(Header photo courtesy of Christine Garner)


St. Maarten & St. Martin offers diverse towns, landscaping and areas. Some guidance on its most visited areas:


PHILIPSBURG Philipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side, Sint Maarten. The capital holds many cultural monuments and history. Walk along the beautiful side streets and endless shopping options, from jewelry to clothing boutiques and shops. After having a diverse shopping experience you can have lunch or dinner at the various restaurants ranging from local to international cuisines.

Philipsburg has three main parallel streets, famous for its combination of shopping, dining and the presence everywhere of Great Bay Beach, one of the largest St Maarten beaches and the only one in the world home to a capital.

Those are: 
* The Philipsburg Boardwalk. Have a St Maarten Craft beer, do a pirate Escape Room experience , take a seat at famed Ocean Lounge, or take a sailing boat around the historical bay! 
* Front street, St Maarten’s shopping haven and instrumental in St Maarten’s awards for shopping. From clothing stores to jewelry, Front street is your go to place for that special gift you wanted to buy! You will find amongst others Joe Jewelry International, Caribbean Brewing Company, Guava berry and more here. 
* Backstreet is where locals also go for daily errands and shopping. A cornucopia of clothing stores presents itself. 
For those who want to stay in Philipsburg longer, check out our member hotels Alicia’s Inn, Divi Little Bay, Holland House Beach HotelHorizon View and Pasanggrahan Boutique Hotel
When done have a typical St Maarten Johnny Cake at Carl & Sons or in between shopping, watersporting or visiting the St Maarten Museum , take a well deserved coffee at St Maarten’s well known coffee lounge based on locally roasted and designed coffee recipes, or a “beer from here” at the local craft brewer Dutch Blonde Beer bar!.

Want to relax in Philipsburg? Take a stroll along the boardwalk where there are bars, restaurants and entertainment. You will be able to relax along the shoreline of Great Bay Beach.

The Capital of the Dutch side of our island Philipsburg was named after its first Commander John Philip(s), a Scotsman born in 1691 in Arbroth. As of 1721, he lived and worked as a merchant on several Caribbean islands until he settled down on Sint Maarten where he bought a plantation “Industry” in Cul-de-Sac and became a planter growing and cultivating sugar cane. He was appointed Commander of Dutch Sint Maarten by the West India Company in 1735, a position he held until 1746. During that time, he was able to revive the salt industry and encouraged foreign planters from neighbouring islands (mostly British) to settle in Sint Maarten. As the population increased, the need for a larger town became obvious and the sand ridge between the Great Bay and the salt pond was chosen in 1733. The new town named after visionary John Philip(s) was divided in Front street and Back Street with many alleys connecting both streets, the salt pond and the bay. Advantages of the new settlement were the short distances between the pond and the bay, making transportation of the reaped salt to the waiting schooners in the Great Bay more efficient while still close enough to Fort Amsterdam to be protected from enemies. 

Of all the magnificent hikes set out by NGO EPIC, the one closest is that of the Point Blanche area. A history walk can be obtained in the Heritage Museum, and the Philipsburg mural walk app can be downloaded here

SIMPSON BAY Simpson Bay  is another part of the island which holds a lot of culinary and entertainment. If you enjoy being the hustle and bustle of the nightlife, you can find many hotels such as Atrium, LaVista, Flamingo, Simpson Bay Resort and Royal Palm resort. Even though there is a great nightlife on the strip, there is also a quieter side of Simpson Bay where one can relax. Such as on Kimsha Beach next to many local vendors for the authentic taste of the island and on Simpson Bay Beach which is one of the longest beaches on the island.

It is said that Simpson Bay village was named after captain John Simpson, who defeated and sank two pirate frigates in the vicinity of what is now Simpson bay located on the west side of the island. This most probably happened during the second half of 17th century. Apparently captain Simpson was from Scandinavian origin, related to chose colonist that came to St. Barthélemy and of which some settled here as a fishing community.

This bay is a hotspot for megayachts and sailing. In March, you are prone to find the lagoon totally full when the St Maarten yatch Club’s Heineken Regatta sets sail.

If you are into hiking, try the westcoast trail leading from Kimsha beach to Mullet Bay, passing by no less than 5 beaches bordering the Caribbean and the Simpson Bay Lagoon.

CUPECOY Cupecoy is on the southwest side of the island, and where you can see one of the most beautiful sunsets on the island. Cupecoy is a unique hideaway in St. Maarten has a beautiful landscape of the limestone cliffs.

OYSTER BAY On an isthmus between the natural Oyster Bay and the ocean, one finds Oyster Bay Beach.  A great location to spend a beach day and end up in adjacent Infinity restaurant when the sun has set.

