Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: St. Maarten Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spa October 2008
Prior to my husband and me having kids, our favorite island to visit was St. Maarten. It is half Dutch and half French. Eleven years later we finally had the opportunity to return to this Island with our kids. We arrived in St. Maarten after spending a couple of days in Florida. (Since the flight to St. Maarten is 5 hours to Florida and another 3 hours to St. Maarten, we usually spend a couple of nights in Ft. Lauderdale or Miami first.) We always stay at our favorite family-friendly hotel in Ft Lauderdale called the Lago Mar Resort and Spa. They have everything for kids, including miniature golf, shuffleboard, ping pong, a playground, giant chess, a great pool, a private beach, rooms that are suites and more. We always enjoy spending the day at the hotel, and if we have time, we take the kids to Wannadocity for a day of imaginary play www.wannadocity.com. At night we usually spend the time going to Las Olas, where you can walk around and shop and they have a lot of great restaurants. This time we tried one called Noodle Panini and it was really good. The next night we were driving down A1A where there are a bunch of storefronts and restaurants across from the beach. We heard some great guitar playing and realized that Alex Fox was playing at one of the restaurants. We used to watch him years ago in Miami so we were excited to finally find him in Ft Lauderdale. If you are in town you should definitely check him out. His website is www.alexfox.com
We arrived in St. Maarten and had rented a car from Hertz ahead of time. After going through customs we were on our way to the hotel. We were invited to stay at the Westin Dawn Beach Resort and Spahttp://www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/property/overview/index.html?propertyID=1770. Not so easy to find, but luckily we managed. The hotel is very clean and nice. The rooms are very nice in size, and modern, with large bathrooms and huge showers. The pool is beautiful, as well as the beach. The fitness room is open 24 hours so you can work out anytime, which was really nice. There is wireless internet in the room at the cost of $14.95 per 24 hours. Also, as a guest of the hotel you can use the steam and sauna in the spa for free.
The first night we decided to drive to Grand Case for dinner. Getting there was quite the adventure. We turned down this one street that we thought was the wrong street. All of a sudden we saw a herd of cows coming at us...pretty scary. My husband wanted to put the car in reverse and flee but I said stay put and they would probably go around us which is what they did...so lesson learned...if a herd of cows are coming towards you, stay still and they will go around you.
Our first morning we went to breakfast at Mr. Beasby's. It was a great breakfast place but the service was very slow, which is not good your first day out when you are anxious to get to the beach. If you do go there with your kids, bring their bathing suits and towels and let them play in the beach while you wait for your food. The food was good and reasonably priced. However, they only accept cash. In fact, most places only accept cash, so make sure your bring plenty. Even when we went to the gas station, they would only take cash. Right across from Mr. Busby's is a mom and pop shop where we bought drinks and snacks. They have great fresh bread.
After breakfast we went back to the Westin to hang out at the pool and the beach. It was a cloudy day but still warm so we enjoyed the day just hanging out. When it started to get cloudy, we took a drive to Phillipsburg to go shopping. We got hit in a rainstorm (but hey, that's the Caribbean for you) and then we had dinner at Greenhouse Bar and Restaurant http://thegreenhouserestaurant.com/greenhousesxm/index.html which was recommended by Holly, the concierge at the Westin. It turned out to be a great choice. Casual restaurant with something for everyone. Happy hour with 2-for-1 drinks, and pool tables which the kids enjoyed playing after dinner.
This trip turned out to be quite different than many of my others. On Wednesday there was a hurricane warning. Hurricane Omar came right through St. Maarten. It was a category 2 or 3. We had rain and storms. There were curfews put in place. The Westin set up the dance club as a place to hang out and have fun. They set up movies on the big screen, had games out for the kids to play, and, of course, popcorn. Luckily, our hotel was not affected by the hurricane because we were on a generator. Down the street everyone was without electricity. The other half of the island got the worst of it. They were without electricity for a couple of days. The airport was shut down and the roads were closed due to flooding and fallen trees. I guess if you are going to be in a hurricane, stay at the Westin as they were fully prepared for it. They had the pool open the next morning by 11:00.
Due to the hurricane we did not get to do much exploring while on the island. The night of the hurricane we stayed at the hotel and ate dinner at their restaurant called Ocean Restaurant. I made a reservation, figuring it would be packed, and sure enough it was. What was very nice is that even though we only had to wait 10 minutes for our table, they offered us drinks on the house for having to wait. When they ran out of seating at the restaurant they delivered people's meals to them in the night club, where the movies were set up. Given that many people could not show up at work due to the hurricane and therefore they were short staffed, they handled everything efficiently and professionally. The satellite tv went out for a bit, but other than that, everything was functioning, including the internet.
The following night we went to Big Fish for dinner, which is across from Mr. Beasby's. They still did not have electricity, so we ate by candlelight (and once again had to pay with cash since their credit card machine was not working without the electricity). We also ate at Ocean (in the Westin) for breakfast every morning. They have a nice brunch with an omelette bar. It is $21.00 for adults, but only $8.50 for kids. Our last night we drove to Marigot. We walked around the shops and then had dinner in the Marina.
The pool is beautiful at the Westin. My last day there I found the perfect place to sit, where you have an incredible view of the infinity pool and then straight onto the ocean. The ocean was a lot of fun to swim in…the water was calm (although some spots had rocks when you first walked in). One thing about this island is that I have never gotten bitten so much in my life. Every day I was getting new bites…it was awful. However, I was the only one in the family that got eaten alive. Everyone else only got one or two bites.
Hopefully next time we will have better weather and be able to visit more of the island, but given that we experienced our first hurricane, it was still a great trip.