Philipsburg, St Maarten cruises

The tiny island of Sint Maarten is something really special. Time spent here will leave you full of memories of turquoise waters, colorful buildings, palm-fringed beaches, and more.

Philipsburg, Sint Maarten port guide

One of the four constituents of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Sint Maarten is certainly unique. It’s the southern part of one island, with the northern part being French – Saint Martin. While there is no border control, the two regions are governed independently.

Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch Sint Maarten and is where you’ll dock on a visit to the island. On approach, straight away you’ll be met with idyllic island vistas. Lush green hillsides, bustling shops and restaurants and, of course, beautiful turquoise Caribbean waters lapping at the shore.

Top landmarks and sights in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten

Made up of four main streets, each less than a mile long, Philipsburg is wonderfully easy to explore. When you’ve had your fill of pretty shops and tempting eateries, why not take a closer look at the island’s history, with a tour of some of the main landmarks and sights?

The Courthouse

Former home of Willem Hendrik Rink, Dutch Commander and Governor of Sint Maarten from 1790 to 1806, Philipsburg’s now Courthouse has previously been a post office, fire station, and town prison. The building was erected in 1793, and proudly displays a wooden pineapple atop its roof – a Caribbean symbol of hospitality.

Fort Amsterdam

Around a 10-minute drive from the capital is Fort Amsterdam, built by the Dutch in 1631. Located on a peninsula between Great Bay and Little Bay, today what remains of the fort is home to a breeding colony of brown pelicans. You’ll also find a few 19th century cannons, as well as great views of the harbors below, should you make the trek here.

The Great Salt Pond

Behind the main stretch of land that is Philipsburg is the Great Salt Pond, which was once instrumental to Sint Maarten. During the 17th and 18th centuries salt was largely used for food preservation and became a significant export product for the Dutch side of the island during this period. Those who worked on the salt pans here had a hard life, and today there stands a Salt-pickers Monument on the central roundabout of Walter A. Nisbeth Road, to commemorate this part of Sint Maarten’s history.

Things to do in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten

Philipsburg is located on a thin strip of land between the Great Salt Pond and Great Bay Beach. From the beach side you’ll see a beautiful Caribbean horizon complete with docked yachts and ships as well as a peppering of nearby islands. Then, behind you, the backdrop is one of lush, verdant hills. Read on for a few ideas on things you can do while you’re here.

Head out on a hike

Should a little bit of time spent out in nature appeal, perhaps take on one of the hiking trails. A popular one is Pelican Peak. At about 4km, the trail is fairly steep but the majority of it is paved. While the peak itself has often been closed in recent years, you’ll still be rewarded with unforgettable views as you climb.

Wander around Philipsburg

At a slower pace, you might like to stay local to the port and explore Philipsburg itself. As you wander the pretty streets you’ll find remnants of a Dutch colonial past, such as the Courthouse, as well as more modern characteristics in the form of colorful art murals. Old Street could become a particular highlight, with its pretty bistros, inviting shops, and quaint old yellow car that’s begging to be photographed.

Explore museums

When it comes to museums in Philipsburg, you’ve two main choices. First, the Yoda Guy Movie Exhibit. Special effects designer, and the creator of Star Wars’ Yoda brings this unique museum that will delight fans of this iconic franchise. The museum displays pieces from all the movie characters he ever created, including costumes and objects that were used by Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Terminator, Superman, and Alien.

On the other hand, should be seeking some cultural enlightenment, perhaps choose the Sint Maarten National Heritage Foundation & Museum. Here you’re invited to take a closer look at the island’s past, covering everything from the time of the ancient Arawaks up until today.

Eating and drinking near Philipsburg, Sint Maarten

Throughout your Caribbean cruise, you’ll quickly discover how proud islanders are of their flavorsome, often fiery cuisine. And Sint Maarten is no different. You’ll find plenty of exciting foods to try here, some familiar and some perhaps not so.

Roadside snack bars are ideal for something tasty and on the go, likewise more elegant establishments are on hand to treat your tastebuds to something special. Some dishes to try include ‘Lokri’, which is deliciously spiced rice, chicken, and cabbage, and the local spare ribs are also a must. ‘Conch and dumplings’ is another dish you’ll see listed on many menus. This uses slow cooked conches (sea snails) seasoned well and served with fluffy dumplings and gravy.

Guavaberries are an island delicacy, found in abundance in Sint Maarten’s hilly mainland. Guavaberry rum liqueurs are very popular, and you could sample some sweet and delicious Guavaberry Punch at the Guavaberry Emporium on Front Street, in Philipsburg.

Shopping in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten

Many visitors to Philipsburg find the shopping is a highlight, as many big fashion brands have stores all within walking distance of the port. Designers include Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Michael Kors are all available, as are luxury jewellery shops.

For authentic, local souvenirs, Philipsburg Marketplace won’t disappoint. Here, cute and colorful stalls sell a variety of wares, from bags and clothing to handcrafted trinkets.

Getting around: Philipsburg, Sint Maarten transport

It’s likely that much of what you might like to do and see in Sint Maarten is within walking distance but rest assured, there is plenty of reliable public transport if you need it.  There’s a good local bus network, plenty of taxis, and even bike tours if that appeals.

Philipsburg, Sint Maarten port facilities

Sint Maarten cruise port has been welcoming cruise passengers for years, and in 2014 it welcomed its two millionth guest. It’s a large port that can accommodate several ships at the same time and is conveniently located close to the center. Facilities at the port include shops, tourist information, eateries, and an internet café.

Top tips for Philipsburg, Sint Maarten


Throughout Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of the island, the Antillean Guilder or Florin is the official currency. If you wander over the French side, Euros are the currency.

US dollars are also widely accepted in Philipsburg, as are card payments in larger establishments (not food shacks or souvenir markets).


Many cafes and restaurants in Sint Maarten will add a service charge to the bill, but if not, it’s customary to add a tip of between 10-15%.


Unsurprisingly, as a Caribbean destination, Philipsburg in Sint Maarten has a hot climate. You can expect temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius in the summer, and only dropping to roughly 28 degrees in the winter. Tropical storms in the late summer/fall can bring high winds and rain.