Jim and I have been going to St. Barth’s for years----we never tire of it, and always hate to leave. There are so many wonderful FRIENDS, RESTAURANTS, BEACHES. No place like it in the world!
I have had lots of friends ask about where to go, where to stay, which beaches are the best, which restaurants and, of course, shopping. When they ask, I usually write a 2 page document for them to take so that they don’t miss anything. Since we have just spent almost 2 weeks there, I thought I would simply do a Notebook post on this subject.
WHY do I love it so? Let me count the ways……
THE BEACHES OF ST. BARTH’S
There are 12+ beaches on the island---here are some descriptions of a few of my favorites…..
SALINE is very long beach with no hotels or restaurants on the beach----it is the most unspoiled. There has been a big discussion (that is putting it mildly) about a W style hotel that was proposed to build above this beach. Since Saline is the absolute favorite of St. Barth locals---they protested loudly and it looks as though they will be able to prevent this from happening. I certainly hope so.
St. Jean Beach
ST. JEAN is a lovely beach and great for walking because it is very flat and long. This is one of the most commercial beaches on the island, but not in a bad way. There are catamaran rentals, bars on the beach as well as restaurants and hotels---all very island style.
FLAMANDS is my personal favorite. It is quite beautiful and even though there are 2 hotels, it is the least crowded of all the beaches (that are easy to access---Columbier is incredible, but you need to be a goat or a major jock to get to it---I am neither). We stay just above Flamands beach and like to walk on it every day we are in St. Barth’s. There are two of my favorite restaurants on this beach, but we’ll get to that later.
GOUVENEUR’S BEACH is stunning! It is on the Atlantic side of the island, with larger waves and rougher seas. There are no restaurants on the beach or even near it. The largest estate on the island is on this beach, owned by the Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich. Gouveneurs’ is a great place to take your umbrella, beach chairs, read a book and people watch. It is the only nude beach on the island---this doesn’t mean that everyone is nude---I am certainly not, but need to warn you in case you are not comfortable with this. Other beaches on St. Barth’s are topless---very few French women wear tops with their bikinis when on the beaches---doesn’t bother me a bit and I don’t even think about it, but I am too American to do it myself.
WHERE TO STAY
If you are going for the first time, I would recommend staying in a HOTEL. This is what we did many years ago. On that trip, we realized that there were so many impossibly wonderful VILLAS to lease that we have been doing that ever since. We love SIBARTH for leasing villas. Everyone who works there is dedicated and will show you around the island to assist you in finding exactly what you are looking for. They have villas with one bedroom or 8+. Or, you may enjoy staying in a hotel and keeping it simple---I think it depends on how long you are staying. If I were staying under a week, I would probably stay in a hotel.
Here are a few I recommend:
Eden Rock Hotel
This hotel is one of the oldest on the island and on St. Jean Beach. It was purchased 10 or so years ago by a British couple, Jane and David Matthews. They have done an incredible job restoring one of the oldest hotels on the island. This one is a 5 star with prices to match, but well worth it.
Located on GRAND CUL DE SAC BEACH. This is where we stayed the first time we went to St. Barth’s. This hotel is lovely and has been well maintained. It is a member of Leading Hotels of the World. They have a spa if you are interested in massages, facials, etc. while in St. Barth’s. Of course, there are great manicurists and masseuses who will come to your hotel or villa.
ISLE DE FRANCE
Isle de France
This hotel has been very popular for the past ten years---located on FLAMANDS BEACH (my favorite) with a lovely restaurant. They have added a new building with large suites. When we were there the first of last month, Courtney Cox and her darling daughter, Coco, were staying there. It is very private and many celebrities stay on Flamands for this reason.
WHERE TO EAT
When Jim and I went to St. Barth’s for the first time 20 years ago, the food was either French Classique (lots of sauces and lots of courses) or Island Creole. I remember going into the Hermes shop, which is still right next to the best grocery store on the island in Gustavia. At that time, a striking couple, the Ferics, owned the Hermes shop---it was so wonderful then----there were always lots of Birkin bags (they were not so expensive in those days), plus things I never saw in any other Hermes shop. This was due to the great taste of Catherine Feric. One day, I asked her daughter, Rebecca, where we could eat that was not Classique French or Island Creole. She said “Oh, for sure, go to Maya’s”.
We did and it is still our FAVORITE restaurant on the island.
