More about The Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa, St. Maarten
We didn't stay here but spent time at the spa and the casino. The resort opened in December of 2006 and is the nicest hotel on the island. It is tucked away in an upscale neighborhood. At $400 a night one can understand why we chose to rent a house instead. It plays frequent host to conferences. The entire facility is smoke free!
Perfect resort - if you like that sort of thing
We stayed at the Westin Dawn Beach for the first two nights of a week-long stay on St. Martin. My kids really love big swimming pools and great service. They got both at the Westin. The place has a lot to recommend it. In fact, it is a perfect resort, so go there and have a great time. I will mention a few things that I didn't like about it but these are personal and should not deter you if you like big resorts:
1) There is nothing local about the place. You do NOT need to go to St. Maarten for this resort. In fact, you cannot tell you are on St. Maarten if you are at this resort. There is no local food. No local culture. Not a thing. So if you are going to St Maarten to see St Maarten, you will need a car and plan to leave the resort often.
2) The restaurants are really expensive, though with pretty good food. We rented a car for $30/day and saved more than $30/day by leaving the resort for some meals. The close-by Mr. Busby's and Beau Beaus are cheap alternatives. You cannot walk to any restaurant because of the hills so you must have a car or take a taxis to go anywhere outside the resort.
3) The gardens will be great someday, maybe but they are quite new and undergrown. The palm trees are laid out in rows and many were still tied up during our stay. Sometime in the future, they will be tall and gorgeous but they'll still be laid out in rows. Not a natural look - more for people who want their resorts manicured.
4) Internet and all amenities are expensive. I wonder why more expensive resorts offer fewer free amenities. Anyway, this resort charges, charges, and charges - just the way all good resorts do.
I cannot really complain about anything about our stay except that I didn't like it from the moment we registered. But this kind of hotel is not my cup of tea. As I mentioned, we booked into the Westin for the kids, who like big pools. We gave them the Westin's for a couple of days before we moved to a small charming hotel at Orient Bay. The kids loved the Westin but didn't complain once after we moved out despite losing the pool and the bar and the rows of baby palms.
Will Definitely Be Back
My husband and I just returned from a week's stay at St. Martin's Westin Dawn Beach. The hotel is beautiful, and as many other posters have noted, is making improvements every day. Below is an honest assessment of our experience. Before you read on let me stress that we had a fantastic time and would go back to this resort. I realize that some of the "negatives" I will note are extremely nitpicky and that overshadowing all of this was top-notch customer service. From beginning to end we were treated extremely well.
The hotel is set at the bottom of a very steep hill, and as you approach is does look a bit sterile, industrial, and unattractive. In their defense, it's rare to see any building from this view, but as the week went on I realized that they are likely working to improve this by adding some bamboo-looking roofing material. This should help with the asthetics a bit.
The lobby area is very nice, and definitely metropolitan looking. It's not a typical open air lobby that you might see in many other island resorts. While it has islandy accents, it does give off a more cityish vibe.
Upon our arrival we were greeting warmly with a beverage and a cool cloth to refresh us after a long trip. We received an ocean facing room and the view was amazing ... better than we'd expected. This was not the first room we were given, though. While we requested a room that was not facing construction, we were given the dreaded "odd numbered" room. Our view was of a "courtyard," outside which there was a parked tractor and bulldozer. They moved us the next day to a room just across the hall, without issue or argument. My advice would be to let them know nicely that you are unhappy with your room, and you will likely be acommodated.
The rooms are beautiful and brand new. Our king sized bed was comfy, but the sheets were not heavenly by any stretch. I would say they were 200 count percale at best. The shower made up for it though, and so did the flat screen TV and daily afternoon cocktails overlooking the beach and the ocean (not the pool!). Woke up to the waves crashing every day. Fanstastic.
The pool area has obviously been given the most thought in terms of layout and design. It's beautiful. Plenty of teak chairs with cushions, and cabanas for shade along the side. The pool bar is lovely and has a slightly polynesian feel to it. There are also chairs on the beach, and there is waitservice in both areas.
