Regal Romance in Sint Maarten
By Melanie Reffes
The perfect pairing, Dutch Sint Maarten and French Saint Martin is a multi-cultural treasure chest sharing one 37-square-mile island. With a big dose of Caribbean charm, the dual-nation ticks all the boxes for romance from funky beach bars, swanky suites and fine dining to red-hot nightlife, duty-free shopping and secluded sandy slivers that rival the best in the world. For twosomes tying the knot, enjoying a honeymoon, celebrating an anniversary or hosting a vow renewal party, put pep in your step and get groovy on a picture-perfect slice of sunny paradise. C’mon, you know you want to! www.VacationStMaarten.com
Between Little Bay and Great Bay, Divi Little Bay Beach Resort invites with 210 rooms, hilltop suites and twosome must-do’s like taking a dip in the freshwater pools, snorkeling, jet skiing, kayaking and shopping in the capital city of Philipsburg; less than a mile away. Not an all-inclusive, meal plans can be conveniently added upon check-in rather than deciding prior to arrival. Named after the resident parrot, Gizmo’s is beachside for a strawberry mojito and side of live local entertainment, Fort Amsterdam Café for passionfruit sorbet, Seabreeze for plenty of those and Purocean for delectable lobster ravioli. Opening in January, Pureroc for dinner on a hot lava rock and The Shack for Caribbean cool bites like salted fish fritters and piquant rotis.
With a boatload of wedding and honeymoon packages, perks run the gamut from candlelit beachside dinners and massages at the Indulgence by the Sea Spa to a bottle of bubbly and complimentary 7-night return anniversary stays. “We always go above and beyond the expectations of our wedding groups to make their special day one they will never forget, “said Anne-Marie Brooks, general manager, “from preparing decadent meals to organizing elegant décor, we’re happy to make the happy couple’s wedding dreams come true.” Scenic venues offer plenty of variety for fabulous photography. “The most popular for receptions is Seabreeze Restaurant with its beautiful views of the ocean at sunset,” said Joan Samson, sales manager, “our beach overlooking Little Bay is a popular choice for the ceremony and for an even more dramatic effect, couples tie the knot at historic Fort Amsterdam with so much island history and charm.” With a friendly staff that adores planning weddings, getting married at the resort is a breeze. “We make every effort to limit to one wedding per day so all our efforts can be focused on that particular event,” adds Joan Samson, sales manager. www.diviresorts.com/divi-little-bay-beach-resort-st-maarten.htm
Sweet Sonesta Suites
Easy like Sunday morning, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort is a tour-de-force with 130 suites like the jaw-dropping Sunset Swim-Out Butler Suite with 180-degree views of
The Caribbean Sea. Upping the ante, the resort comes with 3 pools, 4 bars including the rooftop Sunset Lounge & Bar, variety of restaurants like Azul at the edge of a cliff overlooking Maho Bay, around-the-clock room service and butlers in the top-tier suites. Adults-only and all-inclusive, the top-shelf resort is next to the family-friendly Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa opening on February 1 with 5 additional restaurants and bars, Serenity Spa offering a delicious Guavaberry and Sugar Body Scrub, tour desk, sports courts, Casino Royale and Vegas-style shows in the theater.
