The Caribbean has several facets — from the sun-kissed beaches, to the vibrant local life, to an international cosmopolitan vibe. Philipsburg, the classy capital of Dutch Sint Maarten, belongs clearly to the last segment. With a bustling economy filled with high-end shopping streets, hotels, and cafés, Philipsburg is a town of trade, good food, and awesome international shopping experiences.
With a vibrant nightlife, distinctly Caribbean beaches, and a beautiful climate throughout the year, Philipsburg is a great all-round destination.
Philipsburg isn’t the type of place you get lost in, though you’ll probably let yourself get lost in the deals. There are two main roads that bisect Philipsburg along its length: Front Street and Back Street.
Front Street is considered the main artery, with a collection of duty-free shops. Everything — from native crafts, to Italian leather, to Japanese products — can be found here. From Front Street, there are several narrow alleys that lead to different arcades and flower-filled courtyards. For those looking for beautiful architecture, there are great examples of West Indian styles executed in the trademark pastel colors. The houses have second-story verandas, looking out into the busy street below.
A Rich History
One of the most prominent landmarks in Front Street is the 1793 structure simply named “The Courthouse”. This is a wooden building, washed white and built with architectural flair. Another good place to visit is the Simartin Museum, which tours you through the local history. Among the items displayed are real examples of Arawak pottery. The Arawaks are the original inhabitants of the island. There are also cargo, salvaged from an 1801 British vessel which sank off the St. Maarten coast.
Philipsburg is also an important strategic point in the whole of St. Maarten, and this is marked by the two historic forts found within its boundaries. Fort Amsterdam, the older one, was built in 1631. This was the first such outpost built by the Dutch in the Caribbean. It was soon captured by the Spanish, until it went back to Dutch control in 1648. Today, the site provides a spectacular view of the whole capital.
Fort Willem, currently housing a television transmission tower, was built in 1801. It was a British structure, until the Dutch took over it in 1816. Likewise, it has a great view of the whole city of Philipsburg and even neighboring islands.
Past Meets Present
Today, Philipsburg continues to be an important part of Dutch St. Maarten, what with its focus on trade. The past mingles with the present in good spirits, as the capital has turned into an exciting tourist destination. Its scenic waterfront offers a stopover for cruise ships, and its many night clubs, cafés, and restaurants offer a whole night’s worth of entertainment. There are also accommodations for each need, from posh resorts to cozy guestrooms.
Truly, St. Maarten is a Caribbean destination not to be missed. If you expect your getaway to be filled with other than the sand and surf, Philipsburg offers you everything in an attractive package.
Nightlife in Sint Maarten
A vacation in Sint Maarten wouldn’t be complete without spending some time out on the town and savoring all that the island has to offer. Enjoy the shopping and taste the sumptuous gourmet delicacies during the day, but when the sun sets, everyone knows it’s time to party!
Whether you prefer to enjoy a leisurely cruise on the lagoon or spend the hours trying your luck with dice, cards, and everything else, Sint Maarten has something for the night-owl in you.
The Dutch Side
Feeling lucky and want to try your luck at breaking the bank? If so, the Dutch side of Sint Maarten would be perfect for you. The area is loaded with casinos ready to provide a wild night of gaming entertainment. The Princess Casino is, of course, the first choice for a visit. It’s a 25,000 square-foot, Monte Carlo-themed palace of gambling pleasures with all the favorite table games and slot machines you can ever want. The Princess Casino even has four marvelous restaurants serving up delicious Italian, Caribbean, American, and Japanese cuisine, so you can get fueled up and ready to go for another round.
The French Side
Sint Maarten is deservingly well-known for its food, and on the French side of the island, you don’t have to settle for sandwiches and sodas when dusk arrives. Feel the ambiance of Europe as you stroll through Marigot and relish the continental charm of the area’s cafés and bars while you savor perfectly-cooked steaks and seafood while listening to Latin music, reggae, or even modern EDM and techno. The French side of the island is certainly the best place to experience both Caribbean and French cultures at the same time.
