The weather is pretty much perfect all year round, warm but not too hot and little rain. Carnival is held in April in Philipsburg, for 17 days and nights the town is alive with music, costume, food and drinks. July to September is the low season, this is the cheapest time to visit Philipsburg. High season is December to April and shoulder season is split between May and June and October and November.
In addition to having the natural beauty of the Caribbean, Philipsburg is duty-free, making it a shoppers’ paradise too. Philipsburg is the island’s capital, located on the south coast, inhabiting a strip of land to the south of Salt Pond. Only one mile long and made up of four main streets parallel to the coast, Philipsburg manages to fit a lot into a relatively small space. Many cruise ships dock at Philipsburg, so the town is designed to entertain tourists on even the shortest trip. Spending more time in Philipsburg than the average cruise stop, allows you to explore not only the plethora of restaurants and shops, but also the history of the island and the picturesque surroundings. Philipsburg’s Front Street is perhaps the most famous street for bargain hunters; jewellery, electronics and alcohol are the top buys here. Back Street is a little less crowded and hectic, if you’re more of a laid back shopper.
Take some time to learn about the history of Philipsburg at the Sint Maarten Museum or the Sint Maarten National Heritage Foundation. These museums display artefacts important to the region, from the Arawak tribe, the island’s first inhabitants, through to the invasions by the Dutch, Spanish, English and French. Just outside of Philipsburg are Fort Amsterdam and Fort Willem I, built by the Dutch in 1631 and the English in 1801, respectively. The Philipsburg Courthouse, located on Front Street, is also an important historical monument for the island.
Great Bay has a sweeping white sand beach and turquoise water, it is exactly as breathtaking as you would imagine. A range of water sports are available, including jet skiing, diving and paddle boarding. You can also rent a boat or catamaran for a luxurious day at sea or even a sunset cruise.
There are bus routes around Philipsburg and the whole island, running from early morning to midnight. Otherwise taxis and rental cars are very reasonable and most visitors prefer to use them. The entire island is just 42 square miles (75 sq.km), so finding your way around this small island is very easy.
Philipsburg is just 6 miles (10 km) from Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), around a 15 minutes’ drive. There are rental cars and taxis available at the airport. Taxis do not have meters, but there are official rates which must be adhered to; check the current rates before you travel. These rates go up by 25% between 10pm and midnight and then go up another 25% after midnight. Rental cars are very cheap, but you will need to leave your credit card details or a large cash deposit.