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St. Martin

St. Martin / Sint Maarten

The smallest island in the world ever to have been partitioned between two different nations, St. Martin/St. Maarten has been shared by the French and the Dutch in a spirit of neighborly cooperation and mutual friendship for almost 350 years.

The border is almost imperceptible. and people cross back and forth without ever realizing they are entering a new country. There are four boundries, Belle Vue / Cole Bay, French Quarter / Dutch Quarter, Low Lands / Copecoy and Oyster Pond, testifying to centuries of peaceful cohabitation and the treaty that made the arrangement possible.

All the same, each side has managed to retain much of the distinctiveness of its own national culture. The French tend to emphasize comfort and elegance. The beaches are secluded, the luxury resorts provide lavish accommodations, and the restaurants offer the finest dining experiences anywhere in the Caribbean. The latest French fashions can be found in many of the shops, and the smell of fresh croissants and pastries mixes everywhere with the spicy aromas of West Indian cooking. Small caf³s and charming bistros add a decidedly Gaelic and cosmopolitan flair to the place. On the whole the atmosphere remains very relaxed.

On the other hand, St. Maarten with its busy cruise port and bustling commercial district, has long been an active center for trade and tourism. More developed and at the same time more informal, it is very Dutch in flavor and still has strong ties with fellow compatriots in the other Netherlands Antilles. Between the two different cultures in St. Martin and St. Maarten, vacationers will be able to find just about every kind of activity they might want for a perfect holiday in the sun.

Located midway through the chain of islands in the Caribbean, just as the Antilles begin to curve to the south, St. Martin is sunny and warm year-round, averaging 82 degrees Fahrenheit in summer and just 2 degrees cooler in winter. The island is buffeted by cooling trade winds that keep things temperate all year long. Average annual rainfall comes to about 45 inches, most of which occurs around late summer and early fall.

The dual identity of the island causes confusion about the correct spelling of the name: the Dutch side as part of the Netherlands Antilles is correctly called “Sint Maarten”, the French side “Saint Martin”. But there are all imaginable miss spellings around; even Air France flies to Sint Marteen. Also popular (leaving out the repetitive acronym for Saint) is Maartens, Maartin, Marten, Marteens, Martins and Martens, or the very creative Martaan, Martan. Some folks like to combine the names into StMaarten/StMartin.
The Dutch side's capital is Philipsburg, with a single 'l', not Phillipsburg and the popular tourist attraction Loterie Farm also uses only one 't', not the spelling of Lottery or Lotterie.

Let´s go beach ... that´s especially true for St. Maarten and St. Martin. The island is blessed with over 30 white sandy beaches. All of them are beautiful, each with its own special charm and atmosphere. You can choose from the isolated romantic little cove to beaches, where action is going on day and night. You will find beaches with waves high enough for surfers, and others, calm ones for families with small kids. There are clothing optional beaches where naturists do enjoy clothing optional beach life. There are busy beaches, and deserted beaches for the honeymooners. Tiny beaches between rocky cliffs and some with large stretches of white sand. There are beaches of plenty of activities from horseback riding, volleyball, to snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, surfing, jet skiing, body boarding, sailing,.... you name it!

Orient Bay or Orient Beach , in French "Baie Orientale", sweeps around a blue cove, facing east, as the name suggests. The 2 mile long, white powdered sand beach is protected from the Atlantic waves by a reef, and the bottom has a very gradual slope. The area has been recognized as a marine reserve, so snorkeling in the marine park is just incredible. There is also great snorkeling off nearby Caye Verte (Green Key), one of the small beautiful islands dotting the coast, such as Tintamarre and Pinel Island do.
Orient Bay is the most developed, the most popular and the busiest beach on the island, probably the most famous beach in the entire Caribbean. The beach is reputed as much for its natural beauty and setting as it is for being the island´s foremost swimsuit optional or nude beach.

The major attraction of Orient Bay is of course the clothing optional beach and the world´s famous Club Orient, the island´s only naturist resort at the southern end of the beach.
Clothing is optional in front of the Orient Club, though the nude beach there is open to the public. The northern end of the beach, near the hotels, has more clothing, but in fact you may encounter nude sunbathers anywhere. The highest concentration of naked people however is at Club Orient.

