Major Update 8/19/2011
Some of St. Maarten's beaches change shape and size according to the
whims of weather. They range from places with lots of surf to quiet, nearly
deserted coves. This page tells you about every significant SXM beach --
including those that are clothing optional.
- Which Side: Before each beach,
we've placed an F or a D -- F tells you the beach is on the French side, D
for the Dutch
- Windward or Leeward: We've
also placed a W (for windward side -- windier) or a L (for leeward side --
less windy and hotter)
Also...this page contains some topless
photography. If you may be offended, don't look -- and don't go to SXM's
clothing optional beaches.
First, a couple of important recommendations and some news items:
JMB Strongly Recommends SKYMED Emergency Medical
Evacuation Protection ...Just In Case.
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Detailed Info on St. Martin / St. Maarten Beaches
W=Windward (East) Side
L=Leeward (West) Side
Windward side beaches face easterly tradewinds and tend to be
windier. Leeward side beaches are less windy but hotter. Here are our reviews:
F, W Orient Beach,
the largest and most popular on the island, is loaded with beach bars,
restaurants, shops, and watersports facilities offering parasailing and other
Club Orient, the world-renowned naturist (nudist) resort at the southern end
of the beach, is a sun worshippers' Mecca. The popular Papagayo restaurant, part
of Club Orient, offers a variety of delicious fare plus burgers and drinks.
Papagayo is open to the public but it is located within Club Orient so the
couple seated at the next table may be nude. The same holds true for the Perch
bar at the northern end of Club Orient. In the past, it has also applied to
other restaurants on Orient, particularly those closest to the Club O.
Photography is not allowed, and gawking is not regarded favorably.
Orient beach is always bustling. For several views of Orient beach supplied
by Club Orient, click to go to
Club Orient's site itself, but do expect nekkid people -- it is a
nudist resort. The Club Orient site was new in 2010.
Clothing optional sunbathers should be aware that "boat people" (cruise ship
tourists) are routinely ferried here by industrious cab drivers. They tend to
gawk and occasionally take pictures, but naturists at Club Orient often stop
them. Club Orient's phone number: 011-590590-87-33-85. Fax:
011-590590-87-33-76. Tell them we sent you! Day visitors can park just
inside the gate for about $18/day, which gets you two beach chairs and an
umbrella - a good deal for most people. Guards also keep an eye on your car.
Virtually all of Orient Beach "used to be" clothing
optional, but French Side gendarmes -- rather than spend their time
responding to "real" crime -- started ticketing and fining anyone found outside
Club Orient au Naturel in early 2008, then backed off after beach
businesses howled. You can usually take a beach walk early in the morning or
late in the afternoon, but bets may be off if you encounter a member of the
local constabulary. They have been lenient the last couple of years, especially
on weekdays, but keep a bathing suit handy.
Club Orient website, there is also an
Orient Beach website. Before you visit either site remember that they depict
clothing optional bathing; if you're offended, don't go.
Besides being the home to the naturist Club Orient, the Southern end of
Orient Beach has a number of small shops. In the picture at the right, Tracy
(more on Tracy and Mike is below) shops at one of them.
Above -- Tracy shopping at Orient Beach. More on
Tracy & Mike is below
D, L Cupecoy, tied for the title
of our favorite St. Maarten/St. Martin beach along with Happy Bay, is actually a
string of beaches at the island's westernmost corner. Sandstone cliffs and caves
are the backdrop for this unusual beach, one of the world's most beautiful. Its
steep drop-off, which changes shape almost daily, makes Cupecoy hazardous for
young children. The sands shift constantly -- there may be room for 300 people
one day, and barely room for 30 the next.
Cupecoy is mostly clothing optional. In early Summer, 2011, there was some
police harassment here, but we've heard nothing more recently.
Best car access: go into the lot next to Ocean Club and drive west on
the dirt road that begins there until you see a number of cars parked near the
western-most beach and the road ends. Note: We advise you to avoid the overgrown
public lot next to Ocean Club, which is almost never patrolled or watched.
When you visit the beach, say hello for us to John and Dany, who run a
tabletop bar next to the beach. Snacks are available too. Dany and John
are great guys -- they watch your car as well as offer drinks, lounges, and
umbrellas. Thanks to those whose pictures are featured here -- particularly
Nora, Maryann, Sal, Myde, and Rick.
We'll keep you posted here about the effects of the new "Shore Pointe"
development on the far west portion of the beach, but we recommend you also
subscribe to our free
St. Maarten and St. Martin Weekly News for updates on the island every week.
