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Hotel L'Esplanade
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Reviewed 23 December 2009

I am writing this review now after spending a few hellish days stuck in an airport (yes we were caught in the storm with a 13 month old) and am feeling a bit melancholy not to be in St. Martin anymore or at this magnificent hotel.
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First of all, most likely all of you reading this site are discerning travelers who want the best of everything when you go on a vacation/holiday. I can assure you since my husband and I are the same way, that you are making the best possible choice in a hotel with L'Esplanade. We have been going to St. Martin for seven years now and staying at either Le Petit Hotel (also terrific) and L'Esplanade - both owned by the same people. We now have a baby, so we were a little nervous (well I was, not the husband) about traveling so far away with him and not having the usual luxuries one has at home for one's self and your family. Upon arrival in St. Martin, I was thrilled to see that the amazing owners - Kristin and Mark - were setting up a beautiful full size crib for me (son refuses to sleep in a pack and play) along with a high chair, baby bath tub (and even a baby wrap towel) as well as a pack and play, crib bedding and bumpers. All of my fears were alleviated upon seeing that. My point in telling you all this is that Kristin and Mark will go above and beyond all expectations to ensure that your trip is literally picture perfect. Kristin is one of those rare people who will do anything in her power to make sure that you are comfortable and happy. And, they are always available to help in any way they can if you need it. The staff emulates the owner's attitudes as well. In all of our travels (and we have traveled for 19 years around the world staying at the most exclusive resorts) we never quite received the level of service that L'Esplanade provides, meaning sometimes the rooms would be less than immaculately cleaned, the front desk and workers at a hotel would not appear to be happy or it would seem fake when they greeted you. NOT at all at L'Esplanade -- it was just the opposite. The rooms were so thoroughly cleaned (yes I am obsessed with cleanliness and a germaphobe too) that you could eat off the floors because you knew the cleaning staff took the time to clean every little nook and cranny in your room. And, if you had any requests such as an extra towel or pillow, the request was immediately taken care of with a smile. Nothing was too much for housekeeping.

Rooms are big and spacious and come equipped with full kitchens so you have every amenity that you could ever want for cooking if you so desire to do so. All rooms have a great view of the ocean from atop the cliff and luscious foliage surrounding the big patios.

Shopping - Marigot is the place to shop - or just browse - if you are looking for something different. We also enjoyed shopping and browsing in our backyard of Grand Case as they have some good deals and cute shops. Phillipsburg is also a fun place to walk around, but you must make sure that there are not that many cruise ships that day or you will be inundated with crowds of people on the street. Also, it is a far drive there, so plan to get there early and spend a good part of the day. We have often gone in the morning and had lunch there, then headed home before rush hour (which btw is not fun on the island since there is only one main road and lots of traffic coming home from work during the week). So, just make sure to leave either Marigot (which is a 15 minute drive from the hotel or Phillipsburg - we did not get there this year - which is around 45 minutes - BEFORE 4pm - if not a bit earlier during the week).

Food shopping - if you want to stock up on great items at reasonable prices, definitely take a trip to Le Grande Marche right beyond Marigot. It is a 25 minute drive and well worth it. There is also a local market nearby in downtown Grand Case that you can walk too and buy fresh fruit, french bread, cheese, wine, etc. And, a new market opened called US Markets where they have imported food and it is a 3 minute drive from the hotel. While it has great cheese and other items, it is more expensive because everything is in euros and you need to know a little French too. But it is definitely easy to get to and has a decent selection of cheese, bread, alcohol, specialty items and even baby food, diapers, etc. if you should need any of that.

As for the front desk, they could not have been any more helpful with anything. When our flight was delayed, they did everything in their power to help us out. They even found us another room when we were stuck at the airport and knew that our flight was not taking off. A HUGE thank you to Philomena, Anne Laure, Patricia and Miriam (and anyone else that I am missing) for all of your undying support and help throughout our stay and beyond! You got us through a stressful end of our trip and we are eternally grateful to all of you. It truly was service with a huge smile and nothing was too much to ask of this group of lovely people.

What can I say about the hotel's pool and fabulous bar/restaurant staff? Well, for starters, Allen, Rose, and Alexander - you all rock! We ate all of our lunches and even some dinners at the pool along with drinks and great entertainment from them all. This is one of the reasons that we chose to stay at L'Esplanade over Le Petit Hotel because there is food available and trust me when I say that the food at the pool bar is terrific! I have known Allen for a long time now and he, too, will do whatever it takes along with his great mom, Rose, to make you feel at home and feed you anything that you desire. And, having a pool whether you have a child or not was a very nice thing. We loved the intimacy of the pool and it's lush tropical surroundings along with being able to meet other like-minded travelers who were all so happy to be at the hotel too.

