Whenever we come to St. Maarten on a cruise, we have always come to Orient Beach. In the old, old days, the one restaurant / bar shack has been replaced by wall-to-wall restaurant/bars and an ocean of lounge chairs. It is not the place to come to "get away from it all," but if you don't mind the crowds, Orient Beach has plenty of food and drink options, a long beach, and for amusement, you can walk down to the right to sight see at the nude beach. The beach is long but the sand is eroding away below the beach chairs in the tourist area. For the nude area, there is a sign saying no pictures are allowed. Most of the nude people seem to be grand parent age although there were a few in their 30's. There are not palms trees and shade at Orient Beach, so you should plan on renting an umbrella if you do not want to lay in the sun all day. For most of the clothed beach area, it was wall to wall beach chairs to rent with no non-wet sand for a towel. If you want to just throw a towel on the beach, you probably need to go either to to the nude area or walk past sea of beach chairs/restaurants. The water is not good for snorkeling (no fish) and there can be strong waves. The water is beautiful and the beach is wide and long.
At the cruise ship area, there was a sign for Orient Beach, so we shared a taxi for only $6 - $10 per person depending on the number. It was about a 30 minute ride to the beach. We went to "Orange Fever" with bright orange chairs and umbrellas that we rented. The cushioned chair was good and the chair/umbrella rental included a free (strong) alcoholic drink coupon for something like a rum punch. For lunch, we ate there, and the food was good (was good last year as well). We got chips and guacamole (would have liked a bigger portion of guacamole) and a very good tuna tartare with rice and salad ($16).
We got chairs right in front of the water which made for a good view, but also made us easy targets for the beach vendors that seemed to come by every few minutes selling jewelry, beach towels, wraps, braids, and massages. Even if you were trying to take a nap, they would stand next to you and call and call to you until you finally said, "No Thank you." I did end up buying two beach towels that folded up into a mini-backpack with straps since I thought they would be handy to have when we went to the Ft. Lauderdale beach before we caught our afternoon plane. She wanted $25 for the two, and I got them for $20.
Coming back to the cruise ship, it took 45 minutes instead of 30 minutes. Also, just because you see lots of other tourists on the beach, you cannot assume they are cruise ship passengers and there are plenty of taxis. We left a few hours before our on-board time and we caught one of the last taxis left at the beach even though were a lot of people still on the beach.
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