What’s your idea of the perfect beach? The answer, of course, is relative. That’s because the answer depends on your likes and interests, the amount of activity you choose to do, and your comfort levels.
When I started looking at ideas for an upcoming trip that I would take with my husband, I knew that we wanted 3 things. The first, and most important, crystal clear water. The second, a lush and mountainous backdrop. Lastly, seclusion. We didn’t want to be sunning in the middle of a long line of beach chairs and parasols; rather, we wanted to be able to look down the beach and be the only ones around.
We settled upon St. Martin, a small dual nation island in the Caribbean. The island held many beaches that lived up to our criteria. However, if you’re looking for something a bit different, St. Martin may still hold your favorite beach, as well. With over 30 beaches, there’s something for everyone’s taste. During our week there, we were able to visit 9 of the beaches. Below, you will find my reviews of our 3 favorite ones, keeping in mind what we deem the perfect beach.
Baie Rouge, on the western side of the island not far from the French capital of Marigot.
This was our favorite beach on the island, and despite wanting to see as many spots as we were able, we chose to come back to Baie Rouge on our last day. This long stretch of “red” sand ticked all the boxes.
The water was a beautiful aqua color, and because it faced the Caribbean side rather than Atlantic, was generally pretty calm. One aspect to note, the water dropped off pretty quickly, so something to watch if you’re not a swimmer. I, myself, though I can swim, am not the strongest, yet didn’t find any trouble wading in the surf. While I was perfectly content along the shore, my husband was itching to snorkel. That was going to have to be all him. I have a severe fear of deep water (which, apparently, is called bathophobia according to Google. Who knew). If you’re facing the ocean, to the very far right end of the beach is a point that juts out and is surrounded with rocks. This is where you’ll find all the fish… and, therefore, where you won’t find me (I also have a fear of fish touching me… ichthyophobia, lol). Swim around that point and there’s another small cove on the other side, along with a pretty amazing arch that you can swim through. Pretty cool, eh?
The beauty of the water was equally matched by the beauty of its surroundings. The beach is hugged by cliffs and hills, overlooked by the big ticket villas. It’s said that Baie Rouge gets it’s name from the “red” sand of it’s beach. Red? Maybe not… but it was super, super thick and fluffy. I’m talking, like, quick sand. You’ll definitely work those glutes walking up the hill out of the water. Looking out across the water, you’ll get a nice view of Anguilla. All in all, it’s absolutely beautiful everywhere you turn.
And lastly, ahh….. seclusion. While the beach isn’t necessarily secret, it’s by no means crowded. Upon entering the small parking lot of the beach access, you’ll walk down the steps that run beside the two small, and only, beach side bars (which is surprisingly really good). You can choose to setup for the day around these bars, which offer chair and umbrella rentals, if needed. However, if you walk down the beach to the left, you’ll have it all to yourself. Oh, and, um… the general expectation is that if a beach is on the quiet side, the clothing is more on the optional side (but never the people you actually want to see nude! haha) 😉
Happy Bay, on the French side along the west coast via Friar’s Bay.
This was the first spot that we checked out, and set the bar high. You’ll find this secluded beach by first going to Friar’s Bay, which should be noted as an absolutely beautiful beach in its own right, though we didn’t stay long. Upon entering the parking lot, walk past the beach side restaurants of Friar’s Bay to the far side and you’ll see a path at the foot of a hill. Follow the path up and over the hill, through fairly lush vegetation filled with birds, iguanas, and who knows what else! It’s a really easy hike over (I did it in flip flops!) and takes around 10-15 minutes.
For beauty, this beach gets a 10 out of 10 in my eyes. Beautiful, clear water… which rings true for most beaches on the island. Like Baie Rouge, this western-side beach faces the Caribbean Sea making the waters fairly calm. It was the perfect place to wade and lay along the shore, but also provides some good snorkeling as there are rocks along the far sides.