DUTCH QUARTER  Dutch Quarter is one of St. Maarten’s/ Dutch side larger residential districts. Along the main road, one can see one of the oldest plantation houses of the island. Several areas on French and Dutch quarter have added Quarter (district) to their given names. On the Dutch side is Prince’s Quarter nowadays divided in Lower Prince’s Quarter and Upper Prince’s Quarter. It was named after Dutch Prince Willem Hendrik who visited Sint Maarten in 1835.

CUL DE SAC VALLEY & EMILIO WILSON ESTATE / RAINFOREST ADVENTURE PARK – In a dead end (Cul-de-Sac) valley leading to the island’s center, one finds one of the largest residential areas of the island, comprising amongst others the St John’s, Saunders and St Peters areas. Next to lush green hills surrounding the area, various hidden historic gems can be found – for example the historic “Pasture Piece” Plantation House Hotel, allowing you to sleep in history. The Plantation House of Mary’s Fancy and Cul-de-Sac graveyard can also be found at the entry to the valley.

Next to a public park ready for you to spend your afternoon, one finds the Rainforest Adventure Park with a scenic 360 degrees view platform on top of Sentry Hill, and Emilio’s restaurant in the former plantation house, as well as one of the estate’s former buildings in use as a permanent museum on the island’s history.

MADAME ESTATE – This area is named after one of the oldest plantations on our island “Madam’s” or “Madame Estate”. Before, the sugar trade grapes were cultivated at that location and sold to rich planters on Sint Eustatius. After the sugar industry came to an end, the property was sold by the owners, the van Romondt family to the Salt Company (Maatschappij tot Zoutwinning) who used it as their headquarters. The estate nowadays belongs to the Wathey family. The estate house is in bad shape but is being restored. The surrounding area was developed in a housing and shopping complex in the eighties. Its design is based on Dutch colonial canal houses.

GUANA BAY – This beautiful long beach at the south east of the island as well as the area around it was named by the Taino for the presence of the ancient looking docile reptiles that lived there. We call them iguanas but kept the original name for this site.

MULLET BAY – This bay and surrounding areas are named for the mullet fish living in this area. Mullet Bay hotel, one of the first large resorts built on the island in the sixties, was destroyed in 1995 by hurricane Luis. The bay was and still is a popular area where the inhabitants and tourists find shade while spending the day swimming and picnicking. The golf course on the property that was part of the resort, is still in use.

MAHO BAY – Named after the Maho trees, a mangrove-type of shadow trees growing on that site. The Maho area is possibly the most photographed area of St Maarten, due to its vicinity to its
landmark Maho Beach with its continuously landing and departing aircrafts of Princess Juliana International Airport. It offers the scenic Mullet Bay Beach as well, mangrove
areas and the bustling nightlife area amidst Sonesta Maho Beach Resort Casino & Spa, the Royal Islander La Terrasse, Royal Islander La Plage and Morgan Resort hotels.

NAKED BOY HILL – Naked boy hill is named after a certain type of tree that resembles according to oral history a naked boy. This tree the red Gum Tree (Bursera Simaruba) has a reddish peeling bark like a person’s skin after a sunburn. Other names for the tree are “Naked Indian Tree” or “Tourist Tree” no explanation is necessary!

For a hiking tour up Naked Boy hill, NGO EPIC has created a route for you.

POINT BLANCHE – At the south east of the island is an area called Point Blanche. The first Dutch named it “Witte Punt” describing the whitish coloured cliffs rising up out of the sea when approached by ship. The layered rock formation named Point Blanche formation so visible here, resulted from hardened layers of tuft spewed from subvolcanic eruptions deposited on the seabed some 50 million year ago. These layers were later on raised above sea level by the earth crust’s movements. The area was uninhabited but for a small leprosy colony until a road was built in the sixties, opening up the site with houses, port related businesses and a prison. For those who love hiking, two route goes to Point Blanche , the Guana Bay area and the Vineyard.

PELICAN AND BILLY’S FOLLY – This area got its name after a certain Mr. William who bought the property located near Pelican, hoping to become rich from exploiting the manganese mines and guano found in the limestone caves. did it work out? No, it was not profitable, hence the name Billy’s Folly.

Pelican nowadays is one of St Maarten’s most bustling tourism areas, with many of its largest resorts located under Billy’s Folly hill. Atrium Resort & Spa, Simpson Bay Resort & Marina, LaVista Beach Resort, Royal Palm Beach Resort and Flamingo Beach Resort. Restaurants vary from the more intimate Hideaway and Juliette’s Bistro, to the seaside cosmopolitan La Patrona and Replay Bar. Aquamania operates all your watersport desires from the same waterfront , including departures to Saba.
Along the one mile Pelican area, you find the Pelican key as well as Kim Sha Beach.
The Pelican area also boasts a large amount of villas at your disposal.

