It seems I’m not destined to linger long on the island of St. Martin, at least not yet. My first stay lasted a fleeting six hours, as an excursion from a cruise ship. My most recent visit was roughly 22 hours and happily I was able to spend the night; a wonderful night in fact.
But, one night at La Samanna was about six nights lacking. This resort merits a full week and it’s place on the roster of Orient-Express hotels, an exclusive chain where cookie cutter hotels are not allowed. If an island vacation is in your plans, take a close look at St. Martin and La Samanna.
St. Martin is an unusual island, because it’s owned half by the Dutch and half by the French. However, no armed guards need to patrol this frontier. Nobody bothers much about the border crossing; it’s just a marker along side the road. Unlike some neighbors who can’t abide one another, the Dutch and French have coexisted peacefully on St. Martin for 350 years. La Samanna Resort is on the French side and sits about 15 minutes from Marigot, the capital of French St. Martin.
Originally build in the early 70’s as a private residence and romantic retreat, the owners named the property after their three children, Samantha, Anouk and Nathalie. The white structure looks deceptively Greek or Mediterranean. The decor inside and out, utilizes blue fabrics and dark wood. Both offer up an eye-catching contrast to the abundance of flowers and the clean lines of white archways. I’m always amazed at how designers can manage an affluent yet casual, beach look. The overall atmosphere of the property feels more like a private villa than a hotel.
La Samanna was built on a steep cliff side, thus improving all the ocean views and enhancing the steady sea breeze. Tropical landscaping predominates at the resort, camouflaging most of the buildings. This lush, jungle-like effect no doubt requires hours of labor to give it a natural appearance. To the right of the resort, the island topography makes a curve, giving La Samanna a crescent shaped beach. Called Baie Longue (Long Bay) it’s considered the most beautiful stretch of beach on the island.
At La Samanna you can pick from several types of suites. Besides the bedroom, my suite had a kitchen, living room, patio and a large, roof top terrace. The bath and closet area ran the entire length of the suite. Holding two shower heads, the kidney-shaped shower stall was something I’d not seen previously. Brightly painted tiles on the bathroom walls add a whimsical touch. The extra deep tub was definitely intended for two.
Like many temperate destinations, La Samanna has an open air restaurant, thanks to the consistently good weather and no evidence of insects. The cuisine is contemporary French. I ordered the rich lobster bisque and spinach tortellini.
They recently added lighting which shines onto the water’s edge. As dinner progressed, we could see fish drawn to the lights, some looking at least four feet in length. Occasionally, their slender bodies broke the surface and we were rewarded with a quick flash of gleaming silver.
From my table I continued watching the waves slapping the shore in their timeless, gentle rhythm. The scene had a mildly hypnotic effect on me, so the wait staff probably assumed I was tipsy, but I hadn’t touched a drop! After crawling out of bed at 5:00 a.m. admittedly I wasn’t at my best, waves or no waves.
I often think, it’s the small details which make a resort or hotel stand out from the crowd. They’re clever touches you can recall years later and at the time, you think to yourself, “wow – what a great idea!” Near the entrance of each suite was a large, up-turned conch shell, filled with about four inches of water. I assumed they were just decorative, but learned otherwise. They provide a quick way to wash the residue sand off your feet when you return from the beach. It was clever, decorative and unique. A small thing perhaps, but a detail I will always remember.
La Samanna has a spa facility and offers a wide variety of water sports.