Sensational St. Martin

Find sophistication with a tropical backdrop at La Samanna resort

La Samanna, a Mediterranean-inspired resort on the island of St. Martin, is the perfect mélange of French flair and Caribbean cool. It's a marriage made all the more heavenly by delectable food, great wine and a beach to satisfy any white-sand connoisseur. This unique hideaway was built in 1973 on the French side of St. Martin to take advantage of the expansive 55 acres of tropical shoreline and powdery sand. The original hotel design—inspired by the whitewashed houses of the Greek Isles—proved timeless and attracted glittering guests such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Since then, La Samanna has undergone many tasteful renovations, most recently in November 2007, when several of the breezy, simply furnished suites were updated and the already enormous wine cellar was expanded (more on that later).

During check-in, I find myself happily distracted by the sights of La Samanna. The lobby opens up to a wrap-around balcony decorated with bonsai desert roses (a vibrant pink tropical bloom), and I'm drawn to this perfect vantage point to marvel at the Caribbean Sea laid out before me. Five lavish white beach cabanas (which come complete with daybeds, sunscreen, complimentary iPods and an attentive beach butler) indicate the inhabited end of the shore. The rest is a gentle, unpopulated arc of sand marked only by a few footprints and, farther out to sea, a pod of passing kayakers. My wife and I are escorted to our ocean-view room where we find a king-sized bed, plasma-screen TV and our very own private terrace overlooking the crescent-shaped Baie Longue Beach. It is one of 81 suites and rooms strung along the foreshore and, we are pleased to discover, comes with a welcome gift of a chilled bottle of Moët & Chandon.

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