Love in the Leeward Islands: Sweet Suites and Sweet Dreams
By Melanie Reffes
Where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean, Leeward Islands are a string of stunning isles spanning 400 miles between Puerto Rico and Martinique. Courtesy of the Spanish, the islands south of Puerto Rico were named ‘Sotavento’ or the Leewards while the islands east of Puerto Rico were known as ‘Islas de Barlovento’ which translates to Windward Islands. Starting with the Virgin Islands, Leewards include Antigua, St. Maarten, St. Martin and St. Kitts and the smaller isles of Anguilla, St. Barths, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Nevis, Montserrat and Guadeloupe. Take your pick of the lovely Leewards and fall in love all over again.
Get Sassy in St. Maarten
The Dutch Caribbean hub of the Leeward Islands, St. Maarten and St. Martin are wooing couples with a boatload of summer deals and romantic to-do’s. A seashell away from the Princess Juliana International Airport, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort are the perennially popular all-inclusives on the beach. For those with kids in tow, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort invites with nightly rates in the summer as low as $135.00, per person, compared to $205.00 during the winter. At the adjacent adults-only all-suite Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, rates start at $228.00 in the summer, $309.00 in high season. A host of wedding and honeymoon packages are offered year round.
Working with the Sonesta Resorts, Artemia is the largest event planning company on the island specializing in destination weddings. From soup-to-nuts, details are impeccably arranged for the big day. “Whether you’re planning an extravagant wedding or a small and stylish celebration for family and friends,” said Maressia Bailey-Mohamed, wedding planner, “our island adds magic to any ceremony.”
In St. Martin, the beach is just the beginning at C’est La Vie on the western tip of Terres Basses or the Lowlands, as the locals call this quiet neighborhood. On Plum Bay Beach, the tres romantic villa comes with a heated pool on the deck, Jacuzzi, fire pits and a Chef serving poolside or inside the palatial dining room. Also on the romance radar, Sandy line is unique with a tropical reef aquarium, grand piano in the living room (yes, really!), interiors designed by Philippe Starck and a tennis court.
For the bragging rights alone, couples in the mood can propose on a mountaintop with 360-degree views. For adrenalin seekers, Rainforest Adventures St. Maarten at Rockland Estate is a natural high on the ‘steepest zip line in the world’ and the chairlift called the Souliga Sky Explorer that sashays nearly 3,000 feet to the top of Sentry Hill where the sky-high bar is sublime for a celebratory cocktail. For fine dining with a side order of magnificent views, Emilio’s is the go-to for a nosh and a nibble. Tours booked online get a twenty percent discount during the summer.
For those who prefer to propose on terra firma, it’s a big thumps up (or ring finger) at Tijon Perfumery in French St. Martin. Although a white lab coat may not be the most romantic outerwear for a proposal, the class called ‘Sensuous Scents’ hits the sweet spot as couples mix and match oils guaranteed to ignite the senses.
Amour in Anguilla
Test-driving luxury is delightfully affordable during the summer on the British isle across the sea from St. Maarten. Stay awhile for the Summer Festival from August 1 – 11 that thrills and chills with colorful pageants, parades, boat races and street parties.
On Shoal Bay West Beach on the southwest tip of the island, you’ll live like royalty in the Antilles Pearl at the Altamer Resort. A super villa designed by architect Myron Goldfinger, whose work has been exhibited in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, 12,000-square-foot masterpiece is striking with a geometric chalk white exterior. With a lift to traverse the three-floors, guilty pleasures include butler service and a 23-speaker sound system with 7 control panels for easy access from anywhere. A 50-foot skywalk hovers over the beach and a rooftop terrace with insanely fabulous 360-degrees views is easy on the eyes. Weekly rates start at $22,500 to October 31.
On Shoal Bay East next to the Fountain Cavern National Park, Zemi Beach House is elegant with a rum bar, spa, seaside dining and ‘Pay for 3, Stay for 4’ deal that includes breakfast. Nightly rates including breakfast start at $495.00 compared to $730.00 the same room fetches during the winter.
