I Found the Best Caribbean Hotel for Anyone Who Loves Awesome Pools

Epic Stays Beaches and Islands
by Suzie Dundas Sep 5, 2023

One of the best things about working remotely is the ability to be, well, remote. And while some people have full home office setups and need the stability of working in the same place every day, as a travel writer, all I really need is my laptop. So when I had the chance to travel to the Caribbean recently, I decided to add on a few extra days of scuba diving and working remotely on St. Maarten, to the east of the Virgin Islands. Given that my direct flight from the East Coast was only $250, and hotel rooms in St. Maarten’s off season start around $100 per night, it seemed like a great choice.

Divi st maarten - sunset beach

Photo: Suzie Dundas

After looking at various hotel websites, I landed on a great pick: Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, a super-pretty hotel on a private cove near the city of Philipsburg. I’m glad I picked it for several reasons, but the number one reason I chose it will be obvious once you see the property: pools on pools on pools. I think between the pools and the ocean, I spent more time in the water than out of it.

The many, many pools of Divi Little Bay Beach Resort

It may sound weird as a scuba diver, but I don’t really like swimming in the ocean. I’ve gotten so used to being below the surface and being able to see everything around me that being at the surface is almost unnerving. And, laptops and beach sand don’t mix very well, which is why I generally prefer to relax by pools on vacation, rather than beaches. And boy, does Divi St. Maarten have pools.

No matter where you stay, in a classic hotel room or in the higher-end Oceans at Divi Little Bay rooms, you have access to all the pools across the property. There are no extra costs to use beach chairs, covered sun beds, pool beds, or anything along those lines.

A sunset-view infinity pool

divi st maarten infinity pool

Photo: Suzie Dundas

I thought this was the best pool, and not just because it also tended to be the least busy. It’s built into a cliff and has gorgeous views of Little Bay. Plus, the area just to the left (that you can see in the above photo) is a protected pelican reserve, which means you can chill at the edge of the pool and watch massive pelicans swoop for fish off the ocean. It also had excellent sunset views and enough loungers for the few people I saw there at any given time.

A two-level ocean view pool


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The pool in the middle of the resort I found to be a great place to work outdoors. The pool has sun chairs on the side facing the ocean and a covered area with tables on the opposite side, making it a convenient place to pull out my laptop while drinking a half-price happy hour cocktail. The main pool area is the largest, though there’s a raised section (not shown above) with another half-dozen chairs. In my days there, it seemed like adults used the top section while the middle section was more of a mix, age-wise.

The beach lagoon pool

divi st maarten beach lagoon pool

Photo: Suzie Dundas

Okay, so this one is technically a beach, but it felt more like a pool. Divi St. Maarten sits on a big bay (called Little Bay), so all of it is fairly calm and protected from swells. But there’s a smaller area off the main bay with a rock wall that forms a shallow pool, making it an ideal place to sit in the water — with or without a cocktail, your choice — and not have waves splash you in the face. The rocky area also makes for an excellent place to snorkel when the tide is in, and it’s not unusual to see sea turtles coming near that area, too.

The massive “Pure Ocean Pool”

divi st maarten pool loungers

Photo: Suzie Dundas

The biggest and, for most people, probably best pool is what Divi St. Martin calls the Pure Ocean pool. And it’s enormous. The top tier is a wide infinity pool with a giant hot tub, with plenty of sun loungers and a half-dozen round outdoor beds surrounding it. It flows downhill to probably the best pool: a round pool with a swim-up bar, a dozen partially submerged sun loungers, and a fire pit and seating area on an island in the middle of the pool. From there, it flows down to the biggest pool on property, surrounded by sun loungers with views of the beach and ocean.

This pool’s swim-up bar is the only bar on property that doesn’t offer happy hour, which is probably to be expected as I never saw it empty.

Other perks of Divi St. Maarten

I looked at a few hotels in St. Maarten that were near scuba dive shops and I’m glad I picked Divi Little Bay Resort for a few significant reasons:

Wildlife is abundant

parrot at divi st maarten

Photo: Suzie Dundas

The hotel is next to Fort Amsterdam, a historic site with a good walking trail and historical signage. It’s also a pelican sanctuary, and there are a few paths cut into the cliffside that lead to picnic benches and clearings where you can get a great view of the giant birds. Fort Amsterdam (and Divi St. Maarten) are both home to tons of iguanas, so there are plenty of opportunities to see tropical creatures — including a parrot, who seems to hang around the beachside Gizmo’s Grille.

The one place I didn’t notice any wildlife is the one place I don’t want wildlife: my room. I didn’t notice a single bug, lizard, or mosquito in my room, which is quite the accomplishment for a hotel in a tropical destination. And while the hotel isn’t on a reef, there are still tropical fish and sea turtles in the bay just offshore.

