How To Save Money in Sunny St. Maarten
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One of the most-visited destinations in the Caribbean by cruise passengers, St. Maarten is ideal for sun worshippers and beach bums. St. Maarten is part of the kingdom of the Netherlands and is located on an island that also is home to Saint Martin, which is part of the "overseas collectivity" of France.
You can easily travel between both sides of the island and tell everyone back home that you spent time in the Netherlands and France – technically — during your cruise vacation, too.
Accordingly, as part of well-developed Western nations, prices on the island range toward the higher end when compared with other destinations you might visit in the Caribbean, such as in the Dominican Republic, Antigua, Jamaica and Mexico.
But cruisers can find several frugal adventures during a day visiting St. Maarten at the port in Philipsburg. Try these four for fun.
Grand Tour – A taxi shuttle tour of the island is a good way to spend a day exploring a few beaches, markets and several scenic spots and historic sites. The kiosks offering a range of these tours are located just outside the gates at the main port area. Organize a group of six to eight people on your ship interested in doing the same type of tour and negotiate a deal with a driver. We were able to get a price of $25 per person for a four-hour island tour – down from $45 – because we had seven in our group instead of just two.
Great Bay Beach – This popular spot is located a 20-minute walk from the cruise pier. You also can grab a boat taxi right at the port area for $7 (all-day access) to get to the beach and its bustling boardwalk area. Once there, you'll find dozens of restaurants, bars and stores — as well as enticing ice cream shops. We always like to grab a meal of local favorites, like barbecue chicken and ribs with spicy rice.
Look around for the beer deals, too! We snagged a bucket of six for $10, a perfect way to cool off on a sunny day with temps in the mid-90s. Negotiate smartly for a beach lounger, as well. Each restaurant along the boardwalk runs the loungers in front of its property. You should be able to score a bucket of beers, two loungers with an umbrella and a Wi-Fi code for about $20.
Orient Beach – Grab a taxi and head straight over to the French side of the island to visit Orient Beach, a sweeping stretch of sand almost two miles long in a protected cove. A marine park is fantastic for snorkeling (bring your own gear along) and the beach has dozens of restaurants and small bars in huts located right along at the edge of the sands. We're speaking about frugal options here, and you can pack the cheapest swimsuit possible if you plan to do your sunning and swimming at Orient Club here. Yes, it's a world-renowned nude beach. Might as well give it a try.
Maho Beach – The beach in St. Maarten is famous because it is located adjacent to an airport. It's not the most beautiful setting, but the spot draws hundreds of people who seek the thrill of seeing giant commercial jets swooping in so very close overhead on landings. Also, the plane takeoffs just beyond a fence deliver engine blasts that some idiots insist on gathering behind while gripping onto the chain-link barrier and trying to hold on. (Check YouTube to see spectacular and cringe-worthy wipeouts.)
READ MORE: One Of The Lowest Landings Yet At Maho Beach
Maho Beach is worth a visit once to get a spectacular video or picture, and it has restaurants on-site to grab a meal while you watch the whole carnival atmosphere.
More by John Roberts
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