First published in Quintessentially Magazine, March 2008. Printed with permission from Quintessentially Estates
March, 2008 - The island of St Barts remains top of the list for those in the know. Its quiet charm and serene beauty ensure it remains a firm favourite with the bankers and financiers of London and Wall Street, entrepreneurs and entertainers, as well as the young bohemian set who summer in Ibiza. Peak season runs from December through March with St Barts providing a less hectic alternative to 'the season' in Palm Beach. This tiny island situated among the French West Indies has become the most sought after and exclusive destination in the Caribbean, thanks in part to its sense of small community and relaxed chic. The island has only eight thousand residents and refreshingly, there are no casinos or mega-resorts, no golf or all-inclusives. Instead, St Barts offers the ultimate in understated glamour, breathtaking vistas and a fantastic array of top-notch restaurants. There are 22 glittering white-sand beaches on St Barts, which are all commercially under-developed and are also surprisingly uncrowded.
The charming capital city of Gustavia is the island's only town. Nestled in a valley ringed by mountains, and wrapping around a natural harbour, it boasts a dozen casual but sophisticated restaurants, including waterside favourites Boucaniers and The Wall House, the classic French cuisine of Sapotillier, and the legendary hamburger and beer place, Le Select. Yanick Noah's inspired tree-house-like restaurant Do Brazil sits on the beach at the edge of town. The island has many other superb eateries from feet-in-the-sand cafes like La Plage to three-star Michelin quality at The Rock. Getting there is easy with flights arriving daily from the US and Europe to neighbouring island St Martin. From here, it's just a ten minute schedule flight or private charter to St Barts' charming small-scale airport.
St Barts has a handful of hotels, however renting a private home or ocean-front villa is much more popular with visitors. In this sense, St Barts sets itself apart from other Caribbean destinations that favour large hotel chains and hotel room lacking intimacy or personal touch. In particular, for the discerning traveler who is becoming increasingly demanding in their holiday rental requirements, St Barts offers a spectrum of choice in architecture and interiors. Much in demand is Villa SIB CJB, a spectacular new four-bedroom villa in Colombier with a stunning view of Gustavia harbour that has played host to a number of celebrity guests. This contemporary villa was designed by renowned local architect Olivier Dain and offers unparalleled elegance combined with the ultimate in comfort. Decorated with an eclectic mix of oriental antiques, sculptures and modern art, the home comes complete with a gourmet kitchen and media room. Holidaymakers who aren't inclined to drive down to the beach can make good use of the large lap pool and two Jacuzzis.
For travelers seeking a more tranquil setting, there is villa SIB VGM, a classic colonial style villa set in a Garden of Eden style glade, with a stunning view of St Jean Bay. Such villas are ideal for entertaining and can be found with all the creature comforts of a guest's primary residence, albeit in a setting lined with tropical palm trees.
Also popular with the jet-set, are villas located in the Mont Jean area, such as the recently renovated villa SIB SEL which faces the wild part of Pointe Milou and has a panoramic view of the endless azure ocean. The front door opens into a contemporary living room with a view across a large terrace housing oversized red sofas and arm chairs, and a lap pool beyond. Each of the villa's rooms is decorated with light-coloured wood furnishings and elegant Kenzo fabrics. The well-equipped chef's kitchen spills out onto a stylish outdoor dining area offering the ideal space to host a delightful meal en pleine air.
And this is where St Barts surpasses other fashionable destinations – in its ability to deliver the best you would expect from home with the hassle-free approach of the islands.
While the pace of life may be decidedly more laid-back, the quality and level of service is world class. Villa guests soon discover that a chauffeur is offered from the airport to your villa door, where you can arrange to have the fridge stocked with your favorite first growth wines, baguettes, charcuterie, cheese and tropical fruit. Croissants, coffee and newspapers can be delivered to the villa each morning, and a feast prepared by a private chef is just a phone call away. It's these special touches that ensure St Barts remains the first choice for all its returning visitors.
Quinessentially Estates offers holiday rentals on St Barts, and elsewhere in the Caribbean and in Europe, through an exclusive partnership with Wimco villas.