Have you ever dreamt of being in two places at once? While the power of bilocation eludes most of us, you just may be able to fulfill this dream by visiting St. Maarten.
In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered St. Maarten without ever having set foot on the island. And, what a shame for Columbus.
St. Maarten, the Eastern Caribbean island between St. Barth’s and Anguilla, is the perfect mix of destination and vacation. The not even nine-mile long island deserves at least a couple items on anyone’s travel bucket list, all the while offering plenty of luxury and leisure opportunities. As William Bell of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau said, St. Maarten is “a small island so you don’t have to rush to do everything.” Visitors really can be on island time and come away both more cultured and more relaxed. It is also an easy trip, with non-stop flights from Dulles International Airport.
For the Tourist
St. Maarten is an island split in two. The northern 60 percent of the island is the French collectivity of Saint-Martin while the southern 40 is the Dutch constituent country of St. Maarten. For purposes of this article, the entire island will be referred as St. Maarten. With no border patrol or need for a passport to cross into either side of the island, St. Maarten is the easiest way to experience two different Euro-Caribbean cultures in one day. Or, one afternoon for that matter.
You can easily breeze past the “Welcome to the French Side” sign (or the reverse) by car, or climb aboard a cruise ship and sail to the other end of the island. If you are staying on the Dutch side, a short car ride will take you to French side’s Marigot Market, brimming with
gorgeous handmade jewelry, clothing and other priceless souvenirs. While looking at the different products – from Caribbean rum to vibrant beaded bracelets, you have a perfect view of Fort Louie, which overlooks the Marigot Bay and the neighboring island of Anguilla.
For history lovers, Fort Louie was built in 1789 for the King of France, and today the abandoned, yet picturesque, fortress ruins still stand. Another worthwhile French side visit is the unique Loterie Park, an adventure park complete with hiking, zip-lining and places to sit and sip cocktails. There is also a restaurant for visitors to indulge in some fine dining after expending some energy. Loterie Park offers enough for both families and all-adult tourist groups.
On the Dutch side, visit the capital, Phillipsburg, the home of government buildings and also important: Front Street. Front Street is the “Rodeo Drive” of St. Maarten, dotted with designer stores and boutiques with a lively ocean backdrop. Along the coast here, small reggae bands play all kind of music – from American pop hits to reggae, pleasing both passersby and the restaurant patrons that can jam as they eat.
Maho Village on the Dutch side is lined with fun bars, unique shops, and the Casino Royale. Casino Royale, the largest casino on the island, is one reason St. Maarten is considered the “Las Vegas of the Caribbean.” Just last year, in November 2014, the Casino Royale was the host of the World Poker & Caribbean Poker Tour. There is no shortage of fine dining, shopping or bars along this strip of Maho Village. And, bonus: it is just steps away from the beach.
For the Beach Babes
All beaches on the island are open to the public – from the nude beaches on the French side to Maho Beach on the Dutch side, which is the airport’s next door neighbor and thus a fantastic place to view arriving planes. Whatever type of beach you crave, St. Maarten can provide the wave.
As you lay on Maho Beach, in a lounge chair under an umbrella with the soft sand at your feet and the perfect blue water before you, the occasional international plane soaring above you is one of the island’s attractions. Bars around the beaches actually post the arrival schedule for the Princess Juliana International Airport because tourists love to
know when the larger planes are about to descend.
And, with the open beach policy, you can be staying at one of the Sonesta resorts and have access to any beach on the island. It is no wonder that St. Maarten as a whole is called “The Friendly Island.” Even if a beach is guarded by a resort, it is a rule that you are allowed to cross that threshold to enjoy the the refreshing waters of the Eastern Caribbean.
Fun, Food and Frill
The all-inclusive resorts seem to be the way to go in St. Maarten. There are three Sonesta options on the Dutch side of the island, ranging from a three and a half star resort, Sonesta Maho, that welcomes families, to the four-and five-star adults-only resorts (Sonesta Great Bay and Sonesta Ocean Point, respectively). All hotels offer easy access to dining, beaching and even site-seeing. There is a car-rental desk at each hotel where guests can rent a car for a day for a mere 25 dollars.
