Honeymoon Destination: St. Martin
For such a small island, St. Martin has a wealth of personality — you might even say multiple personalities. But the French half, literally a Caribbean outpost of France, is where honeymoooners should stay for pampering, secluded beaches, and foodie-approved restaurants. (The glitzy shops, nightclubs and casinos of the Dutch side are fun for a fling, but you wouldn’t want to marry them.) For decades, the La Samanna resort, situated on the French side’s most beautiful beach, has been the go-to spot for those in the know. Stay there, and you may never venture outside the gates.
BY DAY At La Samanna, your balcony overlooking Baie Longue and its pristine beach will surely be bathed in soft Caribbean breezes, but not to worry—the resort’s restaurant, Le Reserve, has the same view and a breakfast buffet piled high with fresh fruit and chocolate croissants. After breakfast, rent a private cabana on the beach and pop open a bottle of bubbly served by your private butler (both come with the cabana), or sunbathe in the nearby infinity pool. Explore the French side’s other beaches, including Baie Rouge and the Orient Bay, the island’s answer to St. Tropez; if you don’t yet feel as if you’re in France, the Speedos and string bikinis on this strip will accomplish that tout de suite. Order a fruity afternoon cocktail and join in the hedonism.
Other worthy outings include a hike through a tropical rainforest at Loterie Farm, and an afternoon on Pinel Island, a nature reserve, accessed via a short ferry ride, where you can snorkel the reef and lunch at the beachside grill, Karibuni. Here, giant crustaceans and conch fritters are served beneath palapas that’ll make you feel like the Professor and Mary Ann. If you don’t mind mingling with hundreds of cruise-goers, an afternoon trawling Philipsburg’s high-end boutiques is a must; the whole island’s duty-free.
BY NIGHT The Maho area on the island’s Dutch side is the hot spot for nightlife — you’ll find casinos, nightclubs, piano bars and lounges. A more low-key night out can be had in the tiny Creole town of Grand Case, where some beachside bars are mixed in among the many restaurants.
WHERE TO EAT St. Martin is considered the gastronomic capital of the Caribbean, so there’s no shortage of exceptional eats. Drive to Grand Case, where Boulevard de Grand Case is lined with restaurants serving street food to haute cuisine. Tables at Le Shore, the hip, all-white, lounge-y restaurant on the ocean side of the boulevard, overlook the Anguilla Channel, and the French-Caribbean menu is elegant and creative (grilled snapper in vanilla sauce; mango sea scallops). Le Reserve at La Samanna has themed dinners—on French night, an accordion player in a Hawaiian shirt and beret makes the rounds. Lobsters are brought out live for your appraisal, just like the bottles of wine. A special five-course candlelit dinner with wine pairings from La Samanna’s extensive cellar can also be arranged in La Cave. If you’re craving sushi, Bamboo Bernie’s on the Dutch side of the island serves fresh rolls spiked with Caribbean flavors like mango and coconut. Eat in the restaurant, whose decor is Asian bordello, or in the Buddha Lounge, where a DJ entertains a regular late-night crowd.
WHERE TO STAY It’s not surprising that Jackie O stayed at chic La Samanna (lasamanna.com)—the Orient-Express resort has a low-key playground-of-the-rich-and-famous vibe. Spacious villas line the plum oceanfront site, and the main building is home to the newly renovated Baie Royale, the spacious honeymoon suite. Foodies who want to fully explore Grand Case’s culinary offerings should stay at Hotel L’Esplanade (lesplanade.com), a boutique hotel a short walk from the Boulevard.
WHAT TO PACK You won’t need much besides beachwear and casual resort wear for dinners out. Le Reserve at La Samanna is probably the most formal restaurant on the island, and the dinner dress code for men is a collared shirt and slacks.
BEST TIMES TO GO High season is November through April. Summer months can be hot and humid, with frequent tropical showers. La Samanna, along with many other resorts, closes in September and October—hurricane season.
NEWLYWED NEWS La Samanna’s Romance Package (starting from $670 per night with a four-night minimum) includes a couples massage, a Caligula dinner (a private dinner on the beach featuring platters of seafood), use of a beach cabana, and a one-day luxury car rental.
GETTING THERE US Airways flies from Philadelphia to Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Martin, but not nonstop; the trip can typically take a half-day. And do rent a car, as a few cab-rides will easily cost more than a rental car for the entire trip.