Passion Points: Escape
Owned by Orient-Express, St. Martin’s La Samanna feels more like a Mediterranean hideaway than a sleek Caribbean resort. From the pretty rooms decorated with a Côte d’Azur vibe to the excellent dining and 20,000-bottle wine cellar, the general atmosphere translates as almost European. For years, I had heard mixed reviews – some guests return regularly for decades while others swear it off after the first trip – and perhaps this juxtaposition of what we expect at a five-star Caribbean property and the Continental charm La Samanna offers, is partially at fault. But I, for one, will be returning.
The property, a former haunt of Jackie Onassis, was recently renovated. Some of the newer rooms boast marble floors and more traditionally luxurious décor, but I adored my older one-bedroom with terracotta tiled floors, a small kitchen and a front porch that put my total time from bed to beach at about 20 seconds. Rooms also come with flatscreen tvs and sizeable bathrooms; suites have walk-in closets. For those who want more space, La Samanna recently began construction on eight villas, each of which has four or five bedrooms, private pools, modern kitchens and indoor and outdoor living spaces. Although their clifftop location puts them farthest from the beach, the breathtaking views easily make up for small inconveniences.
The resort does have its drawbacks, though. The property is spread out, meaning some the beachfront rooms require a hike (uphill) to the restaurant and others on the cliff are short walk from the beach. The service, though not terrible, could be smoother and the staff more friendly. St. Martin itself has become a less appealing place as ugly condos and down market hotels have crowded the beaches. That said, La Samanna feels completely removed and safe. Their pristine beach is for guests only, and there’s not a high-rise in sight, thanks to their enviable position on a quiet point. Swimming in the sea or floating by the edge of the infinity pool, there’s no sense that you’re anywhere other than a tropical paradise. It’s also an excellent base from which to explore other Leeward Islands. Neighboring Anguilla is a 25-minute boat ride or a five-minute flight, and St. Barth’s could also be visited in an easy daytrip.
Who Should Go: The resort is great for families, given the easy direct flights and one-, two- and three-bedroom suites. The new villas are also an excellent option for those seeking more space and privacy. Also, La Samanna’s nanny service doesn’t come cheap ($29 before 9 p.m., $39 after) but I have never felt so comfortable leaving my daughter as I did with the sitter there. It is by no means only for families, however. The romantic setting and great dining makes it a top choice for couples, too.
Room to Get: Honeymooners will love the suites with private plunge pools on the roof terrace (the Baie Royale is the newest and greatest), but families should ask for accommodations on the beach to avoid a long walk to the sea. Standard rooms in the main building are not as luxurious.
Beach Tip: If you book one of the rooms on the cliffs, reserve a beach cabana as well. The rental includes a cabana attendant, iPod, bottle of champagne and supply of sunscreen and lotions. Lounging on the teak chaise lounges or daybed is the perfect way to enjoy the beach all day long.
Rooms from $475; villas rentals from $3,000 per night or sale at 5,000,000E
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