Over the past few years, this Caribbean island has returned from Hurricane Irma, emerging with a fresh kick in its stride. And it’s taken more than a lick of whitewash on those verandas. Take the former Isle de France, now part of LVMH’s Cheval Blanc stable and always the grande dame of St Barth’s. The hotel sprawls along Flamands beach with ocean-facing and garden rooms, as well as penthouse-style suites that are a little removed from the central hub – all of them fashioned by the careful hand of French interior-design whizz Jacques Grange with linen and teak and ikat accents. Recent additions include The Villa de France, a five-bedroom private residence with its pool and spa, and La Case restaurant, directed by chef Jean Imbert (Encore in New York, Swan in Miami). But the main story has always been about the sheer, elegant insouciance of the place – think old-school, F Scott Fitzgerald Riviera style – along with the sort of supersonic service from staff who would put most events organisers in the shade. The beach is the main character, the rolling surf providing the soundtrack on the sunbeds and in the reimagined seaside La Cabane restaurant. Lunchtime is easygoing party time over gazpacho, frites and sole meunière, while the candlelit dinners are more serious. It’s a masterpiece of scene-setting and elegant restraint.
Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf
Those who knew and loved Le Carl Gustaf the first time around will have even more reason to fall for it now that the Barrière group has taken it over. The hotel company – known for taking historic properties and brushing off the dust to reveal their splendour – has made sure to keep the spirit of Le Carl, as it’s known, chic and easy. The raw wood and petite terraces still make it feel like a fabulous French beach house. Yet the hotel’s reimagined approach to the environment gives it a 21st-century edge. Paris design firm Gilles and Boissier jazzed up the 21 rooms with creams, stone and linen and a profusion of palms separating outside spaces with curtains of greenery. Suites have been reconfigured to catch sea breezes, providing natural air conditioning. And a fleet of electric bikes brings guests down the hill where the hotel stands like a lookout over the town and coastline to nearby Shell Beach. A beach that happens to be the perfect place to spend the day with a picnic prepared by the hotel that feels appropriately simple and chic on the most sophisticated isle in the Caribbean. Much like Le Carl itself. Dan Koday
Texan owner David Bonderman has spent $40 million renovating this hotel in a wonderful northern peninsula location with beaches on both sides: sea-facing Marigot Bay and Grand Cul-de-Sac, a reef-protected lagoon. Miami-based designer Luis Pons has revamped the clapboard cottages on the lagoon side with a fresh, pared-back colonial look; those on the bay have been repainted in jaunty turquoise, yellow and lavender. Favourites include the two-bedroom Serenity Suite on the hill with a sunken bathtub and the loft-style Wellness Suite with private access to the Clarins spa. New executive chef Nicola De Marchi (ex Badrutt’s Palace in St Moritz) is making the most of fresh fish – mahi-mahi, wahoo and fino – and the daytime restaurant Indigo has gone toes-in-the-sand. This is still the best hotel on the island for watersports, from stand-up paddle-boarding to deep-sea fishing and kitesurfing (especially from December to June during the alizé wind). There’s a new wellness detox programme with meditation classes, spa treatments, and all sorts of kids’ stuff, including catch-and-cook fishing, fun French lessons and eco-awareness hikes.
Unique on an island well-known for profligate excess, Parisian Anne Jousse, owner of a portfolio of small hotels in France, including the groundbreaking Bel Ami in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, sought to introduce more than a modicum of eco-responsibility to St Barth’s. The glamorous hotelier had fallen for Manapany, a once-upon-a-time chic spot on its sleepy north shore, on family trips. She bought the place in 2016 and initiated a top-to-toe reconstruction of its 4.2-acre beachfront on Anse des Cayes. Two years and one major hurricane later, it was reborn. Water is heated by solar panels, no chemicals are used in cleaning or maintenance, towels are made of woven bamboo and only electric cars are permitted beyond check-in. Yet Jousse’s endeavour isn’t lacking in a lick of luxe. All 43 sea-view rooms and villas – eight directly on the sand, others a mighty but rewarding 80 steps above and with enormous terraces – are gracefully decorated by Parisian interior designer François Champsaur, with walls painted peppery red, turmeric orange, mint green, or ultramarine blue. Impossibly attractive staff serve artfully crafted rhum agricoles over barefoot suppers, and a Dr Hauschka-supplied beachside spa has raised St Barth’s wellness game. With its design ethos and ecological focus, Manapany represents the next wave of Caribbean hotels. To find out more, see our full Hotel Manapany, St Barth’s review.
