French St. Martin
St. Martin is probably most famous for its beaches and the one most people want to visit is Orient Beach, which easily accommodates the demand with its numerous chair, umbrella and watersports rentals, along with plenty of snack and t-shirt huts.
Equally good but usually less crowded are Baie Longue (Long Bay) and the wide sands of Baie Rouge (Red Bay). Topless sunbathing is the norm at all St. Martin beaches.
Most visitors are surprised to learn there’s much activity away from the water, but 25 miles of hiking trails are shared by both sides of the island. That’s probably just about the right amount for a week’s vacation.
Since the cruise ship dock is in Philipsburg on the Dutch side, passengers often shop only on the Dutch side because of limited time, so the French and Italian boutiques in Marigot tend to be far less crowded. Marina Port la Royale, situated on a picturesque lagoon with many sailboats, is a popular shopping stop.
For truly exceptional French or continental cuisine, the small restaurants clustered in the town of Grand Case are acknowledged as the best.
Since English-speaking tourists make up the bulk of visitors to St. Martin and an estimated 85 percent of the population is involved in tourism, you can get by in Marigot without speaking French far easier than in Guadeloupe or Martinique.