MAYA GURLEY is an amazing woman in so many ways---she is one of the most passionate people I know about what she does. Her husband, RANDY, is fun, and one of the most interesting people on the island. We love to visit with him because he is so intelligent, articulate, and knows everyone and everything going on in St. Barth’s. If you go, please tell them I sent you! And, don’t forget to order the Thai Salad if it’s on the menu (menu changes every night). You MUST have a reservation here.
MAYA’S is not a restaurant---it’s a club, and anyone can join.
ISLE DE FRANCE ON THE BEACH
Isle de France
Be sure to ask for a beach table when you call for a reservation (you need a reservation here, too). You can eat lobster or the best tuna tartar on the island in the shade of a lovely tent with your feet in the sand. Be sure to order DOMAINE OTT BLANC DE BLANC (a delightful wine from Provence) if you are drinking wine for lunch----I highly recommend it and having it for lunch---what is better than a great nap after lunch when on vacation?
Domaine Ott Blanc
TAIWANA ON SUNDAYS
TAIWANA is also on Flamands and is a small hotel with amazing views. Everyone loves to eat lunch there on Sundays. The food is simple, delicious and expensive, actually the most expensive on the island. Be sure to order the lentil salad with the spicy sauce on the side, the barbequed chicken and the lemon tart. Again, reservations are a must.
For years, this restaurant, which is at the turn to go to Gouveneurs Beach, was a joint---a pool hall and bar. We always loved that it was called the Santa Fe, but never went there. It is now a really good restaurant with simple, very well prepared food. They have a lobster tank and I think the best LOBSTER on the island (most restaurants have lobster). This is a funky place that Hemingway would have loved had he ever gone to St. Barth’s.
THE SAND BAR AT EDEN ROCK
The Sand Bar
This restaurant is open for lunch only---lunch in St. Barth’s is really the most important meal of the day, as you may have determined by now. The DOVER SOLE here is the best on the island, and, I might add, as good as it is in restaurants in Paris and New York. They know how to prepare it simply and beautifully.
Jim’s Dover Sole at the Sand Bar
LE SERENO---We had a delicious lunch there on this trip. I definitely recommend it. It is in GRAND CUL DE SAC. Christian Liagre designed the rooms in the hotel as well as the restaurant.
GUSTAVIA is the main town in St. Barth’s, and where most of the best shopping is because it is where all of the yachts are docked. Large cruise ships are not allowed in St. Barths (smaller ones are), so you won’t see hoards of people in Gustavia. You will find lovely local shops as well as a few brand names such as Vuitton and Hermes. I love to shop in the offbeat ones---places who have things I can’t find at home. Here are some of my favorites:
CALYPSO---this is not the Calypso chain, but the original---the Calypso chain bought the name several years ago. This one has wonderful clothes, shoes and jewelry. It is right behind the Hermes shop.
CARAT---a lovely jewelry store just down the street from Hermes on the same side of the street.
POUPETTE---there are several locations---the one in Gustavia has the most inventory, but I always like to shop at the one located at TAMARIN restaurant.
100 PERCENT CAPRI---in Gustavia upstairs at the Carre d’Or for crisp white linen clothing and great Panama hats. A very pretty boutique.
100 Percent Capri
LA CAVE du PORT FRANC---this is Jim’s favorite wine shop on the island. It is on the way into Gustavia. Guillaume and Proust are the owners. They are knowledgeable and friendly and supply most of the yachts in Gustavia Harbor.
La Cave du Port Franc
CHRISTIANE CELLE--- this shop is in ST. JEAN which is the second largest shopping area. It is on the road from St. Jean to Saline. They have lovely caftans as well as dresses that are great for summer.
MAYA’S TO GO----near the airport in St. Jean. This is the same Maya who owns the restaurant---a delightful take out and gourmet shop. However, you need to get there around 11 in the morning before they sell out of the most delicious items.
Maya’s To Go
DRIVING IN ST. BARTH’S---A WORD OF WARNING
Jim and I think driving in SB is an adventure, but he is a good driver---I, on the other hand, NEVER drive there. The roads are narrow although they are all nicely paved in concrete, and very steep with lots of curves, some hairpin. You need to know this before you go. We always lease a car with plenty of power, not one of the Mini Mokes. Just be careful if you’ve not driven there before. You will enjoy the island so much more if you have a car.
I could clearly go on and on, but this post is already way too long. For those of you who dislike islands and beaches, no worries, I’ll be writing one on NEW YORK and PARIS later this year.
St. Barth's is Sweetie's favorite place too!