Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The French Riviera of the Caribbean

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Copyright 2010 David/Anna Smith Photography by Interface Images

St. Maarten/St. Martin: A Perfect Beach Destination

As frequent visitors to the Caribbean one of our favorite island beaches is Orient Beach in St. Maarten. Evoking a welcome to the Caribbean mood it has an eclectic mixture of walk alone peacefulness, funky beach bars with color coded umbrellas and at one end, being typically French, naked tan lined bodies. True beach aficionados flock to play in the sun and crystal blue waters of Orient Bay, the French Riviera of the Caribbean.

Our favorite beach bars ($12 gets you 2 chilled drinks, umbrella and lounge chairs for the day) are near “clothing optional’ Club Orient at the northern end so we can sip, tan, snack and sneak peak naked bodies drifting by. A variety of small beach huts sell beachwear, sun tan lotion and island trinkets to keep the shoppers happy. Just strolling on the white soft sand in the warm breeze has such a calming effect that we cast off our clothes without a care and truly enjoyed skinny-dipping amongst the lapping waves.

A short taxi ride ($6 per person each way) from the port of Philipsburg on the Dutch side in St. Martin, your driver will reliably return for you when requested. Cruise ships frequently visit the island for day stops so it can get crowded at the main entrance to the beach. A mile long, there is plenty of room for everyone. The French side has plenty of other beautiful beaches; try Marcel’s Cove at Anse Marcel, Friars Bay near Marigot or nearby Le Galion. On the Dutch side go to Mullet Bay or the good snorkeling at Dawn Beach near Oyster Pond.

With two island cultures of Dutch (Saint Martin) and French (Saint Maarten), it is the smallest island in the world that is governed by dual sovereign states, divided nearly equally between France and the Netherlands. While certainly Caribbean, the old world character traits still linger. The French side is laid back, standoffish and intense about fine cuisine while the Dutch side is fun loving, friendly and focused on nightlife. It’s like a tour of northern Europe wearing shorts and sandals.

Orient Beach will appeal to all ages, there are quiet sections with shallow water for kids, and plenty of water sports such as jet skiing, parasailing, and snorkeling for the active. The naturist section, a beautiful shallow and calm bay lined with palm tress and cute yellow umbrellas is definitely worth a visit. One time we were the only people there, another it was packed with 50 something’s of all shapes and sizes – not as inviting. It is separated from the main beach section to the south by a small rocky spit, so don’t worry if you are not used to nakedness, you will need to make an effort to get there, just don’t stub your toes. Locals and frequent visitors often go topless through the beach – welcome to France.

Sunset at the funky beach bars can be magical, and the restaurants of nearby Grand Case are some of the worlds best. The tropical breezes, sipping rum coolers and soft sand is why we will return again and again The village square in Orient is always bustling each evening with people of all ages and is a great place to people watch and enjoy an island meal.

If you are visiting the island for the first time, Orient Beach is a must see. The thought of wasting time shopping in the town is absurd when the warm sugar sand, buffet of beach chairs sons colorful drinks and beautiful bodies of Orient Beach is just a short drive away. For more information:


Photos in this article can be licensed and downloaded by clicking on them in this post or visiting our online Orient Beach - St. Maarten Photo Gallery. To license this article for publication go to link at top of this post

Contact: David Smith
Cell 604-818-7662

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