Rental cars - we have rented from Justice for the past seven years and are very pleased with that decision. Justice is the rental agency that the hotel will offer and they are worth every penny. Plus, their prices are competitive as well with other rental agencies too. But, the best part about them is that they will pick you up at the airport so that you do not have to worry about finding the hotel and they will also take you back to the airport - all included in the price of the rental vehicle. This is so worth it when you realize that a cab ride to the airport is a small fortune (approx 2 days worth of a rental). Also, when we were stuck at the airport, Dave from Justice took care of us and made sure that we could get back to L'Esplanade safely. He and his wife even called me on my cell the next day to make sure that we got home ok. Now that is what I call spectacular customer service. I will always rent from Justice, thanks to Dave! :) You are the BEST!

The restaurants in Grand Case are the best on the island and you are literally a five minute walk from all of them. While the euro is ridiculously expensive when converting to US dollars (for those of you from the states like us) - I will give you some pointers on great restaurants that have a 1 to 1 conversion and you can even use a credit card. We have tried nearly every restaurant in our seven years in Grand Case and have unanimously decided that SPIGA is by far our favorite place. Lara (the owner who is terrific) along with Andre (who is also great) will serve you the most delicious food you have ever tasted - rivaling any of the best restaurants in the states including where we live in downtown Philadelphia as well as New York. We also enjoyed a low key meal at the LOLOS, which is four different outdoor barbecue restaurants where you can pay cash and eat great food with a lot of ambiance (local bands, etc). We chose Sky's The Limit a few times for some great ribs and chicken along with seafood and fish too. Beer there is $1 (yes, hard to believe I know...) too! There is one restaurant that is out of Grand Case that we feel is a must for anyone vacationing in St. Martin and this is Marios Bistro. Didi will go to great lengths to make you feel like you are a guest at his house and the food is spectacular along with the bay view. We also loved Sunset Cafe at the Grand Case Beach Club, where we often had breakfast at a very reasonable price (and only a five minute walk) and they would give a 20% discount as well to L'Esplanade guests. The ocean views from this restaurant were fabulous. We had also heard of The Pirate restaurant in Grand Case (off the main road and within walking distance too - right next to the police station) and we finally got to try their food. It is a fun place and prices are reasonable along with great food. Other local Grand Case favorites include Le Cottage, L'Auberge Gourmande and Le Pressoir - but we stayed for three nights with SPIGA since they really have the best food and they are a minute walk from the hotel. And, if you enjoy a glass of wine with your meal, it is nice to know that you can walk home from a huge variety of great restaurants and not have to worry about parking your car or driving home.

Security - second to none. You will never ever never feel worried in Grand Case about anything.

Beaches - we are not big fans of crowded, touristy beaches, so Orient beach does not top our list. But, if you are visiting for the first time, you definitely need to check it out. We loved Gallion beach because the water was super calm for a baby or adult. We also loved Pinel Island and Friars Bay - although we spent every day this trip at the pool since we have a little one and it was just easier.

Ok, I think I have written enough. But, once again, I have to reiterate how truly AMAZING the owners of this hotel are, along with every single staff member. This is a hotel that truly epitomizes top of the line customer service with a huge smile and would easily be equivalent if not better than a five star hotel in the states or abroad.

We already miss you Kristin and L'Esplanade Hotel and hope to come back sometime soon. Thank you again for EVERYTHING. You all really made our trip there as easy and stress-free as it could possibly be with a 14 month old.

Love and hugs, Cheri, Dean and Jacob

  • Stayed: December 2009, travelled with family
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9  Thank deanzeus
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 December 2009

We spent 5 very pleasant nights at this hotel in a beautiful location on the French side of the island. The first week of December was also a very quiet time of the year.which was just what we were looking for.

We loved our loft room. The bed was great, there was a huge open shower, and the kitchen with frig and coffeemaker came in handy. The terrace was nice (we didn't have one of the larger ones) but the chairs weren't the most comfortable.

Location was as described by other reviewers - - very convenient. Walk one way for 5 minutes to a nice beach and the other way for about 7 minutes to "restaurant row". We didn't mind the stairs, but there were a lot of them.. Not so easy to get around the island, though, unless you rent a car. Parking was scarce and traffic not intense, but the roads are narrow and shared with pedestrians, bikes, scooters. etc.

The hotel doesn't have a restaurant but does offer a continental breakfast (pricy).. It seems the rate is high enough for the hotel to include this,.

We didn't use the pool much (preferred the sea) but appreciated that it had a deep end as well as a "stand-up" side..Fellow guests seemed to stay well-served & entertained by the bartender (pictured in other reviews).at the poolside bar.

There was a computer on the main terrace for those without a laptop.

The service was fine, but not outstanding. For example, after check-in at about 4 PM our first day, we were never re-contacted to ask how we found the accommodation or whether we needed anything. Reception was courteous, but ordinary - the young woman opened the door to our room & pointed out how to work the air, fan, safe, etc, and told us to dial "9" if we needed anything. When we did have a request (taxi) the hotel staff was very efficient and pleasant.

