An island notorious for drawing a discerning crowd, St. Barth’s is a destination with no shortage of glamour. There’s a reason that travelers return year after year, after all. But for the first-timer, it can be difficult to know where to begin; and that’s where we come in!
With its white sand, turquoise water, and bougainvillea lined pathways, St Barth’s is teeming with rainbow-hued doll-sized houses, sheltered coves, and world-class dining. From its impeccable hotels to chic party scene that starts well before the sun goes down – did someone say daytime bottle service at Nikki Beach?
From the pros at SmartFlyer, including Katie Frederick Jacobson, Kara Slater, Kyle Slater, Julie Palo Hayes, and Kimberly Gavin, here’s a quick guide to the best of St. Barth’s.
2. Beach Hopping
St-Jean: Located in front of the iconic Eden Rock Hotel, you’ll love this spot for its buzzy atmosphere and prime viewing point to watch the planes come and go. As a bonus, there are lots of shops within walking distance, and St Jean is kid-friendly.
Colombier: Accessible by a rugged three-minute hike or by boat, Colombier is easily one of the island’s best beach, and a favorite swimming beach. If you’re planning on staying for a while, pack a picnic lunch and an umbrella.
Gouverneur: This is one of SmartFlyer’s favorite beaches for a picnic lunch and swimming. It’s a bit of a drive, but the seclusion and privacy make it worth it.
Petit Cul de Sac: It’s recommended going with a guide for the super Instagram-worthy hike to the natural tide pools (below).
Saline: This is where the locals go; it is a bit of a walk from parking to get to the beach and clothing is optional.
Shell Beach: Located right in front of Shellona, this is the perfect spot to spend the afternoon and linger after lunch, grab a spot and stay awhile. It makes for an ideal spot to watch the sun go down on a perfect day.
3. For Lunch
Nikki Beach (pictured below): On Sundays, the posh beach club turns into a table-dancing day party complete with bottle service, model-esque waiters, and oversize sushi boats. Stay through the weekend, you don’t want to miss this one.
Le Toiny: Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, don’t miss the hidden paradise on Toiny Bay. The menu rotates regularly and offers dishes based on fish, grilled meat and refreshing salads. Enjoy a truly relaxing foot in the sand, lunch under the Paillottes.
Fish Corner: One of the newest additions to the island in downtown Gustavia, everything here is fresh and delicious, perfect for when you want a low-key spot to go between shopping.
L’Isoletta: For an easy Roman lunch, try this little Italian trattoria-style spot in the heart of Gustavia. L’Isoletta is the little sister of L’Isola, one of the most popular and renowned restaurants on the island, so you can bet that the pizza and pasta is top-notch.
Shellona: Watch the sunset with your feet in the sand at the revamp of beach bar Do Brazil, an island institution. The Shellona sunset is a little flashier than its former iteration, but that’s fine. Nature is the real star here.
4. Dinner Hot Spots
Bonito (pictured below): Book early for Latin-French fare in the form of ceviche, tiraditos, and an abundance of truffle oil, plus an extensive menu of creative cocktails served alongside unbeatable views of Gustavia Harbor.
Tamarin: Island favorite set in a magical garden under the shade of a 200-year-old tamarind tree. A local favorite with a distinct French-Thai vibe.
L’Isola: Beloved by both locals and visitors, this Southern Italian favorite is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner. You won’t be sitting by the sea, but you’ll also get some of the best dishes on the island.
Le Guerite: This local gem transports you to St Tropez. Make a reservation for Saturday night,
5. Late Night
Bagatelle: An offshoot of the original in New York, gets similarly rowdy, minus the costumes.
Le Ti (pictured above) The raucous, kitschy nightclub is a rite of passage for first-timers. Waiters whisk you into a secret backroom, set you up with costumes like you’re going to Coachella, and send you off onto the dance floor.
6. Where To Stay
Whether you’re looking for a hillside romantic hideaway or a chic party scene, St Barth’s has it all. Below are the picks from SmartFlyer with a look inside the top suites and villas at each.
Cheval Blanc Isle de France
Cheval Blanc Isle de France is elegant, romantic, private, and perfect for both couples and chic families alike, not to mention that it’s located on Flamands beach, one of the island’s best.
