Given that St. Barth, one of Tradewind Aviation's major Caribbean destinations (flights from San Juan or St. Thomas), is an overseas collectivity of France, let's use a French expression for this story about singular hotel rooms: Crème de la Crème.
On an island with a surplus of great hotel rooms, these are the one-percenters (including a one-percenter that, relatively speaking, is inexpensive).
Cheval Blanc St. Barth Isle de France: The Beach Suites
The glamour rooms at this epitome of the sexy French Caribbean hideaway are the four Beach Suites, 1,500-square-foot loft-like spaces that have private pools (twice as big as the usual plunge), dead-on ocean views, and privacy built in (butler service—just dial 444—and a dining room with a table for four). The decor is French-Cal chic: Mostly white (cotton-and-linen slipcovers, white-textured wall treatment), and faux-weathered wood, with dashes and dots of blush pink, the resort's signature color.
The bathroom is large enough to host a cocktail party for 12 (excluding the outdoor shower and terrace), and one gets a good idea of the expected clientele by opening the refrigerator: Three bottles of Dom (1998 Plenitude 2, 2003 Rosé, and 2006) and three bottles of Ruinart (Blanc de Blancs, Rosé, and Brut). Second-floor suites are better because they're at palm-top level. Four more Beach Suites open in 2017. Cheval Blanc is on Flamands Beach, one of the island's best.
Eden Rock: Christopher Columbus Suite
The great rooms at this hotel in St. Jean are 'on the Rock,' a round and craggy outcropping just off the beach. This is the hotel Robinson Crusoe might have built had he gotten an architecture and an interior design degree.
Go for the newest suite, Christopher Columbus (2,000 sq. meters/21,528 sq. ft.), which occupies the former reception area. It's a room made for James Bond, or maybe Goldfinger. The Columbus Suite is much longer than it is wide, and it’s traversed by two stone arches and a plexiglass wall that create separate living and sleeping areas. (The sleeping area also has its own living room.) The walk-in shower is of marble, and the second bathroom has a huge round tub.
It's the living room, though, that mesmerizes. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls look east into the Atlantic. There's the cloud-coffered sky, the horizon, the sea, and directly below, the coral reef that surrounds the hotel. All that space is your new-world discovery. Here, you really are Christopher Columbus in a way, because the world has never quite looked like this before.
Le Guanahani: Signature Suites
Le Guanahani occupies a niche of its own on St. Barth. It’s the island's only bona-fide, full-service resort: A 16-acre enclave with three restaurants (beach to fine dining), two lighted tennis courts, a cool fitness center right on the beach, St. Barth’s largest spa (with two butler-serviced wellness suites for those who want to live the spa life), a Frederic Fekkai hair salon, an 82-foot-long pool with water purified by ions rather than chlorine (swim all morning without rubbing your eyes), a water-sports center, and a complimentary children’s program. No other resort on the island comes even close to offering a menu like this.
In keeping with that ethos, the resort has over the years created eight Signature Suites, butler-serviced compounds actually. (All but two are larger than 900 sq. ft.) The property spills down a hillside between Grand Cul de Sac and Marigot Bay, and most of these rooms take complete advantage of the geography. The two-bedroom Admiral’s Suite, down on the water, has a 90-degree wrap-around view of Grand Cul de Sac (park your kite-surfer at the door) while the two-bedroom Marigot Suite occupies a high point between the two bays (bring a bag of books to read on the huge terrace by the plunge pool). As for serenity, at the very top of the resort, here the overused “breathtaking” is the mot juste—the view justly savored from the 538-square-foot deck around the pool.
Hotel LeVillage Saint Barth: Room Nine
This is the newest room at this vintage hotel (founded 1971), nestled in the hillside above St. Jean, and laid out slightly willy-nilly fashion, à la French hill towns. The room, like the hotel, is an example of luxury as simplicity—and part of that is the view over Baie de St. Jean from the bed and terrace.
The former takes up most of the indoor space. To the left is a living room, to the right a spacious bath with a walk-in rain shower, one corner of which consists of a rock that the hotel had the good sense to incorporate into the design. The terrace, roofed and fitted with an awning, is big enough to hold a cocktail party for eight, and that outdoor kitchenette becomes your bar.
You've stepped back into a simpler St. Barth at LeVillage—more timber and stucco than marble and glass and a hotel that has been here since 1969. (It was Craig Claiborne's favorite place on the island; he always stayed in Room 10.)
"I remember when there were no villas up there," says owner Catherine Charneau, daughter of the founder, gesturing toward the slope above the hotel.
One other simple luxury: Walking down to St. Jean (10 minutes), having coffee and croissant, window-shopping for bikinis, and going for a swim in Baie de St. Jean. Just as you'd do in France.
Featured image courtesy of Hotel LeVillage Saint Barth