- No pool, spa, or fitness center
- Located along a crowded and touristy area
- Parking lot only has six spaces and is not free
- No room service
This swanky hotel serves up a fun beachfront lounge and overall international flair
The polished Holland House Beach Hotel has the stylish presence of an historic property (white adobe walls with mid-century style framework, and arched balconies with curved wrought iron railings) with a modern spin (breezy teak decks with minimalist furnishings, and pops of color with bright accents). Built in 1979, the property has undergone steady upgrades in the last decade or so, and the resulting vibe is authentic yet of-the-moment.
Radiohead and other mellow beach tunes flow in and out of the breezy oceanfront space that comprises the lobby, restaurant, bar, and open-air lounge. Tropical cocktails are a specialty, and throughout the day the vibe at the lounge is one-part party, one-part chill. At night, the scene is even slightly clubby, with house music playing and cocktails flowing. However, with the majority of Philipsburg’s crowds taking off with the evening’s departing cruise ships, guests at the hotel are left with a relatively calm-and-quaint environment.
As the name implies, the Holland House is run by Dutch ownership and management, and as a result, a certain global flair can be found in details such as the original Dutch artwork in the lobby and hallways, and the international newspaper editions delivered daily to guests' rooms. Although the beach here is beautiful, there are plenty of better beaches in St. Maarten -- for instance, Orient Bay and Grand Case -- but the ability to have the bustling city of Philipsburg out one door and the ocean out the other is a sure bet for travelers looking for more than just lazing on the sand all day.
Still, you’ll fight for elbowroom with day tourists fresh off the cruise ships docked at nearby Point Blanche. At least guests at Holland House don’t have to worry about finding a beach lounger and umbrella -- this service, which usually costs a pricey fee for non-guests, is free for those staying at the hotel.
Sandwiched between shopping and the beach, in the tourist mecca of Philipsburg
One side of the Holland House Beach Hotel fronts the beach and tourist-filled boardwalk, while the other facade faces Frontstreet, one of the more popular shopping drags on the island. Here, you’ll find the usual beach junk and souvenirs, as well as a host of upscale boutiques from Tiffany and Cartier, to Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. The nearby port is not only a hub for visiting cruise ships, but also a great place to pick up a day tour of neighboring islands such as Saba and St. Barts (don’t forget your passport). Along the boardwalk, cute beach cafes selling cheap beers and unexceptional food abound, though most of them close in the early evening, around the time the cruise ships head out. Several upscale restaurants, as well as a handful of casinos, are within walking distance, but those in search of nightlife action might find evenings a bit too quiet in the immediate vicinity.
Updated rooms are modern, crisp, and spacious -- and all feature private balconies
There are plenty of hotels in St. Maarten that need renovations; the Holland House Beach Hotel is not one of them. Crisp, clean, and white with soft-color accents, all 54 of the hotel’s rooms have a sophisticated air. Hardwood floors are a big step above the typical white tile found in most beach hotels, and simple furnishings are sleek in either white lacquer or dark-wood veneer. Recessed lighting creates a touch of intrigue, and balconies feature modern furniture. The small bathrooms, however, are a bit of a crapshoot, with some providing a glimpse of the hotel pre-renovation with plain white tile, motel-style vanities, shower/tub combos, and fluorescent lighting. Newer bathrooms are much more nicely equipped, with vessel his-and-hers sinks, ornately tiled showers, and Grohe fixtures.
The cost of the upgrade from a Street View Superior to a Beach View Deluxe is well worth it. The rooms are virtually identical but the view creates a hard-to-beat beachy ambiance that a boring (and even a little sketchy) street view just can’t compete with. Junior Suites are also worth the upgrade for the amount of additional space, providing ample leisure seating and a second entertainment center. A single Penthouse Suite features a double-size balcony with Jacuzzi, a separate living room, a kitchenette, and unique decor details like funky cowhide wallpaper and a sleigh bed. Beware though: This unit is one of the unlucky ones with an older bathroom.
Few amenities beyond a great restaurant and bar
The Ocean Lounge Bar & Restaurant is possibly the nicest part of Holland House Beach Hotel. Teak decks furnished with low, modern wicker furnishings and wooden tables and chairs are shaded by broad umbrellas and a breezy overhang, keeping the sea views at the center of attention. At the bar, cocktails are the main event throughout the day. In the evening, guests may want to start with a drink in the lounge before moving to the restaurant for fresh fish and meat entrees with a slight French influence. Also recommended: ordering a bottle from the wine cellar, which features hundreds of vintages, and asking for one of the banquet seats closer to the ocean to listen to waves crash along the shore.
The holidays are great and all -- but what makes them even greater is when we're gifted a Caribbean getaway…
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