PASSPORT: ST. BART’S
No, you didn’t just touch down in the South of France (as many say feels similar): you are on a tiny, pristine island in the Caribbean. The thought of finding a little piece of the Côte d'Azur in another part of the world clearly has its appeal judging by the revolving casts of celebrities and socialites who treat St. Bart’s like a second home. Breezy, sexy, and perpetually sunny, with the bluest waters, whitest beaches, and harbors filled with mega yachts, the chicest Caribbean island somehow manages to exude a laid-back vibe unspoiled by package-tour partygoers.
Tranquil as it may be, it is also absurdly expensive. Even getting there requires an additional boat or plane journey from a neighboring island. Two boutique hotels sit atop the local resort food chain: hotel Isle de France and the renowned Eden Rock. Small as it may be, in St. Bart’s (short for Saint-Barthélemy) you will find French food worthy of Paris. It’s home to more than seventy-five mostly extraordinary restaurants and dozens of fashion boutiques and art galleries. But the real draw is the beaches. Saline and Gouverneur have the best vistas; Shell Beach is perfect for watching the sunset.
The island is so small you could walk to most of them if it weren’t for the hilly landscape (like, San Francisco hilly), but that, too, is part of St. Bart’s appeal. Street signs are few and far between, so prepare to navigate narrow streets and winding roads based on vague directions from a bartender. In any other setting this might be frustrating, but there are worst places to get lost than St. Bart’s, and you’ll learn the lay of the land quickly.
When you arrive, start by heading over to the Sand Bar at Eden Rock for a midday ginger cocktail or Kiki-é Mo for a panini and mango smoothie before settling down in a plush sun bed at the legendary Nikki Beach. Repeat ever day as needed.
Eden Rock Baie de St-Jean
The St. Bart’s you’ve read about happens here. The place to stay for those who want to be in the island’s epicenter, near the party scenes and shopping. For true bragging rights, book the Villa Nina or Villa Rockstar, two of the best rooms in all St. Bart’s.
La Plage Tom Beach Hotel, Baie de St. Jean
This day-and-night spot has an authentic island spirit, mixed with luxurious European-style touches. Stop by the I Love Friday party.
Nikki Beach Plage de St. Jean
Like its sister club in St. Tropez, this buzzing beach club is the definition of daytime partying. The crowd is beautiful and the food is surprisingly excellent.
Natural Pool: Grand Fond
Though the beach here isn’t for swimming, it’s one of the wildest, most dramatic spots on the island. A great place to get away from it all. Be sure to explore the little caves around the boulders.
Clic Gallery Rue de la République, Gustavia
Stock up on coffee-table tomes by St. Bart's icons Helmut Newton and Patrick Demarchelier at this artfully curated bookstore-cum-art gallery, whose sister store is in Lower Manhattan.
Cheval Blanc 26 Rue du Roi Oscar II, Gustavia
Relax with a feet-in-the-sand lunch of local fish and the best frites in the Caribbean (no exaggeration). The beachfront restaurant turns into a venue for exclusive parties and events during the summer.
If you’re in the mood for a romantic picnic, grab a bottle of wine and take a short, twenty-five-minute hike to Colombier. It’s usually secluded, since the only way to reach it is on foot or by boat.
Located on the southern side of the island, getting to this beach requires a long hike down a rocky path. There is a sign and you will soon understand why it’s a local favorite. White sand, tons of space, few bodies, and perfect waves.
Up on the hillside of Marigot sits this luxurious four-bedroom villa. With a breezy, open floor plan and an abnormally long pool, you’ll wake up in a tropical setting to begin another day in paradise.
L’soletta Rue du Roi Oscar II, Gustavia
In the heart of Gustavia, just a few steps from the port, there’s a great Italian-style pizza place. All the food is prepared each morning, ensuring a conveniently delicious snack any hour of the day.
Kiki-é Mo Across from Saint Jean Bay and Nikki Beach
Across the street from Nikki Beach is the equivalent of an Italian grocery, a supermarket serving up fresh sandwiches, picnic-style.
Black Ginger Rue Samuel Fahlberg, Gustavia
Dramatic decor, authentic dishes, and bold colors make this eatery a St. Bart’s staple; sit on the second floor to dine under the stars. The coconut curry chicken is a standout, and you can’t go wrong with the black pepper mahimahi — a consistent crowd-pleaser.
The best beach if you’re looking for gorgeous scenery. It’s less developed so you’ll find lots of locals sunbathing (like the French do), or simply relaxing in the calm waters.
Super-modern design accented with minimalist decor uniquely harmonized with its fresh island surroundings. With six bedrooms overlooking the sea this villa has all you need, and then some, including a lavish movie theater.
Baz Wharfside, Gustavia
Live jazz with a bluesy soul is the soundtrack at this waterfront sushi bar. Drawing an eclectic and lively crowd, it’s the kind of place you could run into Miranda Kerr or a French soldier on leave.
