Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
La Samanna wipes out the competition with sumptuous amenities, amazing tropical grounds, and the island's best beach
You may get the sense that La Samanna is an exclusive resort simply based on the number of secure gates it requires to enter the property -- if you don't have a remote for the first one (which you inevitably won't), you'll simply wait for one of the area's posh residents to fly by in their Mercedes or BMW to let you in. But once you hit the second gate, a security guard will be waiting to confirm you as a guest before granting you access to the 55-acre oasis that lies beyond the gilded wrought-iron fence and palm tree-lined pathway.
With just 81 guest rooms spread across a series of two-story white adobe buildings, and a handful of expansive clifftop private villas, La Samanna is reminiscent of a whitewashed Mediterranean village nestled on the shores of a Greek isle. Overflowing gardens filled with massive palms, bright allamanda flowers, and brilliant bougainvillea wind throughout the guest rooms and suites before giving way to a modest circular drive that serves as the hotel's entrance point. Here, terracotta tiles and mahogany wooden furnishings are simple yet elegant, with views of the ocean dominating the surroundings.
At both the beach and the resort's two pools, the tone is refined but not too quiet -- guests that want a cocktail (or five) won't feel as if they have to whisper their orders, and plenty of lounge chairs on the decks and in the sand mean there's no need to compete for the best spot (like at many resorts). Of course, there are certainly no crowds to worry about here because Baie Longue is virtually private -- St. Martin has no "private" beaches in the literal sense of the word; however, the only way to access this beach is via the resort, which, as mentioned, is tightly guarded. The vibe remains the same elsewhere at La Samanna: whether having a Shiatsu massage and body scrub at the Elysee Spa, drinking cocktails in the Moroccan-themed Baie Longue Bar, or watching the sunset from your room (more than half of which were renovated during the fall of 2011), you'll have the same discreet yet utterly accommodating experience.
Not surprisingly, the resort is a legendary celeb favorite -- Jackie Kennedy Onassis reportedly visited the property time and time again, and the King of Calypso, Harry Belafonte, has been known to frequent the resort.
The downside to all of this seclusion and pageantry is, of course, the hefty price tag -- sometimes to an offensive extent. Bottled water at the Beach Bar is a ridiculous $10 and daily use of one of the full-service beachfront Balinese-style cabanas will set you back a whopping $550. If you plan on looking closely at the prices while visiting St Martin, consider staying elsewhere. The closest rates (at Grand Case Beach Club and the Westin Dawn Beach) might be a fraction of La Samanna’s, but the two resorts don't come close to offering the same level of luxury.
On the French side, along the island's prettiest beach -- but with nothing else nearby
Few St. Martin resorts are embedded in nature to the extent that La Samanna is, with 55 acres of lush grounds providing a secluded sanctuary far removed from the rest of the world. The give-and-take to such isolation, of course, is the lack of anything within walking distance. Exiting the resort takes about five minutes on foot alone, and once you're outside the hotel gates, another five minutes in the car is needed just to get to the main road. But really, with the island's best beach located on-site, there are few beaches worth packing up for -- probably only the white sands of clothing-optional Orient Bay will interest guests, but it's a good 25-minute drive away.
Airy, Mediterranean-style ocean-view guest rooms, plus six massive villas
Divided into two sections -- beachfront and ocean-view -- all 81 of La Samanna's Mediterranean-style rooms and suites have stunning panoramas of Baie Longue (if not necessarily direct access) from comfortably furnished private terraces or balconies. Inside, the color palette is mostly creams and whites with punches of color in bright orange and yellow pillows, one-of-a-kind artwork, and hand-painted bathroom tiles. In the suites, you'll find what the hotel calls "petite kitchens," which are really just kitchenettes with sinks, mini-fridges, a two-burner stovetop, and a small amount of cookware and serveware.
Six over-the-top villas were completed in 2008, featuring enormous three- and four-bedroom accommodations with private pools and expansive wrap-around terraces. Perks for guests here include optional butler service, a private concierge, private beach cabanas, massive kitchens filled with groceries, and VIP airport transfers.
Two great pools, gorgeous gardens, a wonderful spa, and top-notch fitness facilities
An exceptional fine-dining venue and two casual options -- plus several unique dining experiences
La Reserve is La Samanna's formal restaurant, with nightly French-Caribbean fare and quite possibly the best buffet breakfast on the island. The views alone are a worthwhile experience, with the canopied deck overlooking an expanse of Baie Longue. More casual options include the Beach Bar, which has daily lunch and dinner twice a week (including Monday nights' lobster barbecues), and The Grill, with light fare overlooking the main pool.
La Samanna also delivers a handful of unique dining experiences, including private dinners in the 12,000-bottle wine cave, private beach dinners, and "Comme Chez Soi," a program in which guests create their own menus. Room service is also available 24 hours a day.
Easily the most luxurious resort in St. Martin, the 55-acre La Samanna resort brings tranquility to an otherwise tourist-filled island. Featuring two beautiful pools, an extensive wine cellar, a yoga and Pilates studio, a European-style spa, and the island's most pristine beach, this 81-room, eight-villa retreat is hard to beat. The vibe is about as fancy as it gets for St. Martin, so of course everything -- from the nightly rates to the dinners and spa treatments -- comes at a sky-high cost.