NGO EPIC has set out an itinerary if you want to climb Billy’s Folly

WELGELEGEN – This area in Cay Hill was named after the plantation with the same name of which only ruins remain nowadays. Plantation “Welgelegen” was owned by the first medical doctor in the Dutch side Mr. Rijgersma. He was sent to the island by Dutch King Willem III in 1863 after the official abolition of slavery. Rijgersma’s task was to look after the health and wellbeing of the entire population of 2819 persons. Of those were 1878 that had just gotten their freedom. Some of them stayed on Sint Maarten, cultivating their land, while others migrated to surrounding islands in search for a better life. With such a small population, the doctor had ample time to research the flora and fauna he encountered. From those he painted aquarels and sent them to universities and institutes in the Netherlands, Sweden and the USA. A century later, those treasures, were compiled by a Dutch scientist Mr. Hennie Coomans in two books that are available in the library for the reading public. “Welgelegen” means that the plantation was well situated with a nice view, good breezes, good soil and a large pond. Hotel l’Espérance can be found right in the middle.

LITTLE BAY – Though now especially known for its impressive resorts Divi Little Bay and Belair Beach Hotel, Boutique hotel L’Esperance and various scenic villas surrounding it, the Little Bay / Belair / Fort Willem area is one of historical importance. It was the first location where the Dutch made landfall on island and settled. In addition, various battles for Fort Amsterdam took place, during one of which later governor of New Amsterdam (New York) Peter Stuyvesant lost his leg when trying to reoccupy the fort from the Spanish.

A great place to start hiking trails, for example from Belair to Cay Bay, the Little Bay Cay Bay trail.


GRAND CASE Grand Case is a little town on the northern part of the island on the French side. Indulge in the French culture and the decadent cuisines that there to offer. By Grand Case beach you can also enjoy the local cuisine as well which is known as the “lolo’s”. Here you can have the classic foods that the French cuisine has to offer. From blood pudding to fungi and salt fish.

MARIGOT Marigot is the capital of the French side of the island. This town has a very French European feel to it as it is from the French Collectivity, with a Caribbean twist. In this town, you can find a mixture of shops and boutiques as well. Established as a residential area in 1703, it was named that way due to its swampy area.

ORIENT BAY Orient Bay is a great place where all your water adventures are realized! In Orient Bay you can enjoy jet skiing, surfing and all in between. Additionally, there are many restaurants and lounging areas if you are not up for many activities.

FRENCH QUARTER (QUARTIER D’ORLEANS) Whereas historically Dutch side settlements were more geared towards the salt industry, the French / French side colonists had more eye for agriculture (though salt production and farming took place on both sides of the island). Quartier d’Orleans or French Quarter’s large plains offered space for plantations and became one of the first settlements on the French side.

At the outskirts of French Quarter towards Grand Case the Amuseum Naturalis of the Fruits de Mer foundation gives a great glimpse of an old plantation house, next to a great overview of St. Maarten’s fauna.

For those off the beaten track history buffs, French Quarter is home to Caves, that are a remnant of the Arawak times / timeline on St. Maarten. Quartier d’Orleans carries the name of the Duke of Orleans, brother of King Louis XIV, but is better known nowadays as French Quarter.

LOWLANDS (TERRES BASSES) – Contrary to what one might expect in regards of its name, the Lowlands area is predominantly on the French side of the island. This unique peninsula in between of the Simpson Bay lagoon and the Caribbean Sea and has been a basis for the growth of tourism on island.

Its scenic villas, surrounded by three of the island’s most stretched beaches of Plum Bay / Baie Aux Prunes, Long Bay / Baie Longue and Red Bay / Baie Rouge were amongst others owned by Michael Jackson, United States Presidents and the Rockefellers. Though a peaceful area, for bustling nightlife and a wide variety of restaurants one finds the Cupecoy and Maho areas right around the corner!

OYSTER POND – Like many other sites, Sint Maarten sites are named by the inhabitants, being it the South American Indians, the Dutch, the Spanish, the French or the English, after the special geological, historical or environmental features of the sites or gave the names of important persons or their trades. It speaks for itself that Oyster Pond was named after the oysters who grew between the roots of the mangroves surrounding the pond. people dug them out with their machetes and consumed them.

The division line between the French side and the Dutch side goes trough the middle of the pond. However, it was decided that the pond is Dutch while both side of the pond are divided between the 2 nations.

Oyster Pond is divided by a narrow peninsula from Oyster Bay Beach. Coral Beach Club, Princess Heights Hotel, Dawn Beach Club and Oyster Bay Beach Resort are situated around the unique binational lagoon.

PIC PARADIS – Pic Paradis is the highest point on island (424m), amidst lush green areas surrounding this peak; very suitable for hiking. Several separate views over the Atlantic as well as the Caribbean are available.

When coming from the Dutch side, pass by the Marigot area on the road to Grand Case, and a road uphill will lead you almost to the top of the mountain. From scenic Loterie Farm halfway the hill, one can take trails through the forest toward  the top as well, passing by remnants of this famous plantation along the route.

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