Modjo Centre Vaval, St. Jean
An upscale nightlife addition to St. Jean, where you’re bound to meet some interesting characters as you stumble in after a late night of dancing, as long as you can get past the doormen.
Modernism Gallery Montee de Camaruche, Lorient
A 600-square-foot space offering a tightly curated selection of mid-century and contemporary furniture and design objects. The gallery’s first location is in New York; its third location opens in Tokyo later this year.
La Casa del Habano Villa Créole, St Jean
Many cigar lovers regard the island of St. Bart’s as their Cuban connection, in large part thanks to this shop. Devoted 100 percent to Cuban cigars, La Casa del Habano is the place for Cohiba and Montecristo at tax-free prices.
MasterSki Pilou La Pointe, Gustavia
Based in the Port of Gustavia, MasterSki Pilou is a leading St. Bart’s yacht charter service with experienced skippers. It offers private charters to St. Martin and Anguilla, as well as daily boat charters around the coast of St. Bart’s.
Isle De France Baie des Flamands
Regarded as the island’s finest, this boutique property set on Flamands Bay is home to forty beautifully designed rooms, suites, and villas. Visit in June — the low season will have just started, so it’s a quieter experience with beautiful weather.
Rock Shop Baie de St-Jean
Hidden inside Hotel Eden Rock is one of the chicest boutiques on the island. Designer clothes, barely-there bikinis, and, although the shop is mainly female-ori-ented, a few accessories for men.
Le Pasha Allée du Guanahani, Gustavia
A concept store for men and women that’s full of beachwear and loungewear. Pick up a scented candle redolent of waves crashing against the Gustavia rocks.
Bijoux De La Mer Rue de la Republiqué, Gustavia
Jewels inspired by the sea, made up of black pearls, sea glass, shells, and sand-colored stones. A great shop to pick up a little something for the missus.
Maya’s Plage de Public, Gustavia
White walls, white pillars, and white chairs, with nautical accents. The restaurant, a simple, tin-roofed structure, is perched right on the water, close enough to hear the waves crash. Some say if you haven’t eaten at Maya’s, you haven’t experienced St. Bart’s.
Edgar Cour Vendome, Gustavia
A store geared toward younger guys, with Converse-style tennis shoes, sports coats, and monochromatic shirts. An all-in-one spot for basic soft staples; just don’t expect a soft price point.
Hartford Plage St. Jean
Brimming with elegant pieces, it’s impossible to leave here empty-handed.
Sea Memory 26 Rue du Roi Oscar II, Gustavia
One-of-a-kind objects in the heart of Gustavia. Since the nineties, Sea Memory has been bringing natural materials blended with exceptional handicraft.
Le Tamarin Route de Saline, Grande Saline
This Saline beach favorite boasts bohemian vibes in a country-chic style. The restaurant/beach club is designed around a hundred-year-old tamarin tree, that rises up from the middle of the restaurant. There is almost always a line, but you can grab a hammock while you wait.
Bagatelle Rue Samuel Fahlberg, Gustavia
A mainstay of St. Bart’s nightlife. The food is solid and the crowd what you would expect from this Manhattan outpost.
L’Isola Rue du Roi Oscar II, Gustavia
With a more formal atmosphere than the usual St. Bart’s hot spots, come here for a romantic dinner of traditional Italian dishes. Some swear the pastas are the best you’ll find in the Caribbean.
L’Esprit Route de Saline
A culinary destination with excellent wines and a warming environment. Sit in the garden for a lunch under the willow trees.
On the Rocks Eden Rock, Baie de Saint Jean
The trendy restaurant at Eden Rock has always been where the island’s finest flock. Come to rub elbows and try the restaurant’s signature ginger margaritas.
Sand Bar Eden Rock, Baie de Saint Jean
A perfect balance of laid-back attitude paired with first-class service. Walk around the Eden Rock sunbathers and up the steps onto the deck to enjoy the freshest salads that you’ll have all trip.
Le Ti Pointe Milou, Anse de Lorient
St. Bart’s legendary spot for cabaret shows, table dancing, and champagne sipping. Request a table in the main room, where you can sit amongst a gorgeous parade of singers and dancers.
Do Brasil Shell Beach, Gustavia
One of the places to come for lunch is this beach house on Shell Beach. It has good music, carefree cuisine, and beauties wandering up for drinks in bikinis. Order a burger, a mojito, and ignore the price; it’s well worth it.
Space SBH Carré D'Or, Gustavia
A contemporary art gallery focused on works by emerging international artists, Space aims to bring new cultural perpectives to the island. Since 2005 it has been doing just that.
Bonito Rue Lubin Brin, Gustavia
Bonito offers a unique French-Latin cuisine with a great view of Gustavia Harbor. Resembling an intimate living room, Bonito feels like a cozy beach house designed to make guests feel at home.