Many more beach descriptions follow a few pictures:
ABOVE: The famous "Cupecoy Boulder" (also called the monolith) at
midbeach. It has been disintegrating the last several years due to battering by
storms. RIGHT: A pre-beard, bad-hair picture of me at a nude beach in St.
Barths. That's a live young conch in my hand; I threw it back.
BELOW: Looking East from the Western portion of the beach, with the
boulder in the distance. Both photos © Maryann Barvinski, reprinted with
The far Eastern portion of Cupecoy, looking
West. Boulder is out of sight in the distance.
Cupecoy farther west, looking east. Photo was
shot with the "Cupecoy Boulder" to the photographer's back.
Back to the beach description in a minute.... first:
Like Cupecoy and/or Orient? Interested in learning more about clothing
optional beaches & clothing optional recreation, or trying it elsewhere?
Many visitors to SXM fall in love with Orient Beach or Cupecoy and look
forward to trying clothing optional recreation elsewhere. Two suggestions:
1. Check out naturism / clothing optional recreation thoughts and ideas at
Naturist Society website. They are the foremost proponents of clothing
optional recreation and they publish the World Guide to [Clothing Optional]
Beaches. Joining the Society gives you a subscription to their magazine and
access to a host of other useful information about beach and other sites
2. Learn about Tracy and Mike....
Tracy (left) is getting an all-over tan outside Andy & Cheryl's, one of
the fun bar/restaurants on Orient Beach. At right, Tracy & Mike at breakfast at
Club Orient. The next paragraph tells you more about this couple. Images are
copyrighted by Tracy & Mike and are reprinted with permission.
Mike and Tracy fell in love with each other and with naturism years ago.
Their experiences and impressions might be of interest to other couples or
singles who are curious about naturism. They've also published a travelogue
showing you places they've visited. As you'd expect, their site contains
clothing optional images, but if you're interested in naturism you should take a
look. To visit their site, click
D, L Mullet Beach, the very
popular strand at Mullet Bay is where the waves and the surfers are. Although
it's on the Dutch side, you'll see many French families here especially on
weekends. Topless. Surf can be rough.
F, L Prune Beach,
also known as Plum Bay, is a sweet, intimate, crescent-shaped strand frequented
by an eclectic crowd including occasional surfers, despite rocks among the
breakers. Topless, with some nudity on the southern end despite the French entry
sign to the contrary.
F, L Rouge Beach, one of the
island's longest and most beautiful, is a must. Like all beaches on the French
side, tops are optional here. The more southerly end of the beach is de
facto clothing optional. Great snorkeling at the northern end, but beware
of the waves/currents.
F, L Long Beach, with the "rich
and famous" Hotel La Samanna at its southern end, gives you a great spot for
relaxing. There's little shade and few breezes here, so this can be the hottest
beach on the island. We've never seen it crowded. The far Northern/Western end
is de facto clothing optional (despite signs to the contrary and occasional
gendarme appearances) and it's highly secluded for those who prefer privacy.
Part of the beach is rocky near shore and there may be a fairly steep drop-off.
F, W Le Galion Beach, also known
as Embouchure or Coconut Grove, on the site of the long-defunct Le Galion Hotel,
is the island's best windsurfing beach and is ideal for children because of the
usually shallow, calm waters near shore. Windsurfing rentals available. Always
keep an eye on your kids any time they're near water - even if it's only two
inches deep. Le Galion is topless with some clothing-optional use weekdays,
though gendarmes in the past patrolled and frowned on it. In 11/2007 we saw a
sign saying "clothing optional" but we were told it was there in error; it has
since disappeared. Orient Beach (Club Orient) is a less-hassled place for
clothing optional sunbathing, and it's only a seven-minute walk away.
NOTE: We've seen sea urchins here, little black spherical objects with
spines sticking out of them. Do NOT stop on them...it will wreck your vacation.
More beach info is below.
Top is Cupecoy. Tour the island and you'll find lots of great
beaches. These three photos courtesy of SXM Tourism.
Much more beach info follows....
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MUCH MORE BEACH INFO IS BELOW...BUT FIRST PLEASE READ
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NOW MORE BEACH LISTINGS....
D, L Pelican Beach /
Flamingo Beach, at the Simpson Bay (formerly Pelican) Resort and Flamingo Resort complex,
remains very popular. Manageable surf. Beach chairs are for Simpson Bay or Flamingo
timeshare owners. The view of ocean sunsets here can be gorgeous -- and you can
watch the pelicans dive for dinner just offshore.
