Islands fading into clouds on the horizon, warm azure waters, fine powder beaches, French, Dutch and Patois English peppered with Spanish, coral colored fish of every stripe and a frosty “BBC” (Baileys, Banana and Coconut (ours with an extra shot of rum)) as the sun sets a brilliant crimson.

The only things that could be missing weren’t missed in the least.  There was no sign of a jitney, no white parties, no page 6, no traffic jam on the LIE, no jersey shore interlopers, no attitude and no sense of just a hairs breadth from “the city.”  Then again, we accept all of these missing things as just the price of convenience.  Only a few hours from Manhattan, only the cost of a share house and transportation and only mildly icy water – a small price.

Once the secret is out that you can give up all those missing things for less expense and less time in traffic to have the perfect long weekend on the blissful shores of St. Martin, you may wonder what the point of page 6 was exactly anyway and how the best pair of open toes are really flip-flops.

 

Let your friends think that island paradise is St. Barts.  Less than a 4 hour direct flight from JFK, St. Martin is where the streets still hold life and the beaches are undiscovered.

Grand Case, in the French section of St. Martin, like all Caribbean towns, is famous for its unbeatable beachside location, but its French quirkiness, artsy vibe and exceptional Franco-Caribe cuisine set it distinctly apart from the rest.  Unlike the Dutch side (“St. Maarten”), which caters more to sprawling all-inclusive resorts and casinos, French St. Martin trades homogenized glitz for a laid-back, earthy tranquility.  Sure, they might have potholes–but all roads lead to the beach!  And Grand Case’s own claim on Caribbean paradise, Le Petit Plage (“Little Beach”), is an especially glorious arc of white sand melting into the jewel-toned sea.

 

The hidden gem amid the sparkling aquamarine is the double-sided diamond of Hotel L’Esplanade and Le Petit Hotel.

Nestled into the hillside like a secret, luxurious hideaway, Hotel L’Esplanade offers breathtaking views of Grand Case and Le Petit Plage just below.  Each room has its own private terrace, providing guests with a feast for the eyes as an aperitif for a feast of the belly (a short, charming footpath leads from the hotel to the town’s “restaurant row”).  Meanwhile its sister establishment, Le Petit Hotel, at the other end of the tiny town, lounges right on the beach.  Luxuriating at the water’s edge, the rooms on the ground floor have back terraces with stairs down into the sand, while the other floors all have terraces overlooking the beach.  The sound of the surf is your constant lullaby.

 

Together, Hotel L’Esplanade and Le Petit Hotel provide the best taste of unique, French Caribbean charm that one visiting St. Martin could hope for.  Both hotels provide the right balance of vacation luxury, pampering relaxation, and stylish, well-designed furnishings without sacrificing individuality and the beauty and fun of local flavor.

The two hotels have their individual assets to choose from: Le Petit Hotel’s beachside location to Hotel L’Esplanade’s secluded pool with a view; Le Petit Hotel’s indulgent breakfast of French Pastries, for Hotel L’Esplanade’s more spacious rooms and grounds; the beach in your face or a panorama at your fingertips.  The only question is personal preference, and the paradise of choice is all yours.

– Jeffery Owens and Ava Fedorov

Photographs by Socially Superlative writers Jeffery Owens and Ava Fedorov.