Just Checked Out: St. Barths

In this frigid weather, its nice to daydream about lounging on a beach, drinking a Pina Colada somewhere in the Caribbean islands. Everyone I meet who has been to St. Barths comes back raving about the perfect combination of gorgeous beaches, excellent restaurants and fantastic shopping (but alas not the high prices).  Once regarded primarily as a “couples” or “singles” destination, St. Barths is increasingly attracting families who are seeking to enjoy the many benefits of a villa vacation. And St. Barths seems to have plenty of villas (though the good ones sell out quickly). Friends with a 7-year old daughter from NYC rented a villa in St. Barths for the Thanksgiving holiday and share their experience below:

“It was the first time we left New York City for Thanksgiving but we wanted a change and St. Barths is always our family’s first choice for a vacation!  A benefit of a November trip in St. Barths is still offering discounted summer rates and we were ready to escape our busy Autumn in New York.

We rented a 2-Bedroom, 2-Bath villa with a pool through WIMCO, SIB CEC, also know as “Case and

Cuisine”, located in Marigot.  The villa met all of our expectations, and the owners who reside on the island really had thought of every amenity; the kitchen was very well designed for cooking, the house was very clean, and possessed a modern bathroom, A/C, TV/DVD (with direct TV), computer with internet access and a printer. Best of all, it is among the best-priced villas on the island and the perfect size for a family of three.

We stayed for six nights, which gave us plenty of time to both visit with friends, make it to all of the beaches, snorkel and of course, relax.  Our trips to St. Barths are active vacations. While there is time for reading and naps, there is so much more to do than to just roll out of bed into a lounge chair.  We seem to always be exploring the island in our jeep, stopping for a fresh baguette or ice cream, snorkeling a new beach, or heading to a new restaurant.

The only thing I sometimes miss in St. Barths is my workout, but this trip I tried a new exercise studio with yoga and pilates classes in Gustavia called Atmosphere (Rue Jeanne d’Arc Gustavia).  There are some excellent teachers (you can get by taking a class in French).”

What we loved:  We love the food in St. Barths and there are so many restaurants to choose from.  Our favorite food is well prepared, but casual food or what people generally think of as lunch places.  Kiki-é Mo in St. Jean specializes in prepared Italian food, delicious paninis, salads and espressos!  La Rotisserie (next to Andy’s Hideaway in St. Jean) is also a favorite and, though it has changed management, the quality seems to be as good as ever.  In Gustavia, we love both La Creperie for salads and ice cream filled crepes and the local ice cream shop.  Maya’s to go is great to pick up prepared gourmet food

What we didn’t love:  After the rainy season, there are often mosquitos on St. Barths.  We found that applying cream rather than spray was more effective, and our daughter was less likely to breathe in the fumes, or get it in her eyes.

Booking through WIMCO.  The US-based booking agents were totally non-responsive and unhelpful. The representatives on the island were nice though. Next time, I would book directly with the owner.

Don’t miss: The beaches!   This is why we go to St. Barths.  Many beaches are spectacular and the best ones are not developed.  So, when we hear people say they visit St. Barths but didn’t leave their

which way to go?

hotel, we feel they missed the whole point of the trip!

We especially love Columbier, though it requires a 20-minute hike or a boat to get there.  The snorkeling is fun for the family as the water is clear, calm and filled with life.  Other favorites are Saline and GouvenourL’Orient beach, home to some sea turtles, is also fun to visit.

While we didn’t shop much this vacation, I do love the swedish design shop in St. Jean, Sabina Zest, for gorgeous handcrafted and hand-dyed  clothing.

Skip It:  As a family we ate a few upscale dinners but with the poor exchange rates, dinner can get expensive quickly (a smoothie for our daughter at Hotel Isle de France was about $17).  We found it was fun to eat lunch out and maybe have drinks at sunset, then head home for dinner.  Our daughter was so exhausted from swimming all day she was often in bed at 7 pm anyway! And, we loved not having to wear anything fancier than a swimsuit for most of the trip.

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