Each time I vacation on St. Barts, I repeatedly answer the question, “Where are you from?” And each time, I am met with the now-familiar look of surprise and the comment, “You come all the way from LA?” I do, and it is absolutely worth the trip. This is one journey worth repeating.
Where else can one find warm turquoise waters, world-class restaurants, over-the-top shopping with an abundance of designer stores like Hermes and Cartier, and French culture? It may be a seven-plus-hour flight with a brief stop in Miami, but the couple extra hours in the air are worth the trip to paradise.
High season runs from the middle of December through April. It’s when the eight-mile-square island is the busiest and East Coasters flee the harsh winter for the warm waters of the Caribbean. While it’s the more lively time to visit the island, it is also more expensive. Prices double over New Year’s as super yachts and celebrities compete for the best real estate.
There is a reason that, for decades, jet setters have chosen French-speaking St. Barts as their island utopia. White sand beaches are an escape even for celebrities like Cindy Crawford, who calls Malibu home. Mariah Carey, Gisele Bundchen, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Beyoncé Knowles, and Jay-Z are just a few of the island’s frequent visitors.
Arrival in Style
After landing at St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), the adventure begins. Book a private plane or a small charter to take you on a short 10-minute flight to St. Barts. You’ll likely hold your breath as you come in for landing if you fly; due to a shorter airstrip, only small planes are allowed to land on the island. The descent is steep but beautiful, offering your first view of this Caribbean wonderland.
Luxury accommodations are plentiful on the island. Le Sereno is the perfect property for those looking for a private, serene hotel experience. The exclusivity begins at SXM, where a VIP agent arranged by the hotel greets you. The agent seamlessly handles your baggage transport, personally escorting you past the customs line and directly onto your next flight. Transferring flights has never been easier.
The vast majority of the 37 suites and villas at the Le Sereno are beachfront, and many boast their own terrace overlooking the sea. The hotel is situated on Grand Cul de Sac Lagoon, one of the most ideal spots on the island. Start your morning with heavenly eggs in your room or in the open-air, beachfront restaurant. When you have had your fill of ocean fun, the pool is just warm enough to feel like a treat and offers postcard-worthy oceanfront views. The hotel’s spacious suites sport contemporary, minimalist decor by Parisian designer Christian Liaigre.
Villa rentals are another fantastic option. Perfect for families, larger groups or couples wanting more privacy and a personalized island holiday, there are 400 villas available for rent with the assistance of the seasoned villa specialists at WIMCO. For over 30 years, WIMCO has been helping travelers organize the quintessential St. Barts stay. Villa specialists have endless dialogues with clients regarding their every need and desire on the island and, unlike traditional rental platforms, WIMCO’s villa specialists have a detailed knowledge of the villas from bed linens to art. Their personal dedication begins the moment you reach out and express interest in the island. No request is too small or too grand for this team. From flights to and from the island, to an in-villa Apple TV or treadmill, to gourmet breakfast delivered daily, WIMCO is devoted to ensuring the clients’ is satisfied. During the busier times of year, WIMCO concierges will make reservations for you at the most sought-after restaurants, a feat that in-and-of-itself sets WIMCO apart. Fancy a private charter for the afternoon or a chef at your villa? Your personal concierge will handle all the particulars, from the staff on the boat to having your favorite champagne chilled on ice.
Larger villas are perfect for company retreats, offering the group a private place for meetings, entertainment, and activities. Villa WV CMA is a sprawling property in Petit Cul de Sac with six bedrooms, two of which are master suites, furniture from B&B Italia, a gym, a screening room, and stunning vistas from every room. Perfect for a family of four, Villa WV ECO is one of the most beloved villas on the island. Close to the popular Gouverneur Beach and not far from town, clients never want to leave this home built into volcanic rock with sculptural walls and desert gardens. For a smaller group, Villa VM MBA is a two-bedroom home located in quiet Pointe Milou, known for its spectacular sunsets. Great for cooking, this villa is casual but elegant and will have you feeling right at home. Mention CSQ upon arrival to receive a special amenity.
Want to own a piece of paradise? Property owners in St. Barts are primarily American and French but also include other nationalities. A plethora of villa options are available to suit every buyer’s need, offering you the opportunity to own a piece of this desirable island. One-bedroom villas start around 1.15M and reach well over 100M for some of the island’s most luxurious properties. As Doug Foregger, Director of WIMCO International Real Estate, notes, “St. Barts real estate remains extremely active even though the buyers are completely in tuned with the global issues that affect us.” Clients are still purchasing and many are deciding to spend four to five months of the year on the island. Villa WV JEP, a contemporary six-bedroom villa with exotic woods and modern materials, is currently listed at 12.9M. Two-bedroom Villa WV FWI is a more intimate option listed for 3.18M that offers gorgeous views of Pointe Milou.
Incredible Island Cuisine
Dining on the island is an affair to remember. Lunches are casual, often with your feet in the sand and a glass of rosè in hand. The Le Toiny Beach Club is a new destination on the eastern side of the island. Complete with a boutique, a gorgeous restaurant perfect for lunch, and hammocks for lounging the day away, the club also serves vegetable crudités with three homemade dips and mahi mahi that might be the best you will ever taste.
Indigo on the Beach is a new addition to the Le Gunahani Hotel. Relaxed but chic, the restaurant has views of the ocean from every angle. A club sandwich three tiers high is perfectly executed with a side of thick, salty fries, while a side of baked eggplant and tomato is an unexpectedly creamy, decadent accompaniment.
Just a few minutes from Saline beach sits newcomer Tamarin. Named after the stunning Tamarin tree that welcomes you to the lush greens of lily pads and parrots, this secret garden is an island must.
Perched high above the island’s capital Gustavia sits the Peruvian hotspot Bonito. Overlooking the harbor, Bonito welcomes visitors from all over the world who delight in their ceviches, tiraditos, and hand-crafted cocktails to the beat of a live DJ. While the entire menu is incredible, do not miss the sea bass for a main entree.
La Guérite has only been open a few short months and is already an island favorite. Modeled after the original location near Cannes, La Guérite brings Greek gastronomy to the port of Gustavia, beside small fishing boats and mega yachts alike. The atmosphere is casually elegant, with all-white traditional décor that is welcoming but fun.
Shopping in St. Barts is easily the best island shopping in the world, and all at duty free prices. Big brands like Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, and Ralph Lauren are lined up along Gustavia’s main stretch and most brands offer items exclusive to the island. Local boutiques add color, specializing in everything from bathing suits to spices to linens. For 30 years, Ligne St. Barth has been creating beautiful bath products that epitomize the island spirit, help heal sunburns, and make for great gifts. La Casa del Habano offers 100% Cuban cigars and Rivieras Leisure Shoes’ newly opened boutique will have you looking as effortlessly comfortable and chic as you feel.
The beauty of St. Barts has the ability to appeal to every type of traveler. Whether you are traveling with your significant other, family and friends, or seeking a solo adventure, the island is sure to provide the ideal mix of tranquility and fun.