Sunday, April 7, 2013

St. Maarten/St. Martin (Beaches)

Orient Bay Beach

We spent 11 days visiting the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin in March of 2013 for our honeymoon.

This blog entry will cover the many beaches we visited during our stay. The island has a total of 37 public beaches, so choosing which ones to visit on your vacation might seem a daunting task. After researching reviews of the beaches on Trip Advisor, reading our guidebooks, and looking at pictures online, we ended up selecting the following beaches to visit, which will be described in detail further below:

French side:
  • Le Galion
  • Baie Orientale (Orient Bay)
  • Baie des Peres (Friar's Bay)
  • Anse Heureuse (Happy Bay)
  • Baie de Grand Case
  • Baie aux Prunes (Plumb Bay)

Dutch side:
  • Dawn Beach
  • Great Bay
  • Simpson Bay
  • Maho Bay
  • Mullet Bay
  • Cupecoy Beach

Note: we also visited the beaches on Pinel Island, which will be covered in a separate blog entry.

All of the beaches on St. Maarten/St. Martin are open to the public, though access points range from bumpy dirt roads, for the more secluded beaches, to being required to park at a five star resort for the more popular beaches. You really can't go wrong with any of the island's beautiful beaches, but knowing ahead of time the expectations you have of your beach experience will help guide you in deciding which to visit. Some of the beaches have lots of facilities and amenities (restaurants, umbrella and chair rentals, jet-ski rentals, massages, etc) while some have absolutely none. In my reviews below I'll mention which beaches had services and which did not.

Most beaches on the French side (St. Martin) allow topless sunbathing and at Orient Bay and Cupecoy Beach it goes even further with clothing being optional. The topless sunbathing seems less popular on the Dutch side (St. Maarten) but we still saw plenty of women partaking in this.

Lounging around on the beach for a day can get expensive if you rely on purchasing all of your beverages and food from the resorts and restaurants. As a result, we typically brought a few bottles of beer and some snacks to get our day started, which none of the beach bars or restaurants seemed to mind, as long as we were purchased at least a few drinks from them.

A very important thing to remember when you are traveling anywhere on the island is to never leave valuables in your car. We read this in the guidebooks, on the Internet, and were warned more times than we can remember while on the island. While major crime is essentially non existent on the island, petty crime such as theft has been a problem and based on the numerous stories we were told, it's better to be safe than sorry!


Le Galion Beach:
Located within the half-moon shaped Baie de l'Embouchure, this gorgeous beach features clear, calm, and very shallow waters, making it a perfect choice for families with young children or for those who dislike swimming in waves. The beach offers chair and umbrella rentals as well as a beach bar/restaurant and a water-sports operator. The beach itself is narrow but quite long allowing for plenty of space for visitors to spread out. This beach was one of my favorites on the island not only because I thought it was very beautiful but because I could go very far out and yet the water level would only be up to my waist.
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach

Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach
Le Galion Beach


Baie Orientale (Orient Bay Beach):
Often referred to as the most beautiful beach on St. Martin, this is likely the island's most visited beach. The one mile long beach is packet with numerous restaurants, bars, resorts, chair and umbrella rentals, and several different watersport rentals, including jet skis, parasailing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding. The southern end of the beach is home to Club Orient, which is a naturist (clothing optional) resort. If you are wanting the ultimate beach experience on the island, head straight to Orient Bay and you will not be disappointed!
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach
Orient Bay Beach


Baie des Peres Beach (Friar's Bay Beach):
Located close to the town of Marigot, access to this beach requires driving over a dirt road. Friar's Bay features several beach bars and restaurants as well as plenty of chair and umbrella rentals. Since access to this beach requires more work than others, it wasn't as crowded as some of the other more popular beaches and appeared to be frequented by more locals than tourists. At the very northern end of the beach there is a trail that leads to Anse Heureuse (Happy Bay Beach).
Friar's Bay Beach
Friar's Bay Beach
Friar's Bay Beach
Friar's Bay Beach
Friar's Bay Beach
Friar's Bay Beach
Friar's Bay Beach
Friar's Bay Beach
Friar's Bay Beach
Friar's Bay Beach


