The Best Beaches of Both Nations: Saint Martin/St Maarten
The thirty-something-square-mile island of Saint Martin/St Maarten is home to two distinct countries and thirty-seven different beaches. Because of its location in the Leeward Islands, Saint Martin/St Maarten is a superb place to charter a luxury yacht and enjoy the international party vibe and scenic Caribbean beauty of this trilingual destination. Charterers can enjoy a wide range of activities at the amazing beaches along the forty-four miles of coastline that gently slope into the warm turquoise Caribbean waters.
The northern portion of the island is the French-controlled Saint Martin, home to twenty-one of the public beaches. Visiting any one of these seashores is a unique experience but the most notable beaches in Saint Martin range from sophisticated Orient Bay, often compared to St. Tropez, to the wild reaches of Happy Bay, only accessible by boat or by hiking over from Friars Bay. Other exceptional beaches include Baie Longue, Baie de l’Embouchure, and Pinel Island.
Orient Bay is two miles of sparkling white sand along the northeastern coast lined with beach bars and restaurants. With plenty of watersports action and a colorful beach bar scene, it is one of the largest and liveliest beaches on the island. Orient Bay is also a clothing-optional beach but most of those who elect to forgo beachwear are concentrated along the southern end. Beach chairs and umbrellas line the strand where you can observe or join in a variety of water activities such as jet skiing, sailing, paragliding, wind, and kite surfing.
If you prefer a more secluded section of sand, Happy Bay is a ten-minute hike from Friars Bay along the northwestern shores. You can also reach this rustic beach via your dinghy or tender. This is one of the most pristine beaches on the island and it is a wonderful place to picnic under the shade of the rustling palm trees or to swim or snorkel in the clear blue protected waters.
Other noteworthy beaches include Baie Longue located on the western tip of French Saint Martin, and Baie de l”Embouchure, along the eastern coastline. Baie Longue or Long Bay is a long quiet stretch of sand in the heart of the exclusive Terres Basses neighborhood. Because of the solitude, it is often frequented by celebrities staying at nearby resorts. On the windward side, Baie de l”Embouchure is a mangrove-lined crescent of sand protected by a coral reef. The consistent trade winds make it an amazing spot to windsurf or kiteboard. Additionally, just off the northeastern coast is Pinel Island, with two beaches inside a natural reserve. This cay is a great place to snorkel, kayak, or stand up paddleboard in the lovely lagoon, or relax in the sun-loungers under umbrellas along the main western beach. The northern beach is rugged and rocky. You can reach this amazing place by kayak, dinghy, or ferry from the Cul de Sac Pier.
The remaining sixteen public beaches are located on the Dutch-controlled southern shores of St Maarten. Some of the most interesting of these beaches include Dawn Beach on the southeastern shore, Guana Bay just a little further south, Simpson Bay on the southern coast, and Cupecoy further west.
Along the wild and wonderful windward coast, Dawn Beach is a coconut tree-lined sandy beach near the Oyster Pond Marina. You can gaze out across the Caribbean Sea all the way to St. Barts from this locale known for excellent windsurfing and spectacular snorkeling. For those who wish to catch a wave or hang-ten, Guana Bay is popular with surfers. The strong undercurrents bring in large sets of waves making it excellent for board sports but not for swimmers.
Located in the heart of the action in St Maarten, Simpson Bay is close to the airport, casinos, and nightlife. However, it is still a peaceful curve of white beach set between a fishing village and the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean. In the same area but at the end of the Juliana Airport runway is Maho Beach, where you can sit along the shores of Simpson Bay and watch the planes as they land and take off just feet above you. It is incredible to watch the huge jets full of travelers but be prepared for the noise and for your towel to be blown into the water by their jet wash. To unwind after the excitement of airplane beach both the Sunset Bar and Grill and Driftwood Boat Bar are great spots for a sundowner.
On the southwestern coastline in St Maarten is Cupecoy, a beautiful beach set against ochre-tinted cliffs. There are several peaceful stretches of sand and small coves along the seashore and local vendors walk by offering beer for sale. This is considered one of the most romantic places to catch a dazzling sunset as the sun dips into the sea behind Saba Island in the distance.
The beaches discussed here are just a sampling of some of the refreshing, scenic, and sometimes spirited places to land your dinghy or stroll to while in Saint Martin/St Maarten. You could stay here for a month, visit one beach a day, and still not get to see them all. Therefore, wherever you are anchored or moored, a scenic shore excursion to one of the nearby beaches is highly recommended.