We have been to St. Maarten several times during cruise visits. This stunning Caribbean destination is one of our favorites because we've always had beautiful weather and thoroughly enjoy all the watersports and activities that you can do on the island. But on one of our early visits, we arrived with no plans and had wondered what to do. We had been on a power boat ride, with a jam-packed schedule of snorkeling, beach time and lunch. That was a fantastic day.
We also had tried a cruise-ship sponsored beach day on one of our trips. That turned out to be kind of boring and expensive -- with a coach ride with a large group to a drab resort and minimal amounts of time at the beach and waters to enjoy the day at our leisure.
This time, we wanted to keep our schedule loose and flexible.
We heard there was a beach nearby the port, so we went for a stroll along the adjacent road and toward Great Bay Beach in the town of Philipsburg. When you leave your ship at the pier, you simply start walking along the harbor to the left. You can walk about 20 minutes to reach the beach or take a water taxi ($7) from the pier to town.
The beach area is busy, and there are a lot of shops, restaurants and bars. We also spied at least three gelato and ice cream places along the way, which are very appealing on a hot day.
You will be approached by people eager to rent you chairs and an umbrella on the beach. Many of these are run by the restaurants located across the boardwalk opposite of the beach location. We grabbed two chairs, an umbrella and the Wi-Fi code to use for the day for $15 total.
Sunning, swimming, a tasty lunch with spicy chicken at a nearby restaurant -- complete with a bucket of beers (specials galore in this area, too; we paid $11 for six brews) -- and a couple more drinks at another boardwalk-side stop, and we finished off a relaxing day in port.
If you're looking for a laid-back, cheap day near the port in St. Maarten, you can consider an easy stroll to Great Bay Beach.