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Kakao at Orient Beach

Just answer a few questions and we'll help to find the perfect St Martin/St Maarten Beach for you. First, what is most important to you:

Activities: none | lots
Attire: prude | topless | nude
Crowds: deserted | large
Food: Good | Grill | None
Snorkeling: We have a separate page on snorkeling
Sunsets: Go West, young man!
Views: Everywhere
Waves: Calm | Bodacious

Prude: Bad news. While you can wear anything you want, topless sunbathing cannot be ruled out on any beach or even at any hotel pool. Your best bet for not seeing any offending body parts would be on the Dutch side in the more crowded beaches: Great Bay, Little Bay, Kimsha/Simpson, Maho, and Mullet. Great Bay has plenty of bars, restaurants, and activities. Access to Little Bay is controlled by Divi Hotel at one end and Belair Hotel at the other. Thus, there are amenities, but not as much as in Great Bay. Kimsha has some bars and watersports, but there are almost no amenities (and few people) on the vastness of Simpson Bay. Maho has almost no beach, but is famous for Sunset Beach Bar, airplane landings, and sunsets. Mullet has amenities and some good snorkeling.

Topless: You can find topless sunbathing at almost any beach and many hotel pools. Unlike the US, it's not a big deal for most Europeans. For that reason, you will find more topless bathing on the French side because most English-speaking people stay on the Dutch side where English is more readily spoken.

Nude: You have three semi-official choices: Orient, Cupecoy, and Happy Bay. Orient has an official nude section at the SE end in front ot the naturist resort. They fill up most of the beach with chairs and umbrellas and, via security guards, pretend that they have the authority to prevent picture-taking, hawking, and a few other activities. In truth, all beaches are public property and the resort's private security has no authority on the beach, but they do have big sticks. The nude beach is bounded by Papagayo restaurant at the SE end and the Perch bar at the other end. Nude dining is permissible at Papagayo, but bring a towel to sit on. The nude happy hour is happier than most hours and the nude dance is well attended, but not by the well-attired. North of the Perch bar (stroll up nude if you wish) is the rest of Orient Beach, in theory, not-nude, but who enforces laws in SXM? The answer is the mouse! Sometimes, the gendarmes, who do have authority (and even bigger sticks, plus handcuffs and jails) show up in the parking lot next to Pedro's and send any escaping nudists back south. It is rumoured that these times coincide with the arrival of Disney's cruise ship in Pburg. When the gendarmes aren't around some nudists stroll over the entire beach, even stopping to dine with the textiles.

Cupecoy is an extremely long beach, when it is a beach, rather than a series of beautiful cliffs. The northern end nearest the French border is nude and seems to have sand most of the time. John and Danny provide drinks, grilled food, chairs, and umbrellas.

Happy Bay can only be reached by walking from Friar's Bay. This keeps most everyone away. Thus, no amenities at this time. However, a resort is on the drawing board, for about two years in 2005.

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Crowds: If you like large crowds and lots of activity, go to Great Bay (especially when lots of ships are in), Orient (ditto), Mullet (on Sunday), or Maho (at sunset).

Deserted: If you want a deserted beach, try Happy Bay because it can only be reached by walking. Similarly, the further reaches of Bay Long and Bay Rouge generally have few visitors. Obviously, the islands off Orient (Pinel, Tintamarre, Green Cay) are fairly deserted.

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No activities: Pretty much the same as deserted beaches for obvious reasons, but many beaches with people have little in the way of jet skis, parasailing, etc. Cupecoy and Mullet have nothing. There is little on Bay Long, Plum Bay, and Bay Rouge.

Lots of activities: Orient and Great Bay have just about everything. L'Embouchure or Galion have Chez Pat with windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and more.

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Sunsets: Obviously, you want a beach on the west side of the island. Maho has the aptly yclept Sunset Beach Bar. Mullet, Cupecoy, Bay Long, and Plum Bay all face the sunset.

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Good Food: In this case, we are speaking of serious food at a real sitdown restaurant with a roof. You will have a great view and you may still have your feet in the sand, but the food is a bit more elaborate than a simple grill can conjure up. Great Bay and Little Bay have restaurants, as does Kimsha. I suppose one would have to count Samanna on Bay Long, but as one of the finest hotels and most expensive restaurants on the island, it is not really the place for a beach lunch. Nettle Bay has Layla's, a truly great place, and others. Grand Case has a few beach bars and some serious lunch places on the beach, especially in high season, but Sunset Café is open year-round. Orient probably has the most restaurants, including several serving upscale food (Kakao and Bikini come to mind). See SXM-Restaurants for more complete listings.

Grill Food: Every beach save Happy Bay, Plum Bay, and Bay Long have some food. See SXM-Restaurant's island map for more complete listings of restaurants on every beach.

No food: Happy Bay and Plum Bay have no food, and Bay Long only has La Samanna, a very expensive restaurant.

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Views: With Saba to the SSW, Anguilla to the north, Tintamarre, Pinel, and Green Cay to the ENE, St Barts to the SE, and St Kitts and Statia to the S, almost every beach has a view of a tropical island. Orient has spectacular views, but L'Embouchure, and Dawn have similar views of nearby rocks and distant St Barts. Any beach with a southerly view can have some great views of Saba, St Kitts, and Statia. Seeing rather flat Anguilla is not the greatest of these views, but it beats nothing but water, which, in turn, beats almost everything else. Paradise View above Orient has a great montage photo showing Orient Bay with its islands, Orient Salt Pond, and L'Embouchure with a hint of St Barts in the distance. For an idea of what a great view of nearby rocks and distant St Barts can be, check out the telephoto shots below that.

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Calm: This is a trick question. The calmest beaches are generally on the windward side. This is because the only beaches on that side exist because of reefs that break the waves offshore, leaving calm waters inside the bay. Galion on L'Embouchure is regularly voted the best place for kids on the island (see Chez Pat for more info and photos). Orient and Dawn also have reefs. Note that the reefs break the waves, but when the trade winds are howling, they blow wind-surfers and sand severely. Generally the beaches on the south, north, and west avoid the winds and the larger ones have easy access to the water. Anse Marcel and Great Bay are well-protected bays that are generally calm and have a lot of gradual sand for easy entrance to the water. Unless massive swells are hitting, Mullett is usually calm with gradual sand and Simpson Bay is similar.

Bodacious: The biggest waves (other than hurricane-induced waves) are generally found on Cupecoy when the wind and swells shift. It happens a few times each winter and chews up the beach and any foolish swimmers. Bodacious winds are generally found on the eastern side of the island at Orient, L'Embouchure, and Dawn.

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