St. Barths in the Caribbean manages to keep its name in the news. This is the French-accented island where the rich and famous, the celebrities and their coteries flock in season. When they're not holing up in its best hotels and pretending not to pose for the paparazzi, they're frolicking on yachts in the harbor of Gustavia, the island's capital.
Make no mistake; there are no bargains or all-inclusives here. But if you've got a big wad to spend or a black AmEx and a vision of white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, cooling breezes and ultimate luxe is irresistibly seductive, St. Barts (also known as St. Barth's and the formal Saint Barthélemy) may be the place for you.
The first Relais & Chateaux property on the island, Hotel Le Toiny provides guests with a gourmet experience, from the food to the service to the lodging and the setting a hillside overlooking the sea. Located on St. Barts' quiet southeastern side, this hotel features just 22 villa suites.
Pastel-painted units are surrounded by a picket fence and each one has a private, heated swimming pool and terrace to take in the scenic sea views. There's also an oceanview fitness center, a spa cottage, and a path that winds to the beach. At the hotel's Restaurant Le Gaïac French fare with a Creole accent is savored.
Perched on a cliff overlooking St. Jean Beach, the original Eden Rock Hotel opened in 1953 and became a magnet for the biggest celebrities of the time, Greta Garbo and Howard Hughes among them. The hotel was reinvented and expanded some 40 years later, bringing the total accommodations to 34 rooms and suites and three ultra-private villas. Villa Rockstar contains its own recording studio, screening room, private gym, and two swimming pools (John Lennon used the recording console to put down tracks for Imagine, a song as Utopian as the surroundings).
The most recent enhancement to this cliff-top hotel is chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's menus at the hotel's two restaurants, On the Rocks and Sand Bar. The cuisine blends French cooking, Asian influences, and organic and seasonal produce. Many consider this the best location on St. Barths, thanks to the twin white-sand beaches below that the Rock bisects. Eden Rock is also a member of Relais & Chateaux.
Face it: St. Barth's is for wealthy Parisian socialites, spoiled Swiss teens, gay and straight scions of industry, and Hollywood royalty. But you have to work hard to notice them (or to be noticed) at Le Sereno. It is as if the bungalow-style, all white, hut-like resort — designed by Christian Liaigre — is all yours. Sexy, sophisticated, and secluded, Le Sereno is a heavenly retreat for those who can afford a stay. And the hotel is incredibly romantic, with infinite privacy on the topless beach for kissing and snuggling by day and star-gazing at night.
Paradise for beach lovers, Hotel Guanahani's pretty cottages extend from the beach to St. Bart's lagoon. It offers one-bedroom suites with a private swimming pool, the one perk honeymoon couples and other romantics swoon over. (Jon Bon Jovi has been known to vacation here.) On 16 acres, the sprawling resort boasts two beaches, a water sports center, tennis courts, and three restaurants and bars. Those whose hair gets mussed by swimming, sun, and tropical wind and humidity can repair to the hotel's own Frederic Fekkai salon. The super stylist created a Summer Hair line specifically to combat Caribbean tress trouble. Note: The hotel suffered significant damage from Hurricane Maria, closed to rebuild, and pins its reopening in late 2019.
European charm and an emphasis on spa treatments and relaxation characterize this hotel on Flamands Bay. Cheval Blanc Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France is a small, privately owned resort with a total of 61 rooms, suites and villas. Cheval Blanc Spa contains four treatment rooms, and Guerlain products and treatments are exclusively used. For outdoors lovers, the spa pavilion is the place to be pampered amidst lush tropical gardens. Not only does the Boutique feature designs from local and international names, but the hotel holds a poolside fashion show once a week.