The Nitpicky Stuff
I will admit that it seems they gave up in other areas. The elevator area is in the back of the hotel, toward the kitchen that is shared by both resort restaurants and by the employees. I feel they should have a service elevator, because it wasn't uncommon to be in an elevator with large laundry carts on wheels, etc., and the area generally smelled like the back kitchen of a restaurant. This didn't seem well thought out to me. Also, the hotel has 100 rooms on each floor. While our view was fantastic, it was a long walk to and from the elevator. Forgetting something in the room was a hassle, and corridors were narrow and stuffy. The business center consists of two computers. Why not double the size? The property is certainly large enough. And the children's center (which we didn't use) was tucked in behind the business center with no windows. If I were a parent I would want it to be more centrally located. The spa and gym are located on the third floor of the resort, again, with no windows. The gym is very small, and you could as easily be working out in your basement as at a Caribbean resort. Why not utilize more of that ocean front space? It just seemed to me that some of the common areas were not well thought out.
We had the bufffet breakfast most mornings and really enjoyed it. Unlike most resorts we've been to, the buffet itself is located inside. No worries of bugs or birds. Come to think of it, even eating outside every day we didn't see any birds lurking around tables that had been left. This is not usually the case in other resorts we've visted. We did have dinner one night at Ocean and it was delicious. The rest of the evenings we made our way off the resort.
Personally, we liked the location of the hotel because it was about midway between Phillipsburg and Grand Case. The driving is a challenge, especially at night, but you get used to it.
Overall we really enjoyed this hotel and St. Martin in general, and while this review is already extremely lengthy, I'd like to mention a couple of other highlights:
We rented a car from Mohamed at Panaromic Car Rental. Fantastic experience and would highly recommend him. His price was great ($194/week including taxes) for a Hyundi Getz w/ French plates. Can't beat it. It was the best money we spent all week.
Two amazing dinners at Il Nettuno and Le Tastiven, both in Grand Case. Highly recommend.
Waikiki Beach at Orient Beach. Ask for Ben. He took good care of us.
And, as other posters have said, bring a cooler. We bought booze and beer early in the week in Phillipsburg. This was a good move and saved us a lot of $$$ during our own happy hours on our lanai.
By the way, before I left I read many postings about concerns or bad experiences with crime on the island. We experienced just the opposite. Everyone we encountered was extremely friendly and at no time did we feel in danger. We drove all week and parked our car without incident and felt safe the entire time. As a matter of fact, I found the people here to be friendlier as a whole than in any other island I've visted, and I've been to many.
If you've booked at the Westin, you will not regret it.
Great Spot - But Get A Car
Like many people here, we were a little worried about the status of the Dawn Beach property. We arrived on February 16th for a six night stay. This was our third time to St. Maarten and the spot where the Westin is at is literally on the border of the French side of the island. Driving from the airport is a little tricky, but not too bad. You get to see (unfortunately) what is happening to St. Maarten on the dutch side is overbuilding of condo's and a ton of traffic, particularly around Phillipsburg.
Once we arrived, my family was greeted with some guava juice and a friendly reception. Being a platinum member, we were upgraded to an ocean view room (1164 if I remember correctly) which was right next to the Aura restaurant/pool area. The room was great - large bathroom, nice amenities, flat screen TV and a minibar that doesn't charge if you move stuff around (our daughter enjoys soy milk, so we needed a place to keep it cool). The little patio was nice, but we were pretty bitten up after dark, so bring some bug repellent if you plan on sitting out there after dark.
The pool and beach area were perfect for us - shallow area for kids, deeper areas for the adults. The ocean is a little rough, so be careful with your toddlers. Take the walk up the beach to Mr. Busby's. $0.75 Carib's from 11-4 and a great place for grilled lobster at night.
