Executive Group Travel Blog

Incentive Destination Review; St. Maarten/St. Martin

[fa icon="clock-o"] Dec 2, 2015 4:44:00 PM [fa icon="user"] Marci McCormack [fa icon="folder-open'] Travel Recommendations, Incentive Travel


Year after year St. Maarten is on the list as one of the top destinations in the Caribbean. It is a hub for many of flights throughout the Caribbean and has daily direct flights from New York, Philadelphia, Charlotte, San Juan, Atlanta and Miami. Recently airlines have added busy season weekend direct flights from Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Newark, and Ft. Lauderdale.

So one major perk of St. Maarten for incentive travel is the ease of getting to the island. Another great thing about St. Maarten is the unlimited number of activities available from America’s Cup sailing races, to snorkeling excursions, zip lining, perfume making classes, Anguilla day trips, St. Bart’s shopping adventures, and spa options. A third benefit of choosing St. Maarten is the unbelievable restaurant options, from Grand Case to Marigot and even Simpson Bay as of recently. Finally, the white sand beaches, crystal clear water and eighty degrees year around helps increase the value of the destination.



The one major disappoint with incentive travel in St. Maarten is the hotel options. There are only 4 main options that clients use today with 4 totally different standards.

At the high end La Samanna on the French side of St. Martin offers five star service and is your main option for a luxury classy offering. The food/wine is amazing, the beach is perfect, and the hotel is perfect for a trip of quiet relaxation. This hotel is not a good fit for a young group looking for nightlife or a party setting.



The next level down is Westin St. Maarten. The Westin has one of the best pools on the island, including pool-side cabanas and a swim up bar.   The Westin also boosts a small casino on site, multiple dining options and newer rooms up to the American standard. The one drawback of the Westin is the location. The beach is not as nice as La Samanna but more importantly it is located far away from nightlife or activities on the island and with traffic it can take over an hour each way from the airport. The best part of St. Maarten is the multiple beaches, amazing restaurants, nightlife and endless activities. The Westin is better utilized for those looking to stay on property and not explore. This leaves many conflicted on whether or not the Westin is a good solution for incentive groups. Or the company needs to commit to increasing their transfer budget and give their attendees an opportunity to see everything the island has to offer.

The third player to the scene was recently changed from the Radisson to the Rui Palace with an all-inclusive dining option. The positive for this hotel is the great property with nice pools, multiple dining options, beautiful beach, and number of rooms available. The transfer from the airport is daunting as the property is located over a HUGE hill which makes many guests nervous. Some groups prefer to use boat transfers which is a more memorable entrance to the resort. The location near Orient Beach and more importantly Grand Case is a huge perk but the hill in between constantly presents worry to guests. Leaving many to prefer to stay on property then getting out to explore. For a family focused group, this is a great option!

The fourth player is the lowest standard, the Sonesta Maho. The Sonesta Maho is dated and recently lost a portion of their beach due to past storms washing away some of their sand. It’s a 3-star option that is great for affordable wedding groups or cheap weekends away. JetBlue and Groupon has some great partner deals but it would not be recommended for groups. The property is just not up to the standard for an incentive group. 

There are 2 other Sonesta’s located on island, both Adults Only, Great Bay in Phillipsburg and Oceanpoint also in Maho. I do not recommend Great Bay for any groups given its close proximity to Phillipsburg. Oceanpoint is new to the scene and after a few site visits the jury is still out on the property. The rooms were well designed, the location is great for groups, and the concept is just what St. Maarten needed. There are a few details that the property fell just short including their main “infinity pool,” their front entrance (coming through 3 star property Sonesta Maho), lack of beach/beach access to Mullet and pricing is currently too high for the value. It’s an interesting concept to have a 3 star family all-inclusive resort share the same property with a “5 star” luxury adults only all-inclusive resort.   For large groups the property is also on the smaller end and has a tough buyout policy which includes 7 nights minimum. Stay tuned for updates in the next few weeks after another visit of the property. Overall booking an all-inclusive option in St. Maarten is tricky given the chance to provide guests with a fun dine-around evenings.

SXM Needs More Hotels:

St. Maarten is in dire need of 1-2 more options for good fit incentive hotels. A Marriott, Hyatt or any 4-5 star chain hotel between Cupecoy and Simpson Bay would truly change the incentive market in St. Maarten. If you can afford La Samanna it’s a great solution, if not you can still pull off a great trip at the Westin or Rui, just be aware of significant transfer costs and the distance between the hotel and nightlife options.

Also keep in mind, if you have a healthy budget, the island of Anguilla which is located only 30 minutes away from St. Maarten by boat has 3 great incentive hotel solutions. Anguilla has NEVER disappointed for group trips as the three hotels recommended have five star accommodation and dining options on property.


**For groups looking to golf be aware the St. Maarten golf course is NOT up to standard and should not be used. Anguilla does have a great alternative but there is an added cost for boat transfers over to the course in Anguilla.


Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any entity mentioned herein. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.  

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