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Public Beaches?
Posted by: Augie (
Date: December 11, 2008 01:09PM

Most of us SXM lovers say that all the beaches are public.
I think this is true, but I think that only a portion of the beach is public.
Does anyone know the facts?
Please do not guess or make assumptions.
Thank you.


I am an agnostic dyslexic who questions if there really is a dog.

Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: mikentara (
Date: December 11, 2008 01:11PM

Well, "back in the day" they were all public.
Who knows what the real story is now ???

Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: Tabba Khady (Moderator)
Date: December 11, 2008 02:05PM

By law all the beach are public. Technically the part which is public is what we call the 50 "geometric" feet (which were based on the old 50 feet of the king, also called the King's 50 steps - "les 50 pas du Roi" or "50 pas geometriques). It is 50 feet above the highest water mark on the sand... On some beach, more narrow than 50 feet, it is usually the portion between the water and the "dunes" or basically the flat sandy part. The demarkation is usually very easy to see or visualise

Kind Regards,


Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: Augie (
Date: December 11, 2008 02:46PM

Thank you, Philippe.


I am an agnostic dyslexic who questions if there really is a dog.

Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: BIGDENX (
Date: December 11, 2008 03:27PM

Hey Augie!

As to visitors and beaches being public I have never heard in 7 years and a lot of trips and beach time of instances where somebody told you "it's my beach".

Now when it comes to beach concessions I have seen where some operators insinuate it's "their beach". Knowledgeable visitors will respond with, "yeah me the deed". First timers may be intimidated by signs, chair layouts and tape, but it's public regardless according to everything I've heard on both sides.

A "for instance" is Cupecoy where Danny and the gang...die hard CO ppl. etc. enjoy whatever they find of a beach right in front of the ritzy Shore Pointe.


Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: Barbara1 (Moderator)
Date: December 11, 2008 03:44PM

read this. posted on December 4th on cruise critic message board.
ridiculous that this happens!!!

" BEWARE of Kontiki beach bar on Orient Beach!!
Just wanted to give anyone that may be heading to Orient beach soon, to be warned about the horrible treatment we had when we recently visited.

We were there on Nov. 24th and took a island tour with Bernard (by the way, I can't say enough great things about Bernard and his tour). We were a family of 3 (myself 42y/o female, 16y/o son and 70y/o mother).

We were being dropped off at the beach for approx. 1 1/2 hrs and we just wanted to walk along the beach and sit on our towel long enough for my son to play in the water for awhile. I had asked Bernard and his fellow tour guides if it is okay to just put down a towel to sit on on the edge of the water line because we did not want to have to rent a chair for such a short time. We were told that the beach is a public beach and that you could put your towel down anywhere along the beach. With that being said, we headed out down the beach and stopped a short distance down because my mom's hip was bothering her trying to walk in the sand. We spread out a towel at the waterline which happened to be in front of the Kontiki bar. We were sitting a good distance in front of the lounge chairs that they offer for rent.

Shortly after sitting down, one of the waiters came by to offer chairs for rent which we declined stating that we were only there for a very short time. He then proceeded to tell us that we were not allowed to sit there because it was a "private beach area" and we would have to walk down to the "public" area. I explained that we were already told that the beach is public and could sit anywhere along the beach. To make a long story short, he and another coworker proceeded to harass us for an hour which included being threatened about being physically removed, having ice water dumped on myself and my mother (stating that if we weren't going to move, they were then going to "clean" the beach) soaking not only us but our towel and belongings, having sand kicked on us and being verbally harassed. Several people that were not only walking along the beach but one's that were also renting chairs from them came over to find out what was going on. After explaining that we just wanted to sit on the beach, one of the ladies walked farther down the beach to find out the rules and regs and came back to say that what they were doing was illegal and should be reported.

Some will probably wonder why we didn't just move--well after having ice water thrown on us, I was sure as h--l not going to move and have them think they ran us away from somewhere that we had every right to sit.

Our time was up so we gathered our belongings and headed back down to our guide and told him (Bernard) what had happened. He was appalled at how we were treated and sought out a beach security guy who then wanted me to take him back down to Kontiki and show him who had done this to us. Myself, Bernard and the security guy went back down and not only confronted the two guys but also their bosses and were thoroughly warned that what they were doing was illegal and they better not be treating tourists that way. They were all speaking French but I was getting the understanding that the Kontiki staff was trying to say that we made it up. The security guy then wanted to know if we had any witnesses. I then went back to the beach and spoke with the family that had witnessed it all (the ones renting chairs from Kontiki) and they offered to talk to the security guy to back up our story. In the end, I was apologized to and offered free chairs to sit on but our time at the beach was done and there was no way I would have accepted anything from them.

This was the 2nd year in a row that I had been to Orient beach but it was my mom's first cruise and she never wants to return there again and I can say that although I love the beach, I may never want to go back either. I just can't believe that on an island that relies on tourism for their economy, that people get treated this way.

