Scuba Diving

Diving in St. Maarten/St. Martin is mediocre at best, but those who want to dive will find a few positives. The water temperature here is rarely below 70°F (21°C) and visibility is often 60 to 100 feet. The island has more than 30 dive sites, from wrecks to rocky labyrinths. Right outside of Philipsburg, 55 feet under the water, is the HMS Proselyte, once explored by Jacques Cousteau. Although it sank in 1801, the boat's cannons and coral-encrusted anchors are still visible.

Off the north coast, in the protected and mostly current-free Grand Case Bay, is Creole Rock. The water here ranges in depth from 10 feet to 25 feet. Other sites off the north coast include Ilet Pinel, with its good shallow diving; Green Key, with its vibrant barrier reef; and Tintamarre, with its sheltered coves and geologic faults. On average, one-tank dives start at $55; two-tank dives are about $100. Certification courses start at about $400.

The Dutch side offers several full-service outfitters and SSI (Scuba Schools International) and/or PADI certification. There are no hyperbaric chambers on the island.

Dutch Side

Dive Safaris. Certified divers who have dived within the last two years can watch professional feeders give reef sharks a little nosh in a half-hour shark-awareness dive. The company also offers a full PADI training program and can tailor dive excursions and sophisticated, sensitive instruction to any level. 16 Airport Rd., Simpson Bay, n/a St. Maarten. 721/545–2401;

Ocean Explorers Dive Center. St. Maarten's oldest dive shop offers different types of certification courses. Serious divers like the six-person maximum policy on trips, but this means you should reserve in advance. 113 Welfare Rd., Simpson Bay, n/a St. Maarten. 721/544–5252;

French Side

Octopus. The well-stocked dive shop offers PADI diving certification courses and all-inclusive dive packages, as well as highly recommended private and group snorkel trips starting at $55, including all necessary equipment. The shop also services regulators. 15 bd. de Grand Case, Grand Case, n/a St. Martin, 97150. 914/487–1315; 690/88--53--39;

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