Anse Heureuse Beach (Happy Bay Beach):
This beach is reached via a 10-15 minute hike from Friar's Bay Beach. The beach is known by locals as being one of the last hidden gems on the island. The beach is not listed as having any facilities but on the day I visited there was some sort of event going on as there was music playing and a vendor selling food. I don't know if that's because it was a holiday (Easter) but if you plan to come here I would assume that there won't be any facilities available. The sand was remarkably soft and clean and the beach was wide and expansive. Because it's a bit more work to get here than the other beaches on the island, there was quite a good number of people camping, which I had only seen on Le Galion Beach.
Happy Bay Beach
Happy Bay Beach
Happy Bay Beach
Happy Bay Beach
Happy Bay Beach
Happy Bay Beach
Happy Bay Beach
Happy Bay Beach
Happy Bay Beach
Happy Bay Beach
Happy Bay Beach


Baie de Grand Case (Grand Case Beach):
This skinny and narrow mile-long beach lines the town of Grand Case. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from as well as chair and umbrella rentals. We didn't actually use the beach here; just stopped in a for a few moments after a nasty rainstorm on our way to a lolo (BBQ stand) for lunch. I read that the water here is very calm so it's a popular place not only for swimmers but also for visiting boats.
Grand Case Beach
Grand Case Beach
Grand Case Beach


Baie aux Prunes (Plum Bay Beach):
This pretty beach was probably the most secluded stretch of sand we saw on the entire island. If you want to spend the day here, you'll have to bring everything with you including food and drink as there is not a single facility available. I would not recommend this beach for families with young children. The beach is quite rocky and Shyawn was actually thrown against a pile of rocks as he was swimming when a wave came crashing in. However, the beach is quite picturesque so if you want a quiet and beautiful place to spend your day, this beach is probably a good choice.
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach
Plum Bay Beach


Dawn Beach:
Famous for its sunrises, this popular beach is located on the Dutch side of the island, just minutes from the French border. This beach offers all amenities, including the popular Mr. Busby's Beach Bar, where we enjoyed a light lunch. At the far southern end of the beach is the Westin Resort, where only hotel guests are allowed to use their facilities.
Dawn Beach
Dawn Beach
Dawn Beach
Dawn Beach
Dawn Beach
Dawn Beach
Dawn Beach
Dawn Beach
Dawn Beach


Great Bay Beach:
This 1.25 mile beach curves along the boardwalk of Philipsburg and is a happening place with tons of bars, restaurants, and shopping opportunities. The beach is surprisingly clean, wide, and expansive and would make for a great place to spend a day. We visited it as part of our tour through Philipsburg, although we didn't actually spend any time on the beach. This area is usually quite busy due to its close location to the cruise ship terminal, where on any given day there is usually at least one, if not several cruise ships in town.
Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach
Great Bay Beach along the boardwalk in Phillipsburg.
Great Bay Beach


Simpson Bay Beach:
This long crescent-shaped beach is surprisingly secluded, given its beautiful white sand and turquoise waters. Access to the beach is via one of the restaurants or resorts that line the bay, including Mary's Boon Beach Resort where we stopped in for a quick lunch. Aside from the few resorts, there aren't many amenities at Simpson Bay, but if you are looking for a relaxing and peaceful beach, you've found your spot!
Simpson Bay Beach
Simpson Bay Beach
Simpson Bay Beach
Simpson Bay Beach
Simpson Bay Beach


Maho Beach:
Likely one of the most well-known beaches on the island due to its location immediately next to the airport runway, this beach is famous for watching the numerous airplanes and jets that take off and land just a few yards away from the beach. Small airplanes from neighboring islands such as St. Barts and Anguilla take off and land quite often. However the real spectacle that most visitors want to see are the larger jets, but only a few arrive each day, mostly in the early afternoon so plan your visit accordingly. As the planes come in, many visitors rush to the sand immediately below where the plane will fly over. The sound of the planes as they arrive is unimaginably loud and almost surreal as it feels as though you can nearly touch the bottom of the jet with your hand. My favorite part though was when the jets took off. People go running towards the area of sand directly in front of the runway, and a select few are brave enough (or stupid enough?) to make their way to the fence that borders the airport and cling on for dear life. When the jet takes off, many of these said people are literally blown off of the fence. It's quite the entertainment! In terms of the beach itself, it's very beautiful, though not very wide and there are several beach bars where one can purchase food and beverage. However, I do not remember seeing beach chairs or umbrella rentals being available, so plan accordingly. Although it could easily be a beach to spend an entire day at, I think that most people stay just long enough to watch a few planes come in and take off.
Small plane arriving at Maho Beach.
Maho Beach
Maho Beach
People lining up to watch the jet take off.
Jet preparing to take off at Maho Beach.
Maho Beach
Small plane taking off at Maho Beach.
Maho Beach
Jet in the distance coming in to land at Maho Beach.
Jet coming in to land at Maho Beach.
Jet coming in to land at Maho Beach.
Jet landing at Maho Beach.
Jet landing at Maho Beach.
Warning sign at Maho Beach. Most people ignore the warnings on this sign.


