I had the amazing opportunity to visit St. Barthelemy (St. Barths) and stay at a friend’s villa overlooking Gustavia and the harbor. What a beautiful island. I especially appreciated the LACK of Starbucks and mega hotels – no towers or big resorts here. Also, French is the local language, and all the locals are French. Many of the business owners are from Europe and are very sophisticated and also friendly. There is a “come join us” mentality to the island, which is nice. It’s famous for New Year’s Eve, when the world’s billionaires descend on this 8km x 3km island via mega-yacht to celebrate at Nikki Beach for $20,000 a head. Yep, that’s not a typo. Here are a couple notable hot spots:
Eden Rock put St. Barths on the Hollywood and global map, and it is all it’s hyped up to be, especially since Jean Georges took over the restaurant this year. Delicious food, but there’s also an adorable gem of a boutique inside the restaurant that’s curated with iconic designers such as Vivienne Westwood and served by a charming redhead named Janelle. There is also a fabulous art gallery in the hotel worth visiting. Even though I visited in early May, I spotted Chris O’Donnell and his wife paddleboarding and hanging on the beach. So I guess the island’s celebrity reputation is accurate.
One of the best meals I had was at Isola, an Italian fine dining restaurant in Gustavia. They also own Isoletta, a hip and more casual pizza spot with sumptuous couches to lounge on. Our last night we ate at the island institution Maya’s and had one of the best sole meuniere of my life. Charming open air restaurant with simple but delicious menu.
Shopping there means the typical Cartier, Hermes, Ralph Lauren, Roberto Cavalli, and Louis Vuitton, but beyond that, I found a couple other cute boutiques worth hitting. Christian Celle of Calypso fame, the un-official Tahitian pearl/leather jewelry at Kalinas&Tainos. There were embellished caftans almost everywhere, but the super luxe were at TAJ, and great fun prints were at Lolita Jaca-www.lolitajaca.com. I also found Linde Gallery, which stocks Emilio Pucci, Maison Martin Margiela, and other rare European lines.
Also worth noting is my favorite, the Dean and Deluca-esque American Gourmet. Geared towards yacht provisioning, this mega/micro gourmet grocer stocks things like almond milk, goat yogurt, Dean and Deluca treats, terra chips, and any canned gourmet product you can think of. It really puts the local Libre Service to shame. Be prepared to pay through the nose because apparently they make up the prices as they go along. If you want to stock up on basics, I recommend the Marche U, which is similar to a typical American grocery store except with French products.
If you don’t have a mega yacht or villa, here’s a note about hip hotels to stay at. It seems that this island has two prices – expensive and super expensive – so it’s all pricey. Eden Rock is still the chicest, but I did see a fashion photo shoot happening at the all-white Sereno designed by Christian Liaigre. Also great is Guanahani Hotel, which was one of the first hotels on the island. The pastel bungalows look tiny to me, but the beach bar/resto is awesome. They also have a fine spa. Hotel Le Toiny is uber-exclusive and luxurious. Their restaurant Le Gaiac, which serves French Creole cuisine, is considered to be a gastronomical treasure. Hotel Carl Gustaf is a 14-room gem of a hotel with spectacular harbor views and private plunge pools. For water junkies like myself, their spa has a hydro-zone with steam room, essential oils shower, outside jacuzzi, sun beds, and a fitness center. I fell in love with the Hotel Saint Barths-Ile de France hotel popular with celebrities located on Flamands Beach. We ate al fresco, and the presentation and quality of food was superb. The vibe of the beach is exclusive and chill, and it was the calmest sea I had seen since arriving.
For beaches, check out St. Jean if you want to be near all the action and steps away from a lunch spot. Oh, and planes will fly dangerously close to your head, so it’s great for adrenaline junkies. Saline beach is a quick walk from parking and will give you that secluded feeling if you so desire.
Click here for another great blog post on St Barths.