My brother taught me that three’s a crowd, but look at Sint Maarten: In December the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort Casino & Spa reopened and Sonesta Ocean Point Resort had a soft opening. Added to the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino, that gives this Dutch outpost three Sonesta all-inclusives. Does a 16-sq.-mile entity really need three all-inclusives bearing the same brand name?
In theory, no, because these three have a lot in common: a “limitless all-inclusive” experience including all meals and snacks, beverages, refills of mini-bars, a balcony/terrace for every room, American channels on the TVs, cocktail and theme parties, activities (aerobics, contests, etc.), WiFi, access to Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort’s facilities, and free admission before midnight to Tantra Night Club & Sanctuary in Maho Village. Nevertheless, these sisters ain’t triplets, as I was reminded on a recent visit to all three.
For starters, two of them serve adults only, but the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino welcomes children. The combination of its kids’ club, affordable rates, and good-natured animators who treat children as the adults’ equals in poolside games is clearly working: I saw plenty of children, no matter that the school year was not quite over.
Maho Beach is big, with 395 rooms and suites, five restaurants, five bars, four tennis courts, a signature pool with swim-up bar and waterfalls, the kids’ club, 24,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, a spa and fitness center (I’d like to see the fitness center move into a larger room, one with a view), activities, entertainment, and a small casino. Casino Royale is just across the street, as is Tantra, so Maho Beach pleases parents who still want to boogie.
The surf at Maho Beach is gentle, but there’s also a kids’ pool for the little ones. Some people might be annoyed by the sight and the roar of planes landing nearby; others might find it exciting. I keep trying to take The Perfect Video.
An all-inclusive stay for two adults and two post-toddler children in a Premier Pool-Ocean View (the fifth category up from Superior) in early October costs as little as $415 a night with non-refundable Advance Purchase. The Advance Purchase price for that family in a Premier Pool-Ocean View room Feb. 11-16 is $514 a night, only about 25 percent more. The rates in ads include taxes and fees; add 21 percent taxes and fees to the online rates.
The New Ocean Point
This is the most luxurious of the trio, a 129-suite, adults-only property that used to be part of Sonesta Maho, its next-door sister. These suites feature pastel furnishings, tasteful art, marble in the bathrooms, and Lavazzo espresso makers.
I stayed in a Junior Suite King facing the beach, so I spent hours on the balcony. This suite costs $403 for two (Advance Purchase) plus tax low season, and because some Junior Suites have double beds instead of kings, they attract BFF pairs who want to rock Maho Village. The rate for the February dates is as little as $558.
Why not upgrade? A Sunset Swim-Out Suite, which comes with butler service, costs just $521 in October, $868 in February. (Ocean Point has less expensive swim-out suites, but these are brighter, sunnier.) Even the Luxury Penthouse, with its living room, bar, freestanding soaking tub, butler, and a huge terrace costs as little as $669 in October, $1,116 in February.
Orient Point shares Maho Beach with its child-friendly sister property, but the developers have devised some clever solutions to keep adults and families separate, including a new, clifftop, adults-only pool with a man-made beach facing the sea and the sunsets. Speaking of sunsets, the rooftop Sunset Lounge & Bar evokes swanky South Beach, and Azul, Ocean Point’s premier restaurant, is near it.
Note that most of the restaurants for Orient Point’s guests—Ocean Terrace, Palm Grill—are actually shared with Maho Beach Resort, so couples may encounter children at meals as well as on the beach. The Ascot Pub & Sports Bar is in Maho Village, and having an off-campus eatery is a nice innovation in the all-inclusive world. The rooms’ keys are innovative, too, because they’re in the wristbands, thus sparing guests the indignity of locking themselves out because they’d put a key card in a pocket with a cellphone.
The Phillipsburg Sibling
A few miles to the east, the 257-room Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort Casino & Spa is also adults-only, yet it has a different vibe. Whereas Orient Point is marketed as a five-star, Great Bay is sold as a four-star. A couple could pay as little as $310 Advance Purchase plus tax in October (in a Serenity Ocean View, $353), or $391 in February (just $428 for the Serenity Ocean View). Even a 1-bedroom Butler Suite costs as little as $614 around President’s Weekend. But the differences between these two adults-only Sonestas don’t stop there.
Great Bay is not merely a darned good beach; it’s a gorgeous beach, a full mile of white sand and calm water. It’s a peaceful beach, too; you see cruise ships in the distance, but you don’t hear planes, and there are few, if any, children. Great Bay offers watersports as well as tennis, a spa/fitness center, organized activities, etc. Guests can walk to downtown Phillipsburg (10 minutes), taxi over to Maho Beach (Tantra, Casino Royale, Maho Beach Resort, the free air show), or rent a car (about $50) for visiting the French side, so although they forfeit Ocean Point’s more luxurious digs, they can mix the excitement of Sint Maarten with a low-key, adults-only beach hideaway.