Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
St. Maarten

St. Maarten Beaches Near the Cruise Port

The best beach near the St. Maarten cruise port is just a quick walk or taxi ride away.

Any advice about St. Maarten beaches starts with three of them—Great Bay Beach, Orient Beach and Maho Beach. Orient and Maho are the most popular shore excursion beaches, but Great Bay is free and a short walk away.

Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach; © St. Maarten Tourism Bureau

St. Maarten is one of the most popular destinations for eastern and southern Caribbean cruises, so cruise visitors need to know that Great Bay Beach is one of the best beaches near the cruise port.

Ships dock at the Dr. AC Wathey Cruise Facility in front of a sprawling outdoor tourist mall. From there, cruise visitors can walk, take a water taxi or a taxi cab to Great Bay Beach. It lies right in from of the city of Philipsburg.

Budget-minded walkers will go less than one mile or about 12 to 15 minutes to reach the beginning of the beach. Otherwise, look for signs at the mall pointing toward the $5 water taxi.

The beach has rental chairs and umbrellas available for rent for the day. Hawkers in front of the cafes will sometimes offer them for free to visitors who buy food and beverages. Even better, this white-sand, two-mile beach is right in front of Philipsburg, capital of the Dutch side of the island.

The Philipsburg boardwalk lies between the beach and the shopping district of the city. It is easy to spend the day going back and forth between the beach and shopping or dining.

Numerous restaurants line the boardwalk; many more restaurants plus plenty of shopping lie only one block over on Philipsburg’s popular Front Street. But cruise visitors will find plenty of shopping at the duty-free Wathey Cruise Facility.

Orient Bay

Orient Beach
Orient Beach; © St. Maarten Tourism Bureau

Anyone visiting St. Maarten by cruise ship or to stay at the hotels and resorts should consider Orient Bay Beach as another one worth visiting.

Orient Bay, which is located on the French side of the island, is arguably the island’s most famous and popular beach. It’s longer and broader than Great Bay Beach.

It often gets ranked as one of the best in the Caribbean. As a result, it often draws large crowds.

Orient Bay is a fairly quick drive by taxi, rental car or excursion bus from Philipsburg. It is about seven miles north of the Philipsburg cruise port.

Note that the beach is on the French side and therefore topless sunbathing is common.

A five-hour shore excursion with transportation to Orient Bay and Maho Beach (see below) will start at $40 per person. Visitors should know in advance that restaurants and food stands are a bit expensive, so it pays to bring food along on the visit.

Rates to Orient Bay quoted by the St. Maarten Taxi Association are $10 per person each way for two passengers and $9 per person for three to five passengers.

Maho Beach

Great Bay Beach Map

Maho Beach is famous because it is located so close to the airport that landing planes will swoop down over the heads of beachgoers and cause some of them to get knocked off their feet.

As a result, it is hugely popular with visitors taking photos and videos. But be aware that some people have been hurt by the jet blasts.

The beach is seven miles west of the cruise port by Simpson Bay, which has a cluster of hotels, resorts and restaurants.

Some excursion operators quote prices as low as $15 per person for a transfer from the cruise port to Maho Beach. Like Orient Bay, taxi rates may be lower.

Other St. Maarten Beaches

Cupecoy Beach

Cupecoy Beach
Cupecoy Beach; © St. Maarten Tourism Bureau

One of the more interesting beaches on St. Maarten is Cupecoy because of its white sand, sandstone cliffs and small caves along the shore.

The high rocks block most of the wind, so it’s a good choice when the Caribbean trade winds are strong that day.

Clothing is optional because it is secluded and located by the French St. Martin border.

Cupecoy is a half hour west of the port and requires a taxi or rental car to get there.

Little Bay and Kim Sha

Anyone with an interest in diving might consider either Little Bay or Kim Sha beaches.

Little Bay, located near Fort Amsterdam and Philipsburg, is a beach dive location with calm waters and rock beach breaks.

Snorkeling and diving equipment are available for rent as well as jet skis.

Kim Sha is a popular starting point for dive and excursion boats. A certified PADI dive shop is located at the center of the beach.

Quiet and Private

Several beaches receive far fewer crowds than Orient or Great Bay and are worth seeing for people with extra time available.

Simpson Bay Beach is a long half-moon of white sand located by a fishing village. Few facilities or commercial establishments are available nearby.

Guana Bay Beach, located on the southeast coast of the island, offers great views of St. Barthelemy and is used for wind and kite surfing.

Visitors who take a 20-minute hike from Cole Bay Hill will reach Cove Bay, located between Cole Bay and Little Bay. It is popular with hikers, horseback riders and mountain bikers.

Burgeaux Beach, just beyond Simpson Bay, offers a cove and is a favorite of shell collectors and surfers.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
January 31, 2024

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