Philipsburg, St. Maarten

Photo: Holland House
Photo: Holland House

For the past few days, you’ve been relaxing on the beach. With your eyes mostly closed, you’ve listened to the waves lap against the white sand. You’ve moved only to reapply suntan lotion, cool off in the turquoise water, or accept a fruity drink from the beach attendant. You may be in paradise, but as much as you hate to admit it, you’re a little bored. And you’re starting to burn.

Isolated beach resorts can be peaceful and relaxing. When you’re in the right mood. If you aren’t though, seeing the same people, eating similar food, and staring at the same view day-after-day can start to become tedious. Even in paradise. So where do you go when you want to enjoy a beautiful beach without feeling confined? Give Philipsburg, St. Maarten a try.

Philipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side of Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin. The 37-square-mile island was peacefully divided–for the most part–by the Dutch and the French in the 17th century. Border control remains virtually nonexistent. The island has 39 beautiful beaches. One of the most popular stretches of sand is Great Bay Beach in Philipsburg, a small city also known for its duty free shopping. Already more excitement.

Photo: Holland House
Photo: Holland House

Check in to the Holland House Beach Hotel. The boutique hotel is located along the boardwalk of Great Bay Beach. Pastel-accented rooms have local and Dutch artwork, and balconies overlooking the beach and the massive docked cruise ships. Spend the morning lounging on the beach–you were looking for some sunshine, after all. When you start to look pink, rinse off in the outdoor shower, find a seat under an umbrella at the open-air Ocean Lounge, and judge the people walking by in questionable beach attire. And order bitterballen with mustard, chicken satay, and a frozen guavaberry colada.

After a real shower this time, spend the afternoon walking along Voorstraat (Front Street) just behind the boardwalk. You’ll find everything from Cuban cigars and Belgian chocolates to Delft pottery and jewelry in famous blue boxes. Since you enjoyed your earlier cocktail so much, stop at the Guavaberry Emporium to buy a bottle of the fruity, rum-based liquor that is made on the island. At the end of Front Street, you’ll find the Sint Maarten Museum, which documents the island’s history from indigenous Arawak tools to pirates and shipwrecks to clothing and weapons from the plantations. And finally, make your way up to Fort Amsterdam. Built on a peninsula overlooking Philipsburg, the fort was built by the Dutch and captured by the Spanish. You’ll go to see the rusted cannons, but you’ll stay for the amazing view.

On your way back to Philipsburg, stop at The Greenhouse for mojitos and conch fritters during happy hour, as you try to decide how to spend the evening. Try your luck at the casinos? A gourmet dinner in Grand Case? Or salsa dancing? There’s too much for you to do in St. Maarten for you to ever be bored.

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