The dining situation is as good as it gets

When you stay at Divi St. Maarten, you have the option of adding an all-inclusive dining package, but it’s not required. I didn’t do the all-inclusive, but still ended up eating most of my meals on property, since I was spending the afternoons working remotely after diving in the mornings.

The resort has eight bars and restaurants; they’re a mix of casual and sit-down, with a walk-in coffee shop, too. There’s also an on-site convenience store with everything from wine and beer to pasta, snacks, sunscreen, and breakfast foods, so you don’t have to walk to Philipsburg to find a store.

That said, I walked to Philipsburg three times while I was staying there to check out the beach and try a few restaurants. The walk takes about 15 minutes and you can easily get a taxi back to Divi St. Maarten if you walk there in the afternoon but don’t want to walk back after dark.

There’s great diving and snorkeling in the bay

Photo: Suzie Dundas
Photo: Suzie Dundas
Photo: Suzie Dundas
Photo: Suzie Dundas

The resort sits on Little Bay, which is an excellent place for snorkeling and diving. You can rent snorkel gear from the resort’s on-site activity partner (Aquamania), or book a morning dive excursion. Dive boats pick up from the resort’s dock, so it’s basically like door-to-door diving service. In the bay, there’s an underwater sculpture garden, plus several intentionally sunk wrecks, including a sunken passenger plane and sunken helicopter. The water is shallow (averaging about 40 feet) so you can snorkel or dive above the wrecks and still see them perfectly. There’s also an Aquamania store on property where you can get beach-related items you forgot, like water shoes, floaties, sunshirts, and more.

The staff are super friendly

Shout out to the staff at Divi St. Maarten, who genuinely seemed pretty rad. The front desk agent pulled some strings to get me into my room early (and let me use a guest lounge while waiting) and the woman working at the on-site convenience shop offered to set aside a few mangos for me when they came in, knowing it was the end of the season and they’d likely go quickly.

The resort also hosts a Monday night welcome party, which is as cheesy as it gets, but also fun and lively. There’s live music, complimentary fruity cocktails, and raffles for items like passes to area attractions and giveaway items from local artisans. They also use the welcome party as a place to introduce staff you may see around the resort; to me, this shows a genuine desire on the part of resort management to make sure all the behind-the-scenes staff are acknowledged and thanked.

The welcome party is also a good place learn about activities throughout the week for visitors, including free walking tours of Philipsburg, crab races on the beach, cocktail making classes, and more. And while programmed resort entertainment isn’t usually my thing, it was hard not to cheer for the grey-haired retirees trying to win a bottle of wine by doing their best “cupid shuffle” next to teens and 20-somethings.

It’s pretty as can be

St Maarten hotel on the bay

Photo: Suzie Dundas

In my opinion, giant resort complexes on popular tourist islands aren’t usually the prettiest hotels. They’re convenient for dive trips, which why I’ve stayed at more than a few. But Divi Little Bay Resort St. Maarten is genuinely downright lovely.  The resort is covered in palm trees and tropical plants, the white-sand beach is extremely clean and bordered by rocky cliffs on either side, and the fact that the water is that perfect shade of Caribbean blue certainly doesn’t hurt.

Most of the buildings are orange and pink, adding a pop of color to contrast the blues of the ocean. And at night, the entire bay lights up with shades of pink and orange. I spent one night sitting on the resort’s pier watching the sun go down and it was one of the prettiest sights of my entire two-week trip.

Divi St. Maarten is surprisingly affordable

Fried plantains

Photo: Suzie Dundas

I was quite surprised when I saw the summer starting rates at Divi St. Maarten. Busy season in St. Maarten is mid-December through March, and during that time, prices go up. But in the summer, rates start in mid $100s. And in my opinion, slow season is the best time to go: the resort restaurants and pools are less crowded, beach chairs are always available, and the waits and restaurants and attractions on the island are minimal. At Divi, standard hotel rooms start around $150 a night and the suites (which have kitchens and laundry) start around $300 a night (but can sleep four people).

No matter when you visit, you’ll probably find Divi St. Maarten’s food prices to be pretty reasonable. Granted, I live in an expensive area of the country, but I still find $8 for a cocktail (or $4 during happy hour) to be a pretty reasonable price for a beachside resort. My personal favorites were the fried plantains ($9) from The Shack and, kind of surprisingly, the veggie pizza from the open-air pizza grill ($19), which was big enough for several meals. I also bought a lot of snacks from the on-site shop, which was generally cheaper than my local 7-11 in northern California.

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