Just returned from a business/pleasure trip to South Florida. Spent a couple of weekend days at Haulover beach. We had a great couple of days and I can do nothing but highly recommend Haulover. First of all it is a city owned and managed beach. That means that it is kept clean, has lifegurards and is patroled by the local authorities. Also, Haulover has seemed to develop a informal group of people (goodwill ambassadors) that also look out for the visitors. Even the parking lot is patroled and I felt perfectly safe leaving my car there. We also felt safe leaving our belongings on the beach when we went for a walk or a swim. I would not normally recommend any females go to a c/o beach alone, but with all the people there looking out for each other, not a problem. Lots of families also populated the beach..
The Haulover c/o section is about 3/4 of a mile long situated on North Miami beach. There are signs on each end of the beach, warning visitors of the c/o beach status and letting them no that loitering on crossovers is not allowed. The north end of the beach is mainly the gay section and the middle to the south end is singles and couples. They have one vendor that rents charis, umbrellas and sells food. Several volleyball courts are set up and pick-up games were going most of the day. Weekends are more crowded then weekdays. If your not there by 10 am you may not find room in the closest parking lot. The beach is a nice fine white sand and the water is normally calm and great for swimming and snorkling.
I find Haulover much more appealing then Orient for several reasons. It is closer and easier to get to. I would say that Haulover has 80-90 percent c/o use. My experience with Orient is that it is more like 10-15 percent. It is safer. Although St. Martin has great restuarant, South Beach has great ones also and many great accomodations from budget to super expensive. Although we saw a few gawkers I was supprised that there were so few. Best of all, no cruise shippers coming in with their black socs and video cameras like we experienced on Orient.