Famous for its breathtaking final landing approach over Maho Beach – a white sand, azure water bay where tourists of all corners of the earth come to witness jets take-off and land – St. Martin is one of the most enchanting islands of the Caribbean. Divided between France and Holland, the island has long been established as a high-end getaway for wealthy Americans, a treasured destination for European families and a must-see for the yachting community.
Situated atop and along a crescent-shaped beach and tropical garden, Belmond La Samanna is considered one of the most exclusive properties in St. Martin. It is just 15 minutes from Marigot, the capital of French St. Martin, and a short drive from the fabulous restaurants of Grand Case. Baie Longue (aka. Long Bay) is recognized as the longest beach of the island and one of the most secluded, with only limited public access. Baie Longue regularly appears as one of the best according to the local Tourism Board and Forbes recently included it in its ranking of the best Caribbean beaches. Belmond La Samanna offers 83 sea view rooms and suites and 8 three- and four-bedroom villas with private pools overlooking Baie Longue. I found the clientele to be a balanced mix of Americans and French, young couples and families, showing the success of the Belmond rebranding.
“No other hotels share Baie Longue, which ensures guests enjoy complete privacy and tranquility while sun-bathing on the white powder sand or swimming in the vivid turquoise ocean.”
My experience with this Belmond property started immediately after booking upon receiving a guest information form to complete via email. Although it wasn’t a type-in online format, I was able to print it and fill out general preferences, food allergies, and make bookings for dinner and activities. Would my personal details then be turned into detailed and personalized touches? I was anxious to find out.
Driving into the Belmond La Samanna is like entering someone’s home or a friend’s tropical retreat: as my taxi approached the gate, the tropical gardens and warm smile of the gate attendant made it feel personal. After a short drive through the lush gardens, I proceeded to check-in and was instantly captivated by the view from the arched front porch and open-air lobby. I glanced down to the beach and pristine waters of the bay, admiring the color contrasts between the hotel’s contemporary yet timeless color palette – white, light grey and beige – and the vibrant turquoise of the ocean, visible from any vantage point.
Sipping on my rum punch welcome cocktail, I started reading the hotel gazette and activities, and soon after had my morning yoga class booked with the Concierge. I sat on the deck for a while admiring the amazing view and listening to repeat guests next to me turn ambassadors of the property for new comers.
I eventually made my way to my 1-bedroom Beachfront Suite, escorted by front desk personnel and a valet. The room carried the same color palette as the main building: white walls, furniture and linens and sand-tone floors. I was pleased with the layout: a generous central living space with 2 plush sofas and a desk area with access to a small, fully-stocked kitchenette at the back, complete with coffee, tea, local family-made rum, and bottled water. The focal point of the suite were the gorgeous French doors opening out to the large private deck, one floor above the beach. The separate bedroom offered a large king bed, an oversized marble and wood bathroom with rain shower, large bathtub and a separate toilet. Toiletries by L’Occitane include shower gel, shampoo, conditioned and body cream, found inbetween his and hers sinks. The bathroom also includes plenty of storage space and room for the ironing board and more amenities like dry cleaning bags, shoe polish kit, sewing kit and slippers. To summarize: your dream master bedroom at your dream beach house.
Even if the room was perfect, the appeal of the outdoor proved far greater as the sun was still high and warm at 4pm. Along the beach, guests can find a single row of plush sun-loungers equipped with extra-large fitted towels, conveying more privacy and offering unobstructed views of the ocean. Further down the beach are 2 pools: a stylish infinity pool at sea level and another more elevated by the main building. It is important to note that even if the resort was full during my stay, never did I have to wait for a seat at the restaurant, the bar, the pool or the beach. Never did it feel crowded either.
The feeling of intimacy and exclusivity did not end there. My personal preferences from the guest query were obviously transmitted to housekeeping: the Billecart Salmon Champagne was chilled. Pineapple, strawberries and raspberries were freshly cut and displayed alongside a hand-written welcome note from the General Manager. After the turn-down service, I discovered yet another treat: an artisan box of chocolate almonds on my night stand to satisfy my sweet tooth.
The West-facing orientation of the resort offers 2 advantages: calmer seas and unobstructed sunsets. When the light started to change, you could see guests coming out of their rooms dressed for the evening, taking romantic selfies on the beach. It was time to open Champagne, relax on the patio and follow the sun slowly disappear below the horizon.
Dinner time it is! Trellis is an elegant and intimate al fresco restaurant situated on a cliff atop the beach. The menu offers a large selection of local seafood and unique flavor combinations. Choosing from so many enticing options can prove challenging… I opted for a Lobster Cold Soup with passion fruit, the Sea Scallops a la plancha with pumpkin, candied lemons and cinnamon. To finish, the Chocolate tart was airy, light and intense in chocolate. Dinner remains a high point of my stay thanks to the sophisticated and well-executed menu enhanced by the superb setting.
“Belmond La Samanna boasts one of the most comprehensive and exciting wine lists of the Caribbean, with all the names and years you’d want to find.”
Thanks to the effect of jetlag – I took off from Geneva the day before, via Paris Charles de Gaulle – I woke up in time for the sunrise. Early morning hours give a pinkish color to the sand and sky on this side of the island. While walking to the morning yoga class, it was hard not to be enchanted by the beauty of nature. I spotted a colorful parrot flying above as well as several hummingbirds. After an intense 1-hour yoga session I took the steps down to the breakfast deck where a dozen tables overlook the pool and the ocean. An extensive buffet is showcased in an indoor rotunda adjacent to the outdoor kitchen where omelets, eggs, waffles and more are prepared on demand. Here again, the quality of the food was fantastic. I had probably one of the best hotel croissants outside of France. Finally it’s time for the beach again.
Checking out of Belmond La Samanna is as seamless as checking in, just a bit sad to be saying goodbye to this tropical paradise. After settling the bill, a taxi was sent directly to the back of my room and it took a little under 15 minutes to reach Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). Sitting on the plane and reading the inflight magazine, I can easily justify more reasons to come back to St. Martin – walk up to Fort Louis, go zip-lining at Loterie Farm, island-hop on one of Simpson Bay’s amazing yachts – but none come close to experiencing again the feeling of absolute serenity I felt watching sunset from the comfort of my room at Belmond La Samanna.
Where:Belmond La Samanna
PO Box 4077, 97064 St Martin, CEDEX, French West Indies
Phone: 590 590 87 6400
Note– The critic was invited by the Belmond La Samanna. But all the opinions expressed herewith are his own.
Founder of UNITIATE, Geoffrey is a Marketing Expert, Luxury Specialist and Hospitality Enthusiast. Wherever he goes, his early career and personal interests have always helped him nurture and cultivate a passion for the Travel and Leisure industries. French born, Geoffrey has accumulated an extensive experience abroad, thanks to regular visits to foreign countries but also thanks to years of expatriation. Currently based in Chicago, Geoffrey has already lived and worked in New York, Shanghai, Singapore and Monaco. You can meet Geoffrey on Twitter and Linkedin.