Your Ultimate Guide to St. Barts
You can believe everything you have heard about St. Barts: This Caribbean hideaway in the French West Indies really is that glamorous. Here, the best things to do in St. Barts are all ingredients you need for the perfect tropical vacation: stunning beachfront hotels, waterfront cafés, chic shops, and more.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
As you walk through the lobby of Le Sereno on Grand Cul de Sac beach, its centerpiece unfolds beyond you: a palm-fringed infinity pool that reflects the sea and sky. Minimalist designer Christian Liaigre is the genius behind the hotel's pared-down aesthetic, which allows for maximum enjoyment of the surrounding landscape. Waking up in a mosquito netting-draped bed looking out to the water beyond is something you have to experience once in your life. Even if you're not staying here, the restaurant is not to be missed, with its Mediterranean vibe and dishes like risotto with red Sicilian prawns and marinated salmon carpaccio with orange and fennel salad.
Cheval Blanc Saint-Barth Isle de France
This hotel had always been a beloved place to stay on St. Barts, thanks to its location on the longest and widest beach on the island. Only the hotel used to look a little fussy and outdated. No longer. The LVMH group recently brought the hotel into its fold, and with that comes all the luxury you would expect of a company that also owns brands like Louis Vuitton and Moët & Chandon (and a price tag to match).
For many visitors to St. Barts, privacy is paramount—and that's where the island's many villas come into play. There are a number of rental agencies, but one of the best is Sibarth, which will set you up with everything from a 24/7 concierge to Hermès toiletries. And if you don't feel like packing, you can leave your luggage here to wait for your next stay.
Opened back in the 1980’s, Maya’s is an institution on St. Barts. This waterfront restaurant on the edge of Gustavia caters to the fabulous crowd and is known for its deliciously healthy cuisine and a menu that changes daily. There's also a to-go version of Maya's in the shopping center across from the airport, so that you have a quick bite on the run or take food with you on the plane home.
On a perch overlooking Gustavia and the harbor beyond, the open-air white-on-white Bonito is the place for amazing sunsets. And its world-fusion menu is just as spectacular as the setting, with dishes like salmon tiradito with white truffle salt and spiny lobster risotto. After dinner, a DJ spins into the wee hours.
Chef Jean-Claude Dufour is the genius behind this romantic little hideaway tucked in a garden of palm trees near Saline Beach. L'Esprit can be hard to find, but it's worth it when you're dining on smoked foie gras with gingerbread or braised turbot with coco milk and Aquitaine caviar. The menu changes daily, depending on what ingredients Dufour can get.
St. Barts is surrounded by so many beaches that it can be tough to decide where to go, but if you have to pick just one that has it all, it’s Shell Beach. The highlight here is Sunday, when everyone on the island gathers for an all-day beach party. Have lunch and mojitos at Shellona (formerly Do Brazil) set right on the sand, and don't miss its in-house boutique, full of the kind of breezy caftans that are the official wardrobe of St. Barts.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Shell Beach is Colombier, which is also known as Rockefeller's Beach because David Rockefeller used to own property that surrounded the beach. It's still fit for a billionaire and takes effort to get here. You can only arrive via yacht (or rent a boat from Gustavia) or by a 30-minute hike down a steep but scenic path.
Shopping in Gustavia
You haven't shopped until you've shopped on St. Barts, and the main town of Gustavia is where you'll find all the big names—Hermès, Cartier—mixed in with local designers like Lolita Jaca, which designs boho-chic caftans, and Mignot, known for its pearl jewelry.
Set right on white-sand Saint-Jean beach, Sand Bar is as much a bar as it is a restaurant. Grab one of the lounges, order a bottle of rose (mais oui), and stick your toes in the sand, with the surf just beyond. There's nothing quite like it.
You can't come to St. Barts without a stop at this legendary beach club with locations around the globe. Nikki Beach is known for its signature teepees, white curtain-draped beds on the sand, and DJs spinning its very own brand of chill-out lounge music. The party here seems to go 24/7.
Le Ti St. Barth
One of the wildest nights out on St. Barts is at Le Ti St. Barth, which hosts a burlesque show every evening. Need we say more? Bring your sense of humor and be prepared to dance on the tables until dawn. And if you're on St. Barts during a full moon, this is the place you need to be for the over-the-top Full Moon Party.
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