Philipsburg, St. Martin/St. Maarten Travel Guide
- Dozens of duty- and tax-free shops selling electronics, jewelry, and high-end clothing
- Lively nightlife year-round
- Beautiful waterfront boardwalk with great spots to watch the sunset
- Central location and easy access to the airport
- Fine dining on and around Front Street
- Some pretty cobblestone streets lined with colonial-style buildings (but some dilapidated areas too)
- Ongoing beautification project
- Great seaside cafes and restaurants
- Sint Maarten Heritage Museum has an impressive collection of indigenous tools and other objects
- Sint Maarten Zoo (the Caribbean's largest)
- Little local flavor left
- Crowds and traffic congestion
- Petty crime in some areas
What It's Like
Sint Maarten's capital is shopper's paradise. Every day, hordes flock to the tax- and duty-free stores on Front, Back and Old Street in search of cheap electronics, jewels, and designer clothes. Few places in the Caribbean offer the variety and quality of the items displayed in Philipsburg's windows at such a good price. However, this also means that the local flavor has been lost to development and tourism, and some parts of the city (and the island -- especially on the Dutch side) feel like they could be anywhere. Other parts of the city, however, have managed to maintain a Caribbean feel, and it's not that hard to stumble upon a pleasant street lined with palm trees and colorful colonial buildings.
Great shopping is arguably the main draw here, but Philipsburg also boasts good restaurants, a vibrant nightlife, and a couple of cultural attractions (namely, the Heritage Museum and the Zoo). The central location makes it a convenient base to explore the rest of the island. On top of that, the gorgeous, long beach has fine sand and pristine waters.
Where to Stay
Philipsburg is a pretty compact and narrow city, so most shops, bars and restaurants will be within walking distance of the hotels. However, travelers might want to stay on the southern end of the city, which offers easy access to Front Street's wonderful shopping and the pretty beach. While the western end is probably more convenient for those who want to experience the hopping nightlife of Simpson Bay or Maho, the east is somewhat quieter.