Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Quiet, understated luxury ideal for self-sufficient travelers
Set within the posh, gated community of Orient Bay, Esmeralda Resort is surrounded by similar hotels boasting spacious, well-designed rooms, colorful Creole-style architecture, and beach service. What separates it from the competition, though, are its 17 semi-private pools -- each of which is reserved for fewer then 10 guests total. As a result, privacy and exclusivity seem to have a greater presence here than at nearby hotels.
Aside from the pools, Esmeralda is at an even keel with the area's other properties -- doing little to pull ahead of the competition, but not falling behind in any way either. The reception area is pretty with bold artwork, pink upholstery, and double-height ceilings. And the grounds are overflowing with bougainvillea, Allamanda flowers, palms, and cacti. A small boutique is just off the lobby, and car rentals can be booked on-site. Additionally, guests are free to use the tennis courts next to the property, even though they technically belong to the neighboring Hotel La Plantation.
Few amenities exist beyond what is within arm’s reach of the rooms. Free Wi-Fi only covers the reception area, and a limited free breakfast is served in the restaurant. And while the resort is not located directly on the beach (none of the resorts in Orient Bay are), it does have a short pathway through lush grounds that leads to Coco Beach, an affiliated bar/restaurant that provides baby-blue umbrellas lined with white fringe, and matching padded lounge chairs free of charge to the resort's guests. Visitors may also charge food at Coco's restaurant, as well as several other Orient Bay restaurants and bars, to their hotel accounts, making the entire neighborhood feel as though it's part of the resort.
The rooms stand out for quality furnishings -- you won’t find the tacky wicker furnishings so common in St. Maarten/St. Martin here. Rather, dark wood chairs and tables with a French Colonial style accent terracotta floor tiles and dramatic whitewashed vaulted ceilings. The beds are surprisingly cozy even though the bedding is just mediocre, and the blue tile bathrooms feature multiple showerheads.
Within walking distance to one of St. Martin's prettiest beaches, in an upscale gated community on the island's French side
Located just a short walk from the lovely white-sand Orient Bay, guests at Esmeralda have quick access to water-sport rental shops, restaurants, bars, and massage huts right at the water's edge. The happening scene, pristine sand, and cerulean crashing waves are a major island draw, and all are within five minutes on foot. Take note: In true French spirit, the beach is clothing-optional.
The Orient Bay location is also attractive for its safety and well-manicured grounds. Monitored by a security gate off the main road, the area is ideal for families or solo travelers. Parking is no problem, as Esmeralda has plenty of spots along a central road from which smaller paths branch off toward the villas, restaurant, reception, and beach. When you choose to head outside Orient Bay, keep in mind that the island tends to have quite a bit of traffic, so be sure to add extra minutes to your estimated travel time when promptness is important.
Spacious rooms with tasteful colonial-style decor
Esmeralda's 18 villas are made up of three to five individual guest rooms for a total of 65 units. Each villa has its own private pool and patio, and all units have their own terrace. Entire villas can be rented out, with interior doors converting the entire structure into one large unit.
Individually, the units are simple and elegant: Terracotta floors and whitewashed vaulted ceilings have a sophisticated island style, as do colorful pillows and French Colonial mahogany furnishings. In the blue-tiled bathrooms, the showers are magnificent, with massive rainfall showerheads, hand showers, and French toiletries that smell like verbena and fig.
Esmeralda's cheapest rooms -- the Deluxe and Superior units -- have sub-par kitchenettes, however. Compared with neighboring resorts, the kitchen supplies are terribly slim: no microwave, few utensils, little tableware, and no toaster. The only thing that even classifies the area by the sink as a kitchenette is the mini-fridge and coffeemaker -- certainly no cooking can be done here. Larger units, however, have wonderful kitchens that are indeed larger and better equipped than any of the units at L'Hoste or Palm Court.
Few amenities beyond the villa pools and beach access
An excellent French bistro with Caribbean influences, and a convenient dining program
Esmeralda's L'Astrolabe restaurant is an island highlight thanks to its acclaimed classic French-Caribbean cuisine with a modern twist. The space itself is laid-back, with yet another one of Esmeralda's pools serving as the centerpiece for the outdoor dining area, and a small indoor dining room and bar featuring mostly traditional colonial decor with a few interesting modern pieces of art. Breakfast at the restaurant is free for resort guests, but the options are few with just a breadbasket, coffee, and juice. Everything else, like fruit, cereal, and yogurt, will cost you extra.
The hotel also has a relationship with most of the restaurants around Orient Bay, allowing guests to charge their meals directly to their rooms. This includes Coco Beach (located just seconds from Esmeralda), which provides free beach set-up service for guests.
Located within an upscale community featuring several resorts, restaurants, and one of the island's best beaches, Esmeralda Resort's colorful Creole-style villas offer seclusion and elegance with semi-private pools (shared among four units), stylish tropical rooms, and a well-respected restaurant -- all within a two-minute walk to the beach. Additional features are few, but for self-sufficient couples and families looking for a lush retreat with a great location, Esmeralda delivers the goods.