In St Maarten, a Hidden Caribbean Beach Hotel


By Alexander Britell

There’s almost always a corner of beginning in every Caribbean destination, one of the spots where tourism truly started on the island.

In St Maarten you find it as you wind around the twisting streets adjacent to Princess Juliana International Airport, the area where a brand new airport once meant a gateway for travel pioneers.

It is just the sort of spot that has been around long enough to be forgotten, a breezy quarter of a place of waving palms and whitewashed buildings.

st maarten caribbean beach hotel sand

It’s all about the beach.

It’s another, hidden corner of Simpson Bay, with one way streets and walled off cul de sacs, a short drive from popular spots like Sunset and Karakter but miles away in spirit.

And secreted away at the far end of this forgotten district is a sublime sliver of beach — and, more importantly, a delightful little beach hotel.

st maarten caribbean beach hotel rooms 1

The colorful rooms have happy touches like espresso machines and telescopes.

It’s called El Zafiro, and it is the essence of the tiny Caribbean beach hotel, a haven for beach lovers and those who are looking for a Caribbean that is not always easy to find.

It is a simple formula here: a collection of just eight rooms, all crisp and clean, all with stunning views of the sand and welcome details like espresso machines and telescopes on the balconies.

There’s even a clever observation deck to watch as the planes go by.

Wally also makes some of the best ti’ punches in St Maarten.

There’s a toes-in-the-sand bar (led by the gregarious Wally) and a restaurant, daily housekeeping and the greatest amenity of all: a nearly private beach that will be yours alone during your stay, hidden away in plain sight, often seen only by the travelers on the jets as they make their return trips home above the mountain.

st maarten caribbean beach hotel bar

The bar is worth a visit even if you’re not staying here.

But those who find it discover it anew, savoring a unique kind of beach vacation.

This is the old Caribbean, the authentic Caribbean, St Maarten when it first found itself on the map, a reminder of why St Maarten is such a truly lovely destination.

There’s a reason, after all, why they started coming here in the first place.

For more, visit El Zafiro.

— CJ