The patron saint of luxury must be St. Barthelemy. This tiny crooked smile of an island in the Caribbean is casual opulence at its best. Boasting 22 beaches on its 21 square miles, it stuffs its busy downtown streets with the world’s finest haute couture shops, outstanding restaurants, and chic diversions. Slips in its harbor are among the most sought after in the world, especially during the winter holiday season, with stunning yachts rubbing bumpers along the quais of Gustavia Harbor.
Spending the holidays in St. Barthelemy is an exquisite treat, but plan for it to be busy. Very busy. To keep the vibe but escape crowds when need arises, charter your own private yacht, or secure a villa at either end of the island. Should it appear that divine digs are full up, contact Dominique at Sibarth Bespoke Villa Rentals to uncover the last available space.
Heavily influenced by France, inhabited by a fun-loving, easy-going crowd, loaded with both dollars and Euros, St. Barthelemy is exotic, charming, and romantic. Cuisine, wine, style, and attitude all embrace a level of chic that sets the bar high. Yet, the island remains rather casual, in business, social, and cultural genres, with good manners ruling the day. Upon arrival, perch at Bar d’Oubli to quickly immerse into the culture while enjoying a quick meal with a view of all who pass by this busy corner. It’s cash only, so bring your Euros. Right across the street, Marius Stakelborough’s own brand of hospitality and great paradisiac cheeseburgers always collect an interesting crowd at Le Select.
Cruising around the island never gets boring. The people, the beaches, the villas, the ultraclear water, and the long list of water sports keep the island interesting. For a short trek into the wilderness areas, head to the top lookout of Colombier where you’ll earn a good look at the Rockefeller property as well as all the out islands, but watch for turtles rumbling across the road on the way up. Grab a delish picnic from Maya’s to Go before heading up. Displaying wildlife of another sort, the St. Barth social scene keeps things intriguing. One may see the same quiet, elegant folks that were enjoying a low key chaise lounge beach day at Eden Roc or Le Toiny dancing table tops at Le Ti, Baz Bar, or Nikki Beach at night. No surprise, also, to find that the faces behind the shades are quite famous, as St. Barth draws a recognizable crowd during the holiday season.
Always buzzing with life, the days around Christmas and the New Year charge the island with incredible energy, capturing everyone with its charming vibe. Three humble churches hold Christmas services for full to overflowing crowds. It is a tourist destination, so the ensuing holiday meals simply require reservations, but only for timing. The cuisine can be approached with abandon, knowing that just about everywhere on the island is good if not great. Competition works beautifully to keep nearly every restaurant up to snuff. A common custom provides a shot of Rhum Vanille for dining guests at places like Do Brazil, keeping everyone smiling, even while paying the heavenly bill. Cheval Blanc’s inspired French cuisine and 150 wines and Champagnes makes a memorable meal at any of their feet in the sand, white tablecloth dining spots. The first establishment to receive the French Palace distinction, it is a true treat. La Plage at Tom Beach, Bonito, Taiwana, and Nikki Beach all continue with excellent menus and service. For a unique and well prepared dive into French Creole cuisine, book it to Bistro Josephine. The yummy additions of Le Guanahani’s four year and $40 million renovation are also worth a look this season.
Important to arrive in style, it is also imperative to remain understated, although that’s truly hard to do. St. Barth sightings find loads of gorgeous jewelry, elegant clothing, and a unique style of putting it all together. With the sophistication that is France and the comfort that is the Caribbean, St. Bartians take pride in their unique style, so pay attention. Adopting local flourish can go a long way toward cementing friendly relations. Pick up some local style at Vanita Rosa, GéGé et Tallula, or any of the boutiques in St. Jean. Look to Gustavia’s Quai de République, the Carré d’Or, and Rue General de Galle for the powerhouses like Hermes, Bulgari, Cartier, and Chopard.
For food and wine at a private table on board the yacht, know that there are two well-stocked wine shops in Gustavia, as well as gourmet grocers and fresh fish options. The Gustavia fish market, near the ferry dock, is the place to be, 7 to 8 am to catch the freshest filets from St. Bartian fishermen. From quaint shops and stalls in Gustavia and Lorient, they sell, prep, and smile as you reap the rewards for a private feast on board the yacht or in the villa.
Anyone who’s anyone is here for that fever pitch between Christmas and New Year’s. The parties are simply beyond comprehension, the food and drink divine, and the guest list enviable. If rubbing shoulders with this elegant crowd sounds inviting, book your dream yacht or luxury villa early and prepare for one outstanding holiday.