A Tale of Two Islands: Belmond’s Exquisite Caribbean Escapes Will Make You Rethink Paradise

Virtuoso, the global leader in luxury travel, recently announced its Virtuoso Hot 10, and the Caribbean island of Anguilla landed in the #3 spot. The report names destinations experiencing the largest percentage of year-over-year growth in bookings for summer 2024.

Just a 25-minute ferry ride away, the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) Q1 2024 data ranks Saint Martin as one of the leading Caribbean destinations, showing a notable improvement compared to the same period in 2023.

The shared French and Dutch island saw an increase of 21% in visitor arrivals in January, February, and March 2024, a significant rise considering the challenges faced by the tourism industry in the region due to the global pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

A popular tourist destination known for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisine, it is also one of the most popular locations in the Caribbean for island hopping to Anguilla. 

Kenneth Bryan, Chairman of the CTO’s Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism, suggests that the region will benefit from key developments in 2024. These include increased air capacity throughout the year and enhanced access between destinations.

Luxury hotelier Belmond, owned by LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), makes island hopping in the Caribbean even more enticing with its collection of stunning properties in St Martin and Anguilla, two of the region’s most idyllic locations. 

Situated on the French side of the dual-national island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten, La Samanna, a Belmond Hotel, is reminiscent of the French Riviera with its vibrant turquoise and peach-striped umbrellas dotting the island’s most exclusive beach, Baie Longue.

Cap Juluca, a Belmond Hotel, is a stunning property on neighboring Anguilla island. This luxurious beachfront resort is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and white sand beaches along Maundays Bay.

Both properties landed on the coveted Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards list in 2023 for best Caribbean resorts. 

Those considering a multiple-island vacation in the Caribbean should choose a region where the islands are close to each other.

A short ferry ride separates the two Belmond resorts, offering guests the chance to enjoy the spirited island of St Martin and the blissful feel of Anguilla without the chaos of another airport experience disrupting their stay.

Belmond has developed a diverse portfolio of luxury experiences, catering to all types of travelers, from historic European city escapes to iconic train travel, each brimming with its own rich narrative.

red striped umbrellas on beach in st martin
Image Credit: Casandra Karpiak

St. Martin’s Beachside Bliss of la Samanna

Situated in the Leeward Islands, the French side of Saint Martin lies east of the US Virgin Islands and boasts nearly 37 miles of picturesque coastline. 

Island temperatures range between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and low humidity, gentle trade winds, and brief, intense rain showers contribute to its paradisiacal weather.

Lush, tropical foliage surrounds Belmond La Samanna, named after the original owners’ three daughters, Samantha, Natalie, and Anouk. Walkways along the resort wind through beautifully manicured gardens and connect the property’s rooms, suites, and villas.

Inside, a palette of pastel blues and peaches inspired by the natural hues of the Caribbean Sea invites sojourners to embrace the relaxed pace of island life. Ink blue ombre fabrics and seashell accessories mirror the island’s vibrant marine life and culture.

Originally built as a large holiday home to welcome family, friends, and business associates, it was known as the hideaway for A-list celebrities starting in the mid-70s. It’s a true mix of French seaside glamor and Caribbean paradise.

The property’s spacious rooms, suites, and eight villas with palatial living rooms and whitewashed exteriors sit perched on a cliff overlooking Baie Longue, where guests can enjoy exclusive access to the beach, free from the presence of any other hotels.

“The beach, without question, is the star attraction. As soon as your feet touch the pure white sand, all your cares slip away. I’ll never forget enjoying a picnic lunch right on the shore, waves lapping as I gazed out at the vivid turquoise waters,” shares Andy Medearis, a travel expert and founder of Deals Points.

The enormous, private beach cabanas, measuring 15 feet by 15 feet, include food and beverage service, private beach chairs, an outdoor shower, complimentary champagne, and Bluetooth speakers.

The hotel’s stylish beachside restaurant, Laplaj, sits next to an infinity pool, providing the ideal setting for savoring a sunset Aperol spritz.

Vibrant, impressionistic artwork adorns the walls, as do works by Sir Roland Richardson.

“There’s not a single Belmond that doesn’t have an interest in original art, but art is really built into our DNA,” shares La Samanna General Manager Eleonore Astier-Petin.

Richardson’s work is all around the main building corridor. “He’s our godfather when it comes to art, but we’ve been very active since Hurricane Irma, trying to shine the spotlight on young, up-and-coming regional talents.”

 

The cozy spa offers mindfulness activities from sacred stone activation to bio-resonance to iridology. You would not expect these treatments from a Belmond hotel, but after a long trek from the West Coast, I was grateful for the chance to relax and unwind.