Mullet Bay Beach:
Located just to the west of the airport, this beach is very popular amongst locals. Prior to Hurricane Luis (which occurred in 1995), this beach used to be the busiest on the island as it was home to the island's largest resort. Unfortunately, the resort was destroyed by the hurricane. The beach is bordered by the island's only golf course and so parking is limited. Mullet Bay offers all the amenities one would look for including chair and umbrella rentals, restaurants, bars, and water sports equipment. This was Shyawn's favorite beach of the trip.
The view from my lounge chair at Mullet Bay Beach.
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach
Mullet Bay Beach


Cupecoy Beach:
The "official" nude beach of the island, Cupecoy Beach is a string of three beaches bordered by beautiful and dramatic sandstone cliffs. The beach is very well protected from the wind, so plan to come here and sweat, sweat, sweat. The surf is quite rough here and there is a steep drop-off so this is not a suitable beach for children or weak swimmers. Additionally, the warnings of it being a nude beach are quite accurate.  Of the 100 or so people on the beach we arrived at, only about five weren't naked. Although we were used to the topless sunbathers, it was quite shocking to see that nearly everyone was nude. As a result, I only snapped a few photos of the beach since I didn't want to offend anyone. There were chair and umbrella rentals available at the beach we went to, but the food vendor appeared to be up in the parking lot, which was a steep walk up. The umbrella rentals here are absolutely mandatory as we baked in that hot sun since there was no wind.
Cupecoy Beach
Cupecoy Beach
Cupecoy Beach as viewed from the parking lot.
Up next: St. Martin/St. Maarten (Accommodation) 

9 comments:

  1. Sigh-while the temperatures have FINALLY risen here in Pittsburgh, your pictures of the glorious beaches put 70 degree weather to shame!

    That's what I love most about the Caribbean-the perfect clearness of the water-so sparkling blue!

    I had read about the airport and planes flying in, I'm sure as a passenger it would seem a bit nerve wracking upon descent :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was just curious, I know many people talking about going to Prickly Pear off the coast of Anguilla. Was there a reason you decided not to go there? My fiancé and I are going to St. Maarten for our honeymoon in June and we are finding your blog extremely helpful in planning our trip. We are trying to decide whether to go on one of the boats that take you to Anguilla and Prickly Pear and give you snorkeling gear, lunch, etc. or to take the ferry to Anguilla and rent a car or take a taxi to explore ourselves. So I was wondering if you thought Prickly Pear wasn't worth the trip?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Becca! I apologize for the delay in my response!

      We only had one day to visit Anguilla and though I had heard amazing things about Prickly Pear I decided that given the choice we would rather explore the island via car instead of just visiting Prickly Pear. Also, we are not big snorkelers and I know that Prickly Pear is a great snorkeling spot so that also impacted our decision to just rent a car and explore the island. I don't think you could go wrong with either choice!

      Good luck with your decision and have an amazing time on your honeymoon!

      Jennifer

      Delete
  3. What do you do with your "stuff" while you're in the water? I assume you can't leave it unattended, even if you rent an umbrella and a couple of chairs.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Heading to St. Martin in June. Reading so much online about crime/danger there. Robberies, break-ins, carjacking, assault etc. Did you feel uncomfortable during your travels on the island? Did you sense there were areas to avoid for personal safety reasons? Is visiting a remote/isolated beach a bad idea? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I remember Sint Maarten and the beaches of the beautiful island very well. We had a blast while we were on the St. Maarten snorkeling tour on the Swaliga 2 boat ( http://www.swaliga2.com ). We visited Pinel Island and have been swimming with the turtles on Tintamarre. Thanks for this blog and reminding me how beautiful this island is.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I visited Hotels In Simpson Bay St Maarten. Feels very good in spending my vacations to make my trip more memorable. I would suggest everyone to visit there and discover a new world of happiness.

    ReplyDelete

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