What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Guest blogger Carolyn Hsu, founder of The Hsu Closet, shared the ins and outs of planning a New York City wedding, picking the perfect venue, crafting a day-of beauty look and finding inspiration in the strangest of places. In her final post, she shares the details of her dream honeymoon!
A month after my husband and I tied the knot, we jetted off to the Caribbean for a nine-day honeymoon that ranks as one of the best trips of our lives. Curious after seeing so many tastemakers extol the virtues of St. Barths, we picked the storied island as our first destination and neighboring Anguilla as our second.
As we quickly learned, half the excitement of St. Barths is getting there in the first place. Due to the rocky terrain that makes up the island, pilots flying into St. Barths have to perform one of the most difficult landings in the world. The airport runway is notoriously short and the pilot has to clear not one, but three hills, before quickly bringing the plane to the ground. Aviation enthusiasts will definitely appreciate the view (the pilot's view I may add thanks to the open cockpit) as the plane approaches the island at what feels like a near-vertical angle. It was one of the most thrilling plane rides I've ever experienced.
On the ground, all that excitement immediately melts away into pure relaxation. The airport resembles an open-air mall and without even a single line in sight, we were quickly out the door and across the street at Mayas-to-Go, the casual outpost of the St. Barths institution, Maya's. One of the best things about St. Barths is the quality of its food; the most popular choice is often French...and upscale. As first-time visitors to the island, we made a list of all the "must-try" places—lunch on the beach at Eden Rock, Creole fusion at Eddy's, fresh seafood at Bonito, and special occasion dining at Le Gaiac. While we diligently ate our way through the list, we also found that some of the real gems are casual eateries and hideaways frequented by the locals. One such place we discovered was L'Isoletta, an outdoor pizzeria where you can eat, lounge, and drink for hours while watching people come and go. It reminded us of the late summer evenings in Italy where we got engaged. Another accidental discovery was JoJo Burger, a snack shack along the side of the road where you can enjoy a big piña colada with your fish or cheeseburger. The great thing about honeymooning on an island with such a rich culinary scene is that you really can't go wrong; everything we ate was simply delicious.
Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Hsu
While in St. Barths, we stayed at Le Toiny. Picking a hotel was hard, as the entire island is dotted with ultra luxurious villas and gorgeous hotel properties. We chose Le Toiny because of its all-villa suites, each with a private pool, unobstructed ocean view, and legendary service. With only fifteen villas on property, there wasn't a bad room in the house, and each guest is treated like a VIP. Every morning, we had breakfast served on our own private deck and we ended every evening with a dip in our own pool. Staying there didn't feel like staying at a hotel—it was like we had our own home on the island. That feeling of being so relaxed and undisturbed was incredibly luxurious.
St. Barths is small, but has so much culture and variety, plus some of the most incredible beaches in the world, so it made sense to rent a car to explore on our own timeline. On our second day there, our hotel arranged a private island tour and our tour guide was the former editor-in-chief of Le Journal de Saint Barths, the weekly newspaper. Needless to say, she knew everything—from the island's humble history to its current day celebrity gossip. Spending three hours with her was one of the best activities of the trip, and we left the tour with so much appreciation for the place.
There are 14 beaches on St. Barths, each one with pristine white sand opening to crystal blue waters. At the recommendation of friends, we went to Saline Beach almost every day, just to take in the gorgeous views. The unexpected thing about St. Barths is, while it has a reputation of being a playground for the ultra-wealthy, it's actually not a scene at all. Instead, the island is so friendly and laid-back, offering complete seclusion and privacy and just letting its natural beauty inspire and amaze. Our second to last day on the island, we hiked about forty-five minutes (in the mountains!) to get to Colombier Beach. It was absolutely worth it. The beach is mostly isolated, but spectacular, and the water there is so still that it feels like you're wading in a giant pool. Being on that beach and looking out into the water is one of those moments that just make you feel so lucky to be alive and be at that place. Incredible is the only word I can use to describe the experience.
After five days in St. Barths we were sad to leave, but excited for the next leg of our trip—Anguilla. Back at the airport we had one of the best check-in experiences ever. No lines, no security, no metal detectors—just casual instructions to "have a seat" (outside! In the loveliest sunny, 80-degree weather!) and wait for the pilot to come fetch us. Then, it was just my husband and me on a short 15-minute jaunt to Anguilla.
Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Hsu
When our friends heard that we were going to Anguilla, they almost unanimously recommended that we stay at The Viceroy. It's one of the newest resorts on the island, so we were excited to check out the glitz factor—and it didn't disappoint. The sprawling Kelly Wearstler-designed resort was a much fancier contrast to the laid-back (but equally stunning) style of St. Barths, and every corner you turned either offered some gorgeous design work or a sweeping view of the ocean. Our room at the hotel also had a private plunge pool (a honeymoon amenity I highly recommend) but we spent most of our days cruising around trying every restaurant and water sport the property offered. The Viceroy has much more of a traditional resort feel with a number of restaurants, pools, lounges and activities to try. One of the highlights of our time there was getting a private sailing lesson in the hotel's Catamaran boat and then being able to take it out on the ocean ourselves. Let's just say, it was definitely an exercise in learning to trust my new husband, but it was an exhilarating and fun experience.
It rained on the very last night of our honeymoon, but that turned out to be a romantic wrap-up to our Caribbean adventure. Our hotel had a covered, open-air lounge where we could eat, drink, play games, and hang out on fabulous day beds. That evening, they screened a movie so we went to enjoy. Just a few feet away, the rain came down hard and the waves crashed into the beach, but inside we were snuggled up with platters of sushi and cocktails. It was truly the perfect memorable ending to our honeymoon.