Saint Martin is a half Dutch and half French island located in the northern Caribbean. It’s the smallest island in the world to be divided, and populated by two nations. While there is technically a border, there is no border patrol, and the differences are slight, but culturally significant. The Dutch side is the most heavily populated, with the largest concentration of folks residing in Lower Prince’s Corner.
The Dutch side is known for its shops, beaches, casinos, and festivals. The French side is known for its French and native Indian Caribbean cuisine, indoor and outdoor markets, and nude beaches. Whether keeping it conservative or carefree is your thing, there are more than 30 white sand beaches to choose from, in the tropical haven that is Saint Martin.
There are plenty of private beaches for romantic afternoons and evenings, as well as busier built-up resort beaches with food, drinks and watersports. You’ll find scuba diving, snorkeling, body surfing, parasailing, kite surfing, and jet skiing, all around Saint Martin.
Bare it or Wear it: French vs. Dutch Beaches
The most striking visual difference between the two halves of St. Martin is the presence of nude sunbathers strolling the beaches on the French side. Orient Beach is the most popular beach on the whole island, with plenty of hotels and bars. It’s the only beach on the island with a considerable amount of restaurants and bars, and to make it all the more popular, the French side of Orient is clothing optional. It happens to run right into the Dutch side of things, so you’ll have to take heed when crossing the veil into nakey land (if you’re living it up like the locals, or trying to avoid the nudes altogether).
If you’d like to fully embrace the buffness, you can stay at Club Orient, the island’s only full-on clothing optional resort, located on the south end of Orient Beach. It’s a family-friendly resort. The beach isn’t blocked off, so even if you stay on the Dutch side of things, or want to stroll the nude strip, you can do so as you please. If you don’t have the guts to join ’em, make sure to be considerate of those baring their assets. That means no cameras or awkward gawking. Looking at you, fellas.
There’s more than booty to celebrate here. Orient Bay is often referred to as the Riviera of the Caribbean, due in part to the laidback atmosphere of the beaches, and the on-par French service.
A glimpse of Orient Beach:
Happy Bay is a nearly-undisturbed slice of beach perfection, for those looking to bare it all (or not) with an extra dose of peace and quiet. Located on the northwest end of the island, this naturist-friendly beach requires a 10-15 minute hike in, but is worth the trip. The views are absolutely breathtaking, with perfect white sand beaches, shady palm trees, and excellent snorkeling. Don’t forget to bring your snorkel mask.
A taste of Happy Bay:
Plum Bay is another secluded gem of a beach. You’ll need to bring all of your own gear; umbrella, towels, drinks, food, and masks. This beach remains quiet even on the weekends, and is highly recommended for honeymooners, and the romantically-inclined. That said, it’s got some great snorkeling to boot.
A quick little glimpse and run-down of Plum Bay:
Dutch Side Beaches:
Maybe you’ve got kiddos, or like keeping your top on. Either way, the Dutch side of St. Martin has some spectacular beaches. Dawn Beach is best for sunrises. Its immaculate sand, glorious reef snorkeling, and ample amenities, all make for perfect Caribbean relaxing. You can rent snorkeling gear, chairs, umbrellas, and even snag a bite to eat.
Mr. Busby’s is the most popular drink-and-eatery on this beach. The snorkeling requires a bit of a swim offshore, but is a beautiful setting for doing so, with views of St. Bart’s in the background. You might need to ask for directions to get to this one, as some of the new developments have made Dawn Beach’s public entrance a bit hard to find.
Mullet Bay is another favorite beach to many on the Dutch side of the island. While it’s really hard to go wrong with any beach on Saint Martin, Mullet Bay looks like something straight out of a travel magazine. With nice steady waves, this beach is great for surfing and sunning. They have barbeque grills available for cookouts, and some nice shady areas for those wishing to stay cool. This beach is also a stone’s throw to restaurants, casinos, and other action. Sometimes it’s nice to have it all at your fingertips. And with so many beaches packed onto this diverse little island, you’ll be sure to get your dollar’s worth.
Preview the beauty below:
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