St. Bart’s is unparalleled among Caribbean islands. With no high rise hotels and vast stretches of completely undeveloped land, it’s got a low-key Francophone vibe that has made it the top choice for an elite set of vacationers since the 1950s.
There are no major commercial carriers that fly into St. Bart’s. Most visitors instead arrive via 10-seater from St. Maarten, making a thrilling 45-degree angle descent onto the island’s tiny airstrip, or take the hour or so trip on the ferry.
Put on the map as a holiday destination by one of the Rockefeller heirs, its society beginnings have set the tone for the island in the intervening decades. Grand yet discreet villas and beautifully turned out boutique hotels are what you’ll find accommodation-wise, rather than the usual range of resorts that cater to every budget. The best bet for those keeping an eye on costs is to take advantage of the off-season. From now until September (most hotels, restaurants and shops are closed in September and October) you can experience the best of this little slice of paradise at a fraction of the cost.
The St. Bart’s high season kicks off before Christmas and goes well through the winter as the world’s well-heeled travelers descend upon the French West Indies island for a break from colder climes and a chance to mingle with a rarified group of revelers from around the globe. Spring is regatta season, with three separate regattas – the St. Bart’s Bucket Regatta, Les Voiles de St. Barth and the West Indies Regatta – happening one after another in March and April. After that last push, the island gets considerably quieter and takes on its own set of charms.
The low season in St. Bart’s offers opportunities to mix with the locals, take advantage of reduced hotel rates and enjoy the uncrowded beaches and streets. Rather than compete for beach space or loungers at Nikki Beach, you can take in the scenery sans distraction.
Hotel Carl Gustaf
One hotel that offers substantially reduced summer rates is the Carl Gustaf. Perched high on a hill that overlooks the yacht-filled Gustavia harbor, and a short five-minute walk from the always-lively Shell Beach and the restaurants and boutiques of town, it’s the perfect introduction to St. Bart’s. From the initial “bonjour” at reception to the “coupes“ of champagne that appear during check-in, the hotel’s French heritage is immediately evident. And perhaps nowhere is it more obvious than at Victoria’s, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant. Helmed by a Parisian chef since 2004, this year they initiated a Mystery Tasting Menu program, wherein diners choose their number of courses and the kitchen sends out a sequence of dishes that changes nightly. Based on a recent night, highlights could include lobster, saffron-scented bouillabaisse and seared foie gras.
Spacious one- and two-bedroom suites make up the majority of Carl Gustaf’s accommodations. While the one-bedroom suite cost about $1,590* per night from January to March, that price drops significantly between May and August, going down to $739* for for stays up to three nights and $528* per night for longer stays. The two-bedroom suite, which sleeps four, is similarly reduced in the summer. While high season suites fetch $2,337* per night, low season rates fall to $1,522* for stays up to three nights and $761* for longer bookings. All suites have their own private patio and plunge pools and daily in-suite breakfast is included.
There’s no doubt St. Barthelemy is a magical place. Totally unlike anywhere else in the world, its mix of wild beaches, cosmopolitan culture and French “je ne sais quoi“ might just make you want to stay forever. At the very least, it’s worth a visit – and low season rates make it easier than ever to go.
Main photo credited to Hotel Carl Gustaf
Booking prices converted in approximation from euros