Saint Martin Beach Guide — French Side & Dutch Side
While the French side (St. Martin in the north) and the Dutch side (Sint Maarten in the south) are classic Caribbean destinations, they have a unique distinction of being split into two countries. This beautiful island offers its distinct charms and both sections tempt with spectacular beaches.
In the following guide, we’ll break down the best beaches of Saint Martin, treating the French and Dutch sides separately given many visitors choose to spend the bulk of their time in either St. Martin or Sint Maarten depending on where the hotel or villa they are staying in is.
Different kinds of travelers have different priorities when it comes to Caribbean beach going. Families with young kids, for example, may or may not want to steer clear of areas of those parts of St Martin beaches that are known to be nudist-friendly. Couples on honeymoon are often looking for a sort of experience that may be different from families.
Given that Saint Martin’s 40-odd beaches cover quite a bit of territory when it comes to ambiance and services. So we’ll sketch out the top features of our recommended beachfronts and then spotlight perfect choices for particular goals or desires.
Top 5 Beaches in St. Martin – French Side
1. Orient Bay Beach – The Most Famous Beach on the Island
Description. This large, lovely, and bustling strand is the best-known among St. Martin’s beaches, nicknamed “the St. Tropez of the Caribbean.”
Why It’s Unique. Orient Beach on St. Martin’s northeastern coast is a windward seashore, but it comes protected by Green Key and its reef, making for calm, swimmable waters. The beach is also well developed, full of amenities.
Best For… Swimming, nightlife, people-watching
Amenities. Orient Bay Beach comes peppered with bars, restaurants, and cafes, covering a wide range of cuisines, ambiance, and styles (including genuine fine dining). You can rent all sorts of beach-going necessities, from loungers to watersports equipment.
Accessibility. Orient Bay Beach is easy to access: Walk seaward through the Orient Bay neighborhood and you’ll hit the sands, or take advantage of several large parking lots right by the beachfront.
Know Before You Go. Numerous resorts front Orient Bay, including Club Orient, the only naturist one on St. Martin. Down at the south end is frequented by nudists.
WIMCO’s Insider Tip. Come evening, stroll from the beach to the nearby village square to catch live music, on offer nearly every night.
2. Baie Rouge Beach – Uncrowded & Beautiful
Description. This north-facing beach, which lies west of Marigot, is an expansive one with lots of room, so it never feels very crowded. It’s also one of the most scenic St. Martin beaches.
Why It’s Unique. Baie Rouge means “Red Bay,” a nod to the reddish tint to the sands of its beachfront. The views from Baie Rouge Beach include the bold Bird Cliff or Bird Bluff (Falaise des Oiseaux) to the west; named for its seabird roost, and sightlines out to Anguilla. You can check out the Devil’s Hole (aka “David’s Hole”) to the east, where rock archways open to the sea.
Best For… Snorkeling, scenery, elbow room
Amenities. There’s a beach bar at the more heavily visited east end of Baie Rouge Beach, and you can rent loungers and umbrellas. Vendors sell beachwear here as well.
Accessibility. Coming into the Terres Basses area from the east, you’ll find ample parking for Baie Rouge Beach.
Know Before You Go. If you wander westward along Baie Rouge Beach, you’ll likely start to notice sun-and-surf worshippers clad in (ahem) less clothing, so avoid that stretch if you prefer to see full beachwear on.
WIMCO’s Insider Tip. The Devil’s Hole arches are fascinating to explore in snorkel gear, but be aware of strong currents.
3. Happy Bay Beach – A Secluded Piece of Paradise
Description. Not far from the Grand Case, Happy Bay Beach feels tucked-away and pristine.
Why It’s Unique. Happy Bay Beach offers a tranquil vibe, postcard views, and plentiful shade unlike many St. Martin beaches. While uncrowded and laidback most of the time, the site serves as a venue for some of the island’s annual events, not least the SXM Festival.
Best For… Privacy, low-key beach-going
Amenities. Lightly developed Happy Bay Beach doesn’t offer a ton of amenities, though there is a food vendor on site. Beach chairs may or may not be available to rent; best to bring your own necessities.
Accessibility. One reason why Happy Bay Beach is quiet? There’s no road access! Most beachgoers reach it from Friar’s Bay via a roughly 10-minute hike.
Know Before You Go. A pair of sturdy sandals or shoes is useful for the walk over to Happy Bay Beach. The path is a bit brushy, so watch out for brambles.
WIMCO Insider’s Tip. You can also get to Happy Bay Beach by water if you have access to a boat.
4. Anse Marcel – Calm, Family-Friendly Waters Ideal for Swimming
Description. Set on the far north of St. Martin, the sandy cove of Anse Marcel offers tranquil, sheltered waters for swimming and stand-up paddleboarding, plus some excellent beachfront dining.