In terms of other places to go, you pretty much need a car. Taxi's were expensive to grand case, which is a good spot for dinner (a lot of restaurants, but we didn't go there). I highly, highly recommend Astrolabe. The setting/staff/food there were fantastic. Go for the "package" meal that comes with dessert. Beau Beau's is a little closer and was decent - music and dancing and reasonable food. Captain Olivers was okay but we had poor service and the food wasn't that great. For the kids, they have a pond with a shark, a sea turtle and a few other sea creatures for their entertainment.
Le Gallion beach is a great spot for kids as well. About a ten minute drive North into the French side. Very calm water and a nice setting for a day at the beach.
We did the kids club one day and to our pleasant surprise, Merinda, the person who did the kids club in Grand Cayman (we stayed there in 2006) had moved to this Westin. Our kids loved it and gave Mom and Dad some time to relax during the day.
The only drawback of our entire trip was having to go off property to eat (we ate at Ocean once which was good). We still preferred the Westin Grand Cayman, but this was a very close second.
Very pleasant experience
We were also concerned about our stay Feb 26 to Mar 1 after reading the reviews, but were pleasantly surprised by our experience.
The beach is wonderful and the pools very nice - although the comment about a lack of shade is correct. There was a shuffling during the day with people with trying to either get into the shade or into the sum as the shade from the palm trees moved with the sun.
The hotel room was very pleasant. While there is still construction up the hill, we were not once disturbed by construction noise. The only sound we heard was the faint sound of the ocean, which was wonderful.
The food at the hotel was good but overpriced. We also found Mr. Busby's to be a good option for dinner - it is a short walk down the beach if you don't mind a very short climb over some rocks (we enjoyed it but the rocks can be a little slippery and your feet will get wet). Skip breakfast at Mr. Busby's - it was aweful.
The Westin consierge was very helpful in setting up dinner reservations and even suggesting which nights to head to the various towns (i.e. Grand Case has a festival on Tuesday nights, which we enjoyed).
Our only real disappointment of the trip was the fitness center. It is located in the middle of the hotel with no natural light. It is also far too small for size of the resort and has poor ventilation - the fitness center was steamy and the hotel seemed uninteresting in addressing the complaint. The fitness center has four treadmills and one eliptical and there was a wait to use the equipment on several mornings. There is a sign posted with a 30 minute time limit, but it was widely ignored (even with people waiting) and no Westin staff to monitor - we witnessed ugly confrontations on two mornings between guests trying to pry people over the limit off machines. Also, there were no mats for floor exercised (I went out to the nearby carpeted hallway, which also had the advantage of being much cooler).
We found getting to the hotel easy (we had directions faxed in advance), although traffic on the Dutch side of the island is congested. We were easily able to get around the French side of the island and explore.
Overall, we had wonderful experience. The hotel has the very high standards you would expect from a Westin.
Hideous Ecological Nightmare
I used to love this place when it was the Dawn Beach Hotel, back in the late 80's and early 90's. It was Shangri-la, the garden Of Eden-a Caribbean Paradise. The beach was magnificent, and naturalized vegetation and lagoon was St Maarten in all its glory. This Westin is an abomination. Hideous-it looks like a shopping Mall parking lot. They destroyed the beach and all of nature's natural infrastructure-created an ugly concrete monstrosity.
I would never stay here. Any place on the island is better than this. Don't do it-just stay home and go to a hotel there, don't waste your time travelling to St Maarten to stay here.
What a great hotel and island!
We stayed at the hotel from Feb. 21- 26 and thought it was fabulous! The employees were accomodating and friendly and did their best to please. We thought the lobby, casino, disco and lobby bar were very nice. The daily juice in the lobby was a nice touch, too. Our room was on the third floor with a great direct ocean view over the pool. The shower was huge and wonderful to share!!! The only restaurant we ate in at the hotel was Ocean, which was very imaginative, delicious and great portions. It was comparable in price to a nice restaurant, not outrageous. The beach towels are big and fluffy and you can get as many as you want. The hot tub was steaming hot and very fun in the evening. We did not mind the construction next door at the residences and did not mind it on the property, of which we saw or heard very little.
