Onsite: Grand Case Beach Club, St. Martin’s Friendly Gem

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It certainly isn’t the newest hotel on the island and it could hardly be described as luxurious or glamorous, and yet the intimate beachfront Caribbean hideaway, Grand Case Beach Club, continues to be one of St. Martin’s most successful properties year after year.

Longtime general manager Steve Wright describes it this way, “Sometimes the newest shirt in your closet is not necessarily the most comfortable. We’re like that favorite shirt that just makes you feel good.”

And making his guests feel good and completely at ease has been a philosophy that has earned this charming 71-room resort on French St. Martin a return guest rate of over 60 pecent. Guests here won’t find sumptuous over indulgence, but a warm, welcoming and cozy resort whose rooms and suites have been continuously upgraded over the years. Most of the spacious rooms overlook the turquoise ocean and all include a kitchenette and either a patio or a balcony. Decor is elegant, yet functional, with the use of rich polished wood counters and tan tile and stonework reflecting a modernized Caribbean style. Three bougainvillea-bedecked low-rise white buildings border a crescent bay intersected by a rocky promontory that divides the beach into two, one broad and sandy, the other tranquil and  secluded. The resort’s open-air Sunset Cafe overlooks the beach and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual atmosphere although in the evenings the candlelit tables, gentle ocean breeze and lapping Caribbean waters make for a truly romantic setting at which to enjoy some superb French cuisine. Encircling the promontory, a wooden deck and walkway offers great views and several idyllic lounging spots perfect for dozing, tanning or curling up with a book. Above the restaurant, an open area is used for cocktail parties, functions and the occasional wedding. The adjacent massage hut can easily be booked for a variety of treatments, while a fully equipped fitness room, freshwater pool, tennis court and boutique round out the amenities.

Just offshore, Creole Rock provides excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. Tours are offered several times daily by the onsite watersports operation, which can also arrange boating excursions to nearby Anguilla, St. Barths or Pinel Island just off famous Orient Beach. Noted local watersports operator Scoobi-Doo offers a variety of programs on its sailing catamarans. Its newly acquired Scoobi-Cat is a 36-ft. powerboat that offers water adventures and guest airport pickup and drop off–a service that will be available to Grand Case Beach Club guests for the coming winter season. The entire dual nationality island of St. Martin/St. Maarten has a lush hilly terrain that can only be fully appreciated when viewed from the ocean where one discovers numerous secluded and deserted beaches, many of which are only accessible by boat.

“This is a three-star property,” says Wright, “that will consistently exceed a guest’s expectation rather than being a five-star property that doesn’t meet them.” The property’s devotion to consistency of experience and product improvement is clearly evident, particularly to this writer, who has visited the resort three times over a 4-year period.  Some improvements are obvious, refreshed and upgraded rooms with all new bedding and soft goods, other improvements are more subtle such as the recently added staff hospitality training programs.

One aspect of the Grand Case Beach Club that thankfully will never change is its proximity to what is widely regarded as the Caribbean’s greatest concentration of fine dining establishments in the quaint village of Grand Case. Just a few minutes walk from the hotel’s front gates and guests will be in a culinary Nirvana. The French love their food and along this narrow village main street are scores of exceptional restaurants serving the finest gourmet cuisine, many with dining rooms overlooking the ocean. Currently the most popular include the award-winning Ti Provencal with an accent on fresh local seafood, and Spicy, serving up a mixture of French and Italian specialties.

Although located on a French island, Grand Case Beach Club is very much a North American-leaning property with over 90 percent of guests coming from the U.S. and Canada and the expansive accommodations make it an ideal family resort, particularly in the summer. A variety of special seasonal packages are offered and a fall promotion offers free nights and another offers a hurricane guarantee.

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