Can you just go to a beach without buying an excursion? My family and I would like to just find a place to hang out and play in the water. Would appreciate any input/advice from folks who've been there.
Of course you can go to the beach without going on an excursion. Just hail a "jitney" (little vans). They have signs on them that indicate their destinations. There are 36 beaches on St. Maarten but definitely go to Maho beach. At some point in life, everyone needs to go to Maho beach and "hang on the fence." If a plane is taking off across the street, the rear thrust of the engines will lift you off your feet. Thus, hanging on the fence for dear life!! It's a riot. And when the planes land, you almost have to duck the landing gear. Click on the link for an example. air france
Sure! Just take the water taxi from the pier to the first stop and get off the water taxi. Turn left and walk a few feet and you are on the beach. The beach is free. I think it is the law there that all beaches must have public access. But there will be people working the beach who will offer to take care of you by getting drinks, etc. They work for tips but are not bothersome in the Jamaican sort of way.
Maho beach, while interesting, can be too disruptive what with the airport and all.
Dave- This is exactly what we did on our last cruise. By the time we got to St Marteen we were "excursioned out" We bought all day passes for the water taxi (very cheap) and got off at the first stop and walked ten feet to the beach. I paid someone $10 for use of a couple of lounge chairs, the umbrella and a few beers in a bucket of ice.. cheapest beach excursion you could ask for. I know there are prettier beaches there, but it was fine for us. The wife went off shopping and the kids and I did the beach thing. With the all day taxi passes we were able to go back and forth to the ship for lunch and to drop off purchases and go back for more...
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I would take a taxi to Orient Beach. It is beautiful and there are many different stops that you can be dropped off...where you can rent chairs and umbrellas...have a ice cold drink and lunch. We love Orient Beach but I must warn you there is topless sunbathing on some parts and Nude Beach farther down, in case that bothers you.