In December, Marchay’s own Rebecca Lane did a 7-day inspection trip to the island of St. Barth, visiting all the top luxury hotels and getting a feel for how the island is operating under Covid restrictions. The following showcases her highlights and updates from the beautiful Caribbean favorite.
Covid Update: As of December 12th, St. Barth authorities will now accept a negative test result from either the PCR test (taken within 72 hours of arrival) OR the rapid Antigen test (taken within 48 hours of arrival). Currently the island has a midnight curfew and a mask mandate but overall feels quite “business as usual” and is able to maintain a lively vibe. Fortunately, most restaurants have enough outdoor space and plenty of Caribbean sunshine to ensure patrons feel comfortable, while hotels are doing their due diligence to ensure proper protocols are in place.
Why Go: St. Barth is known as the France of the Caribbean thanks to its world class dining, cleanliness, warm hospitality and European charm, all while set to a backdrop of gorgeous white sand beaches and turquoise water. It doesn’t take long to see why this is a favorite destination for so many travelers, year after year. Following the devastation of Hurricane Irma in 2017, nearly every hotel had to be completely rebuilt, which means accommodations are practically brand new. And because each property has its own character and uniqueness, there’s truly a perfect place for every type of traveler.
When to Go: Winter months are prime time, with most days filled with plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures for beaching and boating. Peak season is during the holidays when the island hosts thousands of new and returning visitors to celebrate Christmas and New Years with lively parties, fireworks and celebrations. Keep in mind that during peak hurricane season, particularly mid-August through September, is when most hotels, shops, and restaurants close down for seasonal maintenance. The island livens back up starting in early October each year.
Getting There: We flew from San Juan to St. Barth on Tradewind Aviation, which means US citizens only clear Customs & Immigration once in St. Barth. Tradewind has a large fleet of new Pilatus planes and is an excellent option when not chartering privately. The flight time from San Juan is approx. 55 minutes and flights operate several times per day, plus landing on one of the shortest runways in the world is a thrilling way to start your trip to St. Barth! There are also numerous connections between St. Barth and St. Maarten, opening plenty of connecting options. Just remember that flights cannot take off or land before sunrise or after dark!
Where To Stay: Below are some of our top hotel choices, though we also work with a wide variety of top luxury villa rentals in case a private home is more your speed.
Photos courtesy of Hotel Barriere Le Carl Gustav
This newcomer to the luxury hotel scene on the island is located just above Gustavia, only a 5 minute downhill walk to the town and harbor. Well-appointed bungalows make up the majority of accommodations here and offer one or two bedrooms, all with private plunge pools overlooking the scenic Gustavia harbor. Ask housekeeping to put a complimentary exercise water bike in your plunge pool to work off some of those French dessert calories! For larger families or groups, the brand new 5-bedroom signature Villa Diane offers breathtaking views and plenty of privacy from the large outdoor terrace with infinity edge pool. While the property is not beachfront, hotel guests have dedicated lounge chairs at the nearby Shellona Beach Club on Shell Beach, a 3 minute walk from the hotel.
Photos courtesy of Eden Rock
The iconic, long-standing resort is truly the island’s best option for those wanting the “See & Be Seen” atmosphere. The resort features one of the most memorable and unique locations on the island and was built into a natural rock that juts into the sea, giving some of the suites like the newly opened 2,200 square foot Christopher Columbus Suite a bird’s eye view of the coral reef below. People watching doesn’t get much better than from the Rock Suites that face the lively and famed Nikki Beach club restaurant. But for the ultimate indulge, the Villa Rock Star features 16,000 square feet of ultra-luxe living space, dedicated around the clock butler and chef service and a private outdoor pool area to drool over. And while the adults will enjoy daytime signature frozes by the buzzy pool, families will delight in the numerous kid-friendly activities and calm swimming beach suitable for little ones.
Photos courtesy of Le Toiny
For those seeking a more chilled vibe, Le Toiny, located on the east end of the island, features dramatic cliffside ocean views and private accommodation options suitable for couples and families alike. As part of Relais & Chateaux, the hotel puts a big focus on amazing food & beverage and its Beach Club restaurant is worth visiting even if not staying at the hotel. The private beach and Beach Club is accessed by the resort’s own safari-reminiscent Defender shuttles with open air seating, treating its riders with some of the most pristine views on the island. The newly built Spirit Suites come with 2 private parking spaces for your rental car and although the resort has a very private and quiet atmosphere, it’s anything but isolated. Within 5 minutes, you can be at the bustling hotels and restaurants of Grand Cul-de-Sac and only 15 minutes from the airport and Gustavia.
Photos courtesy of Le Sereno, JP Piter and Patricia Patrinejad
One of the most well-known and favorite names on the island, this sophisticated gem has finally reopened its doors on December 17th following a total renovation after Hurricane Irma. While the resort structures are essentially brand new, returning guests will find the warm hospitality and excellent service they’ve remembered from previous stays. The 39 bungalows and suites are simply decorated in a timeless, colonial-chic décor, and the new Villa Sereno, located hillside just above the main lobby, featuring 3 bedrooms and private pool, is perfect for families or couples wanting some added privacy. Located in the Grand Cul-de-Sac neighborhood, guests can enjoy a wide range of water activities, including stand up paddle boarding and snorkeling with sea turtles right off the beach. Staying true to its Italian roots, the hotel has brought in an all-Italian staff for its signature Italian restaurant, Al Mare, which is soon to be an island favorite.
Where to Dine & Drink: Nikki Beach offers one of the liveliest atmospheres on the island, with DJs spinning great dance music and an extensive cocktail and food menu. For a true VIP experience, book a private beach bed with bottle service for the afternoon and rose the day away!
Tamarin Restaurant, set among lush and beautiful tropical grounds, is perfect for a romantic and memorable dinner.
In Gustavia, Bonito features upscale seafood, lovely views over the harbor, and some very fun and unique cocktails.