On the last day of our cruise, the ship docked in Philipsburg, St. Maarten. I love St. Maarten, the mix of culture, the fact the island is split down the middle by the Netherlands and France, and mostly because of the insane airport at Maho Beach. The day we cruised in there were tons of ships in port and the downtown was busy with tourists. We hopped into a somewhat expensive taxi and headed over to Orient Bay, a famous beach on the French part of the island.
Roughly 20 minutes later we arrived and the beach was actually empty. What makes this beach a must go to! First it’s further away from where the ship docks, and second it’s a rather big beach with optional nudity. The right hand side of the beach is where no bathing suit is required while the left hand side of the beach is where bathing suits are required or somewhat optional (we still saw many women at least with no top on).
This part of the island is French-speaking so if you happen to speak French, you’re in luck. I spoke a little French to the man setting up chairs on the beach. My family decided to grab some chairs that cost $20 for a set of two which is kind of expensive. I just needed a place to put my stuff down honestly! I took off my shirt, grabbed my camera and walked down the beach snapping photos. All and all I probably walked for a good 45 minutes before I explored the right hand side of the beach.
For all you beach going prudes, you probably don’t want to hear this. But I was curious to see what the nude part of the beach looked like and wanted to experience it for myself. I still had my camera in my hand and as soon as you step on that part of the beach, the beach attendants immediately tell you to not take any photos of any beach goers. There wasn’t anybody I wanted to take pictures of, and it’s true that it’s the people you probably don’t want to see naked that are the ones naked.
But whatever I got in the spirit of the situation and decided to go nude as well! And nobody cares! It’s a weird experience at first, to lay on the beach totally exposed, with all of yourself showing. But after a while I started to care less and it was actually comfortable. I wish it was more acceptable to be nude more often at other beaches across the world!
Staying out in the sun is actually exhausting, so my family collectively decided to go back to downtown Philipsburg before heading to Maho Beach to watch planes land. Downtown Philipsburg is very developed but it’s not very scenic. Like many Caribbean capitals, the downtown area is designed for mass tourism and shopping for jewelry. If you don’t like to do any of those than it’s not fun to explore. However there were some historic buildings to visit.
So instead of shopping my siblings and I decided to eat something real quick before heading over to Maho Beach. In the downtown area there are several restaurants to choose from. Most are pretty generic and offer a mix between American and Caribbean food. We ate at the Barefoot Terrace Bar and it was good but the service was pretty poor. I got yelled at for trying to get the check back quicker.
The price to get to the beach was going to cost us 8 dollars one way. We really weren’t willing to pay that but we heard there was a local bus for only 2 dollars per person. I don’t know how we stumbled upon the bus but we happened to be walking down the right street and noticed a local bus. It wasn’t the right one but the driver then directed us to an incoming bus heading to Maho Beach. We hopped right on.
The time there is around 20 – 25 minutes depending on traffic. I honestly thought it would be much closer! If you decide to take the local bus, ask to get off near the end of the Airport runway, right at Maho Beach. You pay 2 dollars and then walk over to where all the people are watching the planes land. There are many planes coming in every hour but the best time to go is in the afternoon when massive planes land.
Hands down this was one of the best experiences I have had for free. I love planes, airports and especially when it’s this unique. I stood at the center and took several videos of planes landing. And then watched people get blown away when a plane took off. Let’s just say that it hurts a lot standing in front of a plane taking off.
There was an American 757 that was taking off and my siblings and I thought we were out of the engines way. Luckily I had all of my possessions in my hands because I flew across the beach, nearly landing in the water. Other people weren’t so lucky as their possessions flew in all directions, most of landing in the ocean. The blast of the jet engines hurt. I had sand pelted all down my back and it stung! I promise to put these videos up on YouTube and they are so worth seeing.
End of the Cruise
This was the last day of the cruise and it was time to head back to Chicago the next day. This cruise was an amazing experience and it was great to go during Christmas with the family. I had another full day in San Juan the next day, where I bought some last minute souvenirs and waited for my plane in the American Airlines Admirals Club.
All I can say about going back from the heat to cold was that I actually was ready for it. I love traveling but there are times when I’m ready to return home and handle things back there. On the flight home I talked to someone, which I never do, and it was enlightening to be able to connect with somebody that quickly. I forget that part of travel is also the social aspect part. I need to open my mind more to that. Thanks for reading and I urge you to go back and read the other ports on this Caribbean trip. YouTube videos will be up soon.
images by: shawnvoyage, lance lee