A little piece of France in the Caribbean, St Barts combines the best of St Tropez with life in the tropics. The moment you land on the island (and that landing!) you know you’ve found a truly special place. While the love we have for this petite slice of paradise is endless, here are our top 7 reasons for booking a stay in St Barts today.
1. It’s Hard to Get To
St Barts was put on the tourism map when it became popular as a winter haven for the likes of David Rockefeller and it still has an exclusive feel, with a notable absence of big resorts. Cruise liners can’t dock here, and casinos cannot be built either, which means even in high season the actual number of tourists on the island is quite reasonable. While St Barts has all the benefits of the Caribbean—duty-free shopping, great beaches, endless sunshine—it has few of the drawbacks of some of the more resort-heavy destinations. Add the fact that the runway is so short here that the only ways to reach St Barts are via 10-seater twin-engine prop plane or by boat and you’ve got an unspoiled jewel of a destination.
2. Incredible Beaches
You’ll have noticed that we couldn’t help mentioning the beaches in #1 already. That’s because everything you’ve heard is true: the beaches here are genuinely spectacular. Take Saline Beach for example, where the water is as clear as a swimming pool. In the middle of the day it’s refreshing, and come evening you can still feel the heat of the day contained within the waves. Surrounded by rocky outcrops on each side and protected by sand dunes, it’s a Caribbean twist on the wild and beautiful beaches of New England. St Jean Beach is glitzy and stylish and extremely beautiful—the turquoise water shimmers in the heat haze like a dream. And then there’s Colombier, which is only accessible via boat (or a 20-minute hike), where Christopher Columbus first landed in 1493. Pristine and with great snorkeling—expect to see everything from neon fish to turtles and nurse sharks—Columbus clearly thought it was worth a look, and you will too.
3 . A Glorious Low Season
Everyone knows that St Barts is a celebrity haven over the holidays, with Roman Abramovich regularly flying in acts to perform at his New Year’s Eve parties, and celebrities from Kate Moss and Beyoncé to Jack Nicholson hanging out at Nikki Beach. But once the winter rush has died down, the island takes on a much more local flavor. Head to the beach on a low-season Saturday and you may well find a kid’s birthday party in full swing, or surfers heading out to catch the waves at Lorient Beach. Reservations are easy to obtain at top-name restaurants like Bonito, loved for its incredible sunset view and excellent seafood (reopening March 2018), and at Le Select, Gustavia town’s burger joint—said to be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s Cheeseburger in Paradise— you’re just as likely to be seated next to a group of locals in T-shirts as David Letterman.
4. Unexpected Views
Yes, the roads are narrow in St Barts, with scooters and jeeps jostling for space on the steep hills, and an AWD car is recommended for peace of mind, but the uneven terrain has benefits too. First off, it keeps the cars on a more human scale—you won’t find Hummers or Escalades roaring around here— and second, the roads’ twists and turns give way to reveal staggering views over the headlands to the yachts playing in the bays below. At sunset when the sky turns gold against the clouds it’s even more spectacular.
5. The Wine
Wherever you go on the island you’re reminded of its long-held connection with France (the island is an Overseas Collectivity of the Gallic country)—the road signs are the same, municipal buildings have the same washed-out peach hue, the boulangeries are excellent—and the wine lists are heavily French-influenced too. Yes, food can be pricey here, but where else in the Caribbean can you find an excellent Chablis (served with a generous pour) for $10? The same goes for the grocery stores, where you can pick up a very decent bottle of Champagne for under fifty bucks.
6. Lunch at Eden Rock
A trip to St Barts can be as glitzy as you make it. Even if your idea of luxury is more barefoot than Balenciaga, a lingering lunch at the perfectly chic Eden Rock hotel is a must (reopening late 2018). The cocktails are just right and the menu light and delicious (the watermelon goat cheese salad is to die for), but the star attraction is the view, as you sit on the shaded veranda overlooking the white sand and turquoise waters of St Jean beach (see point #2!) with the planes coming in to land at impossibly steep angles. After lunch, you can stretch out on the hotel’s sun loungers (for a fee), or simply walk a few feet down the beach and lie on the golden sand for a post-prandial nap.
7. A Private Villa in Paradise
With no big hotels on the island, many visitors to St Barts choose to rent one of the numerous private villas for their stay, and there’s a lot of choice on the island, from one-bedroom bungalows ideal for a honeymoon stay all the way up to expansive villas with room for 16 guests. Wherever you choose to stay, there’s something quite special about waking up to a view of the ocean and your own private pool, starting the day with a dip before feasting on fresh pastries from La Petit Colombe bakery with a good strong coffee on your sun-drenched deck.
Where to stay in St Barts