What do international jet setters, supermodels, Hollywood celebs, and Greek shipping heirs have in common? Well, a lot of things, but the answer we're looking for: They all vacation in St. Barts. So what better place to shake off the stresses of wedding planning than with a mini-honeymoon jaunt to this slice of paradise?
The French island territory, located in a northeastern section of the Caribbean known as the Leeward Islands, is full of European charm. French is the native language, and most residents have the same laissez-faire attitude as mainland Francophiles and an unrivaled affinity for eating, drinking, and partying.
To ensure you rub shoulders with beautiful people at the island's hottest spots, follow our essential mini-moon itinerary.
There's only one airport on St. Barts, and those with a fear of flying, be forewarned—the runway is so short that only propeller planes are allowed (sorry, PJ owners), and the approach at landing comes in dangerously low over the island's mountainous peaks, so expect to be gripping your armrests tight. Good news: Flying on Tradewind Aviation eliminates nearly all the anxiety. While most travelers to St. Barts make their one-stop connection on nearby St. Maarten, Tradewind has special hubs in Puerto Rico, Antigua, and St. Thomas, making the flight from mainland U.S. easier and cheaper. Plus, you get to skip the entire customs and check-in process, as a designated Tradewind representative will pick you up at your landing gate, escort you to the airline's VIP lounge, handle all your customs paperwork, and then whisk you out onto the Tarmac for your luxurious semi-private flight, complete with complimentary snacks and booze!
Once you've landed, post up with the island's poshest set at the uber-cool Le Sereno. Famed Parisian designer Christian Liaigre infused the 36-room resort with a refined, minimalist sensibility that epitomizes breezy beach-chic. Guest rooms are outfitted with tall four-poster beds, low-slung couches, oversized soaking tubs, open-air showers, and plush daybeds on private decks. If you're traveling with friends, spring for one of the three four-bedroom villas, which are set above the resort and have amazing water views, private entrances, an infinity pool, kitchen, and library.
Have lunch upon arrival at Le Sereno Al Mare, the on-site restaurant where Executive Chef Raffaele Lenzi turns out modern Italian dishes in addition to classics like veal Milanese (especially fitting now that Le Sereno now has a sister property on Lake Como, called Il Sereno).
One of the best aspects of Le Sereno is its secluded location on Grand Cul de Sac beach, away from the fray of hard-partiers on Nikki Beach and bustling day-trippers in the town of Gustavia. And few resorts are located within walking distance of the beachfront restaurants, so take your pick or head next door to Le Guanahani, the largest hotel on the island at 67 rooms (Le Guanahani was badly damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria, but is set to reopen in October 2020). Thursday nights are especially great with a full-on beach barbecue serving up grilled surf and turf, made-to-order pasta, salads, and more—with a one-man-band singing Bob Marley jams in the background.
Rent a car for the day at Le Sereno—there's a Hertz representative on-site, making it super easy to pick out a cute set of beach wheels. Make hairpin turns on the winding drive toward the airport, where you can stop across the street at Maya's To Go, an adorable boulangerie with baguette sandwiches and tasty lunch bites. Pack your food picnic-style and head to Gouverneur Beach, a stunning swath of sand on the other side of the island. Make sure to bring a beach umbrella—there's no shade, so without one, you'll be packing up by the time the beach fills up around 4 p.m. when locals roll in for an after-work dip.
There's no better way to cap a day of sun and surf than with a crisp beer. Head to Shellona on Shell Beach near Gustavia for a cocktail and one last swim in the ocean. Then take a turn around town and pop into stores like Poupette St. Barth for chic cover-ups, Ligne St. Barth for homemade bath products, and Imrie for colorful swimwear. Rather than wait for a table at Bonito (and pay a pretty penny for your meal), do like the locals and stop by L'Isoletta, a casual pizza-and-wine outpost of the popular Italian eatery L'Isola. Then, head back to Le Sereno and take in the stars on your private deck, beer in-hand (mini-bar drinks and snacks are included).
Lounge in the sun on Le Sereno's spacious pool deck or visit the spa, which is set in a beachfront cabana for treatments en plein air (with luxe Sothys products). Take a dip in the crystal-clear ocean, which is waist-deep for hundreds of yards, making this the ideal spot to test out your paddle-boarding, kite-surfing, jet-skiing, or windsurfing skills. Around noon, make the short drive to the LVMH-owned Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France on picturesque Flamands Beach for a toes-in-the-sand lunch at La Case by Jean Imbert. Should you be in need of even more R&R, book a facial at the hotel's Guerlain spa (the 50-minute radiance facial will leave you glowing after a deep cleansing and restorative mask).
Stave off the dread of leaving this island paradise with dinner at the legendary Eden Rock—St Barths. Try Sand Bar, the hotel's chic beachfront restaurant known for its mix of healthy dishes (like tuna tartare with avocado, radish, and ginger marinade) and indulgent options (like campanelle pasta with local lobster, tomato sauce, and pickled chilies), imagined by Michelin-starred French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.