I have heard the horror at Dawn beach looks better on the inside. We drove by there last week and I almost cried. The hotel looks very corporate, like it belongs on Route 3, miles outside NYC. It takes up too much of the beach and the parking lot is huge. That side of the island is very windy and is on the Atlantic Ocean side. I heard more than one local saying they hope the next big storm takes it out.
I don't know what the Westin was thinking. This hotel is part of the Starwood group which includes the W and the St. Regis, which are very nice. Why would they build a non-descript hotel like that in the Caribbean? Also what was up with all the security? Yes crime has gone up, but St. Martin is much safer than other islands and cities in the U.S.A. I get the sense this all inclusive hotel (you never have to leave because there is a casino in the hotel) is for people who want to come to the Caribben, but not stay IN the Caribbean. The food and drinks are very expensive and most of the staff seem to be from other islands, so their knowledge of the island is limited (see jess's blog for a first hand account). Who cares that they have the largest infiniti pool on the island? We can use infiniti pools back home. Beaches like Dawn Beach are rare. I was talking to my former boss who has a time share on the Dutch side. There are no property taxes or capital gains taxes on that side of the island. Also zoning laws (if there are any) are lax. This is why the Dutch side is more developed than the larger French side. On the French side there are taxes and zoning laws (and the roads are better). The amount of construction happening now is going to over develop St. Maarten right into the ground.
Speaking of beaches, Le Gailion was incredible and we loved Guana Bay which we visited for the first time. It's a little hard to find, but worth it. The old Scavenger's crew is there on Sundays and will be opening full time sometime later this month.
I ate so much fresh, warm french bread, none of my clothes fit. LOL. I also average two frozen drinks a day. Good times.