One of the best decisions we made while in St. Maarten was to hire a car and drive around the Island, being locals and experiencing the Island at our own pace. We visited some of the top beaches, cafes and restaurants the island had to offer.
The first place we visited was Orient Beach, which was a short 15 minute drive from our hotel. White sandy beaches, bright blue water and beautiful beach chairs filled the shore. We spent most of our time at the Orient Beach bar sipping cocktails in the sun.
Since the beach is located on the Eastern side of the island, the winds are quite strong. Waves are high and the water rough, however the cool breeze definitely does help in the hot weather!
This is probably one of the nicer beaches in St. Maarten. The sand is some of the whitest I’ve ever seen and there are quite a few beach bars and restaurants along the shore. Most of the restaurants and bars offer specials for $20-$25 including a bucket of beers, free wifi and two beach chairs & umbrellas.
If you walk past all the beach bars, there is a small rock divider which separates Orient public beach to the nudist beach. I was actually quite surprised on how busy this side of the beach was!
A definite must experience is Maho Beach, most famously known for the airplanes that land right behind the beach. It’s a bit of a mission to get to, however so worth the experience. Parking is hard to find so you need to make sure if you’re driving to go either early morning or later in the afternoon.
The best planes to see are the larger international flights, however these only come in every hour or so. It’s best to jump on the airport website and check arriving flights to see when the best time to go is.
The beach itself isn’t the best and is very overcrowded so not somewhere you would want to spend an entire afternoon. We just came for lunch, saw a few planes and left. Once you get to the beach, there are signs everywhere stating ‘Danger’ as there have been some serious injuries from the planes flying so low and sand blowing around.
Dawn beach is the same location where our hotel was located. Again along the windy side of the island, it wasn’t the best beach for swimming, however has amazing views of the sun rising. Since it is so windy, they have staff working around the clock to keep the beach as clean as possible from all the washed up seaweed. There are resorts all along the beach, however the beach itself have remained quite quiet, which is always a bonus!
If you’re looking for something that has food, shopping and great beaches, Phillipsburg Beach is definitely where you want to head. The water here is calm, the sand is white & clean and there are a ton of shops and restaurants to enjoy.
It’s quite touristy and you will notice several locals trying to get you to hire beach chairs, jet-skis and the like. Since the water is so calm, there is probably the best place to enjoy the ocean without any waves.
All major shops can be found here, including an overflow of watch & Jewelry stores! Also located in Phillipsburg is the amazing ‘GUSTO’ cafe. Even if you don’t have a chance to eat here, I would recommend stopping by and ordering Frozen Coffee Cream which is to die for!
GRAND CASE BEACH
This is one of the quieter beaches on the island located on the Eastern side. There is no wind here so the water is quite calm and very clean beaches. The sand isn’t as white as some of the other beaches, but I found the water much warmer here.
The food is much less expensive with authentic BBQ Dominican style food. There are a few shops here, but I would say most people come here for the beautiful clean beach and cheap local food.
It’s no doubt that St. Maarten has an amazing selection of restaurants to choose from, especially along the French side of the island. Our top picks include:
- Le Pavillon by the Sea – Amazing French inspired food, reasonably priced
- GUSTO – Best cafe for fresh drinks and coffee
- Boca Marina – Best fish & chips on the island
- Le Santel – Most amazing views of the sunset & great French food
- Rancho Steak & Lobster – Great for a fun night out, live music and great food
- French Bakery ‘La Suciere’ Pastry – Fantastic homemade pastries
- Paradise View – Creperie Restaurant – The best crepes on the island with amazing views.
- Worth hiring a car and driving around on your own
- Currency is EURO
- High season is December – April – pricing will increase during this time
- The French side of the island is known for better food, where the Dutch side is known for better night life
- Hurricanes may happen during September