Taking It All Off in St. MartinPosted by in Travel
When my college age daughter and I went to St. Martin, we stayed on a beautiful beach in Anse Marcel up at the northwest tip of the island. We always like to visit several beaches on islands (and they usually are very, very different – something that might surprise you). Anse Marcel was a quiet cove, surrounded by mountains, with lots of sailboats at anchor. It was lovely, but we wanted to see what else the island offered.
Getting Oriented at Orient Beach
The most famous beach on St. Martin is Orient Beach – its considered THE beach to visit while you’re on the isladn. Also on the French side of the island, but on the northeast side, it’s a long, flat beach with a beautiful view of rocky islands. There are lots of windsurfers and parasailers in the blue and turquoise water. Finding the beach was a bit tricky (lots of little roads through a very busy development area), but eventually we got there and parked (free parking) in a sandy lot behind some low dunes. There were plenty of spaces when we arrived in the late morning.
If you’ve heard of Orient Beach, you’ve probably heard it is a nude beach. Lots of people head
here just for this reason – assuming there will be a show, in addition to the lovely water show.
We were a bit timid about actually going to this beach because of this reputation, but we decided to be brave (and firmly keep our suits on).
Seeing the Sights
We walked over the dunes and found an open section of beach. There are many beach clubs lining the sands. If you’ve never been to the Caribbean, this is the quintessential beach experience on a lot of busy beaches. There are restaurant/bars that rents lounge chairs for the day. The chairs are lined up the way my son used to line up his matchbox cars – close enough not to be touching, but completely linear and way too close for comfort. You can buy a chair and lunch for a package price or just rent the chair. We brought towels and arranged ourselves on them on the sand, avoiding the beach club scene. We were located just about in the middle of the long beach, with a perfect view of everything.
And honestly, “everything” did not include “everything” at all. We lounged on the sand for quite a while and saw nothing out of the ordinary. There were kids, families, couples, and older people swimming, sunning, and walking. The older men tended to wear tiny little speedo-type suits (the kind my daughter has forbidden my husband from ever looking at in a store). Eventually we saw a few women strolling by topless. Before you get excited, let me tell you about these women. They all had a faint European air about them and not a single one of them was under age 55 (and most were older). They had real bodies – no silicone in sight and were either thin or chunky, and they were simply comfortable with who they were. They weren’t showing anything off, instead, they were just enjoying the weather. It was actually very refreshing to see.
Stumbling Into the “Zone”
Eventually we decided to talk a walk and check out the rest of the beach. First we headed south. The beach clubs are tightly packed down there and there are lots of people out and about. Eventually you get near the end of the beach and there are some big rocks going into the water. You have to kind of walk or climb around them and once you do, you notice a security guard standing up on the dunes. There is also a sign stating that photographs are not allowed. This, my friends, is where the suits apparently come off. Once you cross the rocks (which I am pretty sure are left there to purposely discourage people from coming through), you’re in Club Orient, a beach club and hotel that is nude.
It looks like any other beach club – lots of lounge chairs and umbrellas and at the far end is a restaurant. But as you walk, you notice that some of the people (and certainly not all) are topless or completely nude. They’re very casual about it, sprawling on their lounge chairs, standing in groups and chatting, and even, yes, snorkeling (which looks frankly ridiculous – to be completely naked except for your fins, mask and snorkel). There wasn’t a single person under age 50 and most were much older. There was a lot of gray hair. There were plenty of paunches and big bellies. There were women who did a lot of grooming and women who did none. There were a lot of gold chains.
There seemed to be two types of people. There were people who were intent on showing themselves off – strutting around, running, snorkeling with an air of “look at me.” Then there were the people who were just naked because it was comfortable and who didn’t care if other people saw them, but they were in no way courting attention. We saw just one woman who clearly had implants. The rest were just older folks who didn’t really care if they had less than perfect bodies.
I felt that some of the people ought to be a little more cognizant of how they were sitting or laying on their chairs (some of the views were a bit too personal) and the people who were paddle boating and doing water sports nude looked pretty silly.
We did pass one trio of college age young men who clearly were passing through (in their bathing suits), hoping to see something to tell their friends about. I am sure they were extremely disappointed!
We definitely saw more than we planned on and turned around to head to the other end of the beach. After we came home,I checked out the Club Orient web site. It shows pictures of attractive people in their 20s and early 30s with young children. No one I saw resembled anyone in those photos.
The north end was more deserted, with the beach clubs becoming fewer and farther between. We passed a couple of male couples tanning in the nude, but they were discretely tucked back away from the water by the bushes or big rocks.
Should You Go?
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Orient Beach to any traveler. It’s a simply gorgeous area where you can plan to stay all day if you rent chairs and buy some lunch. I wouldn’t have a problem bringing children here either. I probably wouldn’t take my young children to the south end but if you don’t head into Club Orient there isn’t much that will shock anyone. Yes, a few older women may walk by topless, but honestly no one really pays attention.
Should you take it off? Women who go topless will fit in all along the beach, but if you take your top off to reveal glaring tan lines, you will stand out for sure and people will mostly likely look at you – everyone who was topless was completely tan and was also practically a senior citizen. There is no complete nudity on the public part of the beach. Go, but keep your clothes on is my advice!
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“Comfortable with who they were” is the key. I enjoyed this beach visit with you. Once I went to a nude beach in WI. I was dressed, but almost everyone was naked. What was funny was that there were people there with binoculars, as if checking the others out from a distance. It was on a river.
I didn’t know they had nude beaches in WI! This area of the beach was really protected, so there was really nowhere anyone could use binocs that I saw. You could only get there across the rocks and they had that security guard up on the dunes. I think you could probably pull up in a boat with binocs and a camera though. It was definitely not photo shoot worthy though! I’m glad we got to see what all the fuss was about though.
We came upon a nude beach in Crete that was similar–across some rocks from the family beach. I agree that it seems mostly older and out of shape people are the ones at nude beaches. But its rather refreshing that somewhere someone is not worrying about what other people think about the not-perfect body.
It is fascinating that our society is so obsessed with perfect bodies and then the people at these beaches aren’t fitting that ideal at all. I kind of love the attitude of ‘my comfort is more important than your preconceptions.’
I just came back from Nice and saw more than I wanted to on the very public beach~
At least the rocks they call a beach:-)
I always assumed you had to go to a nude beach sans clothing. Now I’ve learned something.
It would definitely take some getting used to, but I could see maybe dropping the top once I got comfortable. But yeah, I’d be one of those real-person senior citizens!
Nude beaches make me uncomfortable. Of course, if I were to join in, then I wouldn’t have that problem, now would I? 🙂