Poolside at the newly rebranded Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France. (Photo: Courtesy of Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France)
By Jennifer Ceaser
Every New Year’s Eve, St. Bart's becomes the Babylon of the Caribbean — with celebrities like Sean “Diddy” Combs, Rihanna, and Leo DiCaprio (along with his model entourage) partying in lavish hillside villas and on gargantuan yachts.
Now that the VIPs have (mostly) cleared out, this French territory has returned to its naturally chic state — and anyone can indulge (provided you have the funds).
Here’s where to go.
The colorful, renovated Le Guanahani resort. (Photo: Le Guanahani)
With a just-completed $40 million, four-year renovation — and a slight name tweak — Le Guanahani emerges as one of the island’s top resorts. A mix of 67 brightly colored cottages, the property — set on a private, 18-acre peninsula — boasts a Spa by Clarins, a Frederic Fekkai salon, two restaurants, a thatched-roofed beach bar, a fitness center, tennis courts, two pools, two beaches, a kids club and watersports galore. (From $1,118)
The rebranded Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France is the newest in luxury conglomerate LVMH’s portfolio — and though changes to the 40-key resort are subtle, they are welcomed. There’s now a glamorous, modern taupe-and-pink palette throughout, a plethora of covetable bathroom amenities (including hair products by Paris’ Leonor Greyl), a new fitness center with ocean views and the Caribbean’s only Guerlain spa. Some things, fortunately, haven’t changed: the spectacular location, right on Flamands Bay, and Executive Chef Yann Vinsot’s excellent cuisine. (From $1,020)
Eden Rock’s On The Rocks restaurant. (Photo: Jean Etienne Portail)
Some places never go out of style, like the legendary Eden Rock hotel’s On The Rocks, an open-air restaurant dramatically perched atop a giant boulder, with coral reefs and the turquoise Caribbean stretching out below.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten, with Executive Chef Eric Desbordes, created the gourmet menu, which is heavy on native seafood — especially spiny lobster.
Mega-fresh lobster at La Langouste. (Photo: Jennifer Ceaser)
A local favorite, La Langouste is a casual poolside spot at the Baie des Anges hotel on Flamands Bay that’s famous for its super-fresh lobster — choose your spiny friend straight from the tank.
St. Barts has a number of fine beaches — some nude, some not. (Photo: St. Bart's Tourism)
Posh resorts, fabulous food, lean, tanned, beautiful people — you’re surrounded by them on St. Bart's — but you’re also never far from one of the island’s spectacularly lovely (and totally free) beaches.
St. Jean Beach, centrally located next to Eden Rock, is buzzy but crowded; the complete opposite is Colombier Beach, only reachable via boat or by hiking a long, rugged trail.
If you want to bare it all, there’s Anse de Grande Saline and Gouverneur Beach — both on the southern coast. But our pick for the ideal mix of wide beach, protected coves, calm waters, and great meal options is Flamands Beach.
5 more tips for visiting
Bring euros before you shop St. Bart's. (Photo: St. Bart's Tourism)
Rent a car. Most visitors don’t do everything at one resort because the island has so many excellent restaurants and beaches worth exploring. Plus, taxis are outrageously overpriced. Be sure to ask for a map; Google Maps/navigation doesn’t work here. And monitor the gas tank — there are only two stations on the island and both are closed Sunday.
Bring euros. Smaller places only take cash, and this is a French territory, so U.S. dollars are not valid here.
Find out if you need to pack an adapter. Call ahead to your hotel and ask what kind of electrical outlets are in the rooms — many are only European.
Learn some French. English is spoken widely, but not in every place (and not all menus are translated). Consider downloading a French/English dictionary or phrases app on your phone.
Chill out about the smoke. Smoking is permitted just about everywhere — even in fine-dining restaurants, hotels and on beaches. Be sure to request a non-smoking room and accept that you’ll probably smell cigarettes at many points throughout your visit.
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