My personal list of best addresses in St Barts – World Meanderings (n°25)
By Frederic de Poligny
As you must know St Barts (or St Barths) is a very small island, meanwhile without any public transportation and a roads’ net made of thousands of curves going up and down steep hills, walking is not an option for resting holidays. Even if hiking in St Barts is great for those who love more sportive vacations. Taxis are safe and very professional, but a bit expensive. Renting a small car is the most convenient. Choosing a quad is quite fun!
In any case, my first advice for first time visitors is to get right away to the Tourism Office at the entrance of Gustavia harbour. This is the place to find a map of the island and all information you could need. Keep the map and if you don’t want to read the dozens of leaflets that they will provide you with, you will find below my personal “Best of St Barts” list.
Any visitor to St Barts has to know that the island only offers luxury accommodation. Authorities prohibit huge hotel resorts, so the number of available hotel rooms is low and advance booking is compulsory. There are also many ultra luxury villas of all sizes to rent for families or groups of friends.
Where to stay? Or where to enter the Garden of Eden?
If I have to put one name on top of my list, it’s the “Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle-de-France“.
But the second name on my list is very close.
Right on Flamands Beach, with its colonial Caribbean style, everything being white with little touches of light grey and pale rose, the Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle-de-France offers beautiful rooms, suites and villas facing the sea and also a few bungalows hidden in the lush vegetation of the tropical garden. The feet-in-the-white-sand lunch at the beach restaurant, La Cabane de l’Isle, is a must. The Executive Chef Yann Vinsot also provides its al-fresco cuisine at the signature restaurant La Case de l’Isle that is a sought-after spot for all gourmets in St Barts. For the comfort of its hosts the hotel has a beautiful Spa that also includes a unique exotic outdoor pavilion, where guests could enjoy massages and body treatments specially conceived by Guerlain for Cheval Blanc. But what make this place so attractive are the quiet atmosphere, the quality of the ultra-luxury service, the attention to details and the kindness of the whole staff that knows how to be as discreet as efficient. www.stbarthisledefrance.chevalblanc.com
Then next, comes a great competitor for the title of n°1 ultra luxury hotel in St Barts, the “Eden Rock Hotel”. Built on a rocky promontory that sheers the beautiful St Jean Bay in two white sandy pristine beaches, the Eden Rock offers rooms, suites, each one different from one another, plus two ultra-luxury beach villas. There, at the Eden Rock red is the signature colour. The service is also close to perfection. And here too gastronomy matters. The Executive Chef Eric Desbordes offers a casual cuisine with finest light contemporary touches at the beach restaurant, the “Sand Bar” and after sunset when the “On the Rocks” restaurant perched on top of the rock opens, his gastronomic cuisine enjoys the gourmets’ palates. The Eden Rock Hotel is listed as a Relais & Châteaux.
The “Guanahani Hotel” rooms are built on a steep hillside. The lower ones, close to the swimming pool and the double sand beach are often booked long time in advance. Guests are so lazy under the Caribbean sun! www.leguanahani.com
The “Christopher Hotel” right on the seaside is a nice option for a resting stay. My advice is to book a standard room facing the charming swimming pool and the sea. This type of room has a nice outdoor private terrace with a sort of Balinese bed. No beach there, the coast is rocky, but the swimming pool under palm trees is very attractive. Perfect for resting holidays but for party-goers remember that in St Barts everything is next door. www.hotelchristopher.com
I want not to forget to include in my list, the “Toiny Hotel” that will soon re-open after a fully refurbishment of all rooms. As a member of Relais & Châteaux the Toiny offers the luxury and elegant service that its guests are looking for. The view from the swimming pool overlooking the sea down by the hill is unique. www.letoiny.com
All these hotels organize private transfers from and to the airport for their guests. They offer great cuisine in their restaurants, but there is no all-inclusive accommodation in St Barts. Visitors always want to try some of the gastronomic options that the island is famous for and every hotel concierge is happy to help them to make their reservations.
I want also to mention a very new property that will open just next December (2016). So I was not able to visit it last April, but the “Villa Marie Sain- Barth” is owned by the Sibuet family, famous for their luxury boutique hotels in the French Alps and in Saint-Tropez. The Villa Marie is located on the hill just overlooking Flamands beach and has 22 bungalows and 4 villas, all decorated in a tropical chic atmosphere. http://saint-barth.villamarie.fr
Gastronomic pause in St Barts
The most trendy beach restaurants for lunch are La Case de l’Isle at the Cheval-Blanc-St-Barth-Isle-de-France and the Sand Bar at the Eden Rock. On St Jean Beach there are also the Nikki Beach and less internationally known, La Plage, the restaurant of the Tom Beach Hotel with a young and festive atmosphere. www.tombeach/com
Right on the mall but charming Shelly Beach, the only beach in Gustavia, the capital city of St Barts, Do Brazil offers all day long nice food and great musical ambiance. But Do Brazil is famous to be the place to enjoy, a glass in hand, the best sunset of the island.
For dinner, the choice is large.
My preferred address is undoubtedly Le Tamarin”, hidden in a green haven on the Route des Salines. Le Tamarin offers a gastronomic cuisine as delicate as inventive. The cellar is filled with incredible wines. And the team of waiters managed by Paco and Julie the charming owners couple, is as gentle as efficient. The ambiance is elegant and relaxed! Advance booking is compulsory. www.tamarinstbarth.com
In Gustavia, Bonito is a white restaurant, very chic, open only for dinner. Famous for its creative cuisine, a mix of French and South American recipes, Bonito offers a beautiful view over Gustavia. Its barman presents a brilliant choice of cocktails and if you want a real romantic dinner with your loved one ask for a table on the semi-circular balcony. www.ilovebonito.com
Bagatelle right on the quay of Gustavia is an attractive restaurant serving a tasty cuisine all day long. It’s also a nice place to have a drink, and residents as visitors love to stop by. You will meet there the welcoming owner who is known as “JM” that you have to pronounce “GM”. If you are only able to come there one time, choose the Tuesday dinner. Every Tuesday night the chef Sofiane creates a “Wine Paring Dinner” with 5 courses and 5 wines, that is not to be missed. Ask for a table on the terrace directly on the harbour quay. www.bagatellestbarths.com
For those who appreciate Asian cuisine, the Black Ginger, in Gustavia too, offers a nice selection of Thai recipes, prepared for European taste, with less spices than in Thailand. But the Thai cooks are always happy to make it spicier on demand. www.blackgingersbh.com
I want not to forget to give a special mention to “Chez Rolande” near Flamands Beach, that is the only authentic Creole restaurant. The restaurant opens only for lunch and the cuisine is as simple as tasty. Try the accras de morue (fried cods), the ragout de cabri (goat in a creole sauce)! And why not end your lunch with a delicious mango crumble?
This is my personal list, but feel free to make your own one. There are many other places to discover on the island.
How to get there:
Visitors to St Bart’s have to board a shuttle flight from St Marteen Island (a fifteen minute flight) on board small planes that carry a maximum of 20 passengers. The small airport of St Bart’s is hidden between the sea and a deep hill. Whatever the wind direction, you will have a nice view of the island before landing. Landing from the hill side of the runway is the most impressive, but this is part of the aventure!
To get to St Marteen, Air France has a daily flight from Paris and KLM from Amsterdam.
There is also the option to fly via Anguilla, but there are less transfer flights to St Bart’s and the transfer is longer.
For more info about St Barts: www.saintbarth-tourisme.com
Text & Photos © Frederic de Poligny