The Westin St Maarten
144 Oyster Pond Road
St. Maarten,Sint Maarten
Tel: (599) 543 6700
Westin St Maarten Review
Located on the Dutch Side of St Maarten, the Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa offers 310 guest rooms, most of which are oceanfront and 15 Suites. It is built into the hillside on one of St Maarten’s best beaches, Dawn Beach. There is a casino in the lobby, fitness center, 2 restaurants, kids activities and watersports. As you will see from this review, there are some nice things about this hotel, but there are definitely some shortcomings of both the hotel and St Maarten that you will need to be aware of before you plan a trip here.
Westin St Maarten Location:
The hotel is about a 25 minute drive from Princess Julianna International Airport and about 20 minutes from Grand Case (Known to be the Culinary Capital of the Carribbean). It is right on the border of the Dutch St Maarten side of the island and the French Saint Martin side of the island.
The beach is very nice and private, but it is a little small. Depending on your preference this could either be a bonus or a drawback. I found it to be a bit of a drawback and found myself packing up the family and heading to the French side of the Island where the beaches (such as Orient Bay, Friar’s Bay and Galion Beach) were a little larger and the water was crystal clear and much calmer.
As with most Carribean Properties, I find the rooms to be fairly bland and average, which I guess is ok, because you don't go to the Carribean to spend the day relaxing in the room. This hotel was built relatively recently so the rooms did have Westin's famous Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Shower (unlike the Westin Casaurina in Grand Cayman which had neither). The view of the Ocean was beautiful, which always helps!
The hotel had two restaurants, a beach cafe and a swim up bar (who doesn't love those!). There was a decent fitness center and Spa (which we did not use). The main restaurant, Aura, actually looked very nice, but I rarely eat dinner at the hotel property, especially with the acclaim St Martin has for it's dining.
There is a water sports company, Blue Bubbles, on site that provides “a variety of water sports rentals and activities”. However there were no significant water sports activities at the hotel (other than snorkeling gear), you will need to drive about 15 minutes down the road to find Kite Boarding and other Serious Water sports.
Random Thoughts and Recommendations:
Overall, I would not give this hotel as high of a rating as most Westin Hotels I have stayed at, although, there are not a lot of options in the Caribbean to use points for your hotel stays, so you have to take the good with the bad. As far as St Maarten goes, this is about your only option for using points for a stay, so if you want to go to St Maarten, it is great that there is the opportunity to use points at an “upper end” hotel chain like Westin.
The biggest issue I had with this hotel was the “timeshare” sales people that were in the lobby and hounded you every time you passed them to sign up for the timeshare presentation. This was extremely annoying, to the point that we had to tell them hotel manager to have them leave us alone so we could walk thought the lobby in peace (they were strategically located so that you could not get to the pool or your room without passing them).
As far as recommendations go, here are some things to consider if you go to Sint Maarten / St Martin:
Restaurants: St Martin is known as the Culinary capital of the Caribbean, with the majority of the great restaurants located on the French Side of the island, in an area called Grand Case. You will want to take a drive down Boulevard de Grand Case, a one way street with French Bistros lining both sides of the street to fine some of the best dining in the Caribbean. The restaurants on the north side of the street all overlook a beach and the Baie de Grand Case. Two that I would recommend are LeTastevin and Auberge Gourmande. LeTastevin overlooks the Bay of Grand Case and has a great French-Caribbean menu, as well as a great menu for the kids. Auberge Gourmande is a little more formal, housed in one of the oldest Créole houses on the island, with outstanding food and great service (the owner on site making sure everything was just right – he took good care of our kids too!)
St Barthelemy: This was one of the highlights of our trip. You can take the Great Bay Express Ferry from Philipsburg to St Barts and be there in about 45 minutes. Make sure the winds aren't too strong when you go or it can make for a rough ride.
St Barts is absolutely beautiful and a must see in my opinion. Once you get off the ferry, I would recommend renting a car so you can tour the island (it's only 10 square miles), check out the hotels and hit the beaches.
Next to the famous Eden Roc Hotel is Nikki Beach which is know for its jet set clientele and night life, but is also a great place to rent some beach chairs, have drinks (or lunch or dinner) and spend the day. While you are there, take a walk across the street to a fantastic place for lunch, Kiki-é Mo. Kiki-é Mo is a deli/café, where locals and tourists come to hang out on the terrace and eat Italian-style tapas and panini, while sipping on a bottle of good, well-priced wine, or a cappuccino. St. Bart's can be extremely expensive, so it is nice to know there is a place like Kiki-é Mo that offers great food and atmosphere at a reasonable price.
Loterie Farm Zip Line: Loterie Farm is a fun alternative to the beaches, specializing in hiking in Zip Lining. They offer three levels of Zip Lines – Ti-Tarzan, FlyZone and FlyZone Extreme.
My wife and daughter went on the Ti-Tarzon (daughter was 7 at the time) and my son and I went on the FlyZone. I believe you have to be 18 for the FlyZone Extreme, as it is a much more intense experience (not for us on this trip). The Ti-Tarzan took about 30 minutes to complete and the FlyZone was about 45 minutes. They were very age appropriate and we had a great time.
Allow for some additional time if you are driving here, as it is definitely off the beaten path and pretty hard to find.
Rhino Safari: The Rhino Safari is another fun family excursion to take. It is essentially a jet ski tour around 1/2 of the island (French side), with a snorkeling stop and return back to port. It lasts about 90 minutes and is a great way to see the island from out on the water.
French Side vs. Dutch Side: As a general statement, I would recommend staying on the French side of the island as much as possible. The Dutch side is ok, but very commerical, with a cruise ship port, casinos and very little character. The French side is much nicer and gives you the traditional feel of the French West Indies with better food, better beaches and more charm. The Dutch side primarily accepts US Dollars, the French side accepts Euro.
Points and Elite Status:
The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa, St. Maarten is a SPG category 5 hotel, which requires 35,000 – 40,000 Marriott points per night for a standard room (depending on season – in this case 40,000 for a stay in the winter and spring break season and 35,000 for off peak months). If you are going to be staying for a little while, there is a fifth night free option, which will get you a fifth night free when you use points for four nights.
We were given an Ocean Front Room, which typically cost between $350 and $450 per night, a good value for the 40,000 points. We stayed for 5 nights, and were able to take advantage of the “5th night free” points option. For a total of 160,000 I would consider this hotel very good value for your points, especially when staying for 5 or more nights.
As far as being “Elite Status Friendly”, it did help. Points are only available for standard room types, which means you get a view of a hillside or parking lot, which is not a good view at this property. They did give me an oceanfront room upgrade, so my Platinum elite status did help with that as well as free internet. There was no concierge floor or free breakfast so I didn't get everything I normally do with Platinum status, but it definitely helped. I would have been really bummed with one of those parking lot view rooms.
How to Stay Here with Points:
At a range of 35,000 – 40,000 points per night, there are a couple of ways you can stay at this hotel for free. The first is via staying at Marriott and Starwood properties and earning points through stays. If you are going to try to earn free nights this way, make sure to check out the Marriott Promotion Page – here you will find a variety of ways to earn Marriott points points and any promotions that are currently being offered to accelerate your earning power. This method will take some time, but if you are a frequent business traveler, it absolutely can be done.
The Westin St Maarten
144 Oyster Pond Road
St. Maarten,Sint Maarten
Tel: (599) 543 6700