The French portions of St Martin and St Barts incurred roughly $4 billion worth of damages during Hurricane Irma, which hit in September 2017; more than any other territory. But St Barts, for one, is recovering at nearly miraculous speed. As of this writing, the island is close to fully recuperated.
If you were a fan of St Barts before, you needn’t wait any longer to start singing its praises once again. At first glance, you would be hard-pressed to recognize there was a hurricane in St Barts at all, just five months removed from Irma. All roads are accessible, and while some trees were lost, there are now new views across the island that didn’t previously exist. While many first-time travelers to St Barts canceled their trips, the regulars have returned. That means things are a bit quieter for now, so take advantage before tourism inevitably ramps up again.
Fly in for a scenic landing
St Barts’ Gustaf III Airport has one of the most scenic landings in the world—and that hasn’t changed post-Irma. Flying into the village of St Jean is one of the most exhilarating experiences in air travel. Since no air carrier larger than a 20-seater is permitted to land on the single-strip runway, you’ll be on an intimate flight leaving from a nearby island like Antigua or St Thomas. The steep descent provides breathtaking views on your way towards a narrow runway nestled between a steep hill and Tom Beach. The airport’s proximity to the road makes for a fantastic photo-op—so when you get off the plane, grab your camera and start shooting!
Boat charters are back
One of St Barts’ bread and butter activities is its boat tours, and Jicky Marine in Gustavia is the island’s most popular outfitters. Setting sail is one of the best ways to see St Barts at any time of year. Hook up with the captains at Jicky Marine for a number of nautical options. Set out on a private champagne cruise at sunset on the Leeward side of the island; glide through the air on a memorable flyboard ride with Mat the instructor while your family cheers you on from the boat; or take a day of deep sea fishing on a yacht equipped with a bathroom, a shower, music, an open bar, and a catered picnic.
It’s time to celebrate
St Barts coming back with a bang means that the island is ready to party. Annual Carnival celebrations get underway with a Mardi Gras bash on February 13. A colorful parade enlivens Gustavia with music, floats, and creative costumes. After sunset, the party goes on in the streets—but it doesn’t end there. If you can shake off your hangover the next morning, Ash Wednesday is celebrated with a bonfire on Shell Beach to the sound of drums.
In March, the St. Barths Bucket Regatta takes place over three days and features 48 of the most impressive 100-foot yachts in the world. The event’s participants must be invited to participate, but the public is free to marvel at the mega-boats in Gustavia Harbor after 5 pm or celebrate at the Saturday Bucket Bash beach party. If you miss the Bucket, you’ll get a mulligan a month later when Les Voiles de St. Barth gets underway in April. The prestigious event is a highlight on the regatta circuit, and this year’s event is hosted by Alessandra Sublet and Jimmy Buffett.
All beaches are clean and open to the public
St Barts made quick work of cleaning up their beautiful beaches following Hurricane Irma. Just one month after one of the most powerful storms the Caribbean has ever seen ravaged St Barts, the island’s coastlines were pristine once again. Swept and cleaned, those beaches are not only ready for tanning travelers, they are thriving. There are fourteen beaches on St Barts—including Gouverneur, Saline, and St Jean—and they’ve all made a glorious comeback, swept of debris and ready to be your next vacation playground. Here are some of our old favorites that have come back better than ever.
Restaurants are serving
One of the best parts about the revitalization of St Barts is that we can resume our foodie obsession for everything to do with the island’s cuisine. Whether you sit down for a fancy dinner or just stop in for what the locals call “les snacks” or “les petits creux,” your mouth is guaranteed to water. A certain je-ne-sais-quoi is evident in the food on this French island, but there’s an international flair too. To go international, check out Shellona overlooking Shell Beach for tasty Greek food from an expat chef or Orega for Japanese (try the Chocolate Bomb!), and look out for Maya’s, a local staple scheduled to reopen later in 2018. Don’t leave without a taste of St Barts’ French cuisine from the likes of La Langouste for fresh lobster and Bonito, a trendy French-Latin near Gustavia Harbor that will reopen in March.
Villas are available to rent
As far as St Barts travel goes, the island is known as much for its luxurious vacation homes as anything. Some of these homes are downright lavish, and only those lucky enough to nab one get to experience true St Barts luxury living. Of course, Hurricane Irma took its toll on many of these properties, but like everything else, the locals hustled to get them back up and running. While St Barts 2.0 is in full swing, some of the island’s hotels and resorts are not reopening until later in 2018, as they are taking the opportunity to refresh the properties inside and out, which means no Eden Rock until later in the year.
Thankfully, many of the villas that define the luxurious island have already been rebuilt, and are even better than before. Some of our faves include Marigot’s Black Pearl for its ridiculous infinity-edge pool views, Matajagui for its two-story setup on the rocky Flamands Hillside, and Eclipse in Vitet for its slick indoor kitchen with a view. (See more of our top picks.) These homes are all once again ready to host those looking for a taste of the lavish St Barts lifestyle—just the way you remember it.