- Nothing within walking distance
- No umbrellas at beach or pool -- only cabanas for rent
- Pesky on-site timeshare salespeople
The island's best pool -- but a few unusual drawbacks
Arriving at the Westin Dawn Beach will probably be the least thrilling aspect of your stay. Opened in 2007, the boxy, brown facade looks more like a paper bag on its side than a welcoming modern resort.
Things improve considerably once inside, with a warm, contemporary lobby filled with plush chocolate brown chairs, Craftsman-Style leather sofas, and stylish carpeting. Giant mahogany leaves hang from the ceiling, and stone- and fabric-covered walls add texture. The chill vibes are compromised, though, by a clanging and buzzing casino and a lackluster sports-style bar, both of which are plopped right in the middle of this mellow, inviting scene.
The pool and beach are easily the resort's best options for whiling away your day. The double-decker infinity-edge pool is tops, with attentive food and drink service, a swim-up bar, and so many lounge chairs there's no need to wake up early to stake your claim on a good spot. The beach is no more than a hundred yards away, making it easy to switch back and forth throughout the day. Problematic though, is the lack of umbrellas both on the beach and at the pool -- apparently only guests who fork over the cash for a cabana are granted the comfort of shade. Nonetheless, the coastline is beautiful and serene -- if sometimes crowded during busier months -- and from here, the views of the resort's back facade are markedly more elegant than those of its front side.
Aside from the hideous front facade, the aggressive salespeople hawking the resort's neighboring timeshare units are an unpleasant interruption to an otherwise solid resort. Of course, some guests might appreciate the opportunity to trade a few hours of their time for a free night's stay or a gratis day trip to St. Barts.
Along Oyster Bay on one of the island's best beaches -- but nothing else nearby
You'll definitely think you have missed the turn to the Westin when you reach the incredibly steep hill just before the resort. But keep going, and the supersized brown facade will come into view. Such seclusion surely means fabulous beachfront -- and at that, the resort certainly delivers. However, it also means that virtually nothing, aside from a neighboring hotel or two, is nearby. Luckily, the Westin is rich in amenities, and many guests will find all the dining, boozing, swimming, tanning, gambling, and shopping they could ask for on-site.
Any off-property adventures, however, require a car. Fortunately, the resort's Dawn Beach location is convenient for its proximity to both the French and the Dutch sides of the island. The upscale Orient Bay beach community is only 15 minutes to the north, and Philipsburg is about 10 minutes south, providing access to two very different cultures (and countries even). Be aware, though, that St. Maarten is plagued by heavy traffic -- what should be a 20-minute ride to the airport can sometimes take up to 90 minutes.
Average-size rooms with a few design highlights and signature Westin creature comforts
Westin's rooms are spacious for the average hotel room at 475 square feet. Quiet and immaculate, they have a modernized "newness" about them. White bedspreads and pillows are perfectly in order and stylish details such as gently worn leather armchairs, marble tabletops, and ceiling fans with palm-frond blades lend a bit of personality. The go-to Westin creature comforts are also in place: Heavenly brand mattresses really do live up to their name, as do signature robes, and multi-function showerheads.
All of the rooms (save for the 15 suites) vary based only on view (Courtyard or Ocean) and bed size (one king or two doubles). Do yourself a favor and skip the cheaper courtyard rooms -- the views are borderline depressing, especially when compared with the lovely expanse of Dawn Beach seen from the ocean-view units.
An excellent spa and gym, beautiful double-decker pool, pristine beachfront, and entertainment options for adults and kids alike
Features are numerous: a lovely spa that beats virtually every other resort spa on the island, an expansive fitness center with tons of cardio and equipment, a small business center, a great kids' club with arts and crafts and island excursions, elegant meeting rooms, a few shops, and the aforementioned casino and lobby bar. Two restaurants (sometimes three, depending on the time of year) are also on site: Ocean restaurant, which is open for all meals and has a stellar Sunday Champagne brunch; and the fancier dinner spot, Aura, serving surf 'n' turf at rather steep prices.
Two restaurants and a lounge, though closures occur during low seasons
The Ocean Restaurant is the typical hotel restaurant you would expect to find at a Westin, with breakfast buffets, and casual lunches and dinners. The Sunday Champagne brunch is a particular hit, and views from the poolside patio are especially nice.
For fancier dinners, Aura is a French restaurant that mostly serves steaks and fish. Prices are a bit high for the quality of the fare, and like Ocean, the atmosphere is generic.
The Opal lounge and nightclub is only open during high season, and serves small dishes such as sushi and tapas.
The Westin also offers 24-hour room service.
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