Part of the LVMH luxury empire (Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hublot, and now Belmond Hotels), 61 rooms, suites and villas are set amidst gardens and white sand beach.
2-Bedroom Beach Suite
Like many of the hotels here, since they are not cookie-cutters so to speak, the suites can vary, so a good reason to use a professional travel advisor.
The 1,720 sq. ft. 2-Bedroom Beach Suite boasts a spacious living room and dining room, private terraces, multiple indoor and outdoor lounge areas, and a private pool or hot tub overlooking the bay. The two master bedrooms host ensuite bathrooms with a bathtub and rain shower and large separate dressing rooms.
Eden Rock Hotel
The Eden Rock Hotel is perfect for couples and families alike who leans towards splashy rockstar villas and a lively vibes just down the beach from their rooms.
It’s part of Oetker Collection, which includes Le Bristol in Paris, Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc in Antibes, The Lanesborough in London, and Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden among others.
There are numerous unique suites – enough to fill an entire issue.
Christopher Columbus Suite
Located in the principal house perched on the top of the rock with its endless views across St Jean Bay. The one-bedroom 2,200 sq. ft. suite features oak wooden floors throughout, an invitingly oversized 87-inch bed, art contemporary designer furniture, and a library.
The spa bathroom connects to large walk-in dressing rooms with make-up tables. There are state-of-the-art entertainment systems and an extensive private bar stocked with premium wines and spirits plus top-notch whiskies. Enjoy a cocktail from your hot tub on the west-facing balcony.
Set on a perfect crescent bay, Le Barthélemy is refined and fresh, as elegant and restorative as its stunning beachfront location. Le Barthelemy truly embraces its chic Parisian pedigree while reveling in its relaxed St. Barts setting.
La Suite Barthelemy
The 2,280 sq. ft. La Suite Barthélemy offers luxurious yet comfy space and bay views. Ideal for couples, friends or families, this brand new suite features a master bedroom and two guest rooms, each with ensuite bathrooms, and spacious, private terraces. The Luxury Suite is available on a 1, 2 or 3-bedroom basis depending on the number of guests.
The large, welcoming living room and private terrace or balcony set the perfect scene for a relaxing escape or a place to entertain. The kitchenette corner allows for convenience.
Le Toiny is located on the most private and rugged side of the island, where the wind blows hard on the rocky shores, the hotel is quiet and understated, and completely unpretentious.
The Nureyev Villa features four unique bedrooms, two masters in the main floor of the villa, a private suite with its own terrace and kitchen area, and a guest cottage with its independent bathroom and view of the pool.
Outside, there is over 3,000 sq. ft. of outside space, including a private pool, Jacuzzi and steam bath as well as several areas to enjoy total privacy and seclusion.
Virtually all suites and villas have a view of the turquoise lagoon, the newly rebuilt hotel is stunning in its simplicity, the design of the hotel only highlights the beauty of nature around it.
Villa Le Sereno
Villa Le Sereno is a 7,000 sq. ft., four-bedroom villas on half-acre private gardens, with full views of the ocean.
The villa is perched atop a rise leading down to the main hotel and overlooks the secluded Grand Cul de Sac. There are three master bedrooms, a private library that can become a fourth private bedroom with its own private bathroom.
There’s a wood-paneled library with, media room, including surround-sound large-screen home theater. The library has a full ensuite bathroom and can be outfitted with two twins or one king-size bed.
Other features include a fully equipped designer kitchen with aluminum Schiffini cabinets by Vico Magistretti and appliances by Bosch, Pando, and Ilve Italia. The dining room seats 10 comfortably.
Enjoy your private swimming pool with a panoramic ocean view or lounge on the pool deck with a panoramic view furnished for sunbathing and reading. A large covered terrace with ocean views offers a dining table seating eight as well as a BBQ.
7. Getting There
The airport is too small for jets, so best is to fly to St. Maarten and then you can charter a prop to make the short flight. U.S.-based Tradewind Aviation also offers scheduled flights on its Pilatus PC-12 turboprops and has hubs in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Antigua and the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas.