You’re visiting Philipsburg, St. Maarten via cruise ship and you know all about the fact that there are two sides to the island — the French side and the Dutch side. You could do an island tour, but really, you just want to go to the beach and avoid the crowds and the spectacle of 85-year-old naked men at Orient Beach and the big roaring planes that fly directly over your head at Maho Beach.
Great Bay Beach can be seen from the cruise ship and is a great beach to visit. It’s right in downtown Philipsburg. There are watersports, chairs/umbrellas, bars, restaurants and shopping and is where we normally go to spend the day. The sand is beautiful, the water calm and shallow – suitable for families AND you can get there fast to take full advantage of the entire day.
One Day in Philipsburg St Maarten
– How to get to Great Bay Beach
Option 1 – Water Taxi
After having breakfast on the ship, walk outside the pier area past the St Maarten sign on the right towards the walkway on the left that says “Water Taxi”.
Cost $7/person (all day)
You’ll get a wristband to identify that you paid, and travel from the ship to town or to beach (multiple stops) as many times as you wish for the entire day.
Be aware of which water taxi you are getting on because they don’t all stop at the same point along the beach.
(09/01/2016 Note: I read on cruise critic that this has changed and that the water taxi does stop at all spots along the beach. I’ve not done it recently, so I can’t confirm this myself.)
Option 2 – Walk (about 20 minutes)
After having breakfast on the ship, walk outside the pier area past the St Maarten sign on the right and PAST the “Water Taxi” on the left towards the “Little Switzerland” Store. Turn right and walk towards the taxi stands but keep going through security and onto the main road.
Turn Left and keep walking
(Incidentally, if you wanted to take an island, dune buggy or jeep tour you can negotiate one here with one of the “freelance” operators)
Stay on this road and along your route, you will pass a boat repair area. A few signs pointing to the beach ar attached to different poles and fences but they are a bit small so keep your eyes out for them.
You’ll soon come to a large parking lot that you can take a short-cut through, and you will enter an area with shops and restaurants. You’re almost there. (This compound of shops is one of the stops for the Water Taxi)
Keep heading left and you’ll soon be at the beach. The very same beach that you would be if you had taken the water taxi.
Find a seat and stay for a while – you have arrived!
Once on Great Bay Beach and the boardwalk, you’ll have ample opportunity to rent a chair and umbrella for the day.
There is stiff competition here for your patronage and prices do vary so shop around and negotiate for any rentals or souvenir purchases.
We’ve found the more expensive options for space on the beach is at the beginning of the boardwalk (opposite the Court House water taxi stop) $20 for two chairs, an umbrella, free wi-fi, showers, restrooms and a few drinks. If you continue further down towards the West end of the boardwalk where it’s less busy and quieter, prices are lower at around $15. It all depends on how far you wish to walk and also how secluded you want your surroundings. If free drinks aren’t already included in the price, negotiate for them and most importantly have US cash ready with exact change.
Our spot for the day was $15 for two chairs with cushions/umbrella, wi-fi, restrooms and two sodas. One bucket of 5 beers was $12.
Enough with the Sun and Surf. It’s Duty-Free Shopping Time!
Accessed by walking through any of the gaps between the beachfront restaurants, Front Street is easily walkable from the beach. Jewellery, camera, clothes, linens and tourists goods are all available. There is also a MacDonald’s in town and if you are a Star Wars fan – check out That Yoda Guy.
Star Wars fan you are? That Yoda Guy you must see
Located on Front Street is the 2-story shop/museum called “That Yoda Guy”. Owned and operated by Nick Maley one of the artists involved in the creation of Yoda as well as other creatures in the original 1977 Star Wars movie.
Odd it is! But interesting we found.
There is a free section upstairs with exhibits, memorabilia and autographed items for sale and a more extensive display ($) of memorabilia is accessed upstairs and continues through onto the lower level. It’s more than just Star Wars there are also exhibits from other movies that Nick Maley has worked on as well as celebrity life casts.
To get back to the ship just continue along Front Street and turn right and you will be back on the same road as the beach.
Hope you enjoyed your relaxing day at the beach in St Maarten!
Please check out our Caribbean archives for more itinerary suggestions for other ports on your cruise holiday.