St. Maarten is the smallest island made up of two countries in the world. Half of the island is Dutch and half is French. Philipsburg, which is where most cruise ships dock is on the Dutch side of the island. The Dutch side of the island (known as Sint Maarten) is a lot like most other Caribbean islands but the French side (known as St. Martin) is like a taste of Europe in the Caribbean. We were very excited to spend time on the French side of the island, but I couldn’t find an excursion through Royal Caribbean that gave us the flexibility to do that, so I did a ton of research and we ended up renting a Jeep to explore the island on our own.
We hopped in our Pink Jeep (I really wish I would’ve gotten a picture of it!) and headed from Phillipsburg to Marigot, the first town you get to on the French side of the island. We explored the popular Marigot market and headed up to Fort St. Louis. The fort was built in 1789 to protect the warehouses of Marigot from pirates. It’s an easy climb to the top and the fort provides a beautiful view of the Marigot Bay all the way to Anguilla on a clear day!
After exploring the fort, we headed to Grand Case for lunch. Grand Case is the foodie mecca of St. Martin with little French Bistros and Caribbean barbecue shacks called “lolos” dotting the beautiful beach. We got stuck in terrible traffic between Marigot and Grand Case, so we did not get nearly as much time to spend there as I was hoping, but we did have a wonderful French Lunch with a gorgeous view at Nice SXM.
Interestingly, this was the only port on this cruise where there were other ships in port with us. There were three other Royal Caribbean ships in Phillipsburg this day, the Jewel of the Seas (which my in-laws had just gotten off of), Harmony of the Seas, and Rhapsody of the Seas, although it didn’t look like there were any passengers on Rhapsody. Anyway, it was fun to watch them dock and check out the other Royal Caribbean ships, especially Harmony!
There was so much more I wanted to see (and eat) in St. Maarten. It has made its way to our (long) list of places we want to return to. If you are visiting St. Maarten on a cruise ship, don’t feel like you have to use one of the cruise line’s shore excursions. If you choose to explore on your own, I highly recommend renting from The Jeep Plug. They gave us a great map and tips for driving around the island.
Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.