Rooms were very clean and kept that way. Only once did we have to wait for the cleaning person to finish b4 we could access the room.

  • Stayed: December 2009, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank moonie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 December 2009

despite our reservations, we chose l'esplanade on the strength of reviews from this website. i was pleased to find that all of my worries were baseless.

*distance from the beach*: yes, l'esplanade is not right on the ocean. but it's in such a gorgeous location (overlooking grand case) that it barely matters. you can access petit plage and grand case beach easily. and if you rent a car -- and on st. martin, why wouldn't you? -- you'll be traveling to other beaches anyway. don't let the distance from the water deter you.

*size of the swimming pool*: it is small. but it's perfectly sufficient. you're going to be doing your swimming in the ocean -- the pool is mostly for cooling off. the swim-up bar is a lovely feature, and the entire pool area is a fantastic place to hang out. it's also open all night.

*grand case beach*: i do not understand how anybody could complain about this beach. the water is warm and wonderful to swim in. there are a few rocks, but that's true of baie rouge, too. there's no seaweed in the water, and the current isn't terribly strong. views north and south are beautiful. anguilla is clearly visible across the strait. it is easy to walk to calmos or california; grand case food beats what you can get at the other island bars (especially orient!). sure, grand case beach isn't as quite as nice as friars, baie rouge, or orient, but the difference isn't as pronounced as advertised. we spent two full days on the grand case beach and had nothing but fun.

*the walk into grand case*: there's nothing alarming about the footpath. it's tough to keep on the circular flagstones, but it's easy enough to walk around them. there are security guards at the bottom and the top of the hill, the path is well-lit, and you'll never be worried. it could be an issue for somebody with a knee problem, or for someone who has difficulty climbing hills, but if you've got a rental car, there are plenty of places to park in grand case. once you're at the bottom of the hill, the top-drawer restaurants (ti coin creole, spiga, hibiscus) start almost immediately. the location couldn't be better.

*breakfast*: you can get croissants and juice delivered to your room -- which, in practice, will mean your balcony, because that's where you'll eat them -- for $15. or you can walk down the hill to grand case beach club. or you can take a walk into grand case, make a left at bistrot caraibes, and get croissants, baguettes, and coffee at the excellent crousti bread bakery. or you can go to the u.s. supermarche, stock up on stuff, and leave it in your immaculate room fridge. you will never go hungry in grand case.

*mosquitos*. they do get in. most likely this is a fact of st. martin living and no reflection on the hotel. i'd say we trapped about two a night. use the balcony screen, open and shut the door quickly, and keep spray handy and you should minimize the damage. i'm hesitant to generalize from my experience because i'm not usually a mosquito magnet, but i loaded up on vitamin a before leaving, and i came away from a week in the island with three bites total. i don't know if the vitamin a had anything to do with that or if we were just extra vigilant, but neither vigilance nor vitamin a can hurt, right?

everything else was terrific. great bathroom, great comfy bed, attentive staff, superb balcony, beautiful views. grand case is one of the most *characteristic* towns on earth -- there's no place quite like it. it is worthy of close engagement, and l'esplanade is an unbeatable base of operations.

  • Stayed: December 2009, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank elleried
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 November 2009

We have stayed at this property for several years. We go to St. Maarten 2 x per year and have been doing that for 14 years. So we've stayed at, and inspected a lot of hotel properties. Plus, I was in the hotel biz for many years, so I am very particular. This small, privately run hotel is wonderful. You will feel like you are at a friends home in a tropical paradise. A friend who has good gardeners and house keepers. The service is excellent. The employees are sweet, all speak english and have wonderful lyrical accents. The views are amazing, and no room is lacking one. The pool area should be in Architectural Digest. It is up a short, well lit grassy hill from ALL of the best restaurants on St. Maarten, and the best dive shop on St. Maarten (Octopus Diving) so your entertainment is close by. Change, walk down the hill and stop in any of the restaurants. or go to your dive shop. Or in the mornings, turn right at the bottom of the hill and go to Sunset Beach, which is the best small beach, (there are other nice larger beaches on the island as well, also near this hotel. Sunset has a fabulous restaurant with beach service.
L'Esplanade's rooms are modern and elegant in a "zen" way, tv's, internet, phone all work well. Staying at this hotel gives you a true exotic island vacation feeling without dealing with the unbelievable traffic that most of St. Maarten suffers from at various times of the day.

  • Stayed: November 2009, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank LynnC1Dallas_TX
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 November 2009

Rooms were clean and large, pool area was nice and staff was friendly. Not much more you can ask for. Located on MUCH less touristy French side of the island. Also, walking distance to town. L'Escapade restaurant in Grand Case is not to be missed. Also, very close to small airport (grand case) if you are traveling to other islands in the Carribean. Highly recommended.

  • Stayed: June 2009, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank JMC25
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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