The idea of stepping onto an island that is influenced by two European states is exhilarating. St. Maarten with its capital Philipsburg is the Dutch side and St. Martin with Marigot as the capital gives you a taste of France.
Obviously, with just the one day on the island, it was not possible to experience what both sides had to offer. As we docked in Philipsburg, that was going to be our preferred exploration capital.
Although I loved Philipsburg for its beach, and the boardwalk, and everything you will read below, it wasn’t until we got back to the cruise ship that I found out the French side being what you say, a little bit more casual when it came to the clothing department on its beaches. So, yes, if you’ve got raging hormones, the French side might tickle your fancy, but if you are family man like myself, then I would stick to the Dutch side.
St. Maarten was also amongst the few places where the beach had a certain aura about it. For a change since it was right there adjoining the city centre alongside the boardwalk filled with restaurants and shops, there is a hustle and bustle mixed with singing and some dancing that adds on to the whole holiday atmosphere.
A short walk and St. Maarten opens up its gates as a Tax Free haven. Duty Free shops selling jewellery, cigars, alcohol, electronics, and watches at pretty good prices are everywhere. Cartier, Tiffany’s, Ralph Lauren and the likes all have their showrooms in place, ready to make your wallets a little lighter with attractive pricing. That is also another reason why St. Maarten is very popular with the American crowd, especially the American run cruise ships.
The day at St. Maarten was spent leisurely roaming around, window shopping (and a little more), and taking breaks sitting at small cafe’s spread out throughout the island.
A walk along the boardwalk is highly recommended. Have an ice cream under the shade of a palm tree, or listen to the some calypso music being played by the locals as the waves gently crash along the beach. It’s the perfect way to relax and take in the sights and sounds of what’s around you.
St. Maarten is very touristy, but it does bring about a lovely change to the scenery after visiting secluded beaches elsewhere on the trip. Besides the shopping, the people are quite friendly and yeah someday who knows I get to experience the French side...