Our first trip during COVID
After five months of lock-down in Los Angeles, my husband and I decided to spend a week in St. Barths this August with friends. We weighed the pros and cons of traveling, health, financial, and decided to spring for it. We worked with Glennie on finding a villa for three couples, organized our flights with help from Johna in WIMCO’s Air Desk, and liaised with the pre-arrival concierge Thibault on restaurant reservations and grocery provisioning.
Island Testing Requirements
The island re-opened in June to visitors, employing a strict policy of showing a negative Covid test to enter the island. It must be the PCR type, which can be difficult to find outside of big cities. My recommendation? Turn to the universities in your area, who often time have testing facilities.
In addition to submitting a negative COVID (PCR) test upon arrival in St. Barths, visitors staying for longer than 7 days must re-test while on island. I think this is an excellent decision and I personally found the experience to be straightforward. We waited about 40 minutes in line, and then received our results 12 hours later. It is a remarkable investment by the island. The testing facility is in Gustavia, and you can work it into your vacation by having lunch at Fish Corner before, or grabbing an aperitif town afterwards.
Flying to St. Barths and Arriving on Island
We flew comfortably via JetBlue and Tradewind, and arrived in St. Barths on a Friday afternoon just before sunset. It was one of the best airport experiences I’ve had. Upon arrival, we showed our negative covid tests (this was also required by Tradewind before flying). Our WIMCO concierge Florian met us and our friends at the airport and escorted us to Villa RIG in St. Jean.
Our first night, our concierge organized a chef’s dinner for us at this house. This is such a perfect way to start the trip on the right note. Knowing an indulgent week was before us, we had a simple salad, grilled fish and vegetables, and fresh fruit for dessert. We opened a few bottles of wine, set up the Sonos, and toasted to a great week ahead.
Where We Stayed
I can’t recommend this villa enough. It is a 5 minute walk up from Nikki Beach, and we walked in the neighborhood almost daily. Experiencing St. Barths sans car is a totally different experience. The view here overlooks St. Jean bay and Eden Rock, and you have a phenomenal view when planes swoop in from Saline, making their landing over the water.
Because the view is so mesmerizing, it is easy to stay here all day. For me, these are the types of villas I love, when you can be just as happy staying put than going out. The AC’ed living room certainly helps here.
My husband and I moved here during our second (solo) week. Having stayed here before, I really love the centrality of it. Very close to the backroads to get to Saline, and just up the hill from St. Jean. I love the views from the kitchen at BBA, and the hammock here has an effect on me like no other. Moreover, the living rooms (both indoor and outdoor) and dining room are wonderfully decorated – clean, minimalist, linen in feel, with little pops of color.
Anytime someone from the WIMCO team is in St. Barths, we make it a priority to visit a variety of villas on the island. Putting ourselves in the shoes of a family with young kids, a couple on a budget, or a group celebrating a milestone lets us see villas with a new lens. Here were some of my favorites on this trip:
This traditionally styled house in Colombier is beloved by my colleagues, and one I’ve been eager to see myself. Over the years, I’ve learned that the older houses (if well-maintained) usually have a stronger sense of proportion, scale, and privacy, that I value. When you think about staying somewhere longer than 10 days, the rental becomes more like a home, and different factors take more priority.
For me, these rooms are some of the most magnificent on the island. Style-wise, they are traditional as opposed to modern, with caramel hardwood floors, and colorful fabrics. The bedrooms, which are all in separate bungalows, are so spacious, they’re akin to grand hotel suites. This is a house perfect for those who know and love St. Barths. You would eat most of your meals here, because the view and sense of calm is just that good.
I am always excited to see villas that have long-existed privately, but not on the rental market. Estate Palmier Royale is broken into two villas (one 4 bedroom, one 7 bedroom).
It is another villa with traditional West Indian in style, but impeccably fresh and contemporary. Most bathrooms have bathtubs, the linens lean traditional but sophisticated, and the gym is probably the most beautiful and largest on the island, with a lovely view of the water. A path takes you down to Marigot Bay, where you have a fridge and grill set up, along with paddleboards and kayaks. It’s meticulously maintained.
I was lucky enough to tour this new home by the owner himself. Having walked around Pointe Milou and seen the construction for the past few years, I was delighted to see this villa. Simply put, it is stunning, oh-so-modern, and yet warm at the same time. Clients seeking “the new, new thing” will just love it here. There is a great parking area, two kitchens (one that opens onto the dining room and a chef’s kitchen). Plus, there is a very cute “bunk” room with a bunch of bunk beds set up.
This villa is in Colombier, but looks out over Flamands beach. Views are of Flamands beach, but you’re quite far away from it, so the views here actually are more inland. There’s a great workout room, cool pool, and it’s flashy but well-done. Rooms are spread out offering privacy to couples. The deck area is ample, and the dining room table I can imagine being perfect for a fun chef’s dinner at home.
