Saint Martin

Saint Martin is located in the Caribbean about 200 miles east of Puerto Rico.  The island is divided in half.  Saint Martin, the French side, is located to the north, and Sint Maarten, the Dutch side, is located to the south.

St Martin is an overseas collectivity of France... whatever that means.  The important part is being French means attitudes towards nudity are quite open.  All the beaches on St Martin are topless and quite a few also provide clothing optional opportunities.  Orient Beach is by far the most well known topless/clothing optional beach on St Martin.  However, it is definitely not the only beach on the island.  In fact, St Martin boasts more than 30 beautiful (and topless) beaches.

Accommodations are quite plentiful on the island.  From resorts, to small hotels, to vacation rentals, the island offers a variety of options.  Food is also not a problem.  The island is known for its wonderful French cuisine.

Travel to St Martin from the US (the reason for inclusion on this site) is quite easy.  There are two airports: L'Espérance Airport (SFG) and Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM).  L'Espérance Airport serves small planes and is useful for island hopping while Princess Juliana International Airport handles major carriers and heavy jets (including the occasional 747).  SXM is the busiest airport in the Caribbean behind Puerto Rico’s.  This means getting to Saint Martin from the US typically involves fewer stops.  Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington all have direct flights at least once a week.

Visitor Trip Report - Fall 2009

My wife and I just got back from a 5 day vacation on St Martin.  We stayed on the French side of the island in Grand Case.

Getting to St Martin couldn’t have been easier.  With a direct flight from Miami, we were in St Martin by early afternoon.  Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) has been recently renovated and is easily the most modern airport I’ve ever been to in the Caribbean - definitely on par with newer airports in the states.

Some complain that driving on the island is difficult because of St Martin’s traffic.  We opted to rent a car from a place that would pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel in Grand Case.  This made navigating the traffic on the Dutch side a non issue.  Once on the French side, we just drove to the nearby beaches and never experienced any real traffic.  Renting a small car there is so cheap it just makes sense from a convenience stand point.

We visited 5 beaches while on the trip: Tintamarre, Orient Beach, Friar’s Bay, Happy Bay, and Pinel Island.  All are on the French side.


Tintamarre is a tiny uninhabited island off of St Martin.  We visited it as part of a snorkeling trip via a catamaran.  Because you can only get there by boat, it’s not very crowded.  The snorkeling was fare and the island and beach were pretty, but it’s not take your breath away beautiful.  I doubt we’d visit this island again.

Pinel Island

Pinel Island is located just off the coast of St Martin.  It is accessibly by ferry which runs every 30 minutes.  the cost is 7 dollars per person round trip.

On the main section of Pinel Island there are three restaurant/bars that all provide beach chairs and food/beverage service.  When we went to Pinel, the storm clouds were moving in.  So the island was almost deserted and all but one of the restaurants was closed. 

Instead of staying on the main portion, we took a walk towards the middle of the island and followed a small path to the other side.  Once on the other side, we found a small isolated beach where only a few other couples were out enjoying the day.  Because of its remote nature, most of the people there were either topless or nude. 

The beach was quite beautiful and had lots of amazing rocks and shells.  It’s well worth the walk from the main portion of Pinel Island.  But it’s also nice to have the restaurants and services only 10-15 minutes away.  Pinel Island is worth the ferry ride over and is definitely a must see while on St Martin.

Orient Beach

Orient Beach is probably the most famous topless/clothing optional beach in the Caribbean.  In terms of sunbathing attire (or lack there of) the beach is divided into sections.  The largest section is top free with only the small end portion of the beach clothing optional.  Club Orient, a clothing optional resort, is located at the end of the beach.  But as with all beaches in St Martin, the beach is public so everyone is free to enjoy the beach.

The beach itself is gorgeous: powder white sand, brilliantly blue water, green hills in the background.  Because of these amazing attributes, the area around the beach is quite developed with many lodging and shopping options.  It’s more of a resort village type feel than an authentic island village experience.

Since we were there in the off season, there wasn’t much of a crowd.  There was absolutely no problem getting a great beach chair any time of the day.  We’d read reviews of Orient that complained of the crowds and the beach club experience.  But we didn’t note that at all.

In terms of topless activity, it really varies quite a bit.  In the morning, 40-50% of the woman were topless.  But as the beach filled up the topless percentage went down but never below 10-15%.  Put another way, there was no mistaking that you were on a topless beach at any point in time.

The age range of topless women varied as well.  Most of the crowd was probably skewed towards their 40s.  Although there were certainly some 20 and 30 year olds mixed in.  Somewhat surprising were the number of boob jobs on the middle aged women.  So really when you factor in the age of the breasts with the age of the person they were attached to, the average age goes down.

Walking the beach topless and going in the water topless were quite common.  Thongs and g strings were surprising less common than say Miami Beach (well, at least on the woman).  But Orient Beach is so relaxed it really doesn’t matter what you wear.

Since the beach area is quite developed, there is no shortage of beach chairs, restaurants, bar service, shopping, etc.  You can literally spend all day there and not have to leave for a single thing.

Overall, we loved Orient beach and spent 2 of our 5 days there.  We will definitely go back in the future.

Friar’s Bay

Friar’s Bay beach is small beach with a couple of restaurant/bars on site to provide beach chairs, food, and refreshments.  When we visited, it was not very crowded but definitely had enough people to make the beach seem lively.

Topless was again quite common on this beach.  At least 10-15% of the women were topless.  The age range seemed a bit younger than say Orient Beach.  But since we were only there one day, it could vary.

The beach itself isn’t very long or wide but it is quite pretty.  If you are looking for a beach that provides food, beverage, and chairs but don’t want to go to a big beach like Orient, Friar’s is definitely a winner.  We will certainly visit this beach again.

Happy Bay

Happy Bay is a 15 minute walk (or hike depending on how you define it) from Friar’s Bay.  The beach is really only accessible by the walking path or by boat.  For that reason, it wasn’t very crowded at all.  It’s probably the size of Friar’s bay with only a fraction of the people.  There are no restaurants or beach chairs.  You’ve got to bring anything you’ll need.  Luckily Friar’s is a short walk back for lunch.

The beach is absolutely stunning.  Because of its remote nature, it feels completely unspoiled and like a perfect Caribbean beach advertisement.  While we didn’t snorkel there, we talked to a couple that said the snorkeling was quite good right off the beach.

Most of the people we saw on the beach were either topless or nude.  The remote nature of the beach makes it pretty much anything goes in the beachwear department.

The beach is absolutely worth the hike there.  Even the hike itself is quite interesting since it takes you through a pasture overlooking the coast.  On your way there, you’ll encounter a fence preventing some cows from escaping.  It’s easy enough to step through the fence to continue on your way to the beach.  Don’t let the fence deter you.

Without a doubt, we will return to Happy Bay.