Dining in Sint Maarten
It’s almost impossible to recall exactly when Sint Maarten was dubbed as the “Gastronomy Capital of the Caribbean”, but it would be safe to say that for the past decade at least, this island has been recognized as one of the best destinations any traveler with a discerning palate would be ecstatic to visit, again and again.
There are over 300 restaurants in the locality, all featuring the culinary culture of more than 120 nationalities that have made the island their home. With the large amount of dining establishments available for your pleasure, it’s expected that one might be a bit overwhelmed with the plentiful options.
Shopping in Sint Maarten
You really won’t have time to get bored at Sint Maarten, whether you’re staying for the food, for the beaches, or for the shopping. The island is a shopper’s paradise, with its duty-free bargains from almost everything you can imagine. Electronics, jewelry, liquor, and fashion accessories, just for starters, are widely available in a huge variety of shops at prices 30-60% lower than what you’d find anywhere else.
Staying in Sint Maarten
Dutch Sint Maarten offers one of the Caribbean’s best in high-end shopping and sumptuous dining amidst a rich historical backdrop. With all that the city has to offer, the last thing you should worry about is where to stay.
The Naughty Side of Sint Maarten
Sint Maarten has always been a top destination for the pleasure-seekers, whatever their pleasure may be. Be it gourmet food, luxury shopping, high-end gambling, or adult entertainment, the island has them all. Pay a visit to the Platinum Room at the Maho district, which prides itself on having “the hottest dancers on the island” as well as the most diverse, with girls from all over the world providing a sultry and wildly-fun evening of entertainment for its customers.
If you’re near the Simpson Bay area, the Bada Bing Nightclub with its coterie of Latina dancers is highly recommended. Of course, the Red Diamond, known for its upscale adult entertainment, should also be on your list. This establishment has everything – gorgeous girls going topless, VIP bottle service, private VIP rooms, and they even have an outdoor terrace available with a fabulous view of the marina.
A Day in St. Martin is Never Enough
Heading to the Caribbean would never be complete without a visit to St. Martin (Sint Maarten to its locals). With a full slew of activities both on land and water, St. Martin is bound to provide you with a breathtaking time. Check out some of the best things to do while in this piece of paradise.
St. Martin is the proud home of sapphire blue waters, and you can’t swear to have been here without going on a boat trip. There’s the “classic” sailing trip which puts you on a sailing yacht, complete with the trademark triangular sails. For the more adventurous, you can steer through the clear waters in your own vessel through the “Rhino Safari” adventure.
If you’re traveling with your special someone, you can sign up for the Tango dinner cruise. This gives you a chance to experience the unique Caribbean cuisine atop a beautiful catamaran. Dinner is served buffet-style, so it is a feast for all senses.
These are just a few of the several options available, and all can be booked at reasonable prices.
St. Martin is a giant treasure chest full of historical bits. What better way to explore it than with an expert? For those who want to see both the French and Dutch sides of the city, you can go on a highlights tour that will take you through exciting spots such as Grand Case (a gourmet village) and Maho beach.
Speaking of Maho beach, you can also have the thrill of a lifetime here by watching the low-flying jetliners cruise overhead. A separate tour covers this in depth, while also delving deeper into the Dutch side of the island. Other tours include a bird’s eye view via a helicopter, a walkthrough in a rum distillery, and more.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
What good are pristine waters if you only get to see the surface? This side of the Caribbean offers amazing underwater adventures, too. Go on a half-day snorkel trip via the power boat “Sand Dollar”, or go on a deep blue adventure by scuba diving a wreck swarming with stunning marine life.
And don’t worry if you are not scuba certified, or if you’ve never tried diving before. You can try diving first in shallow waters courtesy of an easy introductory lesson. Note that this is not a certification course, though it is the perfect entry point for those who cannot afford the full price of comprehensive scuba diving lessons.
Speaking of lessons, St. Martin also offers lessons for almost any activity that can be found within the island. This goes for anything from kite-surfing to kayaking, to parasailing. There are also trips to the neighboring islands, which is perfect for island hoppers. There are also museum trips, mountain biking trails, sporting clubs, horseback riding, and a lot more! There are also several gyms around, if keeping fit is your first priority. If you are looking for a place in the Caribbean that gives you more options than just lounging around, St. Martin is the perfect spot.