I need a little break from holiday posts, so I’m doing a Throwback Thursday post instead.
These are photos from my stay at the Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa from this past summer. If you’re wondering where to stay in St. Maarten (a.k.a. St. Martin), I can definitely recommend this place! My family has visited this resort twice now through a timeshare plan that my parents have. The resort has two sections: a hotel and suites. Timeshare owners are generally placed in the suites (condos) from what I understand. These rooms have their own full-size kitchen, so you don’t have to purchase all of your meals at restaurants. These kitchens come equipped with a fridge, microwave, oven, coffee machine, toaster, etc.
The bedrooms in the suites are really nice too:
This resort in not all-inclusive. In fact, I’ve been told that none of the hotels or resorts are all-inclusive. I’m not sure why that is, but I’m willing to bet is has something to do with the cost of food on the island. More on that in a minute.
The Westin Dawn Beach Resort is secluded away from the rest of the island, which has it’s pros and cons. The pros being that it’s really quiet and peaceful, and you don’t get a lot of traffic near the resort. The cons being that there is absolutely nothing else in this area except for other resorts. So, if you need groceries or toiletries you need to make the long drive into Simpson Bay.
We usually rent a car and my dad drives through the hills and tight curves of the island. I’ll be straight-up honest with you – I would not be able to drive there. I hate navigating the streets of Toronto during winter, when the lanes are half the size they’re supposed to be because they’re covered in snow. Nevermind having tiny unpaved roads, with no streetlights, and tons of blind corners. If I ever go the island by myself, I’m hiring a cab for the week.
We’ve made friends with a taxi driver named Marcel, and we hire him to drive us around at night when the roads are especially scary. He’s really friendly, and everyone seems to know him, so if you find yourself on the island you try to track him down. He knows the history of the island really well and always tells us interesting stories.
Back to the resort.
The main building is huge! It holds two restaurants (that share a kitchen), a fitness room, day spa, casino and several large meeting rooms. My dad and brother have used the fitness room before (I swear it’s always men in there), and my mom and I have used the spa. The spa is really nice, but I couldn’t stow my camera in my bathrobe so there’s no photos to show you.
Instead, let’s look at this view from the top floor of the building. Nice right?
And here’s a photo of the courtyard that no one ever seems to be in.
Outside the main building you can find the patio seating for Ocean – one of the two restaurants. You can eat breakfast, lunch or dinner out there which is really nice.
Beyond the patio is the pool, which has a swim-up bar that I’ve never used. You can kind of see it in the lower right of this photo.
Behind the pool is the beach. Yes, this resort has its own beach! It’s small, and narrow, but it’s quiet and that works for me. I love to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean while lying on one of these beach chairs. It’s one of the few activities that actually make me feel completely relaxed.
Honestly, even though we’ve stayed at this resort twice it still feels surreal to me. This place is just so fancy! We don’t usually stay anywhere quite this nice – we’re just lucky that our timeshare gives us this opportunity.
Let’s take a look at the restaurants, shall we?
P.S. It’s a good thing that I keep a travel journal, because there’s no way I would remember what I ate otherwise 😛
Aura | St. Maarten Restaurant
“Aura offers the finest selections of steaks, chops, and seafood on Dawn Beach with an award-winning wine list.” – from the Westin St. Maarten website
Cuisine: Steak and Seafood
Hours: 6:00 PM – 10:30 PM all days of the week except Wednesdays
Atmosphere: Fine Dining
Aura is the fancy, adults-only, restaurant at the Westin Dawn Beach Resort. We didn’t eat at Aura during our first visit, so it was on our to-do list when we went this summer.
Once we placed our order we were presented with a complimentary shrimp ceviche starter. The ceviche was excellent – very tangy and fresh tasting.
We met Aura’s sous-chef, Chef Manny, before our first course arrived. He was very friendly, and we had a nice chat with him before he had to leave to prepare for a large group that was coming in.
We didn’t know that there would be free ceviche, so we had ordered the Spice Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna with Seaweed Salad, Soy Glaze and Wasabi Cream. I think they changed the dish a bit from what was on the menu, because this obviously wasn’t spice crusted. This was one of the best dishes of the night though. The tuna was butter-soft and had great flavour.
Here’s where things start to get… expensive. If you’ve ever eaten at a Ruth’s Chris restaurant before, you’ll understand what I mean.
There are some dishes that come as a whole: protein + side dish. For example, the Steak Oscar (in the back of this photo) which comes with two filet medallions, a crab cake and asparagus. That dish cost about $36.00.
I ordered the 6 oz Filet Mignon, because it was the smallest steak item on the menu. The steak alone, with nothing on it, cost $33.00 (ouch!). The side of creamed spinach cost $6.00, and the side of truffled mac and cheese was $7.00. Neither side was particularly exciting. The steak was cooked exactly the way I liked it, and it was delicious, so overall I can’t say that it was a bad meal. It was just pricey for what you get.
You might be thinking, “if you thought the prices were too high, why did you eat there?”
That’s a valid question. Honestly, meat and fish are pretty expensive on the island as a whole. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a restaurant or a grocery store, you’re going to pay more than you’re accustomed to. That doesn’t mean that all food on the island is really expensive, but some items are priced quite high.
The shopping and recreation on the island can be pricey too, because they cater to people who are stopping by from cruise ships. You can find many stores that sell high-end watches, jewelry, photography equipment… all things that I would never buy there. I can get better prices on those items here in Canada or in the United States. The tours to the nearby islands of St. Barts and Anguilla aren’t exactly cheap, but it’s the prices on those islands that will burn through your wallet. Hey, there’s a reason why St. Bart’s is a celebrity hot-spot – they’re some of the only people who can afford things there!
We usually entertain ourselves by lying on the beach, wading in the ocean, and walking through the towns. You can do all of that for next to nothing and still have a great time.
Many of the resorts also host in-house activities and events that you can do for free (or at least for a not-too-crazy-price). My favourite event at the Westin Dawn Beach Resort is Pirate Night!
Every Wednesday, Ocean restaurant hosts a special pirate-themed buffet dinner that features an 80-something-year-old fire-eater.
Ocean | St. Maarten Restaurant
Hours: 7:00 AM – 11:00 AM; 12:00 PM – 2:30 PM; 5:30 PM – 10:30 PM
We’ve eaten at Ocean twice now, and I can say that the food has improved since our 2012 visit. It seems that executive chef, Anthony D’Costa, has done a lot with Chef Manny to improve the quality of the food.
Pirate Night is held on the patio section of Ocean, and the food is set up in buffet stations. You can eat as much as you like, and enjoy the show as the sun goes down. You can see the tiny stage in the middle of the dining area in the photo below.
I was really happy with the selection of food this time. There was salad, gumbo, different kind of bread, roasted veggies, seafood, beef patties… so many options!
We almost didn’t get a seat at the show during this trip, because we didn’t know that you were supposed to make reservations (oops!). We didn’t have to do that in 2012, and I didn’t notice the small print on the flyer from the lobby. Luckily, Chef Manny was able to find an open table for us (thank you!) and we had a great time. The fire-eater was entertaining and frightening all at once, there were Flamenco dancers in pretty dresses, and the night ended with a live steel pan band. What a great way to spend time in the Caribbean!
This is not a sponsored post.
I have not been compensated in any way, nor have I received any incentives to write this post.
Every product or service mentioned or shown in this post was paid for with our own money.
Chefs Manny and Anthony were aware that I’m a blogger. I told them I would share my experience at the hotel on my blog (my explanation for taking photo of everything on the table).