What a difference a year makes. The season has officially kicked off in St. Barth’s with an international windsurfing championship, the annual Cata Cup sailing regatta, not to mention the 70th anniversary of Le Sélect (the local island hotspot known as the place for a “Cheeseburger in paradise”), with the song’s legendary crooner Jimmy Buffet turning up to help the celebration along. In the second full post-Hurricane Irma season, indications that St. Barth’s is truly back (and has returned to its lush, green self once again) are apparent across this nine-square-mile island in the French West Indies. Rumors are still circulating about Scottish hedge fund transplant Hugh Hendry’s land grab plan to build luxury villas and much-needed housing for local residents. New road signs have popped up (European-style white and black ones, with one end shaped into a triangle) to point visitors in the right direction. Sea turtles have come to nest in the lagoon at Grand Fond near Le Sereno and Le Barthélemy. And model Devin Windsor came to do a little nesting of her own, with wedding celebrations in late November at Tamarin, Shellona and newly re-opened Eden Rock, which by all accounts of the reception is buzzing once again. Here’s the latest scoop on what you can expect this holiday season and beyond on the island.
Contact Indagare to arrange a trip to St. Barths. Our Trip Designers can match you with the hotel or villa that is right for you, plan great activities and secure reservations at the best restaurants.
At Eden Rock, you won’t find a traditional reception area these days; instead, guests are welcomed at the British Colonial-style Rémy Bar, named after the hotel’s original owner and former St. Barth’s mayor Rémy de Haenen. The hotel (now 37 rooms, suites and villas) has a fresh look and submarine doors mark entrances around the Rock itself, signifying its rebuilt, “solid as a rock” stability; you’ll still be seeing red everywhere, and The Sand Bar, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant right on the beach, lives up to its name, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner—and plenty of cocktails (Edonista Spritz, anyone?). The hotel’s brand-new spa features products from Ligne Saint-Barth, all locally sourced (which make good souvenirs or presents to bring back). A host of children’s activities are also available, including yoga and meditation classes, art lessons and a pastry workshop for kids four and up.
Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France and the integration of the former Taiwana property are still underway and, when complete, will make it the island’s largest property (61 rooms), set on the hillside or with access to Flamands Beach, along with the five-bedroom Villa de France, which has direct beach access. On the restaurant front, French chef Jean Imbert oversees sophisticated La Case de L’Isle and the more casual La Cabane, on the beach. (See more island restaurant options below.)
Le Sereno now has 43 accommodations, with four new pool suites with views of the Grand Cul de Sac. Three new spa treatment rooms and an outdoor spa pavilion offer Swiss brand Valmont products and treatments, and there’s a Larusmiani boutique that features Euro-chic clothing (for men and women), beachwear, jewelry and accessories. The restaurant, Le Sereno Al Mare, is now helmed by Raffael Lenzi (also of the brand’s Lake Como property) and has an Italian menu with a Caribbean twist—read: lots of local fish dishes and signature pasta dishes. There’s also a more casual option by the beach, Plage, serving lighter fare. Le Toiny, which has one of our favorite beach boutiques on the island, debuts its four-bedroom private Nureyev Villa, set right on the water on the island’s rugged Côte Sauvage, near the Grand Fond. The former residence of Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev has incredible views, a hammam cabana and massage area, along with full access to the hotel’s service and amenities.
Hotel Christopher now has new four-bedroom villas, like mini private homes, designed by French interior designer Olivia Putman this year, with two opening this month and a third in 2020, all with private pools. The hotel has also partnered with Artireef to help rebuild the Pointe Milou reef by helping to increase the rate of natural coral growth and protecting it from the devastating impact of climate change and pollution.
Not opening until 2020: Le Guanahani’s beachfront suites with infinity pools, new restaurants, as well as a spa and fitness center, won’t be available until next October. The long-awaited re-do of Le Carl Gustaf, owned by the Barrière Group, above Shellona, in Gustavia, has been pushed back to February.
The Classics: Bonito, for ceviche and fresh fish and a view of Gustavia. L’Isola, for Italian (and L’Isoletta for less formal dishes and pizzas). Santa Fe, Tamarin, near Saline beach, and Francois Plantation are also Indagare-approved.
Foodie havens: Upscale La Case de L’Isle at Cheval Blanc serves haute options by chef Jean Imbert, including sophisticated French fare infused with Caribbean flavors and local seafood. Jared McCarroll, chef of the restaurant at Le Toiny, has been named chef of the year by Gault & Millau.
Gustavia Newcomers: Newly popular Fish Corner, run by Johnny Laplace and Nicholas Lebon and featuring freshly caught fish every day, along with Quarter Kitchen and Cocktail Lab (see below). For a place to stock up on healthy foods right in town, try La Claire Vie.
Always a scene
Hot spots in the sand: In St. Jean, there’s Sand Bar by Jean-Georges at Eden Rock and L’il Rock, the bohemian beach restaurant, which are always buzzing, alongside Nikki Beach and Pearl Beach, where a scene (and 15 Euro valet parking) are guaranteed. Nikki Beach and Pearl Beach, Cheval Blanc and Le Barthelemy all run weekly fashion shows. Nikki Beach has Rosé Fridays. Pearl Beach has Bikini day by Pop, on Saturdays. Shellona is best on Sundays, when the vibe is mellower and the crowd is more local and the DJ plays a slowed-down mix. (Along with Le Toiny’s beach club, many of these also have some of the best beachwear in their tiny chic boutiques, which makes for a little diversion between courses.)
The usual suspects: Baz Bar or Bagatelle for drinks and music by the water. Le Ti 54 turns up the disco with a local DJ on Thursday nights and regular performances and dancing on tables on the weekend.
Newer to the scene: Quarter, for drinks and/or tapas, in Gustavia or try Rhum Bar, the speakeasy with its own rum room housing a rare rum collection for tastings and master classes in the back of Quarter.
What to See and Do
For the Holidays: The island’s Christmas Village Market is underway daily until December 22, with small stands from local vendors and shops along the main dock selling wares from local artisans and merchants and hosting local concerts (and a visit from Santa). New Year’s Eve Fireworks will light up the sky over Gustavia Harbor.
Island Art: Hotel Christopher launches an Art Party on December 26, with works by local artists. Guests will also find a series of photographs by Marcelle (“La Capricieuse”), on view through Christmas. The island also hosts Art Week, featuring work by island artists, February 3 to 9.
St. Barth’s Music Festival, with international artists (especially jazz), runs from January 12-20 this year.
Fun For Kids: There’s a local carnival parade on February 12 and a Mardi Gras costume parade in Gustavia on February 25th.
Unique Experience: Indagare can also help arrange panoramic helicopter tours of the island.
Travel Tip: Beaches at Grand Cul de Sac and Shell Beach are now accessible to those with reduced mobility for the first time.
Tradewind, the aviation company that flies to St. Barth’s from San Juan, St. Thomas and Antigua, has expanded service via San Juan, allowing you to check your luggage straight through now on American Airlines, with automatic baggage transfer, boarding passes, etc. The services are also available via United and British Airways; Delta and JetBlue are currently in negotiation. Tickets can be booked separately. Indagare can also help arrange VIP assistance.
Contact Indagare to arrange a trip to St. Barth’s. Our Trip Designers can match you with the hotel or villa that is right for you, plan great activities and secure reservations at the best restaurants.