Beaches

The beaches of St. Maarten/St. Martin offer so much more than sand and surf.
 
Sun, sand and sea. Of course we love the beach — it’s in our nature. Now a growing number of neuroscientists are suggesting that our brains are programmed to sense calmness and comfort in the presence of lapping waves. Perhaps that’s why so many visitors come back to St. Maarten/St. Martin again and again. There’s something magical about the waters that kiss the sugar-sand beaches of this multifaceted island.
 
St. Maarten/St. Martin is blessed with 37 magnificent beaches, and each offers something special for shore lovers of every sort. Here are some of the best spots to make the most of this Dutch/French island’s superlative coast.
 
Best for Couples
 
St. Maarten
Cupecoy Beach: Dramatic ochre-colored cliffs embrace a richly carpeted coral-sand shore at the southwestern corner of the island. Magnificent sunsets wash across cave-peppered sandstone formations towering 20 feet above the surf. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the fabled Green Flash as the sun sinks below the horizon. Legend has it that those who spot this fleeting atmospheric phenomenon will enjoy everlasting love.
 
Lovers’ Beach: Duh … It’s called Lovers’ Beach because it’s barely big enough to accommodate more than one couple at a time. To reach this small stretch of sand on the northeastern edge of the island, you have to follow a trail and amble down a steep incline; but the secluded ambience is a mood enhancer.
 
Best for Solitude Seekers
 
Guana Bay Beach: Picturesque and unspoiled, this quiet, secluded beach northeast of Philipsburg hugs a long, wide bay. Supply yourself with sundries. There are no amenities here, but you’ll get a great view of St. Barths, just 15 miles away.
 
Baie Lucas/Lucas Bay: Exposed to Atlantic swells and strong winds, this white-sand beach on the southeastern coast draws few visitors, even though it’s not that far from urban development. Snorkelers will enjoy coral and rock formations in water sometimes shallow enough to permit walking to a small island offshore.
 
Best for People Watchers
 
Maho Beach: Carry a camera or use your phone to capture the awed expressions of tourists who teem here in late afternoon when jumbo jets fly right over you as they touch down at adjacent Princess Juliana International Airport. Hang on to your hat or lose it to the blowing blast of a Boeing or Airbus taking off.
 
Baie Orientale/Orient Beach: You also may want to snap away if you visit the northeastern “St. Tropez of the Caribbean,” a Riviera-like stretch of white powder that tends to attract celebrities and jet-setters. But bag the camera if you decide to venture to the far southern end of the two-mile-long beach, where unclothed sun worshippers like to hang out.
 
Best for Families
 
Little Bay Beach: The Fort Amsterdam peninsula separates Little Bay from Great Bay, making the waters of this southwestern beach calm and kid friendly. The powdery, white-sand beach offers several sporting options, such as paddleboating, jet-skiing and parasailing. You’re also close to the shops, restaurants and historic attractions of Philipsburg.
 
Le Galion/Galion Beach: Local parents and kids flock to this eastern beach for holiday celebrations. The beach, whose shallow water is protected from rough ocean currents, features all sorts of activities for grown-ups and kids alike, including kayaking, canoeing and windsurfing.
 
Best for Foodies
 
Simpson Bay Beach: More than a mile long, this wide, flat, white-sand beach has a secluded feel but is within close range of a number of restaurants, bars and casinos. It’s in the southwest, near Princess Juliana International Airport, but not under the flight path of noisy jets coming in for a landing.
 
Plage de Grand Case/Grand Case Beach: You won’t go hungry on the French northern end of the island, which is famed the world over for its wealth of gourmet restaurants and local grills known as lolos. Eateries line Grand Case Boulevard at the heart of a picturesque fishing village. Walk the mile-long beach and work up an appetite as you take in the sunset and spectacular views of Anguilla.
 
Best for Shoppers
 
Great Bay Beach: Just four streets deep and one mile long, Philipsburg offers duty-free shop after shop along the Boardwalk that fronts this heart-of-town beach. This is the place to pick up island crafts or goods imported from The Netherlands.
 
Anse Marcel: You’re in no danger of maxing out your credit card if you visit this white-sand beach on the northwestern coast. But the full-service marina here is worth a stroll for its café, convenience store and handful of boutique shops.
 
Best for Partiers
 
Kim Sha Beach: This short, wide stretch is more than just an extension of the shore at Simpson Bay. It’s outside the lagoon and draws lots of folks looking for a good time. This is where the main St. Maarten Heineken Regatta–related events have taken place in previous years. Kim Sha also boasts lively beach bars where you can sip a Sundowner while watching the glowing orb sink below the horizon.
 
Anse des Peres/Friar’s Bay: By day, it’s a small, family-oriented beach with good views of Anguilla. But after the sun goes down, restaurants and bars draw crowds to the sheltered northwest coast for live music and not-to-be-missed full-moon parties. Let yourself howl!
 
Best for Nature Lovers
 
Geneve Bay Beach: Reaching this rugged black-rock shore on the southeastern coast near Philipsburg requires an hour-long hike from Guana Bay through evergreen shrub land. But you’ll be rewarded for your effort with photogenic geological formations, brown pelicans and melon-shaped melocactus plants.
 
Petites Cayes: To get to this pristine northern spot, you must take a boat or take on a challenging 35-minute hike along the coast or across the cliffs and rocks of a nature preserve. Hillside views of the beach and Anguilla are sure to please photographers.
 
Best for Surfers
 
Mullet Bay Beach: Waves curl and crash against this wide, moon-shaped stretch of white sand fringed by shady palms and sea grape trees on the western coast. Its crystalline waters are calm at times, but surf with a buddy if you’re venturing farther out, where rip currents are periodically reported.
 
Baie aux Prunes/Plum Bay: Locals like to ride the swells at this secluded golden-sand beach at the western tip of the island near Baie Longue/Long Bay. There are no amenities here, unless you count the enchanting view of Saba.
 
Best for Snorkelers
 
Dawn Beach: Obviously, this is a prime spot for catching a tropical sunrise. It’s also a rewarding snorkeling site. A reef runs parallel to the beach, and you can paddle out and see schools of fish swimming about when the current is calm.
 
Îlet Pinel/Pinel Island: Head for Cul de Sac on the north side and hop aboard a traditional boat called a saintoise for a five-minute ride to this protected point of sand surrounded by pristine, shallow water. Follow the snorkel trail to explore the coral reefs. Or simply stretch out and relax, as locals do on weekends.

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