Eden Rock is a rare Caribbean bird: an excessively stylish but frisky hub that bubbles with elegant verve. The hotel may have taken a direct hit when Hurricane Irma wrought its fury on the island more than two years ago, but for long-time owners Jane and David Matthews it was a golden opportunity to make all sorts of changes. And so after an extensive rebuild, this north-coast landmark – managed by the Oetker Collection (Le Bristol Paris) – is better than ever. Everything is done with charm and sleight of hand. There’s a fresh grown-up bar space created by designer du jour Martin Brudnizki (who was also behind the new Annabel’s in London), where idiosyncratic touches – glasses in the shapes of animals and vegetables – and resident DJ Tito will have you clock-watching for cocktail hour. Other additions include multi-level rooms and the spa, built on the rock itself (where the restaurant used to be), and a beach bar dotted with lipstick-red parasols. Where there were once three restaurants there is now one, riffing on mid-century glamour with a ramped-up, sustainably minded menu devised by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It even excels at breakfast – the yogurt with caramelised pistachios and grapefruit is so good it should be ordered daily. Many bedrooms overlook Baie de St Jean, and the individual design and quirky art give the feeling of kicking back in a private villa. Here’s an island hotel that’s dizzyingly fun and utterly spoiling, and still the beating heart of St Barth’s social scene. By Vassi Chamberlain
Found on the north-east coast of St Barths, Le Sereno was another casualty of Hurricane Irma’s wrath back in 2017. After the storm, the hotel, which first opened in 1972, was completely refurbished with a fresh aesthetic, new spa and revamped signature restaurant. Small and intimate, with just 39 suites and three sprawling villas, the white-on-white feel gives a nod to the former hotel’s original pared-back look, overseen by Parisian designer Christian Liaigre. From teak shutters to polished limestone floors, hand-woven stools to floaty linen drapes, this is the ultimate in refined coastal-chic, with sustainable wood and natural stone used throughout the property. The organic textures and muted colours are the perfect antidote to the zingy Caribbean colours outside. Found on its own secluded cove, a real bonus is that every room faces the palm-lined beach – so if the exquisite bedding (made near Le Sereno’s sister hotel, Il Sereno in Lake Como) doesn’t lull you off to sleep, then the rhythmic lapping of the waves will. For more nodding-off, head to the newly expanded spa which features the island’s only beachfront spa pavilion. Treatments are by Valmont, with some therapies, such as the Harmony in Sereno massage, created just for the hotel by the Swiss beauty brand. Bringing even more European flavours is chef Davide Mosca who heads up the hotel’s open-air Al Mare restaurant. It comes alive at aperitivo hour, as the sun goes down over the stunning Grand Cul-de-Sac beach. Later, you’ll tuck into a bowl of Linguine alle Vongole while your toes sink into the sand. Angelina Villa
Gyp Sea Hotel
Gyp Sea Hotel is not so much a new opening but rather a rebranding by the renowned Sibuet hoteliers. The Sibuet hotel group, launched 30 years ago by Jocelyne and Jean-Louis Sibuet, has become synonymous for its collection of immaculately-designed hotels found across France – from Megève to Saint Tropez. Its new look hotel – now enigmatically called Gyp Sea Hotel – sees the couple’s son and daughter, Nicolas and Marie, overseeing the transformation. While the charm of the old hotel remains, it’s out with the old and in with a new bohemian spirit, with Gyp Sea now expanded to not only encompass a boutique hotel and a hip beach club, but also new, jaunty beach cottages. Overlooking the Bay of Flamands, a stay at the hotel means balmy nights spent in one of the 22 suites, bungalows or villas, which are painted in cheery bougainvillea pink, sky blue and sunshine yellow shades. Interiors take they cue from a colonial past with rattan furniture, bleached wood floors and shell-encrusted details. Antique bamboo armchairs are brightened with colourful palm-print cushions; canopied four-poster beds are laid with fine linens and some rooms have glorious outdoor tubs. Days can be spent by the emerald-toned pool, under the shade of banana trees and giant palms. Nearby is the beach club on the Plage du Pélican, where you can bathe in the warm sea and eat grilled lobster, avocado salad and rum-roasted pineapple. For absolute seclusion, book one of the new beach houses which are bursting with bold textiles, local art and hand-carved furniture. Angelina Villa