Belmond La Samanna, St Martin
PRICE: Doubles from around £456, room only (excl tax at 19.6 %)
HOTEL LOCATION: St Martin
ADDRESS: 97064 St. Martin, French West Indies
TYPE OF HOTEL: LUXURY| BEACH | HOLIDAY|
TYPE OF BREAK: BEACH HOLIDAY|ROMANTIC GETAWAY| HONEYMOONS
HOTEL STYLE: CLASSIC BEACH LUXURY STARS: 5
St. Martin may not be quite what you dreamed a Caribbean island would be, as you drive from Princess Juliana airport to the Belmond La Samanna past bars and nightclubs and shopping malls. You may wonder where the quaint little rum shacks and signs of colourful local life are, but as soon as you catch a glimpse of the pristine coastline and sparkling sea nothing else matters. You come here for the beaches, which are some of the best in the world, and at the Belmond La Samanna you get to kick off your shoes and run directly from your seafront villa down onto the warm white sand.
The hotel borders a white sand beach. You can hire large cabanas for the day which provide some much needed shade and are spacious enough for a private pilates class or luxurious lounging in between bouts of paddle boarding, swimming and snorkelling. Or spend the day alternating between the two freshwater pools – the main pool is by the restaurant and there’s an Infinity pool down by the beach bar. La Samanna is one of the oldest five star hotels on the island but in 2012 a stylish refurb gave it a fresh lick of cool. It still feels more old-school glamorous than boutique or designer though. Which is no bad thing.
St Martin itself is not rife with things to see or do. The landscape is somewhat flat and scubby and inland is over run with tacky establisments geared towards tourists. The history of the island is fascinating (discovered by Christopher Columbus on behalf of Spain in 1493. For the next 150 years the island was passed between Holland, England, France and Spain. In 1648 St. Maarten was peacefully divided between Holland and France, and today is the smallest landmass in the world to be shared by two sovereign nations) but nothing about its present incarnation outside of its five star resorts is particularly appealing for the intrepid traveller.
Number of rooms: Seven suites have private plunge pools on the roof; five three- and four-bedroom villas are all about the views and the three bedroom cottages directly on the beach are ideal for big families or parties of friends.
Check-in/check-out times: check-in 3pm, check-out noon
Room service: Yes
Swimming pool: 2
Wi-Fi: Free throughout the resort
Spa: The Elysées Spa is cocooned within a private garden complete with waterfall, and treatment rooms include a private outdoor area with a shower. The products are by Sisley and Ferme de Marie and I’d recommend the four-hand massage (a regular two hander will feel meagre from now on!)
Eating and drinking: There are two restaurants; one on the beach which serves grilled fish and salads but closes for dinner, and the main restaurant ‘Interlude’, which serves some inventive takes on classic dishes such as lobster thermidor. The vegetarian options were a little lacking, but it’s great for carnivores. The hotel also has a15,000-bottle wine cellar which can be hired out for tastings.
Near to: Aviation nuts will be in heaven in St Martin as it is home to the famous Maho beach which you can stand on to watch planes landing at very close quarters. You will never be so close to the under carriage of a 747 again, but it can be dangerous – people are thrown into the sea by the thrusts of the engines. Thankfully, there’s a bar on the beach and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves despite the signs warning of danger and possible death (there have been no fatal casualties as yet!)
Getting there: We flew with Air France from London Heathrow via Paris in to St Martin’s Princess Juliana airport, return fares from around £720