St. Barts :
A Jetsetter's Dream
A Tropical Francophile Heaven
The Tropicana ring around the earth provides ample palmculture (palm-tree culture) alternatives for backpack nomads, divers, package tourists, and everything inbetween. When vacationers and celebrities seek the ultimate tropical fantasy, they come to St. Barth’s—an eight mile-long, hilly volcanic island epitomizing French chic in the Caribbean sun. A jetsetter dream where the setting overshadows the jets.
This sophisticated yet off the beaten path destination is an enduring favorite of the well-heeled. Sexy and far flung there’s not a single touristy thing about it, which is why famous folks feel so comfortable here. The French Caribbean is completely different from the American Caribbean, which can feel more like the Florida Keys. You won’t find any drinking contests or wet T-shirt contests here. St. Barth’s is used by the French while Americans call it St. Barts. Those not challenged by syllables call it Saint Barthélemy. Either way, the island was named by Christopher Columbus after his brother Bartholomeo. He would be happy to know that the island still does not have any large resorts, casinos, or golf courses. Not sure how he’d feel about the overflow of barely-there-bikinis.
Supermodels don’t get all the attention here. St. Barth’s is also an international showcase for the world’s finest sail and luxury boats. The hilly marvel has 22 epic beaches that are all public. Its eight square miles are encircled by shallow-water reefs that wow divers from around the world. Because of the island’s petite size, any turn you make lands on dreamy, silky-white sand by the sea. St. Barth’s is rocky and dry because it doesn’t have mountains tall enough to attract regular clouds like neighboring Saba, which supports jungle foliage. There are still a few stream-fed salt ponds close to the aquamarine beaches. In another era, these salt-producing ponds were vital to what is now a tourist economy. If you don’t rent a car, navigating these narrow, windy roads in a cab costs about five bucks a minute when translated from Euros. Even though St. Barth’s seasonally overflows with tourists, it’s still remote. There are doctors on the island, but all situations requiring hospitalization, including giving birth, require a flight to nearby St. Maarten. A 1766 census recorded 327 residents. Despite the growth, visitors from urbanity still discover the quaint. The mini harbor town/capital, Gustavia, pairs a likable indoor/outdoor dive bar next to chic boutiques, while salty beer sippers mingle with flashy yacht skippers. Four hundred-foot yachts owned by billionaires moor here for months at a time. Word is that extravagant yacht parties are crashable—pack your tuxedo-themed bathing suit.
HOTEL LE TOINY
If you’re not on a boat, you’ll need a place to stay. Hôtel Le Toiny (pronounced twanee) is a superstar villa resort, restaurant, and spa with options for unrivaled privacy. An enduring hideaway since 1992, the private and discreet French Colonial-style resort is located on the island’s underdeveloped southeastern side. Spread across 38 acres, Le Toiny’s 15 elongated, hillside-hugging pastel-colored villas enjoy a private heated pool and terrace with lush vegetation cover that insures no peepers but still affords stunning views of the Caribbean Sea, a prime surfing beach, and mountainous St. Kitts and Nevis in the distance. Being on the laidback, windy side of the isle resets your clock and the finely appointed villas maintain that relaxed zone with a Volkswagen-sized bathtub and stocked kitchenette. I recall the bed sheet thread count also being in a league of its own. The onsite Serenity Spa Cottage invites further calm; some deem spas only as good as their massage therapists, and its staff delivers.
Le Toiny mirrors the early plantation houses found in the French Caribbean and speaks a rare language to couples and partners seeking the ultimate romantic honeymoon or simply a quiet, reacquainting getaway. Although you certainly don’t want to bar your room attendant from working their magic, they do take the do not disturb sign—a red mailbox flag on the gate fronting your bliss compound—very seriously.
Sustainably designed Le Toiny, far removed from any population concentration, boasts the island’s, and many testify the Caribbean’s premiere restaurant, Le Gaïac. Its 45-seat open-air balcony has lofty sea views and warm tableside service options. Absolutely French gourmet, the subtle long service is under the leadership of Grand Chef Stéphane Mazieres, the first chef in the Caribbean to receive the esteemed Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux award. The refined and sophisticated menu has featured innovative blends of French and Creole influences. Mango crab salad with guacamole sorbet and lime foam, anyone? The restaurant’s covered open-air terrace also overlooks an infinity pool. Gentle tropical breezes flow through the restaurant day and night while the all-white upholstered furnishings create a refined sense of chic. It has mellow live entertainment on weekends and a Sunday brunch buffet that redefines the good ....