Dare to Go Bare Winter 2011 – Saint-Barthelemy, French West Indies
St. Barths offers a taste of the French Riviera in the Caribbean. St. Barths is popular with supermodels, rock stars, oligarchs, athletes and celebrities for its 20 beautiful white sand beaches, fine dining, shopping, and boating culture. Resorts are nestled in breathtakingly beautiful white-sand coves. The best-known beach is St. Jean Beach, a sun-splashed crescent divided by the Eden Rock promontory. The strand at Gouverneur Beach, on the southern coast, is gorgeous, ringed by steep cliffs overlooking St. Kitts, Saba, and Statia (St. Eustatius). Equally fine is Grande Saline Beach, to the east; lack of shade doesn’t deter the nude sunbathers.
For a day at the beach, grab an umbrella from the hotel or beach club since shade is hard to find, add towels, a book, and delicious-smelling Ligne St. Barth coconut oil, and prepare for a day of luxuriating on some of the world’s finest beaches. If you forgot to rent a villa a year in advance, you will enjoy one of the happiest small-hotel stays ever.
Charter a yacht or tour for-sale yachts if you plan to purchase one in St. Barths. Plan your visit for March during the prominent yacht racing event, St. Barths Bucket Race. The three-day regatta allows only 30 yachts of 100 feet or longer to participate. Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore were recently spotted enjoying a relaxing vacation on St. Barths instead of attending her own movie opening.
Competition among aspiring young chefs has made this a dining scene. Eating out can be expensive, like almost everything in this exclusive enclave. Affordable meals can be found during lunch. Order the plat du jour special at the many casual beachfront, hilltop and harbor-side restaurants. You can also order takeout St. Barth’s style from one of the handful of excellent epicurean takeout delis, or traiteurs, where plats du jour from pâtés to pissaladière (onion tart) are sold by the gram. If you want to enjoy a truly memorable meal, book a friendly private chef to prepare one in your hotel suite or villa.
Le Gaïac, in the ultra-plush Le Toiny hotel, may be the last bastion of formal French dining on St. Barths. Visit for a romantic meal or an extravagant Sunday brunch. Try Le Bartoloméo in the Guanahani Hotel, located on a wooden deck under umbrellas beneath the night sky. The locals’ favorite dining spots include Le Bête à Z’Ailes, Boulangerie Choisy , Chez Mona and L’Isola . The best shopping can be found in Gustavia and St.Jean, where you may be surprised to see elegant displays and marble floors reminiscent of Paris’ famous Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré. The best part is that it is duty- and tax-free. You can find stylish, high-quality clothing in even the most basic-looking shops. Pharmacies carry exquisite French skincare lines and toiletries. Grocery stores stock imported French cheeses, pates and wine.
Nikki Beach may be the most decadent exclusive outpost frequented by an A-list crowd where you can drink and spray champagne or lounge on canopied four-poster beds on the sand. Le Ti St. Barth serves up scrumptious food in a sensuous torchlit setting that lures local and visiting sybarites for sizzling theme nights where they literally dance on the tables. The Yacht Club is the dawn patrol’s favored haunt, with breathtaking harbor views through billowing white drapes. Gentlemen, wearing shorts will get you turned away from many nightspots.
Eden Rock Resort is located on a rocky promontory surrounded by white coral, sandy beaches and a coral reef in St. Jean Bay. It was voted by Travel and Leisure as one of the 500 Best Hotels for 2010 and by Conde Nast Traveler as one of The World’s Best Places to Stay – Gold List 2010. Stay in one of their upscale villas: Villa Nina and Villa Rockstar, located directly on the beach at Eden Rock. Dine at the beachfront restaurant for breakfast and lunch or On the Rocks restaurant for fine dining with panoramic sea views. Enjoy spa services in the convenience of your own room. If you get tired of lounging on the beach, there is snorkeling along the coral reef. Snorkel gear, rafts, and regular- and glass-bottomed kayaks are available for guests, all free-of-charge. Hobie Cats and windsurfing equipment are available for rental on St. Jean Beach. If you are seeking a full blast of adrenaline, the island is considered one of the kite-boarding capitals of the world.
Hotel Le Toiny has 15 pastel-colored bungalows on the private and underdeveloped southeastern coast. Each is surrounded by vegetation and is gated for privacy, overlooking the island lagoon and the ocean. It’s decorated in colonial style with glass doors to maximize views and features sundecks and a private pool area. Pampering is available at the Serenity Spa Cottage or in-room. Enjoy the private beach, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing or deep-sea fishing.