Go the distance in a Beachfront Villa Suite with a pool that overlooks the sea, terrace and big kitchen. The Rhum Room impresses with the ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ flight selection heady with shots of 21-year old Appleton Estate from Jamaica and Mount Gay XO from Barbados. Nightly rates through December start at $3,000.00.
Couples love the luxe at The Reef by CuisinArt on Merrywing Bay. Through August 24, nightly rates for a Junior Suite start at $475.00 compared to $750 in high season. With a five-night stay, breakfast at The Yacht Club and unlimited rounds of golf are on the house.
The star attraction on Rendezvous Bay, CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, is also a good summer deal in a Seaview Junior Suite for $550.00, per night, nearly double during high season. For longer stays, book 5 and pay for 4 or go the distance and book 7 and pay for 5.
At the posh Quintessence or simply the Q as locals call it, nightly rates through the end of July go for $650.00, $1,000 less than what you’d pay in December. More like a grand manor than a hotel, couple-pleasers include the 1,600 bottle wine cellar, ginormous outdoor chessboard, Aidan Spa and butler service.
Mango Madness in Nevis
For foodies, or at least those who like mangoes, the summer is a fine time to visit the petite isle across the channel from St. Kitts. From July 4-7, Mango and Food Festival celebrates the juicy fruit with tastings, cooking lessons and bargains at a slew of resorts.
The only beachfront plantation-turned-resort in the Caribbean, Nisbet Plantation Beach Club is dishing up nightly rates for Mango Festival fans starting at $185.00. Stays throughout the summer start at $238.00, compared to $455.00 during the winter and include breakfast and transfers from the airport in St. Kitts or the smaller airport in Nevis. For the party hearty, Culturama is the blowout festival of the year from July 25 to August 6.
On the dazzling beach called Dickenson Bay, Sandals Grande Antigua is, indeed, grand with meandering pathways, fragrant gardens and cobalt blue water. Nightly rates, per person, for a 7-night stay in a Caribbean Deluxe room go for $576.00 in July, slightly less in August. Gratis nights with longer stays are bookable online.
For a romantic dinner under the stars, Sheer Rocks at the chic Cocobay Resort on Little Ffryes Bay serves up equal parts fabulous food and views to-die-for. Book ahead for a table in the wooden dining pavilion draped with sheer white curtains or opt instead for crafty cocktails at the lounge that overlooks the crashing waves below.
Ooh-la-la in St. Barths
At the first hotel to open 60 years ago, Villa Neo turns up the swagger at the exclusive Eden Rock Hotel on the north shore. Dramatic in design, the villa comes with a cinema, gym, Turkish bath called a hammam and nightclub. A butler and chef are on hand and for a day in the sun, chairs, umbrellas and a cooler are set up on nearby Eden Rock Beach. Rates for a 7-night stay through December 15 start at $75,000.
Commanding a prime locale 15 miles southeast of St. Martin, Le Barthelemy Hotel & Spa is a gracious host on the Grand Cul De Sac. Stand out villas include Aqua and Bleu each with a wine cellar and seaview lap pool. Upping the game, a chef works his magic in the big kitchen and staff arrange stand-up paddle-boarding, kite surfing and snorkeling to see the sea turtles. A worth the splurge weeklong-stay runs $41,800 in low season.
Take to the high seas or in this neighborhood the calm waves aboard a superyacht named Joy. Spanning five decks, the sporty crew includes a fitness instructor, physiotherapist and boxing coach. So spacious, joggers can do their thing on the upper deck while the more pensive enjoy a yoga session on the bow. Palatial with floor–to-ceiling windowed cabins, a regal wedding on the open water comes with a price tag of $700,000 in the summer. Bastille Day lights up the island with fireworks on July 14 and for sports fans, St. Barth Tennis Open is on the calendar from August 1 – 14.