By Charu Suri

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St. Maarten combines the cultures of two countries in one small island. Like the yin and yang, the two sides couldn’t be more different: the Dutch side is vibrant, with an active nightlife and sparkling casinos, while the quieter French side flaunts superb cuisine and lavish beaches (including topless and nude strips, tsk tsk).

The island is a hop, skip and jump from the East Coast (think 3.5 hours in travel time and landing in a time zone that makes the word “jet lag” obsolete in your itinerary). Philipsburg, the capital of St. Maarten, is where traffic is at its thickest (and roads are at their narrowest!). The airport is so close to the Philipsburg beach that the landing gear of the planes seem to barely touch the sand. You have been warned…


There are some really top-notch places to stay (okay, Caribbean vacations aren’t cheap) including La Samanna on the French side, and Sonesta Maho on the Dutch side. The great thing about the Dutch side is the vibrant nightlife (so it isn’t like going to a Broadway show or hitting hot spots until dawn, but when you’re near beaches and turquoise waters, I think you’ll survive).


So my hubby and I decided to try the much talked about Good Life Spa at Sonesta Maho on our fourth day of vacation (translate that into “fourth day of serious water sports and kayaking”). We loved the sound of the “couples” massage. “We have a lot of repeat customers,” says a staff member, who also mentioned that the Spa topped the Daily Herald list of best spas four years in a row.


Each room in the spa has a heavenly bodies or natural elements theme: the Sun, Moon, Fire, Ether rooms create a feeling of other worldliness that is soothing to the senses. We had our treatment in the spacious Sun room, which (as you can imagine) was well-lit and clean, with a cool-looking muslin canopy above our heads. My masseur was the best in the spa, the staff assured me. Meanwhile a peek at my partner who was cocooned under the clean sheets indicated that he was already in outer space. I decided not to disturb him.


My masseur (who also works at La Samanna) made me feel extremely comfortable by asking me which areas of my body needed work. Of course, the hamstrings, I reply. Being a runner, I always have a response ready. First, he worked on my back and kneaded out the knots that come with being so physically active. A soothing Swedish technique eased the tension in my deltoids, biceps and triceps. Then, the hard part came — the massage on my calves and hamstrings. He spent a good twenty minutes on my legs, thank goodness, and when the massage was done I was ready to go windsurfing on the nearby Cupecoy Beach.

The Spa uses three distinct lines in their treatments (which are also available for purchase): Physiothermie, St. Barth’s and Get Fresh. At the end of my massage, I felt ready to tackle another stint of water sports. The Good Life Spa offers a variety of massages including the hot stone, reflexology, a Hydro Therapy Bath and Steam Dome. Visit

Originally published March 2007

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