Tropical Beachfront Resort with All-Inclusive Dining and Casino Thrills
In the 17th century, the French, Dutch, and British all vied for control of tiny St. Maarten in hopes of getting their hands on the island's lucrative salt mines. Nowadays, the island's most popular asset is not the Great Salt Pond, but the ocean shore across from it. Between the two bodies of water, The Sonesta Great Bay Beach & Casino spans a land bridge that links the all-inclusive resort to the beachfront pleasures that characterizes the island today. Its location along the Great Bay Beach puts you in the midst of a tropical paradise—Frommer’s writes that “you get killer views virtually anywhere and everywhere you plop yourself.”
Overlooking the sugar-sand shoreline, the resort's main pool area features a deck dotted with ultramarine lounge chairs. An infinity pool seems to meld with the Caribbean ocean stretching to the horizon, and a swim-up bar allows you to sip chilled cocktails without ever getting out of the water. Dining options range from the casual, open-air Bay View Restaurant to the formal, ocean-view Molasses Restaurant, where chefs craft authentic Caribbean fare. At the onsite Golden Casino, you can test your luck on 84 slot machines or have a seat at the blackjack, roulette, or poker table.
When the evening winds down, retreat to an ocean-view guest room whose modern teak furnishings and bright, turquoise accents create a cheerful, tropical ambiance. Past the coral-hued curtains, you can step onto a private, glass-walled balcony overlooking the pools and seashore below.
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 Dutch side, to the south, crowds gravitate toward the neon-lit clubs and the live-music bars at Simpson Bay; when those establishments close, revelers make their way to the 24-hour casinos. Meanwhile, the French portion to the north is more secluded and less developed. It has some gorgeous beaches, and the emphasis here is on relaxation.
You can get an understanding of St. Maarten's blend of cultural influences when you consider its restaurant scene; there are more than 400 eateries on the island. 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 Chinese eateries that are typically inexpensive.
Both parts of the island share 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.