The 3-Day Cheat Sheet To St. Bart's

I'd heard a lot about St. Bart's long before taking the short flight(s) there last month. Most of what I'd picked up (and, let's face it, all of you have, too) was that it was (and is) teeming with celebrities. It's sad, but that's pretty much all anyone seems to read about it, whether you're paging through Us Weekly (Beyoncé! Bon Jovi!) or Travel + Leisure. But, living and working in NYC, this isn't exactly a draw for someone in search of a venerable black-out vacation: four days of stillness, sunshine, and a steady supply of good, cold Sauvignon Blanc. Because sometimes, that's all you really want need.
The truth is, St. Bart's (officially Saint Barthélemy, if you want to get French about it) is a truly magical, Eden-like place. Given my previous notions about this tiny, clandestine island, I was inspired to go by my friend, the style sensei Natalie Joos. Tracking her Instagram one day, I was struck by soothing, sun-dappled image after image: gentle waves lapping against a glimmering beach, stark-white deck chairs at sunset, swirling maxi-dresses beside the pool...fresh fish! Granted, my description doesn't sell it to the extent her pics did, but that was it. This would be my escape, I decided, considering both my shortness of time and my need for pristine weather…every…single…day.
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As I mentioned earlier, St. Bart's is tiny — as in just eight-square-miles tiny. After a day or two, it can feel like your own private island — which, for quick disappearing acts, is pretty ideal. And, the fact that it's also a volcanic island surrounded by dreamy shallow reefs makes it perfect for snorkeling and hiking to hidden coves and beaches (we did a lot of this). In terms of where to stay, there are generally two ways to go: renting a private villa or staying at one of the island's boutique resorts (the smaller ones tend to be a little lighter on the Euro-glitz). And, this leads to one more truth about this particular paradise: St. Bart's is pricey. As opposed to other nearby beachy places like Miami or Mexico, hotels in high season (December to March) can skyrocket, running higher than a month's rent in NYC.
But, rest assured, this isn't a place for extended stays (or bankruptcy). St. Bart's is exactly where you want to go post-holiday high season, especially if you feel like dropping out and being a little pampered — by sunshine; an overdose of nature; fresh, simple food; and probably a really, really good massage therapist. Read on for a few more reasons to add St. Bart's to your spring to-do list. If you're in the market for a tropical reboot, this could be IT.
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Photographed by Christene Barberich.
Getting to St. Bart's is painless if you're coming from NYC. Just hop a flight to San Juan on JetBlue, then transfer for a quickie trip on Tradewind Aviation. The blue-green view from our teeny plane — first sign we're off to a good start.
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Photo: Courtesy of Le Sereno.
If I can recommend only one hotel to book on St. Bart's it would be Le Sereno. With a world-class restaurant, snorkeling, boating, and breeze that could lull the stress knots out of anyone, you don't ever have to leave. I can't really imagine a more beautiful place to chill out and recharge for a few days. Just be sure to choose your companion wisely.

Le Sereno, Grand Cul de Sac BP 19, Saint Barthélemy; (590) 590 29 83 00.

Beginning at approximately $797.76/night.
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Photo: Courtesy of Le Sereno.
The hotel is not only super fashionable, but the crisp interior of the rooms feels completely refreshing and zen. What more could you want?
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Photographed by Christene Barberich.
The private decks — offered for many of the room rentals — are also the perfect touch for an island getaway.
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Photographed by Christene Barberich.
Patch, Le Sereno's resident feline, was by far the coolest celebrity sighting of our trip.
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Photo: Courtesy of Wimco.
Whether you're going with a group (which can be loads more cost-friendly) or just prefer your own place, head to Wimco Villas, which hosts a handful of modern escapes with all the shmancy island amenities you could hope for. Infinity pool? Check. Oceanfront balcony for reading, sleeping, sipping, and watching the sunset? Check! In-villa massage and private chef? Check, check!

Wimco, Saint Barthélemy; +1 (800) 449-1553. 

Beginning at approximately $3,500/week.
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Photo: Courtesy of Wimco.
From inside the Wimco Villa KHA on Pointe Milou, where we stayed. Wimco also offers over 280 private villas, from romantic one-bedroom retreats to more expansive spaces.
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Photo: Courtesy of Wimco.
The company can also handle other aspects of your trip — down to the minor details. So, you can kick back and enjoy this.
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Photo: Courtesy of Wimco.
Just insert this image into your automatic out-of-office email.
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Photographed by Christene Barberich.
This sunny, hazy island view is just the cherry on top of your short escape from reality...which you totally deserve.
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Photo: Courtesy of Bagatelle.
One of the better meals in Gustavia, the capital of St. Bart's, can be had harborside at Bistrot Bagatelle, a swanky place (that happens to have locations in São Paulo and St. Tropez, too...go figure). Serving unfussy French fare with a beachy twist, Bagatelle is pretty perfect for an early dinner of spicy prawns and a cold glass of Champagne.

Bagatelle, Rue Samuel Fahlberg, Gustavia, 97133, Saint Barthélemy; (590) 590 27 51 51.
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Photo: Courtesy of O'Corail.
O' Corail is a shack of a fish joint, located on a lagoon of Grand Cul de Sac. It's so transporting, you will feel like you just swam from your own boat to a freshly prepared catch of the day...or maybe you really did. O' Corail is co-owned and run by a brother-sister duo, and that's exactly the warm, beachfront vibe you'll get when you sit down to some rum punch, cod fritters, and whatever the boat has just brought in. After lunch (or maybe before, just to be safe), head next door to the Ouanalao Dive Center, which arranges diving excursions, paddleboarding, kayaking, and more. 

O' Corail, Grand Cul de Sac, Saint Barthélemy; (590) 590 29 33 27.
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Photographed by Christene Barberich.
Hands down, my favorite discovery on St. Bart's was the 40-minute hike to Le Colombier beach. The walk/climb — which revealed plenty of friendly turtles along the way — can deter many visitors, so finally arriving at this quiet, seemingly private cove can feel like the best reward. Be sure to pack a good lunch, as the warm waves and Lost-like flora will keep you here all day long. Thanks to preservation and local conservation activists like Hélène Bernier, St. Bart's has lots of lush, undiscovered hikes and reserves. Bernier — a lifetimer here — arranges tours of the island and knows a side of St. Bart's beauty that far eclipses its showy rep.

Colombier Beach, Colombier Beach Trail, Saint Barthélemy. 

Easy Time Tours begin at approximately $41.20/person, depending on itinerary.
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Photo: Courtesy of La Gloriette.
You wouldn't think a crispy, grilled Margherita pizza on a hot beach is such a sterling idea, but at La Gloriette it works. Spend the morning swimming or snorkeling, and then drop in for said pizza, shrimp Caesar salad, and some beers. You'll be nap-ready by 3 p.m.

La Gloriette, Grand Cul de Sac, Saint Barthélemy; (590) 590 29 85 71.
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Photographed by Christene Barberich.
What St. Bart's may lack in size, it more than makes up for in lush beauty.
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If you're in the market for some island-style cabaret and late-night cocktails, Le Ti is your joint. Unfortunately, this prim stock photo doesn't exactly do this after-hours party spot justice, but suffice it to say, if you're not conked out by 9 p.m., Le Ti will show you a whole different side to this peaceful paradise.

Le Ti, at Villa Samsara, Saint Barthélemy; (590) 590 27 97 71.
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