Officially known as Saint Barthélemy, the French Caribbean Island southeast of Saint Martin is more widely known as St. Barth or just St. Barts. No matter what you call it, this French island has a reputation as a luxurious location with Gallic flair – they leave French baguettes in the mailboxes – that includes art galleries and shops from Chanel to Cartier, but this island is also Eco-conscious and a great surfing spot. The capital of Gustavia is a quaint town steeped in historic brick and colonial building structures with bobbing yachts in the picturesque harbor along with sophisticated dining and nightlife. The holidays are high season, but here are some of the gems not to miss on a visit any time of year.
WHERE TO STAY
Eco-luxury Hotel Manapany is nestled on a private palm-fringed beach at Anse des Cayes, a quiet and serene residential piece of the island brimming with tropical flowers on the lush north coast of St. Barth.
Manapany is a 5-star property operated with complete respect for and protection of the natural environment. Electricity is partially produced by solar panels plus the resort uses its own water and only electric cars are allowed to get around the grounds. In addition, no chemicals are used in cleaning and maintenance and all the towels are made from bamboo, with only natural fibers. The hotel’s own vegetable garden and orchard – with citrus, mango, passion fruit, banana and coconut trees – provides fresh, organic ingredients for the healthy cuisine in the restaurant, while other food products are mostly locally sourced. For treatments and services at the spa, only organic products from Dr. Hauschka are used.
The 43 private villas and suites are spacious and exquisitely decorated with natural woods, artisanal furnishings, sundecks and unobstructed views of the sea and surrounding gardens. Eight rooms are situated directly on the beach, so that guests may open their doors each morning to the sounds of the waves as they step out with their toes in the sand and grab a surfboard as this is one of the best areas on the island for the sport.
The hotel has just added the new Villa Nanne with an infinity pool and a VIP Private Suite is perfect for friends and families traveling together that want to maintain their privacy and has a butler on request to cater to your every whim.
Located on the opposite, more remote end of the island, perched high on a hill, Le Toiny is a fantastic secluded spot for Sunday brunch and offers expansive mountain and water views of the French West Indies.
The hotel has seen its share of famous faces and long-term guests over the years from the entertainment world and one of them was Rudolph Nureyev. The dream of the classic ballet dancer from Russia was to “dance above the waves.” A well-kept secret back in the day, the world-renowned artist once owned a villa on the edge of St. Barts, just steps from the Le Toiny resort. Now, you can rent this secluded spot on your next visit to the island.
The exclusive four-bedroom Villa Nureyev is perfect for an island escape. The 8000 sq feet home has a private pool, Jacuzzi, massage cabin and hammam. While its completely secluded, guests can still take advantage of all the amenities of the Relais & Chateaux-owned hotel including meals in the restaurant and concierge services. And, this part of the island is also known for world-class surfing should you have your longboard with you.
The sister property of the famous South of France Hotel du cap-Eden-Roc is perched on a rocky cliff on St Jean Bay and surrounded by white sandy beaches. Eden Rock – St Barths, is part of the prestigious Oetker Collection which is located in the epicenter of the island. The resort had an extensive two-year renovation following the impact of Hurricane Irma in late 2017, which includes the rooms and three signature suites and other common areas. Owner, Jane Matthews expanded her art collection on the property and worked with the design group, which includes the legendary Martin Brudnizki Design Studio London (who also just designed The Pendry in West Hollywood) and Architectonik St Barths.
The Sand Bar menu is in the hands of Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, inspired by his ABC concepts in New York which showcase healthy eating. The Rémy Salon and Bar is named after Eden Rock’s original owner, paying tribute to his pioneering spirit. The sun deck of the Eden Rock Beach Bar is the perfect spot for an afternoon frosé. Eden Being Boutique is a great spot to shop for cool, local finds – think coverups and sandals. Be sure to visit the new Eden Spa on the top of ‘The Rock’ with treatments by acclaimed local artisanal brand Ligne St Barth, who create natural products using frangipani flower, sugar cane and mango butter. Three beach cabanas are also available for the ‘Sun Spa’ by Esthederm treatments for before and after sun exposure.
Cheval Blanc Hotel St Barth
Formerly the Isle de France, Cheval Blanc (now overseen by LVMH Hotel Management) is located in Flamands Bay on floral, tropical grounds, with meticulous design details and a private beach where no one will dare attempt approaching you to sell something – except maybe a fruity cocktail.
The 61 cottage-style structures are set amid fragrant, overgrown foliage and gardens with pathways that lead to several swimming pools and an open-air lobby. For the pristine interiors, crisp white linens are mixed with boldly patterned cushions, rattan furniture and modern artwork. The look simultaneously fresh, clean, chic and invitingly cozy.
As for the cuisine, French gastronomic fare, such as foie gras, mixes with lighter, locally inspired fresh fish dishes like grilled lobster or snapper for a relaxed lunch at La Cabane or the flagship La Case. The White Bar surrounds the pool and the Maison hosts events with champagne houses and art exhibitions. The two boutiques offer the latest creations from local and international designers, and a poolside fashion show every Tuesday evening. The Cheval Blanc Spa uses Guerlain rituals exclusively in its garden pavilion, hammam and 4 treatment rooms plus seasonal yoga events can be found on the beach.
Rosewood Le Guanahani
Originally opened in 1986 as Le Guanahani, the Rosewood Le Guanahani St. Barth will debut in Fall 2021 with a complete renovation of the 66 guestrooms, suites and villas – many with private pools. The property is uniquely situated over eighteen lush and secluded acres on a private peninsula overlooking two stunning beaches, Marigot Bay and Grand Cul-de-Sacsuites.