Why It’s Unique. Backdropped by hills and served by several hotels and resorts, Anse Marcel is a pretty wide-spread St. Martin beach. It offers friendly, nearshore shallows buffered from swells and strong currents. An excellent restaurant draws beach-loving foodies, too.
Best For… Swimming, families, beachfront dining
Amenities: Besides the restaurant, the Marina Port de Lonvilliers on the north side hosts a few boutique storefronts.
Accessibility. Reachable from Grand Case by a scenic drive over Pigeon Pea Hill. Anse Marcel is something of a walk-in beach, given parking is controlled by the resorts.
Know Before You Go. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas from the resorts at Anse Marcel.
WIMCO’s Insider Tip. A roughly half-hour hike northeast over the hill from Anse Marcel brings you to the secluded and swoon-worthy Baie de Petites Cayes, one of St. Martin’s hidden treasures.
5. Grand Case Beach – Family fun + Snorkeling and Dining Paradise
Description. The fishing village of Grand Case, justifiably among St. Martin’s top destinations. It has its own smallish but charming beachfront well served by resorts and restaurants.
Why It’s Unique. Grand Case Beach lets you easily combine explorations of St. Martin cuisine—from upscale restaurants to must-try lolo barbecue vendors—with quality beach time. The waters here are calm and buffered, good for enjoying with young children, and Creole Rock just offshore marks one of St. Martin’s top snorkeling and diving locations, host to tropical fish, sea turtles, and a seabird rookery.
Best For… Families, dining & snorkeling
Amenities. Grand Case’s bustling shops, restaurants, resorts, and rental shops put everything you need at your fingertips for a few hours at the beach.
Accessibility. A free lot and streetside parking in a highly walkable Grand Case make it hassle-free to visit the village beachfront.
Know Before You Go. If you’ve journeyed to Grand Case for its beach, make sure you spare time for Restaurant Row, one of the island’s go-to dining hotspots. They don’t call Grand Case “the Gourmet Capital of St. Martin” for nothing.
WIMCO’s Insider Tip. North of the main Grand Case Beach you’ll find the less-crowded sands of Petite Plage, home to the Sunset Café and just a stone’s throw from Creole Rock. It’s another local beach well worth visiting.
Top 5 Beaches in St. Maarten – Dutch Side
1. Dawn Beach – Spectacular Sunrises & Primo Snorkeling
Description. Though recent development has changed the look of Dawn Beach some, it’s still a pretty, often-uncrowded swath of powdery sand and coconut palms on St. Martin’s east coast just south of Oyster Pond.
Why It’s Unique. Facing east out into the Atlantic, Dawn Beach comes aptly named: It’s a fabulous place to catch a French West Indies sunrise (with St. Barths in the frame), if you’re an early bird! Snorkeling at the offshore reef is some of the best on the island.
Best For… Snorkeling, sunrise photography/appreciation
Amenities. Food and drink are readily available, as are beach loungers and umbrellas.
Accessibility. The access road is a bit on the bumpy side, but Dawn Beach’s ambiance makes it worth it. You can park in spots along the road to get to the beach. Certain oceanfront accommodations (such as the Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa and various villas) offer their own beach access, as do restaurants.
Know Before You Go. Dawn Beach is still recovering from Hurricane Irma, and depending on currents, its white sands may see sargassum pileups, so don’t go in expecting a completely “pristine” setting. But there’s plenty of appeal here—and often plenty of elbow room.
WIMCO’s Insider Tip. Getting to the reef off Dawn Beach for snorkeling is best suited to strong swimmers, who should beware of currents in these windward waters as well.
2. Mullet Bay Beach – Powdery Sand & Surf Breaks
Description. Set in the southwest of Saint Martin, Mullet Bay Beach is a popular beach celebrated for its beauty, surfing opportunities, and advantageous location.
Why It’s Unique. With a good north swell, Mullet Bay becomes one of the best St. Maarten beaches for surfing. Besides providing front-row seats to superb sunsets, the beachfront is also notable for its proximity to the Mullet Bay Golf Course.
Best For… Sunsets, surfing, people-watching
Amenities. A few establishments are fronting Mullet Bay Beach, including a beach bar, and loungers and umbrellas are available to rent.
Accessibility. There’s ample parking around Mullet Bay Beach.
Know Before You Go. Winter and spring typically serve the most promising surf breaks, but this is more of an experienced board-rider’s destination.
WIMCO’s Insider Tips. You can see the famously low-flying planes arriving at and departing Princess Juliana International Airport from Mullet Bay Beach from a distance: a quieter (and safer) vantage than Maho Beach, the famous “Airplane Beach.”
