St. Maarten

St. Maarten is a small island, but there were so many decisions for me to make for our day trip there! Dutch Side or French side? Which beach is the best? What towns are worth exploring?

If you Google “best beach in St. Maarten” you’ll find that there are 37 beaches on the small island that all have something good and different to offer. Talk about overwhelming for deciding where to go for one day there! After reading dozens of reviews, this indecisive girl chose to try two beaches in one day: Orient Beach and Maho Beach.

St. Maaretn Beach Map
All 37 beaches! Source:

The island of St. Maarten (AKA St. Martin) is actually divided between two countries; France and the Netherlands. Me being me, I of course wanted to fit a visit to both sides in our itinerary, so I chose one beach on each side: Orient Beach on the French side, and Maho beach on the Dutch side.

St. Maarten Scenery 2
Beautiful St. Maarten from Carnival Splendor

We traveled to Orient Beach straight from the cruise port. Because I did my research, I knew that we were going to one of the (if not the) most beautiful beaches on St. Maarten, and I also knew that a small section of it was nude (yikes!). Bryant and I had never been around a nude beach before, and when we arrived at the port and started looking for a taxi, we almost chickened out and changed our plans. Let’s just say there were certain things that he and I definitely did not want to see. After a moment of panic, we ended up sticking with our original plan, and I am so glad we did.

Orient Beach, St. Maarten. There was a lot of seaweed at the edge of the beach, but apparently that’s only an issue during hurricane season

Orient Beach is beautiful; picture white sand, clear water, and a green hilly backdrop. It’s large enough to where it did not feel overcrowded, but there are plenty of bars and restaurants along the beach to get well-priced drinks and try local food. We paid $20 for an umbrella, two beach chairs, and two Rum punches. Like I said, there is definitely a nude section, but it is partially blocked off by jetties, so if going topless and bottomless is not your thing, you can stick to the clothes-on side like we did.

Orient Beach 2
Orient Beach, St. Martin

The only drawback to Orient Beach was the large number of people selling items and services along the beach. I have no problems turning people down, but Bryant (bless his heart) cannot say no. He paid for a foot massage for me (I’m not complaining) and a foot and back massage for himself.

Rum punch + foot massage + beach = very happy place for me

Our taxi driver agreed to meet back up with us around 2 pm to take us to Maho Beach, but we were so happy at Orient Beach that we ended up missing that ride and had to catch another one an hour later. To be honest, I wish we could have stayed at Orient Beach longer than we did.

Maho Beach is known for being right next to Princess Juliana International Airport. Planes have to fly right over the beach to land on the runway. I’ll admit, it is really cool the first time you see a jumbo jet come that close to the beach, but it’s also one of those things that once you see it one time, you’re good. The rest of the time you’re just listening to loud airplanes at the beach. The beach itself was a disappointment, especially compared to Orient Beach. The sand wasn’t as fine, the water was a little murky, and it was a lot more crowded. Honestly if we were to ever go back to St. Maarten, we probably would not return to Maho Beach. It was cool to experience once, but not something I feel the need to experience again.

Maho Beach
Maho Beach, St. Maarten
Princess Julianna Airport
Princess Julianna International Airport next to Maho Beach, St. Maarten

After an hour at Maho beach, we decided to take a taxi to Front Street in Phillipsburg to do some shopping and walk back to the cruise ship. Front Street was a perfect place to end our day in St. Maarten; there were a lot of cute shops. It’s also right on the edge of Great Bay Beach, which is right next to the cruise port.

Overall, our day in St. Maarten was a success. I am glad we got to experience everything we did; I was determined to visit the Dutch side and the French side of the island in one day. However, if we ever go back, I would probably try to stick to one beach for the day. We only visited 2 of the 37 beaches, so there’s still plenty to explore!

St. Maarten Great Bay
Great Bay Beach, St. Maarten

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