As we floated in the pool at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort in St. Maarten, finches and hummingbirds flew overhead on their way to the tropical and vibrant flower bushes. A large iguana kept guard while basking in the hot sun, making eye contact as we swam underneath the walking bridge over the pool. A monarch butterfly floated by the swim-up bar; a comforting sight to see that monarchs are plentiful and thriving in St. Maarten.

If this isn’t paradise, I don’t know what is.

This was not the first time that my husband and I travelled to St. Maarten. We have been twice in the past and stayed at various hotels. We have developed a very healthy and deep-rooted love of the island over the years, so much so that we feel as though it is our ‘home away from home’.

As they say, third time is a charm since this was a very different type of holiday as we were celebrating my 40th birthday and travelling with our children along with our extended family members – we affectionately call our ‘Wolf pack’- including six children ranging in ages from 19 months to 11 years old. We were very comfortable to bring our children to the island. No special vaccinations required. The island is your playground – diverse and safe to explore at your own pace and ability – by hopping on a local transit bus, taking a taxi or renting a vehicle.

The Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino, located on the Dutch side of the island, is conveniently located on the island’s southwest shore just a few minutes from the airport, in the center of Maho Village. The Sonesta hotel chain was the first to offer limitless all-inclusive packages on the island.   With St. Maarten known for its timeshare and villa ownership and rentals, the Sonesta hotels have made staying on the island a more affordable option for travellers.

This resort is beside the famous Maho Beach, where you can be swept away in a sand blizzard as jumbo passenger jets take off from the airport, and the jet stream blows you off of your feet. Maho Beach is a must-see for aircraft aficionados and people-watchers alike.

Before arriving, we were concerned that the hotel was directly beside the Princess Juliana airport. What we found was that the intermittent roar of planes was thrilling, not cumbersome. It was exciting. All heads turned when a plane was landing at the airport and it was quiet overnight. It is highly recommended that travellers pay the extra fee to ensure that an ocean-view room.

The food at the resort is plentiful, diverse and fresh, as St. Maarten is considered the culinary capital of the Caribbean. Salads and dishes are mixed together in creative combinations, and the food tastes like our food back home in Ontario, with the exception of abundant seafood choices and exotic fruit such as prickly pear, dragon and star fruit. The food choices were especially kid-friendly, with options provided of the go-to pizza baked fresh in the outdoor oven at the Pizzeria Napoli and the kids seemed to especially enjoy the Ocean Terrace Restaurant buffet. This was over and above the array of eloquent and delicious options for adults.

The evening activities on the upper beach were great fun and enjoyed from the comfort of the beach lounge chairs. The entertainment included a magician, an acrobat, games, singing and dancing. The crab races on the beach were a hit with the kids, and it was a joy to see the kids let loose dancing on the beach. There was an outdoor cinema set up most evenings as well, with a huge inflatable screen floating in the pool, for those visitors who wanted quieter entertainment.

The kids’ camp in the Maho bungalow, provided air conditioned respite for the kids to play, and includes a nice sized room with a play structure of a tunnel, trampoline, slide and ball-pit that the kids never seemed to get bored of. Video games, movies and organized activities kept the kids of all ages entertained and they were begging each day to go into the Club.

My sister-in-law enjoyed the size and layout of the resort. She remarked that it was the perfect size to be with a group – as you would be sure to meet up or see each other in passing, whether it be at meals, by the pool or on your way to the rooms. She also enjoyed the solace in the Serenity Spa services at the hotel, providing a welcome treat for this busy mom.

A short ten minute walk from the resort to Mullet Bay revealed crystal blue water and a shallow entry providing a perfect place to introduce the kids to snorkelling.   Colourful fish, small eels and other ocean life could be viewed around the rocks just in from the shore, making it easy for the kids to explore the natural beauty of the ocean. My son remarked that we “hit the jackpot” in finding this beach – it is definitely worth seeing.

A day trip to Philipsburg is a must and the $5 fee for each child to jump on the floating trampoline in the ocean for the day was a hit with the kids, while we parents enjoyed coconut cocktails and beers on the beach. Bartering for souvenirs and jewelry at the shops while you enjoy Heinekens is always fun.

The “Yoda Guy” movie exhibit in Philipsburg was a popular stop for us Star Wars fans, providing an opportunity for my daughter to meet Nick Maley, part of the team that created Yoda, who inspired her with words of wisdom to be different and to follow her dreams.

By the end of the week, everyone was already talking about when we could come back to St. Maarten to the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino.

Needless to say, the Wolf pack had a wonderful time.