Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino is a
three-pearl, all-inclusive adults-only resort located just outside St. Maartin’s capital,
Philipsburg. The hotel’s 257 guest rooms and facilities are generic, but the property does offer all the features that travelers would expect from a mid-range resort. The location is
among the hotel's biggest perks, with its restaurants (and many
rooms) offering striking views of Great Bay. The property backs onto a fine
stretch of beach, and its setting is delightfully quiet despite its proximately
to touristy Philipsburg. Travelers looking for a stylish boutique option could try the Holland House Beach Hotel, though it lacks a pool.
Mid-range, cookie-cutter resort with dramatic bay views
more than 50 years, Sonesta Great Bay is among the oldest and largest
properties on the island. The hotel underwent renovations in 2014, but it
appears as though a number of areas were overlooked. The hotel grounds are simple and compact, with the facilities and rooms branching off the round lobby. There are no major eyesores -- everything is tidy and appealing -- but this hotel is far from stylish. The fitness center was enlarged but its no-frills decor is unchanged. New circular
benches and chairs in the lobby match its round layout, but the space could
still use more oomph. The guest room colors are more distinctive, but the drab pre-renovation furniture remains.
picture-perfect views of Great Bay are the showpiece here and the property's long stretch of beach is another unexpected gem.
With virtually no vendors or other tourists, guests really only need to compete
with one another for a spot on the sand. Sonesta Great Bay is an adults-only
property, and mosts guests are over 40, which keeps the party vibe at bay. While the atmosphere isn’t
overly hectic, it’s lively enough to keep things interesting.
All-inclusive options on St. Martin are limited, making this
resort a solid option for travelers interested in package deals. For a higher
rate, the hotel’s sister property, Sonesta Ocean Point, is also adults-only and
all-inclusive, but the rooms and facilities are significantly chicer.
Serene location within a 10-minute walk of Philipsburg’s shops and restaurants
Sonesta Great Bay is set on a
peaceful stretch of Little Bay Road, close enough to the Dutch capital of
Philipsburg to be convenient, yet far enough away from the crowds to feel
pleasantly secluded. Philipsburg is packed with duty-free shops, restaurants, and
bars, most of which are concentrated along Front Street, about a 12-minute walk away. There’s also a buzzing
boardwalk that runs along the white sands of Great Bay Beach. Most cruise ships
dock in nearby Great Bay Harbor, and Philipsburg has a bustling, commercial
ambiance as a result. The hotel is less than a 20-minute drive from Princess Juliana
International Airport, and Fort Amsterdam is a 10-minute walk away. The French
capital of Marigot can be reached in 20 minutes by car.
Pleasant rooms include furnished balconies or terraces plus minibars
at Sonesta Great Bay feature a bright color scheme of golden yellow and lime
green. All rooms include balconies or terraces furnished with clunky wooden tables
and chairs. The views of the ocean are beautiful, but Island View Rooms mainly
overlook the hotel parking lot (though picturesque rolling hills are visible in
the background.) Rooms are clean and modern, but the medium-brown wood
furniture looks dated. Wall-mounted flat-screen TVs are positioned over long
dressers topped with basic coffeemakers. Dressers also hold minibars filled
with soft drinks, and some room categories have liquor and beer. Some room categories also include separate living areas, kitchens, and multiple bedrooms.
Bathrooms have old-fashioned fixtures, magnifying mirrors, and
roomy countertops. Glass walk-in showers are stocked with pump bottles of
shampoo, conditioner, and Gilchrist & Soames brand body wash. Suites in the Miramar Building have bathrooms featuring sleek above-counter sinks and rainfall showerheads.
Three outdoor pools with bay views, four on-site restaurants and bars, and quiet beach
Sonesta Great Bay Beach doesn't have outstanding features, but it checks all the boxes for the typical mid-range resort. The main pool is set in a modest courtyard facing Great Bay with lounge chairs and beach umbrellas. The deck drops down to a
second level, which features an infinity pool with a swim-up bar. This lower
deck also includes a round hot tub and a few cushy day beds. A third, clover-shaped
pool is found by the apartment section of the resort. All three pools are on the smaller
side, with most guests clustering around the infinity pool.
The resort's “limitless all-inclusive” package includes
breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks each day in any of the property's restaurants,
along with beer, wine, and spirits. The main buffet restaurant, Bay View
Restaurant, features a breezy open-air layout and an eye-catching bar area
decorated with blue glass. Set on a lovely terrace, casual Pizzeria Capri
offers more wonderful ocean vistas. The same space transforms into Water’s Edge
Restaurant in the evening, which features a more upscale Mediterranean and
Italian a la carte menu. Il Pescatore
Seafood Restaurant is located off the lobby, and offers a smaller dining area with a more intimate feel. Although this restaurant is set indoors the ocean
views have not been neglected, and there are floor-to-ceiling windows along
one wall. Note that the food is reportedly average across the board.
The hotel backs onto a remarkably pristine stretch of
beachfront. Separated from the main part of Great Bay Beach by sand dunes, this
beach isn’t technically private (none are in St. Maarten), but is generally
free of tourists. It still gets busy with other hotel guests, of course, but
it’s far less crowded than many of the island’s other beaches. The resort's Serenity Spa is tiny but adequate, offering massages, body
scrubs, and other treatments. Treatments can also be arranged outside in a beach
gazebo. The neighboring fitness center is similarly run-of-the-mill, with a decent variety of cardio machines and weights. Golden Casino is located in the hotel lobby and has electronic games such as slot machines and roulette, but no table games. It feels small -- particularly when compared to the enormous casino (purportedly the island's largest) located at the resort's sister property, Sonesta Maho.
The hotel offers plenty of regular activities and events,
including aerobics, board games, dance classes, nightly theme
parties, and live music performances. Guests can also receive day-passes to use the extensive
facilities of Sonesta Maho. There's also lots of meeting and event space for rent and free hotel-wide Wi-Fi. Free parking is available in a lot directly across the road
from the hotel.
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