Ahhh St. Barts, the French Caribbean island known for beautiful beaches, celebrities, yachts and amazing restaurants. I've just returned from a wonderful week with my husband and close friends from Greenwich and I can't wait to share all of the exciting developments on the island. The island's popularity has grown signficently during the time of Covid, I can only assume because visitors who might have gone to Europe in the past are now opting for a Caribbean getaway. Hotels have been booked even during typically more quiet times of the year. Our trip was actually planned for a year and half ago but got cancelled because of lockdowns. We rebooked approximately six months ago and were suprised that so many villas were already booked. For covid testing, we did our test virtually through Abbott Labs -- it was easy and convenient.
A small island means beautiful views everywhere you look
I first visited St. Barts more than 25 years ago when I did travel and luxury PR on a one day press trip while taking journalists to a nearby island. At that time, in the 'old days' there were no car rental agencies, and only the locals buzzing around in Mokes. I remember falling in love with it then because it was unspoiled and cosmopolitan all at the same time. It's petite size, difficulty getting to, natural beauty and joie de vivre of the locals really is something special. Today, it is all those things and more but wow how things have changed. Through my career and personal travel, I have traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean and it is still one of my favorite places in the world. Mokes have made a big comeback and are all the rage on the island in gorgeous colors -- life coming full circle!
The Run Down
There are two main hubs of activity on St. Barts -- Gustavia, home to the city's port, fabulous shopping and amazing restaurants & St. Jean, a smaller equally chic area featuring shopping, resorts, beaches and more. If you want to be near the action -- choose a villa or resort close by one of these two locations but remember St. Barts is a small island so no where is really that far from the fun. The island has invested significently in improving the roads and creating sidewalks, gone are the days of bumpy rides -- the roads are almost all redone and while there are not sidewalks everywhere there are many more than used to exist. Driving is a sport here with windy roads, lots of scooters and fast drivers so be careful!
Hotel or Villa?
My husband and I began coming to St. Barts with our kids more than 15 years ago. We prefer to rent one of the many villas on the island versus staying at a hotel because we love cooking and the privacy, but there are many wonderful hotels on the island. Following Hurrican Irma in 2017, many hotels and villas were damaged signficiently, but in the years since, enormous investment and upgrades were made and it is nothing short of spectacular.
One of the most amazing hotel renovations and reopenings this year was the Rosewood Le Guanahani St. Barth . After a four year renovation this resort is amazing -- a beautiful redesigned beach, restaurants, spa and so much more. I have always loved the spa and booked treatments there this past week. The staff is welcoming and very friendly. The new restaurant Beach House is delicious, bar is beautiful and pool area comfortable and fun. This resort allows children, some are adults only catering to honeymooners etc but there are plenty of choices for everyone.
Senses Spa at Le Guanahani is calm and relaxing
There are multiple villa rental companies -- you can rent your villa based on the amount of bedrooms you will actually use (e.g. 3 or 4 etc..). Please note, many of the villas are ranch style homes and each bedroom can have it's own entrance so if you go with kids make sure your bedrooms are all under one roof when you book. It is a very safe island but the first time we went we didn't know this and ended up have all children sleep in our room on cushions on the floor! We use St. Barth Villas for rentals but there are numerous companies that are great. They can help you get a car rental, exercise equipment, provide concierge services, private chefs, boat charters -- you name it they can do it.
What To Do
The beaches are among the most beautiful in the world, they are all open to the public -- the only choice you need to make is to go to one with a beach side restaurant (Shell, St. Jean) or bring your own picnic and enjoy swimming in a the ocean on a gorgeous white sand beach (Columbier, Gouvernors, Saline) . Beach side dining is worth visitng St. Barts alone for -- DJ's pumping out the music, Rosé flowing, incredible people watching and amazing seafood! My favorite beachside dining --- Nikki Beach (the happiest place on Earth!, Shellona , and the newly opened Gyp Sea.
Sunset on the water
For fitness -- there are plenty of options, running, tennis, swimming, water sports. If you stay at a hotel -- they will have all or some of these. If you stay at a villa no worries, there are great options for you as well -- for tennis, St. Barth Tennis has great courts and you can rent racquets and buy balls (go early it's hot during the day). There are a couple of gyms on the island, we have used Form Fitness in Gustavia and they have all the equipment and offer day passes. For boating, there are several options but we love St. Barth Sailor, you can do morning, afternoon or sunset rental cruises with snorkeling, swimming and spectacular vistas on their catamarans. There are drinks and snacks available or you can bring your own. The owner Miguel is fifth generation St. Barths and is a wonderful guide.
Everywhere is cocktail time on St. Barths!
The Food & Shopping
The restaurants and shopping are truly wonderful on St. Barths, you will have alll of the beneifts of a French Riviera experience in the Caribbean. New restaurants seem to be opening everywhere but there are island favorities that remain enormously popular. You cannot possibly try all of the restaurants in one week so choose your cuisine and go for it. Food is pricey in St. Barts but if you combine some of the more casual dining, cooking in a villa and some special nights out you can enjoy everything the island has to offer. In the past, tipping was included with service and your bill (as it is done in Europe) but today, some restaurants ask for tips -- food is pricey in St. Barts so ask your server. For groceries, there is an amazing new grocery store right across from the airport where you can stock up on everything and there are now numerous smaller food markets throughout the island, this is a welcome development.
Most shops are closed between noon - 4 p.m. and on Sundays so check ahead on a specific store, it is hot during the day and they follow a tradition of a long siesta schedule.
Check out the island's Creperie for delicious French classics
Some of my favorites -- Bagatelle (French), Bonito (Seafood), Tamarin (Continental--gorgeous tropical oasis!), new L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Saint Barth (prix fixe -- two options), new super chic La Petite Plage -- believe me it's all good. You cannot go wrong in St. Barths -- the food is amazing. For families, Jojo Burger is also a favorite. Also throughout the island are several boulangeries -- bakeries with delicious salads, pastries, quiches and sandwiches. We always stock up and the croissants are amazing.
Wonderful shopping in downtown Gustavia
For shopping, several major European designers are here LV, Dior, Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Hartford Paris and many more, as well as wonderful local designers Lolita Jaca, Voila Saint Barth, MC2, Poupette Saint Barth, Clic. What's so great is there is great resort wear but also just great home, decor, accessories, menswear, womenswear and more. The shopping is in Gustavia and St. Jean, stroll, eat, have a cocktail, enjoy!
We love St. Barts!
For more information on St. Barths -- visit St. Barths Tourism.