As the only full-service resort on the island of St. Barth, the property will further extend a range of amenities and experiences including a new beachfront dining concept and pool, a Rosewood Explorers children’s club, Sense, A Rosewood Spa®, a fitness center and tennis court and a selection of dedicated event spaces, as well as myriad watersports, hiking and sea and town excursions encouraging exploration of all St. Barth has to offer. The property still retains a few large Butler Suites equipped with 24-hour services, private pools, in-room hammams and balneotherapy bathtubs.
BARS AND RESTAURANTS
The island of St. Barts is renowned for its culinary excellence and many of the island’s resorts and hotel properties feature fabulous restaurants and bars.
Bar de L’Oubli
This all-day family and dog-friendly spot in the port of Gustavia has been around since 1981 and covers all the cravings. Bar de L’Oubli is equally popular for croissants and fresh squeezed juices at breakfast with a view, as it is for burgers and wine in the afternoon after a full-day of exploring the local shops, and tapas and cocktails in the evening before hitting the dance clubs.
For an idyllic tropical garden setting, Tamarin is your spot for a romantic dinner. Wander under the banana trees, ylang-ylang and ponds with turtles before or after a meal in the historic colonial house. The restaurant and wine cellar is run by Jérôme Lebeau and his older brother Frédéric. Signatures include beef stew, lamb slowly cooked for 12 hours or the beef bourguignon that you will want to linger over with a good bottle of Bordeaux.
If you want to find the party, look no further than Nikki Beach. The vibe is chic private club in the sand with live music and its a must for hanging with the hip and hot crowd. If you forgot your bathing suit, not to worry, there is a shop on property selling some of the best bikini brands so you can look the part. When you work up an appetite having fun in the sun, do order the colorful sushi boat and plenty of tropical drinks.
Bagatelle is a popular French-Mediterranean chain eatery meets club from St. Tropez, Miami and London – to name a few outposts – also has a home in the heart of Gustavia where the rosé and St-Germain punch bowls are flowing. The kitchen is run by Toulousian chef Leopold Gillen who worked in Michelin restaurants by Alain Ducasse. For starters, order the pizza with truffle cream and the crispy fish fritters served like a beignet with an Arrabiata sauce for dipping. For even heartier fare, try the lobster fettuccine or the Black Angus rib-eye.
Located in the Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf on Shell Beach, stunning indoor-outdoor décor awaits on a veranda overlooking the Caribbean Sea at Shellona. The food by Greek chef Yiannis Kioroglou features plenty of sharable lates with tuna tacos, grilled lobster and mezzes for a long lunch with wine.
Gustavia, the central, famed shopping center for the island, presents everything from intricate clothing, personal gifts, home goods, jewelry and so much more. Think distinctive local boutiques to international luxury brands from Louis Vuitton to Dior. Additional shops of note include:
La Case St. Barth
La Case St-Barth | is teaming with local products and where you can find all your French-Caribbean gourmet food fantasy items in one place. Start with the excellent rum collection and go into pates, cured meats, condiments and crusty baguette sandwiches. This is an excellent place to stock up on local delicacies to take home, or to plan a high-end local beach picnic.
Ligne St. Barth
For all the natural beauty and self-care products you can stuff into your beach bag or suitcase, this store specializing in its namesake line of products, Ligne St. Barth, is packed with exotic oils, face masks, perfumes, lotions and potions that will make you feel refreshed, renewed and ready for a night on the town.
For home décor and your entire lifestyle, Clic is where you can find rare art and coffee table books, lamps, pillows, textiles, and sheepskin accessories. They also have jewelry, bags, clothing for men, women and children plus toys.
Baya St. Barth
For unique craftsmanship from around the globe, Baya St. Barth, is a concept store that sells not just objects, but handcrafted goods that tell a story of ecological, ethical and socially responsible sources. BAYA sources materials in linen, jute or wool, but also banana fiber are mixed with mango wood, terracotta, leather, and metal to make beautiful pieces for home.
Pop St. Barth
For those long floaty, shear beach cover-up style dresses, skirts and tops, Pop St. Barth is a locally owned and designed women’s boutique is your spot if you want to look like a sexy local when you’re walking down that sandy shore to grab a table at an outdoor bar just in time for sunset.
Pati De St. Barth
To commemorate your visit, head to Pati De St. Barth for t-shirt, tanks, shorts and crisp white overshirts adorned with a St. Barth’s themed logo. This cheerful shop is a must-stop for souvenirs and keepsake clothing from the island but with a chic spin.
WHAT TO DO
Rent a Jeep and Drive Around the island
While only eight square miles, St. Barts features 15 varied beaches and multiple inlets and coves waiting to be explored. Shell Beach is known for the millions of unique shells scattered throughout the sand.
St. Jean Beach is the most sought-after beach day spot conveniently located near a range of hotels, bars and restaurants. Colombier Beach is worth the short hiking trip for spectacular sunset views.
Gouverneur Beach is a favorite of both locals and guests and offers a more private, secluded feeling for those looking for a quieter day taking in the soothing Caribbean Sea.
St. Barth has a long history of boating and today the island is filled with vessels of all shapes and sizes ready to show visitors everything the island and its surrounding areas have to offer. Private yacht charters, jet-ski rentals and canoe excursions, to name a few.
Get in the Water
St. Barts also features numerous watersport activities that you might not always associate with the luxury destination. From surfing to scuba diving and snorkeling, St. Barts offers a range of outdoor adventures that puts the island’s stunning outdoor landscape on full display. Venture beneath the warm turquoise waters and discover an entire world right beneath the waves ready for exploration. The island is home to countless coral reefs and sub-marine ecosystems, with scuba and snorkeling tour operators available to guide and assist visitors on their undersea excursions. For an even more adventurous trip, try a SEABOB electric underwater scooter for diving with even more ease and agility.