Both halves of this Leeward Island are bringing back their specific delights
To the north it’s French and called St. Martin and a bit sleepy; to the south it’s St. Maarten, Dutch, and hopping with casinos and nightlife. But Hurricane Irma knew no borders when it blasted ashore on September 6 after its assault on Barbuda in the wee hours of that same day. On the French side, Irma tore marinas to shreds, pulled trees out of the ground, and sent vehicles flying. On the Dutch side, those same catastrophic winds ripped the roof off Princess Juliana International Airport, snapped jetways, and hurled heavy debris in all directions. Total damage to the island was estimated to be
$1.5 billion, and four residents lost their lives.
Perhaps the greatest symbol of rebirth on the island began at the airport, which reopened in October in a tented, temporary building. A fully rebuilt facility (with a new roof designed to sustain winds of more than 185 miles per hour) is projected to open in early 2019.
The first wave of reopened accommodations was largely villas, condos, and smaller hotels; now, the island’s famed beach resorts are also returning. In St. Maarten, Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, Simpson Bay Resort & Marina, and Oyster Bay Beach Resort have renovated or rebuilt and reopened, among others. The adults-only, all-inclusive Sonesta Ocean Point reopens in November.
In St. Martin, the intimate Grand Case
Beach Club opens in November, and villa-style
Esmeralda Resort on Orient Bay opens in November. The biggest splash, however, may be in December, when the cosmopolitan
Belmond La Samanna reopens—with a complete interior redesign—on its serene mile of private beach. Rates start at $832; belmond.com.