4-Star Seaside Hotel in St. Maarten
When U.S. News Travel crafted its list of the Best Islands in the World, it was looking for more than just pristine beaches—staffers sought out spots that had what they referred to as a "magical spark.” They found it on “feisty” St. Maarten, a 37-mile island surrounded by the aquamarine Caribbean Sea and filled with restaurants, nightclubs, and casinos. The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa is nestled between St. Maarten’s French-owned north and Dutch-owned south, atop a serene strip of beach named for its stunning sunrises.
The hotel takes advantage of its prime location on the island’s east coast. A waterfront pool faces sailboats cruising past or being slowly sucked into the horizon, and many of the 310 guest rooms overlook the ocean—and so does the fine-dining steak house, Aura. Play blackjack or slots at the onsite Vegas-style casino, or unwind with massage treatments at Hibiscus Spa before heading down to the pool for drinks at the swim-up bar. Many beaches are located close by, and you can explore the island easily with the rental car included in this getaway.
St. Maarten: Island Paradise with Split Cultural Heritage
Located in the northern Caribbean, the 37-square-mile island of St. Maarten has been peacefully shared by the French and the Dutch for more than 350 years, giving the island two very distinct yet harmonious personalities. On the southern Dutch side, crowds gravitate toward the neon-lit clubs and live-music bars at Simpson Bay. When those establishments close, revelers make their way to the 24-hour casinos. The northern French side, meanwhile, is more secluded and less developed. It has some gorgeous beaches, and the emphasis here is on relaxation.
To get an understanding of St. Maarten's blend of cultural influences, consider its restaurant scene, which encompasses more than 400 eateries. Many travelers praise the authentic French cuisine and fine wines at Grand Case Beach Club on the French side, known as the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean. Casual barbecue restaurants, known as lolos, are located along the beach and serve up spicy shrimp, ribs, chicken, and heaping helpings of side dishes complemented by guava-berry rum. The quieter Back Street, on the Dutch side, is lined with some authentic—and inexpensive—Chinese eateries.
Both parts of the island boast crystal-clear bays filled with palatial coral structures and tropical fish. Take a guided snorkeling trip to Pinel Island, or to Creole Rock to see reef-ringed boulders. Deep-sea fishing charters send anglers out in search of marlin, blackfin tuna, and wahoo.
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