3. Simpson Bay Beach – Lengthy & Scenic
Description. Simpson Bay holds its own with any of the other Sint Maarten beaches in the looks department. Set on the island’s southwestern shore, it forms a long, gentle, white-sand crescent along the ocean. Just across is the Princess Juliana International Airport runway from Simpson Bay Lagoon to the north.
Why It’s Unique. Mostly undeveloped and typically uncrowded, Simpson Bay Beach delivers a lovely backdrop of green hills and beautiful sunsets. Its long southward sightlines can, in clear weather, extend as far out as St. Kitts & Nevis.
Best For… Views, relative solitude, swimming
Amenities. A couple of beach bars provide refreshments for Simpson Bay Beach sunbathers and swimmers.
Accessibility. You’ll find plenty of street parking available for accessing Simpson Bay Beach.
Know Before You Go. Simpson Bay Beach’s waters are generally calm enough for all-ages swimming, but be aware the beach face drops off steeply. Nearby Burgeaux Beach by Pointe Burgeaux (one of the ends of Simpson Bay Beach) is a surfing hub.
WIMCO’s Insider Tip. Given the proximity to the airport, you can do some solid plane-watching at Simpson Bay Beach without the intense, even dangerous jet blast that iconic Maho Beach exposes you to.
4. Kim Sha Beach – Sunsets, Watersports, & Family Beachgoing
Description. Kim Sha Beach serves as something of a southeasterly extension of Simpson Bay Beach, encompassing a well-appointed stretch of sand and swimmable waters.
Why It’s Unique. With plenty of services at hand and some knockout sunsets part of the daily show, Kim Sha Beach is a treasure. The reef-buffered waters offer swimming and laidback watersports opportunities, and meanwhile, numerous tour and dive boats embark from here.
Best For… Sunsets, watersports
Amenities. Numerous restaurants and bars are at hand, with rentable loungers, umbrellas, and watersports equipment. There’s also a playground available.
Accessibility. You’ll usually find plenty of parking available along Kim Sha Beach, including in a dirt lot.
Know Before You Go. Kim Sha Beach is a popular venue for live music and other events.
Wimco’s Insider Tip. If you’re looking for seaside nightlife, Kim Sha Beach is a good choice: There’s usually a party of one kind or another going down within shouting distance.
5. Cupecoy Beach – Pinnacle of Beachfront Scenery
Description. Easily among the most dramatically set of Saint Martin’s seashores—and one of the best beaches in St. Maarten—Cupecoy lies just south of the French-Dutch border and nestles its sands amid striking sedimentary cliffs.
Why It’s Unique. The rock-set sandy coves of Cupecoy Beach make it one of the most distinctive on the island. While a readily accessible reef draws snorkelers and good swells attract surfers.
Best For… Sunsets, scenery, snorkeling
Amenities. You’ve got an abundance of restaurants, bars, rentals, and other services within easy reach at Cupecoy Beach.
Accessibility. Parking is easy to come by, though you’ll pay a fee for the most direct access. Strong swimmers and snorkelers can even stroke their way here from Mullet Bay.
Know Before You Go. Cupecoy Beach is a great jumping-off point for snorkeling and diving, but those activities are most suitable for strong swimmers. The break here, similarly, is best left to experienced surfers.
WIMCO’s Insider Tips. Aim for an early arrival at Cupecoy Beach, and you may well find yourself enjoying an alcoved beach all by yourself. And heads up: Cupecoy is popular among birthday-suit sunbathers.
Saint Martin / Sint Maarten Beach Guide By Category
Now let’s consider Saint Martin’s top beaches with a finer-toothed comb! Here are the “best of the best” beaches on the island—both the St. Martin and St. Maarten sides—for specific attributes you might be most interested in.
Best Beaches in St. Martin for Families
- Simpson Bay Beach (Dutch side): The calm waters and fairly uncrowded sands of Simpson Bay Beach make it a good choice for family groups.
- Anse Marcel (French side): Anse Marcel’s waters are protected and placid, ideal for young and old to take a dip.
- Mullet Bay Beach (Dutch side): Kids will get a kick out of watching the planes coming in and taking off from the airport, but, compared to the up-close pandemonium of Maho Beach, you’ll all be at a safe distance away.
- Dawn Beach (Dutch side): A Leeward Island sunrise shared with the whole family is sure to mint some special memories.
- Grand Case Beach (French side): Calm, kid-friendly waters and an abundance of eateries make Grand Case Beach a natural for family beach days.
Best White Sand Beaches in St. Martin
- Simpson Bay Beach (Dutch side): The long arc of Simpson Bay Beach’s white sands against the cyan nearshore waters is scenic perfection.
- Mullet Bay Beach (Dutch side): Enjoy Mullet Bay Beach’s pearly, powdery sands between barefoot toes, and admire them just offshore as you soak in the friendly waters.