We rented a car which is highly recommended. My husband and I are not ones to just stay at the hotel. We explored the entire island and found the BEST beaches and tiny restaurants! Mullet Beach is a must. Quiet some days, full of life and fun French people some days. Strong, pull you down waves one day (very funny!) and calm, sleepy waves the next time. Lots of starfish to pick up and study. Cheap drinks, too. We also loved Friar's Beach. The beach is beautiful and the Friar's Bay Beach Club (restaurant and bar) is lovely. Great people working there, fun drinks and you get the chairs and umbrellas for free if you eat or drink from there. The first restaurant on that beach was lame. I think it was called Kali's or something. Dumb. Maho Beach was fun...full of life and a cool experience to see the planes fly right over you for videotaping. Very pretty water! Orient Beach was cheesey; too crowded with people mostly there to stare at the naked people. If you can get to Pinel Island off of Cul De Sac, try to go. It was closed off with people and police due to a protest from the islanders. From what the locals told us, it is a beautiful beach worth seeing...very unspoiled and fabulous. It made us want to see it more! Too bad. On our last day we finally made it to Grand Case, the little town and beaches. So sad we didn't find it earlier. Very quaint place with lovely cafes and such right on the beach with the water lapping up on your feet. The cafes were matching dollar for dollar the euro to attract people. The one that looked great to us was on the beach called the Calmos Cafe. Do it!
One of our favorite things was to pay for the ferry to St. Barths, rent a moped and cruise around to the most amazingly beautiful and French beaches we've seen! Great looking people everywhere! The hills were challenging for a shared moped driven by someone who hasn't done it before...if you've seen the movie "Dumb and Dumber", that will tell you how we looked on the VERY steep, skinny and windy downhills and uphills. An experience for all, and it will surely bond you to your spouse!!!! That island is RICH and very clean everywhere. We are sooo going back when we can! The boat ride over was beautiful and calm. The little cafes and bars everywhere were laid back and quaint. The people were also very polite.
Some restaurant tips for St. Maarten: Mama Pizza on the road out of the Westin on the way to Captain Oliver's. FABULOUS, tiny and cheap. you can eat outside and overlook the marina area. Stay away from eating at dorky Captain Oliver's. DUMB! We also loved the little coffee/pizza place on the far north end of oyster pond called Le Frigate (past the turn for Cpt. Olivers going north) was precious! Go there for coffee and croissants. The little Mom and Pop's store next to Mr. Busby's was expensive and the lady was rude, but full of stuff if you need it.
We loved our stay and will go back if we can! Be adventurous and don't just stay at the hotel....you'll miss soooooo much if you do!
Very nice Westin hotel, but didn't seem too caribbean
Our family (my wife, 17y/o son,12y/o son, and myself) stayed there for a week at the end of February. Our accomodations were very nice (enjoyed the beds!) and the service was good, but for us the resort didn't have a very "Caribbean " feel. Walking down the hallways or in your room you could just as easily have been in a Chicago or Atlanta Westin. We've been to many resorts throughout the Caribbean and Mexico and at the Westin I had the nagging sensation that we really hadn't gotten away.
Other impressions: (1) We heard a lot of grousing by the staff (three or four employees) about how they weren't paid enough etc. As I said before, the service was good, so maybe they were just geeting used to the Westin way. (2) We would've liked some organized activities at the pool and /or beach...volleyball,etc. (3) Went to Grand Case for a couple of meals and enjoyed them very much (4) If you go down the beach, towards "Beau Beau's" and wander back by the marina, you'll find a small "Quik Trip" -like store wher you can get snacks, lotions, liquor and the like for a reasonable price. (Incidently, the restaurants in that area are good also...walkable..but be careful getting back to the Westin after dark...you have to scramble over rocks...we used my wife's cell phone as a flashlight)
In summary, enjoyed the island; the Westin was fine; but if we return we'd probably look for a resort that's a better " fit " for us.
