The Caribbean: St. Barths
More chic by the year
Postcard: The Secret of St. Barths
After all these years, St. Barths just gets chicer and chicer, especially come high season. To help you navigate the inside track on this little Caribbean rock, start by logging onto www.st-barths.com for local gossip, guidance, commentary, and events. Then try to look the part: Locals favor shops like Mandarine ($ 590-590-29-74-77) for Jacob Scott coral bracelets, Lolita Jaca (590-590-27-59-98) for gauzy drawstring pants from Morocco, Blue Coast (590-590-29-60-18) for candy-colored linen shirts, and Mia Zia (590-590-52-03-00) for breezy djellabas and espadrilles. The best places for stylish villa accessories are The House (590-590-27-88-04) and Sysuma (590-590-27-75-04).
If renting a boat is the surest way to show off on the island, real yachtsmen charter a 25-foot runabout from Océanmust (590-590-27-62-25) to explore out-of-the-way bays like Colombier and tiny islands like Fourchue. Surfers and beachcombers will want to trek the shoreline of the untamed Côte Sauvage or the trail above Washing Machine Beach, where the sea churns against the rocks. For quieter waters, head to the beaches of Anse Saline, Lorient, or Marigot (families love it here). No matter the beach, a picnic from Kiki-é Mo Catering ($ 590-590-27-90-65) and VitOlive (590-590-52-96-22) are essential. And after the sun and sand, we love the new spa at the Hotel St. Barth Isle de France (800-810-4691) for massages and facials. For the more adventurous, past-life regression therapist Diana Bourel makes house calls ($ 590-590-27-98-10).
Nightlife on the island belongs to hot spots like Nikki Beach in St. Jean (590-590-27-64-64) and Bête à Z'ailes ($ 590-590-29-74-09) and La Luna (590-590-27-86-07) in Gustavia. But Le Ti St.-Barth (590-590-27-97-71) still has to be the island's late-night epicenter of style. Here, dressing for dinner is a competitive sport and dancing on the tables is mandatory. And since St. Barths has no cinema, outdoor screenings at the A.J.O.E. tennis court on Saturday nights in Lorient have become quite the ticket as well.
Maya's is overrated; a more appealing choice would be La Gloriette (590-590-27-75-66) on the beach at Grand Cul de Sac. Owner Albert Balayn prepares sophisticated Creole food, including divine crab farci and a passionfruit-and-rum digestif.
Where's new to stay? The 14 pastel bungalows at Le Toiny (rooms, $1,670-$2,780; 800-932-3222) are secluded, sexy, and stylishly decorated with crisp toiles, fourposter mahogany beds, and teak chaises. Private pools overlook garden terraces and an isolated stretch of the eastern shore. Even better is renting your own house from WIMCO (800-932-3222; www.wimco.com). The two-bedroom Villa DOD in Pointe Milou is $12,000 a week and has the look of a mod Paris apartment: glossy fabrics, Portuguese-marble floors, chromium-steel fixtures, ever-so-cool furniture, an infinity pool, and ocean views. Seaweed ($9,210 a week) is an airy, modern two-bedroom villa with Japanese-inspired decor and an infinity pool. Best of all is the lavish new five-bedroom La Fleur sur la Mer, at $25,000 a week, perched above Colombier Beach with views of all of St. Barths. Now what could be better than that?
Hot Property: Under the Radar
Once home to a burlesque nightclub, La Banane, a chic new nine-bungalow hotel on St. Barths, shows nothing but good taste: clean design, two pools, and heavenly indoor-outdoor bathrooms. The bungalows are done up in white with light woods and vintage photos. Each has its own private patio where breakfast is served, including steaming pots of Mariage Frères tea in Philippe Starck china. If you can bear to leave the premises, co-owner Philippe and his staff know every trick to the island. Just ask. Rooms, $450. At Baie de Lorient; 590-590-52-03-00.
Be Sure to Pack
• A Lilly Pulitzer Caribbean-inspired dress, like a girl's jumper. $94; 866-545-5948; www.lillypulitzer.com.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.