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Making a Weekend on St. Maarten Happen: Where to Stay

February 26, 2013 at 6:48 PM | by | Comments (0)


One of the Sonesta's two pools has this awesome view of Maho beach & the end of the runway

Wondering when is the right time to jet down for a long weekend on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten? Right now, that's when. We did it and you can too, easily. All this week we'll be sharing the details on making the dream of sunning, sipping cocktails and spotting St. Maarten's notoriously low-flying planes a reality.

We're going to give it to you straight: the toughest bit of a planning travel to St. Maarten is figuring out a hotel that won't break the bank and isn't too far away from the good plane spotting at Maho Beach. The high season of winter takes hotels near sold-out levels, prime properties that look like hotels are actually condos or time-shares, and the island doesn't have an abundance of nice hotels as it is.

All that being said, there are a few to consider:

· Sonesta Maho Beach All-Inclusive Resort & Casino
The key words here are "Maho Bay" and "all-inclusive." This is the only hotel within walking distance of Maho Beach and the Sunset Bar & Grill, where planes pass right over your head. You literally walk out of the hotel and down the beach—max 8 minutes if you want to go all the way to the beach bar with no rental car needed. Furthermore, the hotel rooms boast killer views of the action, so you never need to miss an aircraft arrival (even if you're still in your PJs).

The "all-inclusive" but means it's not cheap, averaging $450 nightly for a room. Still, that $450 includes all meals, booze, hotel activities (poolside Bingo!) and access to the best plane spotting locations that aren't directly on the beach. For more details and to check out our photos of the property, head over to HotelChatter.

· The Mercure on Simpson Bay
This was our second choice after the Sonesta, as we've previously used their scuba diving program. The rates are reasonable at 145 Euro per night (cheap for this island!), it's part of Accor's hotel chain so you'll get Accor points, it's not a long drive at all from Maho Beach (definitely not walkable, though), and the beach on Simpson Bay is lovely, quiet, and directly across the bay from the airport tarmac. Think sunset photos with the black blip of a departing flight.

· The Travel Inn
We can't exactly recommend it, but a friend has stayed here and he survived. The Travel Inn is very close to the action of Simpson Bay but accommodations are minimal. It's best for a traveler who's on the island for one night or two, and doesn't care about beaches or resort relaxation; you're just here to see the planes, essentially, and want the cheapest option (it starts at $119/night).

· The Turquoise Shell Inn
Also in Simpson Bay, the Turquoise Shell Inn is another budget option that's more island-resorty than the basic Travel Inn. It was recommended to us by a plane spotter friend, who stays there when the Sonesta is sold out. The Turquoise Shell Inn is independently owned and operated, runs from $145 per night, and offers free WiFi.

Note: We considered staying at the Westin on Dawn Beach, but then we'd have a long drive, including the traffic of Philipsburg, every time we wanted to go anywhere. It's not in a convenient location, is expensive, doesn't have the best reviews, and would have been plain inconvenient for a stay of only a few nights. We know many of you like to collect those SPG points, so just had to share this warning.


A LIAT plane lands, as viewed from the Ocean Terrace wing at the Sonesta

For our most recent SXM visit, we stayed as guests of the Sonesta because we ran into the problem that the island was nearly sold-out, but all photos and opinions are completely our own.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]

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