The area around Happy Bay was probably my favorite of the spots we visited. Walking over the hill and through the trees you get a glimpse of that beautiful bay, and when you hop down the embankment you see what is just a pristine beach. Palm trees and other plants hug the edges of the sand providing a much appreciated bit of shade. Moreover, the seclusion of the beach gives it a complete tropical feel as there is little in your view outside of pure nature.
While Happy Bay is becoming less and less “secret” (thanks to bloggers like myself… sorry!), it was still the most private of the spots we visited. When we first arrived a little after 9, there were only maybe 4 other people on the entire beach. As it got later in the afternoon, more people were making their way over; however, even at the busiest, there were no more than a handful of people spread throughout. Again, fewer people often equal fewer inhibitions, so you’ll likely see some “naturalists”, but no big deal, really. If you do decide to visit Happy Bay, and you really should, be sure to bring everything that you may need to enjoy the day. There are no restaurants, chair rentals, or bathrooms… other than the big blue one! 😉 Being the easy hike it is, you can easily bring those things over with you.
Pinel Island, just off the east coast on the French side. A quick & easy ferry boat ride over from the French Cul de Sac.
When pulling into the “ferry station” at the French Cul de Sac, you’ll be absolutely sure you’re in the wrong place. In fact, thinking back… we thought we were in the wrong place at every beach we visited. Rest assure, you’ve found it, though it certainly doesn’t look like anything more than an abandoned parking lot and someone’s personal dock. I don’t know what I was expecting when I pictured the ferry over to the island, but the reality wasn’t that. It’s small & super laid back… and most importantly, quick & efficient. You’ll pay for the round trip, $12 per person (cash only), as you’re getting on the boat and the trip itself only takes about 5 minutes. Another option getting over to Pinel is to kayak, which is absolutely doable as you can literally see the beach from the shore.
After being dropped off at the dock, you’ll have two choices of “beaches” each run by a different beach side restaurant, Yellow Beach & Le Karibuni. Each provide chair and umbrella rentals, waiter service, and a full menu for lunch. We chose Karibuni only because it was further away from the dock and felt it had a bit more elbow room, though I believe the prices between both restaurants are probably the same. Of course, if privacy and space is more to your liking, you can always walk around the island & away from the main beaches, though we didn’t do that.
I admit that I was a bit unsure of our choice in deciding to spend the day at Pinel. Our boat, and the next several other boats over, were packed! Combine that with the fact that the beach was setup with rows of chairs like that of Orient Beach or the French Riviera, I worried that it would be too crowded (remember, we were previously spoiled by almost empty beaches!). I was pleasantly surprised to find that although it was one of the most crowded beaches we visited, it certainly never felt that way.
Again, the water over at Pinel Island was absolutely beautiful. I believe you’ll be hard pressed to find a beach on St. Martin/St. Marteen that isn’t! Despite being on the eastern side of St. Martin (and therefore, facing the Atlantic), the water is completely calm because you have the island itself protecting you. In fact, the water was almost completely still around the beach, making it the perfect spot to swim and bring young children. The water also never got especially deep and had decent snorkeling as you could see lots of fish swimming in the area.
What I also liked about Pinel was the amazing view it had of St. Martin. Looking at the lush mountains and over to Orient Bay was breathtaking. The island itself is pretty flat and not very big, so a hike around the island would seem to be pretty easy…. though, again, we didn’t do that because we were too busy being lazy.
Finally, the service and food at Le Karibuni on Pinel was top notch! This was the only beach in which we rented chairs and took advantage of the service. Our waiter was literally the only server and we never had to wait more than a few minutes for anything. The dude was literally sprinting back and forth! We ordered several drinks, which were delicious, and served in ice buckets to keep cold. And the food! For an island with little to no resources, they can really set you up with something fantastic.
There you have it, friends! My three favorite beaches on St. Martin. Although we didn’t have the opportunity to visit every spot around the island, we certainly have plans to return. What were your favorite beaches on St. Martin?
If beaches aren’t your thing, check out my blog post from my favorite city in the world, New York City!