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St Barts: the name conjures up a glamorous lifestyle of beach clubs, catamarans, and flowing caftans. Despite its popularity with celebrities, the island is relaxed and friendly, a place where tanned sailors share tables with business magnates.
A Caribbean island with a distinctly French flavor, life here revolves around the water. The harbor is packed with boats big and small – from super yachts to small sailing boats – and the annual Regatta (held in April) is one of the most anticipated events in the island’s calendar. Water is king here, creator of the islands’ wealth and its history.
The island was first put on the map by the explorer Christopher Columbus in 1493, who named it after his brother Bartholomeo. In the years that followed, it came under both French and Swedish rule, and the Swedish influence can still be seen in several buildings in the capital Gustavia (named for King Gustav of Sweden), such as the Wall House along the harbor. Gustavia is a delightful town to explore, with chic boutiques selling high fashion – Gucci, Hermes, Longchamp, and others are represented here, plus several beautiful interior design shops, and a number of excellent restaurants. Our Gustavia villas are the ideal choice for vacationers who enjoy splitting their time between beach and town life.
Sailing into or out of Gustavia harbor is the ultimate St Barts experience, following in the footsteps of the many generations of seafaring folk. Of course, nowadays you can enjoy the experience on board a luxury catamaran instead of a galley ship. A fun half-day sail will take you to the beach of Colombier (named, you guessed it, for Columbus), which is only accessible by boat or via a long hike. As you reach the bay you’ll pass a mansion up on the hill, once the home of the Rockefeller family but now deserted. The beach itself is lovely and quiet and you can sunbathe and snorkel until you’re ready to sail back into Gustavia, just in time for drinks at nearby Sunset Beach. Your Luxury Retreats concierge can organize catamaran tours or rentals for you.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the beaches in St Barts will spoil you for life: there are few places in the world with a more spectacular combination of white sand and incredibly clear water. The sea at Saline beach is like a private saltwater swimming pool - so clear you can see the white sand ocean floor at a depth of 10ft. The scenery around is wild and beautiful, with sand dunes sheltering the beach from the road for a sense of real seclusion.
Elsewhere, buzzy St Jean beach is lined with hotels and beach clubs like the iconic Hotel Eden Roc, where you can (and should) enjoy a chic alfresco lunch before taking a sun lounger and whiling away the afternoon, beach read and cocktail in hand. When the sun hits the water to produce that special turquoise glow, you’ll feel very good about your choice.
Further down the beach, Nikki Beach keeps the party going all day and into the night, attracting well-heeled visitors from across the island. In high season (December to March) there are regular parties here with fashion shows, music performers and delicious food all served with a dash of glamour and a thousand-watt smile.
You might have guessed by now that St Barts is all about taking it easy and getting some serious, sunny R&R. The vibe of the island and the beautiful scenery go a long way to getting you into a relaxed state of mind, but for that final push into nirvana, consider booking a treatment or two at one of the island’s excellent spas. One of our favorites is Le Guanahani, where spa treatments take place in rooms surrounded by tropical vegetation and an outdoor pool, plus after your massage, you can book in at the hair salon for a style refresh before your dinner reservation.
Some of your most enjoyable memories of this island will no doubt be the small things - morning coffee with a stunning view over the red roofs of the villas to the sea beyond, cooling off in your private pool after an afternoon of serious shopping, or cooking up a French-inflected feast to eat out under the stars. To accomplish these you’ll need an ocean-view villa, which is where Luxury Retreats comes in.
A hilly island where flat beach frontage is a rarity, beachfront homes are not the norm on St Barts, and many people opt for homes in the hillside for the added seclusion and privacy. That being said, there are some excellent options if you have your heart set on staying right along the sea. On Lorient Beach, Flamands, and Anse de Cayes, our St Barts villas on the beach sleep from 4 to 12 people giving you flexibility whether you’re traveling with your partner or the entire family.
What better way to start your new life together than on one of the world’s most beautiful islands? With private plunge pools, gorgeous views and plenty of privacy, our homes in the hillsides are absolutely ideal for a St Barts honeymoon . You can spend your time at your own pace, talking over your favorite moments from the wedding at breakfast, zipping along the island’s roads in your AWD to find a romantic lunch spot, and picking up a bottle of excellent French wine for dinner along with some fresh croissants for the morning.