- Orient Bay Beach (French side): Part of Orient Bay’s big-time fame stems from the loveliness of its white sands.
Most Romantic Beaches for Couples in St. Martin
- Grand Case Beach (French side): Combine spectacular sunsets with plenty of date-night-worthy dining, and you’ve got a romantic winner in the Grand Case beachfront.
- Mullet Bay Beach (Dutch side): Mullet Bay Beach is also renowned for its sundown spectacle, ideal for enjoying hand-in-hand.
- Baie Rouge Beach (French side): This intimate-feeling beach with its red-tinted sand (and clothing-optional reach) is ideal for lovebirds.
Best Beach Restaurants in St. Martin
- Sale e Pepe (Dutch side): Savor Italian delicacies courtesy of a Sicilian-born chef within shouting distance of Kim Sha Beach.
- La Villa Restaurant (French side): Fine French dining awaits you at La Villa, right in the heart of Grand Case and close to the Baie de Grand Case beachfront. Happy Bay Beach is also not far away.
- Bamboo (Dutch side): Satisfy your craving for sushi (as well as other Japanese and Asian Fusion fare) at Bamboo, the perfect place to dine while checking out Simpson Bay Beach.
- Lagoonies Bistro & Bar (Dutch side): Welcoming diners right on the Simpson Bay Lagoon, Lagoonies is a charming, long-running watering hole and eatery especially popular among boaters.
- Sunset Bar & Grill (Dutch side): Along with its burgers, wings, pizza, and other pub grub, Sunset Bar & Grill provides front-row seats for the famous airliner show at Princess Juliana International Airport away from the direct jet-blast of Maho Beach.
Best Hidden Gem Beaches in Saint Martin
- Hidden Bay Beach (French side): Easily reached via a fun hilly hike from Friar’s Bay, Hidden Bay Beach tempts with some of the most off-the-radar sands on Saint Martin. Expect to share them with a naturist or two!
- Pinel Island’s Secret Beach (French side): Off Saint Martin’s northeastern coast near Cul de Sac, Pinel Island (Îlet de Pinel) is an uninhabited jewel popular among daytrippers. Away from well-developed Yellow Beach, track down a lesser-trafficked stretch of sand on the islet’s eastern shore. Often sought out by those seeking an “all-over tan.”
- Devil’s Cupper (Dutch side): While not a sand beach, the Devil’s Cupper is definitely a seashore worth seeking out: Its rocky margin in Guava Bay encloses secluded tidepools.
Best Beachfront Villas in St. Martin
Villa L’Oasis/PIE DPI (French side): Call this six-bedroom villa home tucked against the cliffs of Baie Rouge.
Villa Le Chateau des Palmiers/PIE CHA (French side): You’ve got the wondrous beachfront of Plum Bay at your disposal residing at this 10-bedroom villa.
Villa Blue Beach/PIE DRE (French side): This four-bedroom beach house provides accommodations right on Baie Longue Beach.
Villa Vittoria/PIE VIT (Dutch side): Simpson Bay Beach serves as the “front yard” for this two-level, six-bedroom Italianate villa.
Villa La Salamandre/PIE LAS (French side): This stunning beachside villa, offering six bedrooms, edges the mesmerizing Simpson Bay Lagoon.
All villas in St Martin
Best Beach Hotels in Saint Martin
Belmond La Samanna (French side): This hotel, the most lavish in St. Martin, overlooks the white sands of Baie Longue.
Grand Case Beach Club (French side): This 72-unit hotel provides access to the Grand Case beachfront and offers one of its main dining destinations in Sunset Café.
La Vista Beach Resort (French side): This intimate hotel provides accommodations near Simpson Bay Beach at Pelican Key.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Beaches on St. Martin/St Maarten
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about beach going on the island of Saint Martin.
Do I Need a Car to Get to Most Beaches or Are There Taxis?
Taxis are widely available on St. Martin, so they’re definitely an option for visiting many popular beaches. That said, a rental car will give you the most flexibility when it comes to beach-hopping. (There is public transportation available as well; public buses would be an especially doable option for traveling between Marigot- and Philipsburg-area beaches.)
Are There Changing Rooms or Facilities on the Beaches?
Some beaches (such as Mullet Bay and Kim Sha) have restrooms and changing rooms, while many don’t. In some cases, you may be able to pay for the use of beachfront resorts’ facilities.
Do Any of the Beaches Have Chair & Umbrella Rentals?
You’ll find beach loungers and umbrellas available to rent at most of the popular St. Martin beachfronts.
Do Any of the Beaches Have Food & Drink Availability?
Most of the main beaches on St. Martin have food and drink of one kind or another available. At less-developed spots this may simply be one or two beach shacks or vendors. Popular and heavily developed beachfronts such as Grand Case and Orient Bay give you plentiful choices in the restaurant and bar departments.