Honeymoon Destination: St. Barts

The famously beautiful island offers a romantic mix of French culture and Caribbean ease, whether you're lounging on its peaceful beaches or celebrity-spotting over poolside cocktails.

The pool at The Cheval Blanc St. Barth Isle de France

The pool at The Cheval Blanc St. Barth Isle de France

If you’ve ever wondered what, exactly, it is about Saint-Barthélemy that attracts the world’s glitterati, you won’t once you get there: One of the more diminutive islands in the French West Indies, it’s also one of the most beautiful. (It’s also inarguably the chicest, a breezy combination of French and Creole influences.) And despite the island’s glamorous reputation, the vibe is as relaxed and friendly as you’d expect anywhere in the Caribbean to be, while the white-sand beaches, warm blue-green waters and lush, rolling landscape are a postcard come to life. A trip to St. Barts is a taste of the good—the really good—life.

It’s true, of course, that getting there involves a decent amount of effort; the trip entails either ferrying by boat from St. Martin or hopping aboard a puddle-jumper that can make the landing on the island’s tiny airstrip. But the logistics are more than worth it once the two of you have your toes in the soft sand and are sipping champagne while you watch the sun dip down over the peaks of distant islands.

The Garden Suite at Cheval Blanc

The Garden Suite at Cheval Blanc

BY DAY: Any time spent swimming or lounging on the pristine beaches is a good time. Water sports are everywhere here: If you’re snorkelers, you’ll want to visit the Gouverneur or Shell beaches; if you’re surfers, you might try Anse Des Cayes or Toiny. You should also make a point to go on a driving tour of the island, which is the best way to soak up a bit of its history and culture while also taking in those famously gorgeous vistas. (Ask to stop atop the hill by the airport, where tourists gather to watch incoming flights that seem always to just barely clear their heads.) You might also want to rent a car to explore, though the steep, hilly terrain and shoestring-skinny roads aren’t for the timid.

Either way, you’ll inevitably find yourself in the main harbor town and capital, Gustavia, where scads of colorful, chichi boutiques with names you might expect (Hermès, Prada, Rolex) line narrow, windy streets. The other island go-to for shoppers and strollers is St. Jean, which is smaller and (slightly) more subtle than Gustavia, but full of treasures, especially if you’re in the market for bikinis, sundresses or flowy cover-ups.

BY NIGHT: Consider a sunset cruise, a rather romantic way to see the island from another vantage point (plus: champagne!): Reservations at Gustavia-based Jicky Marine Service for its intimate (10- person) cruises aren’t hard to get. If you crave a little more action, you might try the fun and casual Le Select, a well-known burger-and-beer joint that, as lore has it, inspired Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” A classic go-to of another sort is the rollicking Le Ti St-Barth, a restaurant that doubles as a lively cabaret, with, yes, showgirls, a DJ and dancing.

Hillside Bungalow at Cheval Blanc

Hillside Bungalow at Cheval Blanc

WHERE TO STAY: The Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France, located on a quiet crescent of Flamands Beach, is luxurious but easygoing, immaculate but unfussy. Some 40 spacious rooms, suites and bun- galows (including two extremely spacious 4,300-square-foot villas, which have been recently revamped) are all different but uniformly light and bright and airy. Most offer ocean views, and the handful that don’t are immersed in the property’s green, fragrant gardens.

There’s a beachside infinity pool (not to mention private pools and hot tubs attached to some of the lodging); an open-air restaurant off the pool (La Case de L’Isle, a destination in its own right, with a renowned chef and a French- inspired menu); a bar on the beach and another alongside the pool; and solicitous employees, clad in pastel seersucker, ever ready to book you a boat trip, fetch you a mai tai, make you a spa reservation. And a couple’s massage at the hotel’s newly expanded spa—the only Guerlain spa in the Caribbean—is an absolute must: The combination of the heavenly massage oils and the calm of the garden surrounding the outdoor pavilion is nothing short of transcendent.

WHERE TO EAT: For such a small island, St. Barts boasts a rich, exciting dining scene. The aforementioned Case de L’Isle at Cheval Blanc is especially nice at lunch, when they set up tables right on the beach under a large canopy. There’s also the classic Maya’s, a popular (legendary, even) waterfront restaurant at Public Beach with a daily-changing menu and fresh Creole flavors. Another island favorite, Gustavia’s L’Isola, serves up fine Italian with an emphasis on seafood (you will need a reservation)—though its new(ish) little sister, a pizzeria called L’Isoletta, is also delightful and much more casual. (It’s also easier on the wallet.)

La Cabane de L'Isle restaurant at Cheval Blanc

La Cabane de L’Isle restaurant at Cheval Blanc

WHAT TO PACK: Resort wear is always a safe bet, though it bears noting that neither Cheval Blanc nor St. Barts is particularly buttoned-up: You’ll see a lot of sun- dresses, sandals, boat shoes, flip-flops, caftans, swimwear and chic cover-ups. Sunscreen, sun hats and sunglasses are, obviously, necessities.

BEST TIMES TO GO: High season is mid-December to mid-April; summer is hot but still gorgeous. December is the most popular month. September, October and November tend to be the stormiest months—in fact, Cheval Blanc is closed from September to mid-October.

GETTING THERE: From PHL, you can fly into St. Martin (usually via San Juan) and then catch a ferry or very short commuter flight over to St. Barts. The alternate (and most desirable) option: Book a flight with Tradewind Aviation, a wonderful luxury shuttle service that flies directly to St. Jean from San Juan.

This article originally appeared in the fall/winter 2016 issue of Philadelphia Wedding.

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