What do you look for when deciding which tropical island to visit? Is price value a factor? How about friendliness of locals, or the vicinity of neighboring islands for the possibility of taking a day trip?
I personally have a list of items I consider when deciding on my next island destination because even for someone who travels all the time, I’m fairly picky about where I spend my time away from home. The truth is, the thought of checking off countries just for bragging rights doesn’t appeal to me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough to say no to trips, but what’s the point of having a home base if I’m never home?
So, when I was invited to stay for a week at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort in St. Maarten this fall, I did some research about the island and the hotel’s location before I said yes.
Maho Beach Resort: Where to Stay in St. Maarten
What Drew Me to St. Maarten and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort
1. The resort is located right at Maho Beach — one of the most unique beaches in the world. Not only does it sit on the Dutch Caribbean side of the island of St. Maarten, but it’s a spot that consistently makes it to travelers must-visit lists because of its close proximity to an international airport. You know that beach where you can watch 747s land while relaxing on the beach? That’s Maho Beach!
2. It’s very close to three other Caribbean islands — St. Barts, Anguilla, and Saba. All of these islands are just a day trip away!
3. It’s the smallest island in the world shared by two nations. There’s a French side and a Dutch side on St. Maarten (aka St. Martin), but you don’t need your passport to cross the border.
4. The beaches are gorgeous. Enough said.
Sonesta Resorts, St. Maarten
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort is part of Sonesta Resorts, which has two resorts on St. Maarten (with a third about to open in just a couple of weeks). Sonesta Maho Beach Resort is all-inclusive (including alcohol), it’s family friendly, has a large pool with cascading waterfalls, a swim-up pool bar, 5 restaurants and bars, and a casino.
Even though I was staying at an all-inclusive resort, I wanted to experience the island. Maho Village is within walking distance — which includes some of the best restaurants on the island, a grocery store, and you can book tours as well as car rentals right at the resort. It really takes the stress out of your vacation when you don’t have to plan these things ahead of time or spend your trip making dozens of phone calls to book tours when you should be enjoying your vacation.
Their sister resort, Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa, is a limitless all-inclusive adults-only resort located about twenty minutes away from Maho Beach. Sonesta’s third resort, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, is almost finished and sits right on the edge of the water at Maho Beach. It will be an adults-only limitless all-inclusive resort, featuring three swimming pools with private gazebos and cabanas. This resort is going to be stunning.
Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to visit Sonesta Great Bay because Hurricane Gonzalo had other plans for my trip to St. Maarten. I intend to come back for the launch of their newest resort and will get a chance to visit Great Bay as well.
Things to Do on St. Maarten
During my visit to Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, I did manage to tear myself away from hours of lounging on the beach, watching the planes land, stuffing myself at one of the resort’s many restaurants, and floating in the pool with a drink. I had heard so many great things about St. Maarten, so I was excited to see the rest of the island.
Mind you, I had visited the day after Hurricane Gonzalo, so there was considerable damage to a large portion of the island. One thing I did notice was the way the locals really pulled together to help each other and managed to stay positive. I can’t imagine how devastating it would be to have your home or business ripped to pieces without warning.
Spend a Day Driving Around the Island
I booked a car from Hertz in the lobby of the hotel and sped off in search of the best beaches in St. Maarten. A few of my favorites were Grand Case, Mullet Bay, Cupecoy Beach, and, of course, Pinel Island (I’ll get to that later). I had heard great things about the snorkeling at Happy Bay, but the water was too churned up from the hurricane during my visit.
I just want to mention that it IS possible to get lost while driving in St. Maarten. I know everyone says it’s so easy to navigate and there is only one main road, but I’m here to tell you… it’s possible. Get a good map (with street names) and don’t count on your GPS!
Beach BBQ at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort
Every Friday night, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort hosts a beach barbecue with a full outdoor buffet. This was the first time I had ever seen live fire dancers and I found myself mesmerized by them. The best part about a beach barbecue at your resort is that you don’t have to drive and you can stumble back to your room whenever you get tired. After the festivities on Friday night, you can have a relaxing Saturday night by watching an outdoor movie by the pool.
Spend a Day on the Water with Coconut Reef Tours
On my last full day on the island, I decided to book a boat tour around the island. I waited until the last minute and inquired with the tour operator at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, who went over the weekend tour options with me. Due to my procrastination, I only had one option for a boat tour on Sunday (weekends is slim pickings on the island) but it turned out to be the perfect tour.
Coconut Reef sent a driver to my hotel and brought me to a cute little french bakery in Simpson Bay, where the speed boat departs. The tour stops on Tintamarre Island, Pinel Island, and Happy Bay. Since Happy Bay wasn’t very clear after the storm, our boat captain took us to the Atlantic side of the island to a dive spot with reef sharks. My favorite part of the tour was spending time in the water with the turtles at Tintamarre and feeding wild iguanas at Pinel Island.
See a few of the highlights from my trip to St. Maarten and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort in the video below.
Thanks to Sonesta Maho Beach Resort for hosting my stay at their resort. As always, all opinions are my own.