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Sint Maarten / Saint Martin

37 square miles
37 unique beaches

Looking for global corporate restaurants and shopping?  You're out of luck.  You won't find an Applebee's, network television, Budweiser, or a Wal-mart.  If you can replace those expectations with "lolos", independent restaurants where the owner is your host, European bakeries & cafes, small grocery markets, boutique stores, and life's simple pleasures...... then you're a candidate for a great experience.  There's ONE traffic light on the island, and you probably won't even see it.

The French Side: Saint Martin

Baie Longe, Saint Martin SXM Saint Martin SXM IslandStay!

The northern portion of the island is French.

The west coast of Baie Longe (Long Bay) is virtually untouched, lined with private estates and endless beaches of perfect sand and clear, calm waters speckled with outcroppings of porous rock formations. The island of Anguilla is prominently visible in the near horizon.

Seared Tuna at L'atelier in Orient, Saint Martin SXM
Cheese Board at L'atelier in Orient Bay, Saint Martin
Sint Maarten / Saint Martin  SXM IslandStay!
Birthday Suits at Orient Beach! Saint Martin SXM

To the furthest east of the French side, you'll find the famed Baie Oriental (Orient Bay) with a wonderful collection of premiere restaurants offering the most talented chefs and staff.  English is spoken by most, but if you speak French you'll be delighted to immerse yourself.  If you're at a beach bar, your lounge chair and umbrella are usually included with your modest purchase, otherwise you can rent a pair of lounge chairs and umbrella for about $25/day, Get there early, as they usually start packing up well before sunset.

The southern stretch of Orient Bay is reserved for a different style of European beach life.  Yes, that's right, no clothes permitted.  We are constantly answering questions about this, and the answer is....well, "when in Rome".  Make your own decision, but know that you're amongst others who embrace the freedom and liberating sensation of having your buns in the sun.  It's a respectful crowd, well aware that being nude in the ocean is a truly natural experience - and not anything to be intimidated about.  You'll see all forms of the human catalog, so you probably don't need to as worried as you think.  Try it or don't try it, up to you.  You'll be warned with the large sign posted - and best not proceed if you're not planning to partake in your birthday suit.

Baie Rouge, Saint Martin SXM

Directly to the North, Baie Rouge (Red Beach) is a totally different feel, offering a long stretch of prime sands and calm waters, with various French beach bars and restaurants -  Relax and let your server make your day unforgettable.

 

If you're in for a mild adventure, ditch the car and hike on foot to find the hidden "Lovers Beach" or "Happy Bay" - totally remote and undeveloped.

Saint Martin Grand Case SXM
Beach Service at Pinel, Saint Martin SXM
Sint Maarten / Saint Martin  SXM IslandStay! Pinel Island

The most dense beach area, popular with many tourists, is Grand Case - where you'll be drenched with island fare and local Caribbean flavors.  Once in the narrow streetside, you'll see a multitude of independent restaurants and bars, along with boutique shops and storefronts.  Walk the shoreline of soft sand, enjoy the water, or make a stop at a beach bar and let your server takes care of the rest.

The tiny island of Pinel is just offshore to the east,  Accessible by a 10 minute ($12) open ferry or by kayak rental, Pinel has two beach restaurants and is most popular on the weekends.  As a shallow inlet beach, the water is warm, and almost totally still, dotted with small sailboats.  You may choose from beach chair dining or have table service under roof. 

 

A short hike to the east side of Pinel will reveal a view of the nature reserve of Tintemarre and unending seas, often without any other beach visitors.  It's also an ideal place to see or feed the very friendly iguanas and tortoises!  Pinel is a must for at least one day of your adventures in Saint Martin.

Caesar Salad at Bikini Beach in Orient Bay, Saint Martin SXM
Loterie Farm - in the hills of the French Side, Saint Martin

The Dutch Side:  Sint Maarten

Phillipsburg Cruise Ships at Port
Sint Maarten / Saint Martin  SXM IslandStay! Maho Beach

The Dutch side of the island offers more nightlife, and a wide variety of beaches & entertainment options for everyone.  Occupying the southern half of the island, it is home to Princess Juliana (SXM) Airport, and the cruise ship port of Phillipsburg and the surrounding Great Bay

Phillipsburg is the dense capitol of the Dutch side, and reveals the deep history of the island.  Tight, storefront-lined streets dominate the inner core of the city, and of course the seaside beach boardwalk with plenty of beach bars, hotels, and retail stores.  Many travelers identify Phillipsburg as the shopping hub, with a prevalence of jewelry stores & fashion boutiques.  Cruise ship passengers will take a day at port to enjoy some terra firma, go shopping, or relax on the deep sandy beach.  Stick to the western end for a more casual feel, or land yourself at one of the well-established hotel/restaurant for a day of European service.  This is probably the most commercialized zone of the Dutch side, so you might want to keep your visit short if you want to avoid the typical tourist crowd and street vendors - but still worth a visit.

Sint Maarten / Saint Martin  SXM IslandStay! Simpson Bay at Night
Sint Maarten / Saint Martin  SXM IslandStay! Mullet By
Sint Maarten / Saint Martin  SXM IslandStay! Cupecoy Beach
Sint Maarten / Saint Martin  SXM IslandStay! Maho Beach

Simpson Bay is the "main drag" of the Dutch side, and a thoroughfare of travel.  Be patient driving.  You won't see much of anything from your car while driving down the street, but if you park and walk, you have your choice of beach side or marina side to visit shops and restaurants.  The Marina side is popular for Yacht watchers, there's never any shortage of "wows".  Vessels will also anchor afar in the bay, with calm turquoise waters and soft sand.  Beachside amenities and hotels pepper the area, with nightlife starting by 6pm and carrying into the midnight hour.

Mullet Bay is a popular favorite for locals, and for good reason!  A long stretch of deep beach with warm shallow waters as clear as you can imagine.  With just a couple of beachside lolos, this is casual fare and priced for the budget-minded.  It's easy to park so pack your tote with your own goodies if you want, but please be sure to also share the love by enjoying the local beach bar fare.  You can rent a pair of lounge chairs and umbrella for $20/day, but they usually start packing up well before sunset.

Cupecoy is directly to the west of Mullet, and consists of several beach sections separated by daunting rock formations and cliffs.  Each little piece has it's own feel and they are all completely undeveloped - so there's no facilities, no beach chairs, nothing but sand, cliffs, and sea.  Explore to find your favorite spot to enjoy, and don't be surprised if you don't have many other fellow visitors.  Awesome for an isolated beach experience, and ideal for great photos.

Maho Beach sits at the end of SXM airport, literally 50 yards from the start of the runway.  You've probably seen the images or videos of visitors braving the thrust of departing jets, and fearlessly standing on the beach while planes land just 40-50 feet overhead.  Maho is a tourist spot for obvious reasons, and the beach is somewhat smaller.  There are a couple beachside restaurants, and definately worth a visit to see this world-famous attraction!

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