Little geckos are common. To egrets, they taste like
chicken. Photo courtesy of Divi Resorts.
D, L Kim Sha Beach, between Atrium and Royal Palm Resorts, Simpson Bay, is
very calm and popular. There are sometimes sandcastle building contests here.
Popular with local radio stations and organizations for outings. Light surf,
fine white sand. Restaurants nearby including Buccaneer Beach Bar. Easy parking.
D, L Simpson Bay Beach rings
Simpson Bay, and on it you'll find resorts like Mary's Boon and Horny Toad,
which are described on our
Where to Stay page (see link at left).
D, L (but fairly breezy) Maho Beach,
at the southern end of the runway of Princess Juliana airport, is an almost
equally attractive strand, as long as you don't mind the 747s and 757s
approaching the airport only about 50 feet (or lower) above your head. Beware of
jet blast, blowing sand, flying belongings, and occasionally a blown-over car.
If you want serenity, this is NOT the place. DON'T stand at the fence to watch
the planes take off; you're liable to get eyefuls of gravel. In fact, anywhere
on the beach, close your eyes as planes go overhead and keep them closed until the
vortex ends. Some people like Maho. I like it only from Sunset Bar,
next door. Note: Sunset offers free drinks to women who go topless. This is
also a great place to see sunsets (hence the bar's name).
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D, W (not too windy) Great
Bay Beach, which encompasses the Philipsburg waterfront, is
crystal-clear, huge, and inviting. When you get tired of shopping, you can
always relax on this mammoth downtown beach. (If you've not visited Great Bay in
a while, prepare for a pleasant shock. Sand dredged for the cruise ship terminal
has been deposited here; it's a wide, natural, very popular white-sand beach,
very convenient especially for cruise ship passengers.) Shelling is good near
the center of town beside the cruise ship shuttle dock.
Online DISCOUNT Hotel Reservations Center:
D, W Dawn Beach is home to the
Westin Resort (southern end) as well as Oyster Bay Beach Resort (northern end).
Topless. NOTE: We've seen sea urchins here, little black
spherical objects with spines sticking out of them. Do NOT step on them...it
will wreck your vacation.
Dawn Beach has the best beach bar of all: the award-winning
Click "Restaurants" at the top of this page for more.
The walk from Friars Bay to Happy Bay takes you through
virgin St. Martin countryside and gives you unforgettable views like
this. Happy Bay is effectively clothing optional; Friars is tops
optional. There is a beautiful sandy beach; this shot was from a hill
between Friars and Happy Bay.
Feel your feet caressed by the water here at Guana Bay? C'mon
in! The water's warm!
F, Northern side, not particularly windy (usually) Anse Marcel,
at the Radisson St. Martin Resort is a very pleasant, usually quiet beach, popular with French
F, L Friars Bay, not far north of
Marigot, is a gorgeous, peaceful, family-oriented beach with neat refreshment
stands and facilities. Behind it is a muddy lagoon with egrets and other local waterfowl, great
for photographers. Good shelling here, much of the time. Relatively light surf
but watch your kids -- there is a drop off. Topless.
F, L Happy Bay, just north of
Friars, is one of the world's most breathtaking beaches, all the more attractive
because of its relative inaccessibility. To get there, take a 10-minute walk up
the hill and down a well-worn path through the underbrush just north of the last
refreshment stand at Friar's Bay. Bring your camera. Happy Bay is also de
facto clothing optional. There is another Danny here
D, W Guana Bay, just
north of Philipsburg down Guana Bay Road, is on the windward side of the island,
which can be breezy with blowing sand. But it's a great place for solace, since
15 people on this long, wide beach constitutes a busy day. Guana Bay is topless.
"Boogie Boards" are often used here. The Guana Bay area itself is becoming a
Hollywood colony: David Brenner's estate is here (he has a sign out front to
tell you), and the name McEnroe is on one of the nearby mailboxes. (It's John's
dad.) Two negatives: pit bulls from nearby homes occasionally wander the beach,
and there can be a strong undertow / rip current, so never swim here alone.
SNORKELING is great at Orient and at Pinel Island,
available by ferry not far from Orient. Ask the Activities Desk at your resort
Another great spot is off the rocky beach near the
French Side dump, which is north of where you get the Pinel Island ferry. Before
reaching the ferry dock, take a left before the school (toward Anse Marcel / the
Radisson St. Martin),
then turn right immediately after the school and follow the dirt road toward the dump. Bring a friend.
The water can be rough.
Updated August 24, 2011.