Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The most amenities of any property in St. Maarten, 500-plus rooms -- and the crowds to match
The Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino is St. Maarten's version of the Vegas-style megaresort -- minus all of the flair and intrigue, that is. The behemoth 534-room hotel is almost a village unto itself, located along the super-touristy Maho Village shopping center and featuring two pools, three restaurants, a beautiful spa, direct beach access, a casino, more than 25,000 square feet of meeting space, and the island's most popular nightclub. What the resort doesn't have, though, is much style or finesse -- the grounds are adequately landscaped and the furnishings are well-maintained and clean, but overall this 10-acre property has a ho-hum personality, and massive crowds create an atmosphere that is anything but tranquil.
At least there's no shortage of activities and choice when staying at Sonesta Maho. Three restaurants include a beachfront grill, a buffet eatery, and a fine dining option. And two drastically different pools accommodate different types of travelers: At the main Oasis Pool, the grounds are rather lush, and the atmosphere is lively with pool basketball, a swim-up bar, and swarms of crowds. And at the relatively empty Ocean View Pool, the sound of crashing waves might be the only auditory interruption. Nearby, the beach is just as crowded as the main pool, and it pushes right up against a separate resort -- as well as the airport. The beach itself is quite nice with powdery sand and a deep crescent-shaped shoreline. Inexplicably, though, guests seem to enjoy taking their clothes off, despite the fact that it does not say that this is allowed anywhere.
St. Maarten does something that many beach destinations would never dream of doing -- it builds hotels right next to the airport. Aside from perhaps Mary’s Boon Beach Resort, where the heart-stopping sounds of planes might rudely awaken you every morning, no other property is quite as brazenly neighborly with giant 50-ton 747 jets as Sonesta Maho. Right there on the beach, next to the splashing children and sun-tanning parents is a simple chain link fence separating the shore from the runway. And several times a day, guests gather around this fence, lacing their fingers into the chains and readying their cameras as they stand behind a growling, hot airplane preparing for takeoff. The noise is earth-shattering (thankfully the rooms have sound-proof windows) and the heat is unbearable, and yet guests respond to it as if its one of the island’s most charming attractions.
If booming airplanes and boisterous tourists seem a bit too much, consider the Sonesta Great Bay or Westin Dawn Beach, both of which are full of similar amenities – but on a smaller scale and sans the hullabaloo.
Right in the heart of the action on the Dutch side's touristy Maho Village
The Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino is located smack in the middle of the Maho Village shopping center, a touristy stretch filled with shops, restaurants, bars, the island's largest casino, and its most popular nightclub, Tantra. Duty-free boutiques, outlets, and big-name-brand outposts are all crammed into this area, and the traffic is virtually non-stop bumper-to-bumper. This tourist haven combined with Sonesta's direct-access beach make for little reason to head elsewhere; however, some nicer and rather diverse beaches are close by and worth visiting, especially given the resort's proximity to the French-Dutch border. Try Baie Rouge on the French side for great snorkeling, or Simpson Bay on the Dutch side for a number of less-crowded beachfronts.
The resort is also located right next to the airport. Thankfully, rooms feature soundproof windows, but the sight of a 747 taking off or landing simply cannot be avoided. Some guests find it thrilling; others think it's a serious eyesore.
Average-size standard rooms with private balconies, but few other points of interest
Sonesta Maho's 534 rooms are separated among the original Sky Tower and the newer Ocean Tower. In 2010, floors six through nine of the Sky Tower were renovated, making them the newest rooms to date with fresh color palettes and completely redone bathrooms. Nonetheless, like the hotel's public grounds, neither the renovated nor the original rooms are all that special. Furnishings are heavy wood pieces that, in some units, seem a bit out of place. In the standard rooms, bathrooms are quite small, and you probably won't even notice the renovations -- toiletries are generic, stall showers are just average, vanities have only one sink, and fluorescent lighting has a Motel-6 feel. Junior suites at least have much bigger bathrooms (and bigger terraces at that), but the rooms themselves aren't a whole lot larger.
All units feature balconies; however, the V-shape of the Sky Tower makes for little privacy. A bit of advice: The rooms are charged by view -- not how recently they were renovated. An old room with an ocean view, therefore, will be more expensive than a newly renovated room with an island view. To ensure your ocean-view room is renovated, book among floors six through nine in the Sky Tower.
More amenities than any other resort on the island
Three distinct restaurants for varied dining options
Ocean Terrace and The Palms Grill are both casual dining options with outdoor seating. At Ocean Terrace, the buffets are the attraction, with an exceptionally large Sunday Brunch that features unlimited free mimosas and Bloody Mary's. During other meals, the options are quite spectacular with rack of lamb, oysters, and an extensive dessert table topping the list.
The Palms is more of a beachy cafe for a burger and fries, while the fancy eatery on-site, The Point, is best for seafood and steak.
In all three of these venues, the style is generic, much like the rest of the resort. Overall, prices are about average, and guests taking advantage of the all-inclusive rates will find the three options varied enough to enjoy most of their meals on-site.
By far the biggest resort in St. Maarten, this 534-room behemoth is a veritable village with two towers, two pools, three restaurants, the island's largest casino, direct beach access, and a 40-boutique shopping center. Most of the rooms have fresh, modern decor and balconies, though the expensive Wi-Fi is a bit excessive. The crowds can get big and even a bit boisterous. But for families and lively vacationers looking for a playground of a resort, the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino is a top choice.