The indulgent Sun Preparation Treatment prepares visitors’ skin for the hot Caribbean sun with a full body polish, an outdoor tropical shower, and a soothing soundtrack of chittering birds. The treatment ends with a blissful cranial reflexology session.

“Another standout for me was the on-site spa. After a morning of hiking around St. Martin, their massage treatments worked wonders on my tired muscles. Nothing beats relaxation time in the spa garden, serenaded by tropical birds,” continues Medearis.

Belmond La Samanna also offers signature excursions like hiking with the Arawaks alongside resident archaeologist Christophe Henocq and a pre-dawn boat ride to Tintamarre, a former mid-century aviation strip in the Saint Martin Nature Reserve.

“Having stayed at several high-end Caribbean resorts in my travels, La Samanna continues to capture my heart year after year. I’d choose it as my home base without hesitation on any return trip to St. Martin. 

“The location can’t be beaten either, steps from the iconic beach and a short drive from charming coastal towns. No matter how many global destinations I explore, La Samanna will always feel like coming home. It’s a rare find that gets better each time.”

infiniti pool overlooking beach in anguilla
Image Credit: Casandra Karpiak

The Allure of Anguilla at Cap Juluca

The tiny neighboring island of Anguilla is only 35 square miles and is a popular destination for beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts. It boasts 33 beaches with pristine white sand and turquoise waters.

A new 18,336-square-foot ferry terminal at the port of Blowing Point features a VIP reception area and six immigration stations, simplifying travel between St. Martin and Anguilla. 

I flew into the airport on St. Martin from New York. The flights were easy, and going back and forth between the islands on the ferry was simple. Getting to see both places made my trip really special,” comments Jenoa Matthes, founder of The Travel Folk.

Belmond Cap Juluca sits on a soft, white, sandy beach next to azure blue water. Designer Lauren Rottet’s recent renovation transformed the resort into a modern-luxury paradise, honoring its Moroccan architecture and Caribbean roots.

All 108 guest rooms boast ocean views, showstopping bathrooms, and outdoor living spaces, with connecting suites offering the flexibility of different room types.

Anguilla, or “rainbow island,” was initially inhabited by the Arawak tribe, who referred to one of their gods as Juluca, symbolizing the rainbow. Some buildings represent the names of Moroccan cities and towns. Other areas, like the garden of the new Guerlain Spa, bear rainbow-inspired flowers.

Each intimate villa has beach chairs, a water cooler, towels, and attentive beach attendants. Even when the hotel is at capacity, it feels private and secluded.

Cap Juluca’s 400-person staff contributes to its incredibly high return rate. Resort Manager Anthony Bradford explains that guests become family the minute they arrive. The staff’s warm smiles and the island’s tranquil energy create a stand-out atmosphere. 

“We are known for our staff and team. And that’s why we have such a large number of repeat guests. It becomes a family with our staff and with our guests, and they feel really comfortable. It’s a family atmosphere, really low-key, laid-back, and private.”

Cap Juluca has a soul. Guests connect to the property and the staff, captivated by the resort’s beauty, serenity, views, expansive property, and privacy. But the culture and palpable energy of the Arawaks give this blissful island its true meaning. 

That energy radiates in the new Guerlain Spa, which opened in June. The spa focuses on elements intrinsic to Anguilla and the Guerlain wellness experience: water, salt, and botanicals. The philosophy is rooted in naniki, a term from the Taíno Arawak language that signifies being spirited and full of life.

The spa is an impressive addition to Cap Juluca. Its unique 18,000-square-foot design features an open-air concept with views of Maundays Bay. Water is incorporated throughout the property to reflect the healing powers of Anguilla. Other amenities include an open-air courtyard relaxation area, jacuzzi, cold plunge pool, and retail boutique flush with Guerlain products.

red striped umbrellas on beach in st martin
Image Credit: Casandra Karpiak

If You Go

American Airlines offers direct service to Anguilla from Miami twice daily, with a third daily flight coming in December to ease high-season traffic. American, Delta, United, and JetBlue offer flights from major U.S. cities to St. Martin. A short ferry or private water taxi can take you to Anguilla.

Wayne Kask, founder and CEO of Discover West Central Florida, recently island-hopped between Belmond properties and cannot wait to return. “It was truly a vacation for the ages when I island-hopped between the idyllic destinations of St. Martin and Anguilla this past summer. Spending time at the Belmond properties in each locale — Cap Juluca and La Samanna — I was immersed in lush tropical surroundings and impeccable service. It’s an itinerary I’ll long remember and one I’d happily repeat.”


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Travel Writer at Savoteur

Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, FOX, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more. When she’s not traveling, she can be found at hockey arenas all over BC cheering on her two young sons.