a beautiful, calm, and secluded beach to relax and take a break from it all. On the western side of St Maarten, it has a view out to neighboring Anguilla. Anchor in the bay and swim in the crystal clear waters.
Friar’s Bay is a quiet bay on the west side of the island. This is a very laid-back, relaxed, family-orientated beach. The two existing beach bars put on fun theme nights which are always a hit. Come and enjoy some cocktails at the bar whilst enjoying the sunset.