St. Barths—the impossibly cool 8-square-mile sliver of Saint-Tropez in the Caribbean where luxury is a lifestyle—has reached another echelon of excellence.
A view of La Casa de L’Isle at sunset.
Following a comprehensive three-year renovation, the island’s bastion of tropical decadence, the Hotel Saint Barth-Isle de France, was rebranded the third “maison” of the exalted Cheval Blanc collection (the others are Courchevel in France and Randheli in the Maldives). Like its predecessor, the newly christened Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France marries seaside panache and glamorous French flair across the picture-perfect Flamands Bay. The renovations, however, have ushered in new greatness that includes 40 suites, bungalows and villas elegantly appointed by Bee Osborn of Osborn Interiors; a spa specializing in Guerlain treatments; an oceanview fitness center; and the ultimate in personalized service.
An alfresco lunch in the sand.
Accommodations are split between a beachfront enclave consisting of suites and rooms and proximate gardens strewn with bungalows that blend into the lush tropical landscaping. While the latter tend to be favored by privacy seekers, the former dole out breathtaking panoramas of blazing blue sea, sky and silky sands—the very image of Caribbean perfection. Though it’s an everlasting battle among top Caribbean resorts for the superlative “room with a view,” Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France is indeed a top—if not the top—contender.
A beachfront living room.
Given St. Barth’s long-standing see-and-be-seen reputation, the resort is surprisingly relaxed and unfussy. While the legends of beautiful people and celebrity sightings are all true, the experience here of barefoot ultra luxury is a personal one. Those looking for a scene gravitate towards the hotel’s alfresco, feet-in-the-sand beachfront restaurant, La Cabane de L’Isle, where guests and non-guests commingle over off-the-charts food, libations, people watching and fashion spotting; or they amble tirelessly up and down Flamands Beach (often with several costume changes per day). Despite such opportunities for attention getting, the possibility of a low-key mental respite still lies within reach—poolside, beachside, en suite or in the comfort of your personal plunge pool and private beach swathe (if booking a beachfront suite).
La Cabane de L’Isle.
Outside the resort, however, it’s a slightly different story. Dress to impress while shopping in the capital city of Gustavia, where the yacht-lined harbor and small alleyways transform into catwalks. Expect big brand names like Cartier and Louis Vuitton as well as more original boutiques, often sister outposts to exclusive Parisian designers, showcasing the latest in tropical-inspired fashion: sarongs, sundresses, bangles, linen pants and understated beachside jewelry.
A garden villa living room.
You’ll also want to bring your A-game if setting sail on a privately chartered catamaran for an afternoon of Champagne drinking, swimming and snorkeling on uninhabited Colombier Bay (you’ll likely be eye candy for day-trippers trying to celeb-spot at sea). You’ll also want to look your best stepping on and off the new fleet of luxe aircraft servicing the island—Tradewind Aviation’s contemporary Pilatus PC-12s, which offer multiple flights daily to St. Barths from San Juan, St. Thomas and Antigua.
Because the daily agenda rarely strays from sun worshipping, liquid lunching, fine dining, shopping, posing, yachting and credit card swiping, it’s no secret that appreciating the style and sophistication of St. Barths requires deep pockets. But on an island where even celebrities people-watch, St. Barths is all about indulgence in the good life—and unapologetically so.