The first time I visited St. Barths was almost 8 years ago with my boyfriend (now fiancé). He whisked me away for an incredible 5 days at Le Toiny, the most romantic hotel on the island. I immediately fell in love with him and the island. Lazy days at the most beautiful beaches followed by long swims and even longer lunches led to carefree afternoons of shopping in town and naps during the short, tropical rainstorms. Dinners were magnificent. Fresh fish and French wines gave me a taste of Paris in the Caribbean. I didn't want to leave.
While we were living on the East Coast we ventured back a few times, as it was an easier trip. As soon as we moved to LA, getting to our favorite place in the world became a bit of a trek. We've made it back a couple times and last year it is where is proposed. With my fiancé's 30th birthday upon us, I knew there was no better place to celebrate than St. Barths.
Connecting flights in Miami lead you to St. Martin and from there you board a tiny propeller plane to St. Barths. You ask yourself if it could possibly be worth it? The planes are old tattered and look anything but safe. Little folded seats have you sandwiched between people. The high humidity and lack of air conditioning only intensifies the situation. This is the fastest way to the island. The less adventurous traveler could board one of the few ferries and take a 70 minute ride across the ocean. Safer? Probably. The real St. Barths experience? Definitely not. This last visit we were forced onto the ferry after missing the last plane of the day to St. Barths. The ferry trip was the boat ride from hell. Swells poured over the bough as the ferry rocked back and forth in the pitch black night. 75% of passengers got sick. Never again will I take the ferry.
Unless of course coming by luxury boat. Of the 200,000 visitors to the island per year, only 70,000 come to stay in a hotel or villa and 130,000 stay on a luxury liner. On our most recent visit last week, Philippe Starck's Venus, designed for the late Steve Jobs was one of many that are too big to pull in the harbor.
St. Barths runway is one of the most famous in the world. It’s short distance and extreme landing make it impossible for commercial jets to come to the island. Tiny propeller planes are your way in and out. The landing is guaranteed to take your breath away, think of it as a roller coaster ride and have your camera ready. Your adrenaline reaches its climax as the plane approaches the top of a mountain peak, then quickly drops below and aims for the runway.
St. Barths is an overseas collectivity of France. What this means is that your paying in the Euro and the culture and language are French. There's a population of over 9,000 and the food is French and Creole. The high season runs from December through April. New Years is the busiest time of the year and prices are usually doubled. A great time to visit is early April. The island is lively, as everyone is getting one last weekend in before the end of the season.
Once you land, it’s through the tiniest airport you’ll ever visit, then on to your hotel. Off on the winding narrow roads you’ll go, in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds you. Teal water, blue skies and an eclectic mix of beautiful homes with bright teal and burnt orange roofs, boutiques and island restaurants.
For my fiancé's birthday we stayed at Taiwana. It's one of the newest properties on the island after it’s renovation last year. The property is stunning, situated on what many call the most stunning beach on the island: Flamands, the perfect beach for a nice long swim. Each and every room has ocean views. The Italian restaurant is modern, retro and lively.
Our days started with the quintessential French breakfast on our patio over looking the ocean. Handmade croissants, freshly squeezed juices and gourmet teas imported France were the perfect start to our day. We then strolled up and down Flamands, with little Louis leading the way.
For lunch there are a plethora of options. Basque in the chairs at Isle de France or Eden Roc Sand Bar or party the afternoon away at La Plage with a DJ and bikini parties on Saturdays. Isle De France has wonderful local fish for lunch, freshly grilled with a side of veggies and a creamy butter sauce, not to mention the tranquil setting on Flamands beach. Sand Bar has pizzas and the most incredible local fish tartare with avocado and ginger marinade is hard not to devour in the chic Eden Roc hotel.
La Plage boasts my favorite mix of incredible local seafood and a fun atmosphere. Located just steps from the runway of the airport, it’s a lively place to layout and have lunch with a thrilling view of the planes taking off. The lobster here is the best on the island and is accompanied with the most delightful sweet potato gratin (sweet potatoes are abundant as they are easily grown on the island) and hot butter. Don’t miss the boutique at La Plage that has the most colorful St. Barths t-shirts that make for fun gifts and a beautiful assortment of women’s beach clothing. Their white party on Friday nights are the perfect blend of relaxing and fun.
There is no shortage of luxury shopping on the island. Head to the port for the most extensive collection. Everything from Louis Vuitton to Hermes and fun touristy shops will have the most fastidious shopper quite content.
It’s hard to convey the essence of a place. There’s an energy about St. Barths, a magic. No one is in a hurry. Everyone, even the locals seem to be on vacation. Whether you are looking for a party, a weekend romance, an affair, an engagement or to fall in love, it all has been known to happen here. Despite the small size of the island, (8.5 mi squared) the finest of almost everything is available. For many this island will remain a place of mystery. There is no such thing as a direct flight. Plus once you do arrive, be ready to pay an extreme premium for everything. But if you are able to find the magic in St. Barths, it will hold a special place in your memory. It’s a place unlike any other.