In fact, for those who consider gambling a guilty pleasure, the Casino Royale is directly across the street from the Sonesta Maho. Casino Royale is the only casino with a craps table on the island. For those who prefer to play in a more intimate setting, there is a small casino in the Sonesta Great Bay.
Sonesta Maho guests and Sonesta Great Bay guests may enjoy each other’s’ facilities for some variety. Each boast of delicious restaurants where fruity cocktails or champagne are part of the norm. Sonesta Ocean Point guests who may want a change of scenery, may also take advantage of the other Sonesta resorts for their pools and restaurants. The family of hotels is working on day passes to the new Sonesta Ocean Point, but due to
demand, these are not yet in place.
Spa treatments are a must with Sonesta. The Serenity Spa, associated with the resorts, offers a full spectrum of rejuvenating treatments – facials, manicures, pedicures, massages
and body treatments. The flow massage with guava berry/sugar foot scrub treatment I
had is specific to St. Maarten. The hour-long treatment left my muscles feeling limber and I
felt as relaxed as if I had been sitting by one of the hotel’s pools with unlimited piña coladas.
I smelled of sweet Caribbean fruit and had to be coaxed off the massage chair.
There are more than 350 restaurants on the island that accommodate all budgets, so finding food that whets your appetite is certainly not a problem. “If you can’t eat in St. Maarten, then you are allergic to everything or you left your pocketbook at home,” as William Bell said.
And, as stated before, getting around the island is easy so no restaurant is out of reach. There is a two dollar bus that makes regular stops all over St. Maarten, and while taxis are
always available, car rental is a more economic and always-available route. Whether you are
craving a shopping spree or a historical site visit, every destination can be a convenient trip.
The Sonesta Ocean Point recently opened up its marquee restaurant, Azul, which overlooks the ocean and offers a variety of tasty appetizers and entrees. Order the mushroom soup at least once (you’ll ask for seconds) and the Caribbean spiny lobster is another treat for the taste buds.
After either an action-packed or relaxing day, fall into bed at Ocean Point in one of their luxurious suites with beach-front or island views and a fully-stocked mini bar and espresso machine. If there hadn’t been so much to do on island, I would have been tempted to spend all five days in my room. I could have easily enjoyed hours every day sitting with my feet propped up on my balcony, watching the waves, and planes, descend upon St. Maarten’s shore.
Visit stmartinisland.org for more information on the island and planning your trip.
The New Sonesta Ocean Point Resort Makes Its Debut as the
Premier Luxury Five-Star Property in St. Maarten
With its soft opening in December 2014, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort is the premier
five-star, all-suite property in St. Maarten, bringing a new brand of style, luxury
and outstanding service to this stunning Caribbean island. Ultra-luxurious yet sustainable and set in the most spectacular location, the “resort within a resort” sits on the southernmost point of the island, adjacent to the legendary and iconic Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino.
After a multi-million dollar renovation to the former Ocean Terrace building, the 129-room Sonesta Ocean Point emerges as a sophisticated resort option for adults combining high design and personalized service with private concierge as well as everything today’s modern traveler has come to expect.
Blending contemporary design with a Caribbean vibe, the resort evokes a chic, inviting atmosphere from the public spaces to each of the spacious accommodations. Exclusive to Sonesta Ocean Point guests, the resort features three pools including The Edge infinity pool with private beach on the cliff, Swim Out pool connected to its namesake suites, and The Point Pool; three bars and lounges including the Sunset Lounge & Bar, Azul Rooftop Bar for private functions, and the contemporary lobby café and bar Maarten’s; the Mediterranean influenced Azul restaurant; an in-resort boutique; and other resort exclusives and amenities such as 24-hour room service, intimate gazebos, private cabanas, a dedicated open air wellness area and an on property organic garden.
Sonesta Ocean Point is ideally suited to accommodate weddings and other special
events with a ten-acre oceanfront location, numerous venues to host weddings include the beach, a wedding gazebo overlooking the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea
and the spectacular Azul Rooftop, exclusive to Ocean Point guests. Sonesta Ocean Point
also features 24,000 square feet of renovated, eco-friendly meeting and conference
facilities for business and social occasions accommodating up to 1,000 people.
For more information on Sonesta Ocean Point, visit sonesta.com/oceanpoint.