When talking to Bernard about this, he stated that they have alot of problems with the French being not very friendly at times.

Bernard was so upset about how we were treated, that he called the local newspaper and had me speak with someone to report our incident in hopes that this will never happen again. He also states that they never used to have security on the beach but have recently started to due to incidents to the tourists like we had.

I hope this prevents other travelers that are just out to experience a beautiful island and beach from being harassed.

Have fun on Orient beach but stay away from Kontiki!!!! "


Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: irina (
Date: December 11, 2008 04:37PM

Yes Barbara,

I have heard of this. Basically Kontiki or whoever/whichever bar sets up 2 loungers w/umbrella every 10 feet or so. They do this in rows in front of the establishment and will harass you if you want to sit on the sand or on your own beach chair. Since they basically take all the space on the beach, then there is no place where one can be without being harassed.
I've had houseguests come back intimidated by the waiters on Orient.
It's ridiculous.
Why not put them out as needed? What if someone is sitting on their towel and wants a glass of wine Or a sandwich? Will they sell it to them? Or not because the customer is not renting a lounger? No monsieur, I cannot sell you a croque because you are not renting a chair? Ha!

Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: sxmmmartini (
Date: December 11, 2008 04:46PM


The Executive Council of the Island Territory of Sint Maarten hereby makes known that they have established a policy concerning the use of beaches.

The policy state that :

1. the beaches must be useable for everyone, both local residents and tourists alike, for recreative purposes.

2. developments that , physically, have a negative influence on the recreative use of the beaches, will be opposed.

3. the beaches will be protected against natural and human influences, that sever their recreational and natural function.

The policy concerns :

The strip of sand with a width of at most 50 meters, of which the surface consist of natural seasand situated along the sea, or in absence of natural seasand, the strip of land with a width of 25 meters from the high-waterline, situated along the public waters.

The consequence of this policy are that the Island government will strive to ensure that :

ad1: The beach are openly accessible for the general public, which means that there must be a wide access that is free from physical and mental barriers ( levers, hotels, etc.)

ad2 : no construction works or activities, that occupy the space on the beach in a way that restrict normal use of the beach for others, will occur on the beach. The standpoint of the Island Government is that, construction works on the beach are annoying and disfiguring to the surroundings. It is not desirable for dwelling, hotels, businesses, etc. to be built or situated on the beach.

ad3 : the beaches will be protected against pollution, disturbance, destruction, etc., and again erosion, hurricanes, etc.

Summary :

The main objective of the policy is protection of the recreational value of the beaches. Besides that, the nature value of the beaches should be protected as much as possible. If necessary the nature value of (a) certain beach (es) can, possibly temporary, be placed above the recreational value.

Consequently, in the future the Island Government will not permit construction works or activities on the beach, unless justified by special circumstances. These special circumstances must be in the general interest of the island.

The Executive Council of the Island Territory of Sint Maarten
The (act.) Is, Secretary, R.A. Boasman
The Lt. Governor, D.L. Richardson"

Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: Tabba Khady (Moderator)
Date: December 11, 2008 05:29PM

Basically places like Kontiki, Waikiki, etc who have a concession on orient have the legal right to allow you to put your towell or not betwwen their chairs and their delimited space. They have a concession signed by the Collectivitee Territoriele de St Martin (Former Mairie) who's the body in charge of managing the public beach owned by the domaine maritime. They pay rent for the space aloted to them, and have a determined number of chair they are allowed to put in. I repeat they pay rent for it and very high rent!
I do not defend the attitude of the Kontiki toward these people, and surely they could have use a more couteous way to claim back THEIR space, but putting a towel on a middle of a concession is the same thing as is someone were entering my restaurant, sit at a table and eat their brought in lunch...and claim that a restaurant "is a public place"! (Actually it did happened to me few years ago, I am not kidding).
To operate and rent chairs on a beach on the French side you need to have a concession. Control by governement agents are very harsh so I can insure you that wehn you see beach chairs in front of a restaurant on a French side beach it is because this restaurant is allowed to put some and paying its rent to the governement (it maybe be a different story in the dutch side)...
Definition of concession (which should clear all misunderstanding about the topic...):
A grant of a tract of land made by a government or other controlling authority in return for stipulated services or a promise that the land will be used for a specific purpose.
a. The privilege of maintaining a subsidiary business within certain premises.
b. The space allotted for such a business.
c. The business itself

So yes the beaches are public, but there are space on those public beaches which are rented out by local autorithies to generate business and income for the island, and those space have to be considerated and respected as "private space"
There are plenty of areas, including in Orient where people can put their towel on the sand without being "harrassed" for being on a concession... Really

It phases me when people who are just visiting are making their own rules according to what they beleive... Or maybe they didn't knew they were in a foreign country (even if the staff was french speaking) and thought they were visiting Florida! Oh no... I forgot, they wouldn't do that in Florida or they would be arrested and fined for trespassing! LOL... I would never dare to confront a beach restaurant owner on Fort Myers Beach while visiting there and telling him what I beleive are my rights LOL...and believe me , if I had been harassed along more than an hour like this person is stating in her/his statement, I would have moved...pissed off but I would have moved! Some people just have the need to create situation and confrotation, which also phases me when you just pass by for few hours and next day you will gone to another island.

