We'll be in St. Martin or St. Martaan next week, and are considering Orient Beach. What else would be neat to do with a 7-yr old and parents that are NOT interested in shopping. What is the french side like?
If it is not Sunday (when most of the French side/except the beaches is closed):
The capital of Marigot, has a nice French Riviera appeal with shops and sidewalk cafes. Overlooking the harbor on a hill is Fort. St. Louis. Grand Case is located on a pretty bay with a secluded beach overlooked by waterfront restaurants. Good swimming, but not snorkeling, except for some large starfish. Orient Beach overlooks a beatiful vista, and has two sides. The clothing optional side on the east is well marked. Lots of chairs for rent and a few places to get a beverage or food. I have found snorkling fair here, with conch shells. Lots of unclothed people walking on the beach.
To the west of the demarkation line, the beach has many beach restaurants, rental chairs and umbrellas, and some watersports. Remember, this is a French beach, so even on this side there may be some topless beachgoers.
There is a beach just east of Orient Beach, just a few blocks further down the road from the butterfly farm that was secluded and not crowded, a restaurant and chair rental. Snorkeling was to the left a good walk around on the rocks. From my review of my visit there 12/02: "Taxi to La Galleon beach on the French side, east of Orient Beach, which we had found on the internet was $18 for up to 3 persons, each way. Arranged for taxi to return to pick us up. This was a nice uncrowded beach. Fair snorkeling, great windsurfing and sail boarding. No hustle by vendors. Seemed like locals using it. Chair rental was $5. There was a restaurant and bar, and restrooms available. Tops optional."
This is a CLOTHING OPTIONAL beach area. You could have a lot of explaining to do to a 7 year old. Plus many of those going without a swimsuit are, to be polite, not in the best of shape (other than pear shape and round). You have been warned.
Did I not say clothing optional at every beach I mentioned which is clothing optional. And we have taken our pre teen daughter there. They prefer not to go near the clothing optional side. No one there is required to be without clothing. It is just permitted.
There is a difference between clothing optional and topless.
I know of only two clothing optional beaches on St. Maartin, Cupacoy and the east end of Orient Beach beyond the sign clearly denoting it.
Every beach on French islands is topless permitted, a very common custom by the way throughout southern Europe, not just France. Not even every local is topless, however.
Orient Beach will have some topless women and you will most likely see some nude people. Most nude people will be at Club Orient (the southernmost part of the beach). Club Orient is the ONLY part of the beach where nude people will be in the majority. It is clearly signposted. However the occasional nude person may be seen walking on any part of Orient beach. You will definitely see topless women on any part of Orient Beach - this is true on ALL beaches on the French side of the island. Most of the people on Orient Beach will be wearing bathing suits and most women will have their tops on. The children I saw playing on the beach completely ignored any nude people. Your children will only be upset by nudity on the beach if YOU make a big fuss.
We Have been to Orient Beach 3 times and there have been a few (5 to 10 at most) nude people walking the entire length of the beach each time.
As was stated the nude beach is clearly deliniated with signs mainly stating no photos.
We don't venture into that area but the nudes there venture to our side quite often so be forwarned.
When we go to Orient with our friends we have fun rating those nudes on a scale from 1 to 10.
1 being bad, should be fully clothed and never seen anywhere
10 which is drop dead beautiful.
We have not found a person yet either male or female that has rated more than a 2.
There were even a few which both my wife and I rated a minus 5, now that's bad.
Anyway another word of caution is that some of the children also go nude. By children I mean between 1 and 7 year old girls and boys. But then this is normal in Europe and South America.
Since I started this thread before I went on the cruise, here my experience from Orient Beach now that I am back. We saw quite a few topless women, about half were young and attractive, the other half was over 40, but none were overweight and they all looked pretty good, so no problem there. Two old naked men, over 70, were walking the beach, one of them unfortunatly was walking his dog up and down a few times. Now that was a sight I am still trying to get out of my mind. My son was so busy playing in the water, he never saw anything. The beach was beautiful, and I am glad we went there.