Orient Bay is loaded with watersports facilities including parasailing, waterskiing and snorkeling. Snorkeling equipment is also available at several places on the beach, just as many other amenities.

Parasailing is a great way to get a unique view of the bay. Lined with tiki huts, colorful beach chairs and restaurants, the sands of Orient are always full of action! Many compare Orient Bay to the French Riviera, the "Saint Tropez of St Martin" with its pampering services and ambiance. Topless sunbathers come in all shapes and sizes. In the middle of the beach you will find the local hangout with restaurants and live bands playing great music.

Kitesurfing on Orient Bay
The Bay actually consists of five main beaches, called the "5 stars of Orient Bay" Kontiki, Kakao, Bikini Beach, Waikiki and Coco Beach, named after their respective beach bars and each next to another. In fact, Orient Bay boats of numerous restaurants and bars along the beach, a panoply of water sport activities, boutiques and shops, hotels and resorts. Some of the bars are trendy hangouts, such as Boo Boo Jam or the Baywatch.

After lunch rent a jetski, go parasailing or participate in a local Hobbie Cat race.
Orient Beach is a truly majestic setting with the mountains rising up all around. Not to mention the beautiful tiny islands of Green Key, Tintamarre and Pinel Island just off shore.

Topless beach at Orient Bay
Tip: Cost of beach chairs at Orient Bay widely varies! Some restaurants provide them free, if you consume with them, some charge $6.00/day, some charge much more!

The major attraction of Orient Bay is of course the clothing optional beach and the world´s famous Club Orient, the island´s only naturist resort at the southern end of the beach.

Clothing is optional in front of the Orient Club, though the nude beach there is open to the public. The northern end of the beach, near the hotels, has more clothing, but in fact you may encounter nude sunbathers anywhere. The highest concentration of naked people however is at Club Orient.

The highest concentration of naked people is at Club Orient. Here you can stroll in the surf and view garbed and ungarbed sun-worshippers in all shapes and sizes passing by. Strains of Salsa, Samba, or Merengue music waft over you from the trendy bars that are dotting the beach.

Things to do in St. Martin / Sint Maarten

Jet Ski
Jet Skis and Wave Runners can be rented at several beaches. The most popular locations are Orient Beach (French side) and Great Bay (Philipsburg, Dutch side). Going on a Jet Ski is usually restricted to a zone in view of the beach. On Orient Bay check out Bikini Beach

Parasailing
If you are up to be suspended on a giant, inflated wing above the Atlantic ocean, go to Orient Beach. There is the largest range of options.The scenery with a bird´s eye view is terrific.

Surfing and Body Boarding
Winter waves reach the North and West coasts of St Maarten/St Martin from November through March. The East coast comes alive with the passing of tropical systems from July through November.

Windsurfing
Windsurfing with the gentle trade winds on St Martin is a treat! Season starts in winter with the so called "Christmas Winds". Otherwise, Southern trade winds provide consistent conditions averaging 15 knots until July. Intermediates and advanced wind surfers should definitely go to Orient Bay, despite its frequent choppy conditions as the bay is facing the windward Atlantic coast. The possibilities are endless here: flat water sailing; swell and chop sailing between Green Cay and Pinel Island; speed runs to Pinel from Club Orient; or wave sailing in the reef at Green Cay. Another great place for Wind surfers, beginners and intermediates, is Le Galion Beach.

Kitesurfing
Kitesurfing is becoming more and more popular on St Martin as well. Perfect places to start with Kitesurfing are Orient Bay and Le Galion. Since summer 2002, St Martin runs an own Kitesurfing School on Orient Bay at Club Nathalie Simon 0590 294-157 (between Kakao and Kontiki beach). They use to take beginners to Green Cay to practice off its deserted beach.

Wakeboarding and Water skiing
The most popular spots for wakeboarding and water skiing are Grand Case Bay and the Simpson Bay Lagoon on Nettle Bay.

Diving and Snorkeling
The crystalline waters surrounding St. Maarten/St. Martin allow for clear visibility up to 100 feet, and often up to 150-200 feet. Coral reefs are teaming with marine life, providing more than 40 excellent dive sites off St Maarten´s coast.

Beaches good for snorkeling: Great Bay, Maho Beach, Mullet Bay, Long Bay, Bay Rouge, Orient Bay, Dawn Beach