Free Things To Do in St. Martin - St. Maarten
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Orient Bay Beach was hit hard by Hurricane Irma and is one of the places on the island that recent visitors said was a bit shocking to see, with most of the businesses completely wiped out. That said, they still extol the virtues of the clear waters and fluffy white sand.
There are some vendors plying food and drinks and the popular Club Orient, a naturalist hotel, which was totally destroyed and is currently under renovation, is operating a few beachside concessions.
- #3View all Photos#3 in St. Martin - St. MaartenBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Located on the island's southwest tip, Cupecoy is a set of three beaches surrounded by limestone cliffs. It's also the last beach on the Dutch side before crossing the northern French border. Travelers say the sunsets here have to be seen to be believed, with dramatic views of Saba in the distance. Consider enjoying the day's end in one of the area's beach bars, or by buying a cold beer from one of the local vendors walking along the shore. Cupecoy Beach is also noteworthy as a LGBT-friendly beach, and families should beware the clothing-optional section of the beach's northwest end. Recent visitors said the beach is stunning and romantic and suggest getting there early to claim a spot in the sand.
You can visit Cupecoy for free, but there are paid parking lots at the adjacent Cupecoy and Sapphire beach clubs.
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Many call calm and quiet Mullet a decent alternative to the noise and sand blasts of Maho Bay, or to the crowds of the French side's Orient Bay. Along with its clear waters, travelers were pleased with Mullet Bay's soft sand and surfer-ready waves.
Because of its proximity to the cruise terminal (about a 30-minute drive), you'll likely encounter crowds when ships are docked. Chair and umbrella rentals cost about $15 for the day, according to past visitors. You'll find few facilities here, so plan accordingly. Mullet Bay sits near the airport, just south of scenic Cupecoy Beach and is free to visit.
- #6View all Photos#6 in St. Martin - St. MaartenBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Friar's Bay, or Anse des Pères, has a more family-friendly atmosphere than some of the other scantily clad shores of St. Martin. That's because its crystalline waters have gentle, swimmable waves that are easy for children to handle. You can watch your kids play from the beach bars that corral Friar's; Kali's Beach Bar offers food and drink if you get hungry. The secluded Happy Bay is a 10-minute jaunt away, and according to many, this tiny stretch alone is worth the trip.
You'll find both Friar's and Kali's Beach Bar between the towns of Grand Case and Marigot (at the foot of Pic du Paradis), but take caution on the snaking, bumpy road down to the shore. Though there are restrooms in the beach bars, there are no public bathrooms surrounding the beach.
- #7View all Photos#7 in St. Martin - St. MaartenBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Located just south of the Dutch/French border, Dawn Beach is famous for two things: One, the amazing sunrises that earned the shoreline its name. And two, clear water that's perfect for snorkeling.
The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa dominates much of this shoreline, so the beach receives a lot of foot traffic. Also keep in mind that Dawn Beach's Atlantic Ocean waves can sometimes be rough. If you have children with you, consider visiting Friar's Bay on the French side; it has calmer waves. Past visitors offered mixed reviews of Dawn Beach. Some called it clean and relaxing, while others described it as average with too much seaweed.
- #8View all Photos#8 in St. Martin - St. MaartenShopping, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDShopping, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Shopping is great throughout the island thanks to its duty-free status, but the best bargains on jewelry, china, electronics and more are found on Front Street in Philipsburg (found on the Dutch side). Should browsing turn to buying, make the Guavaberry Emporium – and its primo-potent liqueur – your first stop and purchase. Head over to Front Street's eastern end and the glittering slot machines of the Coliseum Princess Casino if you still have money to burn.
Travelers recount that shopping on Front Street can be intensely crowded, especially when a cruise ship is docked. You can temper the experience with some window-shopping on Back Street or a dip in the Great Bay, both of which run parallel to Front Street.
- #9View all Photos#9 in St. Martin - St. MaartenBeaches, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Are you looking to relax in tranquility? Keep looking – Maho Bay beckons to amateur photographers, aviation fanatics and curious thrill-seekers. The southwestern beach's fame is due to its unusual proximity to the Princess Juliana International Airport. Every afternoon, travelers love to stand on the sands to take pictures of the approaching planes and feel their jet blasts.
For many travelers, Maho Bay was a must-see bucket list-experience. For others, the beach was too small and crowded to enjoy. If you're looking for a quieter afternoon along the shore, try the island's other beaches, such as Mullet Bay.
- #10View all Photos#10 in St. Martin - St. MaartenNatural Wonders, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDNatural Wonders, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
You can drive or take a taxi up Pic du Paradis mountain's 1,492 feet for a heart-stopping view of all of St. Martin/St. Maarten, as well as the surrounding islands of Anguilla, Saba and St. Eustatius. Also known as Paradise Peak, the mountain was a hit with recent visitors, who said it is worth the hike for the stunning panoramic views.
You can reach the peak two ways: You can pay to park at Loterie Farm (found at the base of the mountain) and hike up to the top, or you can drive your car to the end of the road and walk about 10 to 15 minutes to the summit (for free). If you choose to hike up to the top, heed the advice of past visitors and bring plenty of water, bug spray and stable shoes with good traction. Some reviewers also warned future visitors not to leave any valuables in their cars at the summit as theft has been reported. According to travelers, signage is also not abundant.
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