I am really wowed by PBO because there is nothing else like it. To a certain extent, you don’t even feel like you’re on St. Barths. It’s located right across the street from VBB, but has completely different views as it’s perched higher. The villa is a combination of Mustique and English countryside. There are thoughtful touches throughout, like a small table and chair off the master, perfect for a morning croissant and tea. You have 360 views here – on one side you can see Anse de Cayes and Flamands, and another, you look out to St. Martin.
Part of what is so charming here is the green grass. Another is the personal artifacts (something I am not a proponent of in general), but this is done differently. Like the birthday greeting from Queen Elizabeth II framed in the powder bath, or the rows of rugby pictures that line some of the hallways. The pool here is massive, gorgeous, and the type of one you wouldn’t want to leave. Downstairs, there is an epic game room and bar, with a ping pong table and a club-like atmosphere.
I have seen this villa throughout the years, but it’s always a joy to revisit. The consortium of ECG, EGO, and EGO is for me, probably my favorite place on the island. I find it hard to beat the privacy here, the proximity to Gustavia and Gouverneur, and most of all, the design.
This is a great ‘city’ villa with views of Gustavia harbor. The private, sunken pool reminds me of the type you see on the Amalfi Coast – unexpected and adorable. Although it’s a more traditional style villa, the recent renovations lend a contemporary feel. There is a totally charming sitting area that I can see families loving for a cocktail, and a great dining room table that looks out over the harbor.
This is the second or third time I’ve seen this house. I remain a fan due its great pricing and flexibility it offers in room count. It has a wonderful view of the harbor, and is located just across from the Carl Gustaf hotel.
I was enamored by the pool and the design here. It’s very contemporary, and also really thoughtful. It has a “Hamptons” vibe to it, and anyone who is quite particular will be really happy here, I think.
Where We Ate
What more can I say about St. Barths restaurants that hasn’t already been said? Asides from the classic standbys like Tamarin, Bonito and Isola, which all continue to be great, we had wonderful times at:
Annie’s La Langouste:
The menu here is so robust, you could come back here a few times just to try it all. It’s simple, totally laidback, but the food is great. Even the most sophisticated of clients would enjoy it here. Plus, one huge asset is that you can now rent lounge chairs afterwards (€20-€30/day) on Flamands. This is a great way to spend the day!
My must order: The nems!
I had only ever done pick-up from here, and it is so fun to eat in. Get a pitcher of Aperol Spritzes, a few pizzas (you can mix and match toppings) and a few salads. It is so refreshing to have a low-key meal here, plus, they have an epic playlist!
My must-order: The totally addictive arancini.
Service, baby! If you’re in a hurry, head here for lunch. Great friendly staff, approachable menu, and the food and view delivers. Did I mention there is a parking lot across the street? Hard to beat!
My must-order: The mahi-mahi burger, hold the bun, sub salad!
With all the other hotels closed this summer (they’re now open), it was wonderful to have an elegant, poolside experience. What Manapany has done really well is fused “old” St. Barths with what current clients expect. The menu comes out on a chalkboard, with lots of specials, almost like the old La Gloriette, but the presentation is top-notch. This was my favorite lunch on the island. I had a vegan “poke” bowl with fresh vegetables over quinoa. Totally fresh. I would be happy to come here most days for lunch.
What I wish I ordered: the sundae that passed by, complete with salted caramel and peanuts! I will take my toddler-aged nephews here in December for a treat…
In the off-season, I just can’t recommend Nikki Beach enough. It’s hard to find a more beautiful stretch of beach. The menu is totally craveable (a friend ordered quesadillas – wow—plus I love those sushi rolls). The music is low, the tables are spaced, and the service is great. I would really recommend this even if you think you’re not a Nikki Beach person!
It had been a few years since last visiting, and was a welcome low-key Monday night option. Sitting in the garden-like terrace is low-frills and completely relaxing. The menu combines Creole classics with Asian flavors.
Traveling to St. Barths this summer felt like more of a vacation than ever. To swim at St. Jean, Gouverneur, and Shell Beach and finally feel free, to soak up a different view, to feel the energy of a different, less American culture, it was more refreshing than ever.
Reflecting on the island
While on island, it was wonderful to see the familiar faces of Randy & Maya (we had more than a few visits to Maya’s to Go), as well as to stop in to Excellence de Sens for a treatment with Christophe. Restaurants and shops have adopted very well to social distancing and the use of masks (and often face shields, for servers). It would be tough to chip away at the bon vivant spirit of this special island, and so if you are ready to travel, I say, consider St. Barths!