You can do both,in st martins there is a beach right next to where you get off the ferry.You can take a ferry from the pier near the ship,I think you pay $5 for a wrist band that lets you go back and forth.When you get off the ferry the shopping area is right in front of you.What you can do is walk around see what you want ,go for a swim ,go back and get it then to the ship.
For any port, I weigh our schedule based on a few things. Many places are prone to afternoon storms, so in that case, we do the beach first thing. Other times, if there are shops that I really want to hit, I do that first to be sure I get what I want vs running around trying to find something at the last minute. If you dont like the strong sun or extreme heat, the beach would probably be better in the morning. When there are many ships in port its nice to hit the shops first because many people are on tours in the morning. Finally, if the husband is on a tour, I will hit the shops while hes doing that since he hates to shop!
As for St Maarten, the nice thing as mentioned above, is that there is a beach right next to the ferry landing. The shops are a short walk away. However, if you want the popular nice beaches, then you need to get a cab. When we were there last year, road construction was an issue, and afternoon traffic was a big tie up, so the beach was our first stop that day.
We prefer to hit the beach in the morning, mainly because the beaches get really, really hot in the afternoon. Mornings alot of folks are on their tours and the beaches aren't as crowded. We go to the beach for a few hours, go back to the ship, drop off our beach stuff, grab a quick shower, change clothes, grab a bite to eat and then head into town to shop.
You need to take a cab if you want to go to Orient or Dawn Beach.
on the Dutch side to get into town grab the ferry - its really cheap $5 for an all-day pass. You will need to take a cab to get to the French side of the island.
Here's what you do in St.Maarten. Go shopping & save the Guavaberry store for last. By then you will be ready for some laughs with the ladies there & samples of some frosty drinks. Be sure & ask for a shot of the Love Potion #9. Then head back on the water taxi to the ship, drop off all your purchases, eat lunch (free remember). Put on suits & get beach gear & take water taxi back to the beach. By then things are getting fun & heating up.
We will be in St. Marten from 8 am to 6 pm in November. Is it better to shop first and do the beaches in the mid afternoon or vise-versa. Also how is the water temps in November ?
Depends on which beach.
I would go to Orient Beach first because it will be an all day affair, since the chairs are rented by the day and the longer you use them the better the deal. Usually eat a nice lunch on the beach.
Get set up near a restaurant. If you stay close to the nude beach sign, they charge you to use the restrooms. No charge if you are closer to one of the restaurants.
Just check to be sure the stores will still be open in town when you expect to return. You can shop then while you are closer to the ship. Don't cut your time too close when returning to the ship from say Orient beach. Sometimes the St.Maarten traffic can gridlock.
Maybe you will be too tired to spend too much money when your return from the beach.