Before my very first visit to the island of Saint Barthélemy, the Caribbean hot spot was something of a mystery to me. Celebrities flocked there on holiday like they flock to Steak ’n Shake after an awards show, and I always envisioned it as the Caribbean’s version of the Hamptons: Everyone who’s anyone vacations in St. Barts.
So it seems my vision was pretty accurate. When Hurricane Irma tore through the island in 2017, it leveled almost everything. But one thing the storm didn’t steal was the island’s spirit. And so it rebuilt. I visited shortly after the hurricane and saw the insane damage. Then, this summer—two years later—I made a trip back, and I fell in love with the place all over again. The upcoming winter will no doubt be one of the best yet on St. Barts. Below, the top five reasons to visit this French gem.
The Luxury Hotels
Many of the island’s top hotels, unfortunately, suffered hurricane damage, but a lot of them took that as an excuse to redesign and reimagine their properties. Le Sereno, nestled on a private bay, recently reopened following a complete property rebuild with all-new waterfront suites right on the ocean (some with fabulous outdoor tubs and private outdoor spaces), as well as an expanded spa featuring Valmont products. Later this year, the highly buzzed-about Eden Rock hotel will also open its doors following a complete renovation.
Some Caribbean islands aren’t necessarily known for their cuisine, but St. Barts sings a different tune. The island is packed with incredible restaurants, and the service, much like the fare, is impeccable. For a scenic yet delicious meal, head to Bonito in Gustavia to take in the gorgeous ocean views at sunset. Then saddle up for the cocktails—they’re definitely Insta-worthy. For a low-key, beachy vibe, book a table at Grand Cul de Sac on the private bay of the same name. It’s steps from the sand and has a feel that invites you to get cozy—and stay all night. Warning: You might just do that, because the custom cocktails are quite snazzy.
Every time I visit the island, the challenge remains the same: Lie on the beach and soak up every second of sun, or venture into town and stock up on finds from all those adorable French boutiques. Downtown Gustavia is chock full of them, and they’re nothing short of fabulous.
I’m a big runner anytime, but nothing compares to the glory of a jog up and down winding hills, with picturesque views of the ocean in the background. (Sure beats my usual morning runs on an NYC treadmill while staring at a cement wall.) There are also tons of hikes, including one of my favorites, Lookout Point, that gets you to Colombier, which is among the most beautiful beaches on the island.
The Proximity to Other Caribbean Islands
Not that you ever want to leave St. Barts, but it’s quite extraordinary that you can bounce around to multiple islands via boat or charter plane in less than an hour. I highly recommend tacking a few extra days on to your trip and boating over to the charming island of Anguilla. Turquoise waters and powdered-sugar sand await, as does the incredible Malliouhana resort and spa, which also underwent a renovation after Irma. From beachy-keen ocean-view suites to the brand-new spa (set to make its debut this holiday season), everything is luxury at its finest. Book a sunset cruise and sail around the bay on a chartered boat while you sip cocktails and watch the sun sink into the horizon.