At Grand Case Beach Club, stylish simplicity

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The Grand Case Beach Club is a 72-room property that opened in 1976 on St. Martin’s Grand Case Bay and has a high percentage of returning guests.
The Grand Case Beach Club is a 72-room property that opened in 1976 on St. Martin’s Grand Case Bay and has a high percentage of returning guests.

I first spotted the Grand Case Beach Club during a boat ride several years ago around the northern French coast of the dual-nation island of St. Maarten (Dutch)-St. Martin (French).

From the water, the white, two-story, red-roofed buildings, bordered by sea grape trees and bougainvillea nestled around the Caribbean's translucent Grand Case Bay, beckoned me. So, too, did Le Petit Plage (Tiny Beach), dotted with blue-and-white- striped chaise lounges and matching umbrellas.

The setting had my name on it, even as we sped past on our circuit of the island's 37 beaches.

Recently, I experienced just what legions of Grand Case guests already have, many of whose descendants make up the resort's 50% and higher ratio of repeat guests.

"Grand Case Beach Club opened in 1976, so a lot of the very first guests are no longer around, but their adult children and grown grandchildren return every year," said Steve Wright, who has been managing the place for 20 years.

Le Petite Plage is one of two beaches at the resort.
Le Petite Plage is one of two beaches at the resort. Photo Credit: Gay Nagle Myers

In fact, the 72-room property expects to have its best year in terms of bookings and occupancy this year and already is on track to top those numbers in 2017.

The Grand Case Beach Club has an old Caribbean vibe, pomp-free and authentic. It's no megaresort: The rooms, while updated, clutter-free and fairly spacious, have neither soaking tubs on the balcony nor flower petals on the beds at turndown. 

Some are two-bath, loft-style units, with the living and kitchen area below and the bedroom above; others are studios or one- or two-bedroom arrangements with a walkout patio to the beach on the first floor and a balcony on the second.

There's no butler service, the minirefrigerator is empty, in-room internet is at times sporadic and the coffee pot is not stocked with packets of coffee, although guests can have their pots filled during the complimentary Continental breakfast hours at the Sunset Cafe, the sole restaurant not serving buffet-style meals, in an open-air venue overlooking two beaches and the bay. 

The restaurant's kitchen and culinary offerings are presided over by a French chef whose gigot d'agneau (French roasted leg of lamb) was on par with what I sampled a few nights later on nearby Boulevard Grand Case, the culinary hub of the island.

A one-bedroom, oceanview room at the Grand Case Beach Club, which features one king-size bed in the bedroom with one pullout sofa in the living room.
A one-bedroom, oceanview room at the Grand Case Beach Club, which features one king-size bed in the bedroom with one pullout sofa in the living room.

The resort has a fitness room (small surcharge), a boutique, car rentals, tennis courts, an array of watersports, two beaches (one of which has a dock for swimming) and an L-shaped, sloping-entry pool on top of the Sunset Cafe.

Clear glass railings on the edges of the pool deck offer spectacular views of the Caribbean and the island of Anguilla on the horizon. One of the charms of the Grand Case is the elevated teak catwalk that winds around the perimeter of the property on the beach side.

Tucked in amid the foliage are wooden benches, lounge chairs and hammocks, perfect spots for sitting, sipping and snoozing.

"We are what we are; we are not the Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons," Wright said. "This hotel is not for everyone, but for those who understand what we are and what we offer, we are filling rooms, earning accolades and greeting more and more new and returning guests."

The Grand Case Beach Club's main market is the U.S., followed by Canada.

"We saw no drop-off in Canadian business last year, and our U.S. business continues unabated," Wright said. "We offer packages and special promotions during the off season. We do get bookings through agents, although many of our guests book direct and want the same room at the same time each year."

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All-inclusive is not an option at the Grand Case and never has been, although breakfast is complimentary, consisting of coffee, juice and a bread basket.

"All-inclusive is counterproductive to this island," Wright said. "It is not doing the island a favor. We are a 15-minute walk or $4 taxi ride to the best stretch of fine restaurants on the island."

As for ongoing improvements, the resort is redoing its front office in time for the winter season. Guests will have better access to the office, whose exterior will resemble a modern villa, complete with a ramp and more accessible steps.

A new entrance gate and terracing add to the villa effect upon arrival.

New room furnishings are on next year's timetable of upgrades, as well.

A bedroom in a two-bedroom, oceanview room, which can accommodate up to six people.
A bedroom in a two-bedroom, oceanview room, which can accommodate up to six people.

Winter rates range from $365 per room, per night, single or double, in a gardenview studio to $620 for a two-bedroom, two-bath unit.

During my stay, I booked a guided snorkel trip at the watersports desk to Creole Rock, formerly Indian Rock, a 10-minute boat ride from the resort's dock.

Sightings of sea urchins scattered in rock crevices, schools of parrot fish, masses of brilliant bluefish, two turtles and undulating coral in clear waters made for the perfect afternoon activity.

That's the essence of the Grand Case Beach Club. Although it is somewhat rustic by today's resort standards, it's also serene and tranquil yet accessible and close enough to the outside world when the urge to explore arises.

Visit www.grandcasebeachclub.com.

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