I read on another BB the same type of ineptitude and ignorance about concession right, and amazingly coming from someone who's an oldtimer visitor of sxm.. Incredible!

Kind Regards,


Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 12/11/2008 05:51PM by Tabba Khady.

Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: BIGDENX (
Date: December 11, 2008 05:55PM

Hey Philippe!

I like the Wendy definition and the Dutch rules better than your quotation.

Land is one thing and beach is another; high water marks also come into play in some circumstances. Is there a law for "beaches" that's different from "land" on the French side?

If this rule holds true then they could stop you walking in front of their place as well as it's "private space" in your estimation.

Some take their STARBUCK's coffee into First Watch every morning here at home.

I have seen folks go to the Chinese restaurant at Caravanserai and lug a 6 pack to Sunset and drink it there...

I have seen guys with a bottle of Hennessey passing it around in Sunset in paper cups.

And I'll confess, I eat my breakfast at Sunset which I buy at Food Express in Maho........but I SHARE!

As for Orient, we avoid the issue...have been past Club O twice in 7 years.


Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: sxmmmartini (
Date: December 11, 2008 06:26PM

Sadly... even though there is a beach policy it is not enforced. I do appreciate Club Orient's beach and their open beach policy. If you put a towel down on the sand, no one is going to throw ice water at you. Growing up on Long Island beaches and packing the beach blanket and cooler was a family tradition.

Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: Tabba Khady (Moderator)
Date: December 11, 2008 06:59PM

The case of Club Orient is a bit different, they have some sort of automatic right of exploitation of the beach for their chair since they are "riverain" which means their land is adjoining the beach area...

Denis, sorry but I am not the one writting the law or its text... I am just stating the facts of how it works on the french side, beside people liking the way it is done, the French laws, or whatsoever.
No, they cannot stop you to walk pass their "private space" because thereis always a clause of "right of way".
Also on the dutch side as it is stated in the ordinance posted by Wendy, the beach area is delimited as 50 meter, or 25 meters... on the French side it is maximum 50 feet, which are 17 meters or so!...
And I wasn't kiddin when I said that I had one time a bunch of people "picnickin" on my table, with their food brought in a tuperware and their beer from a folding cooler, using, my plates silverware, napkins etc... and no kidding that they were surprised and could understand why I was asking them to leave!...

Kind Regards,


Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: Dane (
Date: December 11, 2008 08:54PM

The main reason chairs are put out ahead of time is that customers will be lost if they come by and don't see any chairs at the ready for use. They either presume the place is full or do not want to wait. I've seen it happen many times when the beach boys underestimate the number to put out in the morning. Not to mention that dragging chairs and umbrellas through relaxing customers would not be well-received.

As is often the case, a little common sense and a little common courtesy would avoid most conflicts. Sure, the Kontiki guys were out of line. However, anyone who has been to Orient recently will know that the water line often runs at the chairs or even virtually inside the restaurant itself. Even a crowded beach such as Orient has many open areas for people to throw down a towel. In fact, right between Kontiki and Kakao there is just such a large area. Why some folks don't sunbathe on those parts of the beach if they are not interested in renting chairs doesn't make sense to me. Luckily, most people use this common sense and most beach boys I've encountered politely direct tourists that don't want to rent the space and the amenities to just such areas. IMO the taxi driver did the woman a disservice and should have directed her to one of these nearby areas where she could have enjoyed herself in peace.

It's only some that choose to make it a major issue by squeezing their towels between the spaces that other tourists are paying for (and often in the paths left for the waiters to work), and for others that choose to intimidate and throw water. The whole situation reminds me of when kids do obnoxious things to another and then assert their right because "it's a free country."

Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: sxmmmartini (
Date: December 12, 2008 08:01AM

Morning news~ related to public beach access


and he was also notified that based on the planning permit AB 2005 no 3, there is a parking area for public use at the said location.


Laissez Faire N.V. (the other two beach concessions next to Busby's) has claimed in their letter that a portion of the beach is private property which can only be substantiated by the certificate of admeasurements. However, based on article 5:26 sub 1 of the civil code states that the beaches are presumed to be public domain.

Re: Public Beaches?
Posted by: double-D (
Date: December 12, 2008 08:16AM

Barbara....we could not agree with more....Pam and I went up to see what OB was all about(years ago)...found some chairs at Kontiki....started to get costs...and the young man would only speak French......So I switched into my worst french(22 years in Quebec)....he wanted to speak English after way...the french continued!!
I felt as if we were not we left and never went back!
I know one thing...Kontiki will never get one red cent from us!!

To be yelled at by Andy is expected....but the arrogance of the kotiki workers is over the top!!

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