For special occasions, the sister resorts are perennially popular with couples from around the globe arriving to tie the knot at the sea view gazebo, frangipani-scented garden or beachfront at sunset. “We offer a ‘Marry Me for Free’ package when booking 50 room nights which is ideal for couples,” said Katlyn Jarvis, romance sales manager, “we also offer 4 or 7 night ‘Suite Love Honeymoons’ that come with romantic dinners and a couples massage.” Wedding packages include ‘Ruby ‘with a cocktail reception, hors d’oeuvres and wedding cake and the regal ‘Diamond’ with an open bar and buffet dinner. The icing on the cake is, indeed, on the wedding cake created by artistes who bake edible masterpieces filled with strawberries, crowned in white icing and wrapped in a colorful ribbon. www.sonesta.com/stmaarten
Just west of the courthouse at 68 Front Street in Philipsburg, Zhaveri Luxury is the go-to for a sparkling array of shiny baubles and bling. With a knowledgeable staff always on hand, the most popular jewelers on the island are also experts at designing unique rings for each couple. “We carry beautiful sparkling diamonds in all sizes, shapes and colors including white, pink, yellow, green, blue and red,” said Deepu M. Budhrani, managing director. Although diamonds are still a girl (or guy’s) best friend, there are plenty of gift options for the wedding party. “We sell a lot of watches and also carry handbags and other accessories which are great gifts for men and women.” A family business since 1983, inspiring romance is a Zhaveri tradition. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure to have had so many engagements in our store,” smiles Deepu M. Budhrani, managing director,” we look forward to assisting more couples celebrate their unions in 2019.” https://zhaveri.com/
Penne For Your Thoughts
Both sides of the island are magnets for foodies who chow down at the Lolo’s on the French side of the island where chefs grill the catch of the day and the plethora of fine dining and Caribbean casual on the Dutch side. In the heart of Simpson Bay in the aptly named Paradise Mall, IZI Ristorante Italiano is a stylish spot for pasta drizzled with primo pesto, succulent mussels swimming in a piquant broth and shareable desserts worth the splurge. Ideal for a romantic dinner, rehearsal party or wedding celebration, the spirited restaurant with an impressive wine cellar can be booked for groups large and small. “We love hosting special occasion dinners,” smiles David Foini, owner, “our chefs will customize a tasting menu and recommend pairings with our fine wines for an island celebration par excellence.” www.izirestaurant.com/
Make it Legal….Anywhere
Pick a spot, any spot and without fuss or fanfare, couples can legally tie the knot wherever they choose as long as both partners are over 18 years old, paperwork is filed two weeks in advance and an official attends to make it stick. Go beyond barefoot on the beach and opt instead for locales you won’t find on the pages of the travel brochures. For ooh’s and a lot of aah’s, creative options run the gamut from on the Tango Catamaran dinner cruise, holding your hat as a water taxi skims the waves and for the more traditional, Roman Catholic Church is on Front Street, Jewish Synagogue is in Simpson Bay and the Court House is open in Philipsburg.
Birds of a Feather
One of those secret gems tucked under the radar of many tourists, Parotte Ville Bird Park is also one of the most unique spots to tie the knot in the Caribbean. On Bishop Hill Road in Belvedare, the park is as un-touristy as it gets and a delightful perch for an afternoon away from the cruise ship pier and the busy beaches. The $10.00 admission includes seed cups for feeding the people-friendly birds that soar through the enclosure. Without a website, human lovebirds contact the park directly to arrange a wedding (the parrots are happy to act as witnesses, should you forget to bring those from home) or a private party. “We haven’t yet hosted a wedding but we’d be happy to arrange one,” smiles founder George as he feeds one of his favorite feathered friends, “our birds are the perfect party guests.” 1-721-580-8516 email@example.com
In the capital city, a blow-out block party called Philipsburg Alive is fun on Front Street, Back Street and on the quaint alleys lined with shops. Every Friday until April 5, the streets bustle with musicians, parades, stores staying open late, restaurants dishing up local favorites, bars pouring generous shots of Guavaberry rum and dance troupes keeping a beat with the crowd. Gratis rides on a trolley make it easy for party-ers to get around. “We want people to feel comfortable to come down early afternoon and then stay for the street entertainment,” said Valentin Davis, Philipsburg Promotional Board.
Save the Date
Carnaval de St. Martin: February 17 – March 6 www.stmartinisland.org/
Heineken Regatta: February 28 – March 3 https://heinekenregatta.com/st-maarten-heineken-regatta/
St. Maarten Carnival: April 22 to May 6 www.sxm-carnival.com/