Rich in Luxury
Words by Ebbie Koelle
Saint Barthélemy (or St. Barts, or even St. Barths) is all about style, and it is one of the top vacation destinations for pleasure and leisure seekers from across the globe. It has long been recognized as one of the most fashionable resort islands in the world. Whether you’re strolling through the designer boutique-lined cobblestone streets, sipping a cocktail on the white sand beaches, or anchoring in the harbor on one of the many glamorous yachts, St. Barts delights the senses of anyone who relishes in luxury. The French flavor, glamorous clientele, and quaint infrastructure of this island are some of the many reasons people consider it the chicest of all the Caribbean destinations.
Despite being around 150 miles east of Puerto Rico around 20 miles southeast of St. Martin in the West Indies, St. Barts is one of the more challenging islands to reach from the United States. That is mainly because Gustaf III, the Saint Barthélemy airport, has one of the most notoriously short commercial runways in the world, utilized only by specialty carriers with small planes and specially trained pilots. No joke!
The most common way to reach St. Barts from the U.S. is to fly to Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) on Saint Martin. (Direct flights on the major U.S. airlines are available regularly to SXM from a variety of major cities like New York; Newark, New Jersey; Charlotte, North Carolina; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Miami; Philadelphia; and Chicago.)
Once on Saint Martin, you can take the 10-minute shuttle flight or opt to take a ferry across to St. Bart’s Gustavia harbor from one of three departure points: Simpson Bay, Marigot, and Oyster Pond. Ferries operate regularly throughout the day and take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to reach their destination. Whether you arrive by ferry, private boat (did we mention the island is known for hosting extravagant yachts?), or plane, once there, people love to watch the planes land on the precarious airstrip from their vantage point on the beach.
With a landmass of less than 10 square miles and a population that hovers around 10,000, St. Barts is one of the smaller “destination” islands in the Caribbean, but the locals have spun that fact to mean it’s just more exclusive. A trip to St. Barts isn’t complete without indulging in some of the world-class food and entertainment the celebrity-filled island is known for.
A trip to St. Barts isn’t complete without indulging in some of the world-class food and entertainment the celebrity-filled island is known for.
La Gloriette, on Grand Cul-de-Sac beach, is a favorite for lunch for St. Bart regulars. Expect French charm and Creole cuisine at this scenic spot. They are known for their rendition of one of the island’s classic spirits, rhum vanille, which they sell by the bottle—perfect for picking up on your way out after lunch.
Maya’s, which looks out over Gustavia harbor and the yachts that fill it, is an elegant option for dinner. It is a favorite of those in the know who visit the island, and it has a refined menu that changes daily.
Of course, many people flock to St. Barts to see and be seen and to enjoy the revelry and debauchery on the white sand beaches that begins in the daylight hours and goes well until after dark—sometimes until sunrise the next day. For the best beach party, look no further than Nikki Beach, where people will spend all day imbibing and dancing in the sand while enjoying sushi on private beach beds. La Plage, a more laid-back beach bar, is still one of the best places to enjoy live music, DJ sets, and champagne by day or night. Head to their legendary weekly Friday night “I Love Fridays” party or their weekly “Bikini Brunch” every Saturday afternoon. When at La Plage, don’t forget to treat yourself to Un Planteur, a Caribbean rum punch and one of the bar’s specialties.
For the true St. Barts after-hours experience, end your night at the legendary and over-the-top, Le Ti, where you will be surrounded by women wrapped in feather boas and lots of tabletop dancing.
For the best tobacco and cigars on the island, head to La Casa Del Habano, in Saint Jean, which boasts an impressive selection of Cuban cigars as well as smoking accessories. And since you’re in the area, if you haven’t had your fill of rum (and champagne) already, head to M’bolo, which offers a specially curated selection of the kind of artisan and local rums for which the Caribbean is so well-known.
To enjoy the island in true style, opt to stay in a private villa. You can choose from one of the 425 luxuriously appointed private villas on St. Barts, offered by esteemed villa rental company Wimco. The villas range from intimate one-bedroom hideaways to expansive and secluded private estates and compounds—perfect for a multiple couples retreat, girls weekend, or multigenerational family vacations. In addition to hotel-like amenities, all villas have private pools, private kitchens, and daily housekeeping, and all guests are assigned an exclusive concierge who is available any time of day or night for all requests.
Wimco villas include the likes of the four-bedroom Villa Eco, located on a private cul-de-sac, just a two-minute drive from Gouverneur Beach. The dramatic views, open-air design, and infinity pool offer a true private getaway in the hills of the island. Because the majority of resort hotels on the island are quite posh, families who visit the island love the privacy and relaxed atmosphere of the luxury villas offered by Wimco.
If you want a centrally located resort option, Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France is a favorite destination for those seeking luxury and romance on the island. The property, which just reopened in 2014 after a large-scale refurbishment, is now owned by LVMH and is set on the idyllic Flamands Beach. It combines elements of the island’s French heritage with distinct Caribbean luxury and relaxation. The property has 40 rooms, villas, and suites and offers both fine dining and more relaxed beachside dining options.
Rum, in particular, not only symbolizes much of the history of the region but also the lifestyle that it has come to represent—one of carefree relaxation.
Whether you are at a debauchery-filled beach bar or the famous and more refined brunch at Eden Rock, the always-chic visitors to St. Barts appreciate the local rum-infused spirit of the island just as much as they appreciate the French elegance and Creole charm. Rum, in particular, not only symbolizes much of the history of the region but also the lifestyle that it has come to represent—one of carefree relaxation. Take note of the favorite phrase of one of many of the island’s famously stylish perennial visitors, Michael Kors. The fashion designer and icon, who counts St. Bart’s among his most treasured places in the world, says his favorite phrase to use when on the island is “Un Planteur, s’il vous plaît,” which will get you the ubiquitous planter’s punch and well on your way to enjoying the splendors found in the French West Indies.