It’s just past dawn, and the Caribbean sun is slowly sweeping over the Gustavia Harbor in St. Barts, illuminating the sea of red-roofed houses and pearly white yachts as you sip espresso from the terrace of your private villa. This picturesque setting, one that’s graced thousands of postcards, luxury travel publications, and celebrity social media feeds, perfectly encapsulates the magic of the island: a breathtaking brew of laissez-faire luxury. Stretching just over eight square miles, the humbly sized volcanic, reef-encircled island packs serious clout among the world’s glitterati. A total of 25 public powdery beaches culminate in crystalline waters so vivid and iridescent they look like they were passed through a Photoshop filter. Days here float by like sailboats; spend an afternoon wind surfing or exploring the shallow reefs (or, if retail therapy is more your speed, there’s an impressive variety of designer shops and local high-end boutiques) before sitting down at one of the many globally revered restaurants. The island is a magnet for Michelinstarred chefs (Joël Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten all have outposts here) and has been called the Saint-Tropez of the Caribbean for dining and nightlife.

Gustavia, St Barths– April 25, 2018. A pretty cobblestone street winds its way through a shopping district in Gustavia, St. Barths. Editorial Use Only.


There are several ways to reach the island, including plane (charter or commercial), ferry, private boat, and helicopter. San Juan and St. Martin both support major U.S. airline carriers and offer short commuter flights into Rémy de Haenen Airport, but be prepared for steep, at times nerve-wracking landings as the tiny airport only has a single 2,100-foot runway crammed between a hill and beach. Nervous flyers can opt to take a ferry from St. Martin, which departs several times per day. The Gustavia Harbor is also a major cruise stop, and offers mooring capabilities for anyone arriving via private yacht or sailboat. Every spring, the island hosts the prominent sailing regatta, the St Barth Bucket in late March, and it’s quite the spectacle.

French is the national language, though English is widely spoken due to the high tourist population (though the permanent population barely exceeds 9,000, the island welcomes nearly 300,000 visitors each year). There’s no Marriott, Hilton, or Hyatt to be found, as the island is free from any major hotel or resort chains. In fact, most are independently owned and intimately sized, and there’s a ton of private villa options, too. Dollars are widely accepted, but since the euro is the national currency, it’s wise to keep a few notes in cash.



Cellini Spread

The island’s vibrant capital and largest town offers far more than a launching pad. Tour the fascinating ruins of 17th century forts that line the harbor (including a lighthouse and cannons), or saunter along the palm-lined streets to shop high-end fashions and interesting curios, browse art galleries, or grab a coffee and croissant at one of the many charming French cafés. For sunbathing, the U-shaped Shell Beach is a gem, located near town but typically devoid of crowds. There’s also plenty to do on the water, from catamaran or yacht rentals to snorkeling, speed boating, and sailing.


Located along the island’s Northwestern edge, this idyllic beach is touted among the best in St. Barts, particularly for watersports. There are several kiosks to rent jet skis, glass-bottom kayaks, and kite surfboards. Cradled by a barrier reef, its gentle, shallow waters are perfect for snorkeling, home to thousands of vibrantly hued Caribbean fish. A family of nearly 20 turtles also call the lagoon home, and visitors can routinely spot them in the water and on the beach.


Like its Riviera sister across the pond, St. Barts boasts a thriving beach club culture, with a medley of swanky locales that start the party long before the sun dips below the horizon. For laid-back, flip-flop luxury, grab a mojito at the bohemian-chic Gyp Sea Beach Club, located in the town of St. Jean, or nosh on bubbling pizzas alongside celebrities at the buzzy Eden Rock. Nikki Beach, an outpost of the original star-favorite haunt that opened in Miami in 2003 and arguably the most popular beach club on the island, is a must, famed for its sushi boats and oversized bottles of PerrierJouët with sparklers wedged in the cork.



Dreamy, postcard views of tranquil turquoise waters and powdery sand are tucked behind every corner of this breathtaking boutique, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Set on the crescent-shaped beach along the Grand Cul de Sac, Le Barthelemy marries French opulence with contemporary Caribbean cool. Each of its 44 guestrooms and suites (plus two palatial villas) feature interiors cooked up by the legendary Parisian design maestro Sybille de Margerie. ­Think tall vaulted ceilings, grand four-poster beds, creamy linen sofas, and sparkling spa bathrooms with Diptyque amenities. Some rooms offer private plunge pools or Jacuzzis on the open-air terrace (invisible dropdown screens are on hand to transform the space into private enclaves), while others boast al fresco showers to bathe in the balmy ocean air. ­There is, of course, a holistic spa on site, offering a full suite of facials, body treatments, and massages with beauty powerbrand La Mer, plus French Mediterranean restaurant Amis St. Barth, helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jéremy Czaplicki. Rooms begin around $1,085 per night.


Sink back into a daybed on your private terrace as the melody of the tropical isle serenades you to a sweet afternoon slumber: the bristling branches of towering palms as they sway in the salt-tinted breeze, and the waves crashing into the jagged shoreline. ­ is family-owned boutique retreat in Pointe Milou is as soothing as it is seductive, stocked with exotic gardens, a bespoke Parisian spa, and Riviera-inspired restaurant helmed by the double Michelin-starred chef Arnaud Faye (be sure to try the fresh mahi-mahi, made Palermo style, and the frosted coconut for dessert). Rooms are bright and airy, featuring sweeping views of the surf and uninhabited Fregate Island. ­Free signature standalone villas feel like private island mansions and boast four bedrooms, in­finity pools, massive terraces, and dedicated butler service. Rooms begin around $950 per night.



This culinary diamond from the French super-chef features two experiences in one: L’Atelier, located on the ground level, and the second-story Le Rooftop with stunning vistas of the surrounding harbor. Robuchon takes the crown as the most awarded Michelin chef in the world, so the food is unsurprisingly phenomenal. Chewy gyozas are stuffed with poultry and sautéed vegetables and served with a hibiscus-scented broth, while duck foie gras is dressed with pineapple con­ t and aky wafers. A trio of meats include a juicy beef ­ let with black pepper sauce, lamb chops roasted with thyme flower, and a mini Angus burger topped with foie gras and onion con­ t. In true French fashion, there’s also a decadent selection of caviar by the gram, too.


A staple of the sleepless Saint-Tropez dining and social scene, La Petite Plage landed in St. Barts in 2022. Like its sister locale, the swanky restaurant is famed for its beach-chic atmosphere, Instagrammable cocktails, and fresh, sea-forward fare. Dig your toes in the powdery sand that covers the dining room floor as you sink your teeth into creative bites from the three-Michelin starred chef Éric Frechon. Mahi-mahi ceviche and blue­ n tuna tartare pair perfectly with signature cocktails like the El Diablo, crafted with Lalo tequila, ginger beer, hibiscus, and pomegranate shrub. After sunset, the vibe shifts into sultry mode with live DJs and neon lights. A 2 a.m. daily closing time ensures ample time to shimmy and shake, even on a casual Tuesday.


Located a short beat from Saline Beach, this intimate eatery offers one of the most romantic dining experiences on the island. The brainchild of seasoned chef Jean-Claude Dufour the Franceborn cuisiner has more than 25 years of culinary experience in top kitchens in St. Barts and has become somewhat of a local legend L’Esprit is set in a dimly lit, open-air garden space, dressed with leafy botanicals and handmade, island inspired art (think driftwood walkways and ceramic frog sculptures). The ­fine dining menu changes with the seasons and features both locally and globally sourced ingredients. Past standouts include seared foie gras and white cabbage and mango salad. Route de Saline.