Westin was nice with room for improvement
We stayed at the Westin March 4th-9th. The weather was wonderful and always a breeze to keep you comfortable, Careful because you don't notice how quick you can burn! The airport was easy and no problems. Renting a car is a must for the Westin. You will be trapped otherwise. There is no transfer provided by the westin from the airport which is disappointing as you would expect a resort like the westin to have some sort of shuttle. It takes a good 25 minutes to get to the westin from the airport and if you have never been to the Island it is a bit hard to find. Look for the small westin signs. Driving is treacherous in St Marten. The roads are not in top shape, the traffic is a nitemare in many areas and the hills are extreme especially the one leading to the westin. Roller coaster quality!
The westin itself is nice but not as carribean as you would hope! The hallways go on forever and the elevators are for everyone including staff and carts and everthing else. The staff is nice but alot of the help is from somewhere else and can't answer much about the island itself. The locals who work there seem a bit disgrunteled andyou hear them complain alot among themselves about "management"
The pool area is great. The nicest part of the entire resort. The hot tub is nice and big!You can get as many towels as you like, the teak loungers are comfy and there is plenty of shady areas. The beach is beautiful and the water is amazing! The pool area restaurant is ok w/ limited options. Swim up bar is nice don't be in too much of a hurry for anything. If you get sick of the pool food you can dare cross the rocks to get to some other little eating places, nothing great but cheaper and a more basic variety.
The restaurants were a disappointment. Ocean is ok but nothing great and overpriced for all meals. Again service was slow. We tried to eat at Aura but were treated poorly by the manager who couldn't get over the fact that we did not make a reservation and wasn't afraid to insult us to our face and then after some
grumbling tell us he could seat us. We told him forget it at that point. Mind you there was hardly anyone in there. I wonder WHY???? Very disappionting and not good for the reputation.
The rooms were very spacious and nice, the beds were comfy but the sheets were a blend at best but overall ok. The showers were heavenly. We were immediately upgraded to an Ocean view room upon arrival which was nice. everything always seemed clean. There was alot of construction but you were not bothered by it at all. Not much noise for alot going on. They are busy putting all the final touches in place.
Over all it was a nice stay but wouldn't choose to go back there. They need awhile to work out all the little issues which are not that major but everything should be great for the price you pay for everthing there. Casino is fun and something to do if you don't feel like leaving the premises.
Don't forget to go to Orient Beach it is fun and worth the short trip. Downtown Phillipsburg is only good till 6pm a ghost town at night. St Marten seems nice especially if you stay at a time share and with people who can show you the ropes!
Very Disappointed in this Westin
We were very disappointed with this hotel. As suggested with the other reviews, the hotel could have been in Chicago or London -- there is nothing beachy or Caribbean about it. Service in the restaurant Ocean was terrible. We tried to order breakfast off the menu and the 2nd day of our visit what we ordered simply never arrived even after waiting nearly an hour -- we finally gave up and left when the wrong food was delivered to us. Dinner on a night we chose not to leave the property took so long to be delivered to our table that our waitress offered us complimentary drinks. One day of our 6 day stay our room was not serviced in spite of the $45/day service fee. Generally, the service was mediocre at best and when theseproblems were brought to the attention of management, they were simply shrugged off.
On the positive side, the beach was pretty and the pool area is quite luxurious. However, that is not enough to motivate us to stay at this property again -- particularly when there are so many excellent hotels on the island.
Westin Dawn Beach locations
I understand there are 3 hotel facilities that use the Westin Dawn Beach address. Can someone give me advice as to which has the better rooms and locations? Does one have better access to the French side and are the facilities and rooms as nice as the others?
Re: Westin Dawn Beach locations
Pretty sure that you are taking about Dawn Beach, where the Westin Resort precides. The others like the Dawn Beach Club, and another property who's name excapes me are condos and time shares, that are owned by Westin/Starwood Properties. I am also pretty sure that if you do stay in either, you have access to at least some of the Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa facilities.
So the real resort is the Westin resort. The others are, or were supposed to be residential "add-ons".
The locals were not happy with losing their favorite hidaway beach. I can relate, as when I lived on Maui, we were not happy with losing the great Fleming Beach, to the Kapalua Resort and Golf Course.......