Flying in to St. Maarten for my connecting flight to St. Bart’s, I could still see the effects of 2017’s Hurricane Irma: half-sunk boats, buildings in mid-repair. But over on St. Bart’s, just 15 minutes to the southeast, damage was scarcely visible. Gustavia, the main town, was in full swing, as were the 28 hotels and 17 beaches tracing the hilly island. The recovery could be attributed to St. Bart’s wealth, but it also speaks to a sense of community.
That was what struck me when I arrived at Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France, where I was greeted by a young staff who would become equal parts friends, curators, and butlers (the resort uses the French word, majordomes). I was visiting the beloved hotel on Flamands Beach, which reopened last year, for a look at its redesign at the hands of Jacques Grange and for a peek at what’s coming in December: 19 new suites in an adjacent space formerly occupied by the Taïwana hotel.
Despite the addition, the 61-room resort feels surprisingly secluded on a small island where hotels usually lie at close quarters—on Grand Cul de Sac, on the eastern shore, you’ll find Le Guanahani (reopening in 2020), Le Sereno, and Le Barthélemy side by side, while the soon-to-open Eden Rock and Le Carl Gustaf are on hot spots like Nikki Beach and Gustavia, respectively. But on Flamands, possibly the island’s most beautiful beach, Cheval Blanc is the only major resort.
Grange’s subtle update (he also designed the previous iteration of the resort) leaves the DNA intact but adds a degree of flair. It starts with a lobby that frames a dramatic view of the Caribbean and extends to eight beachfront suites, each of which feels like the St.-Tropez home of a globe-trotting collector, with wicker chairs; decorative objects from Africa, the Pacific Islands, and South America; Aboriginal paintings; and werregue baskets. The bedrooms are raised above spacious sitting areas with uninterrupted sea views that give onto balconies with private infinity plunge pools and direct access to the beach. Grange put his mark not only on the rooms and most of the furniture but also the hotel’s bar and its Guerlain spa.
Then there are the three garden suites, which feel like another world—or, more specifically, the Jardin Majorelle: The resort’s grounds were revamped by landscape architect Madison Cox, who oversees the beloved oasis in Marrakech. Jean Imbert, one of the most famous chefs in Paris, has taken over the restaurant, which combines Caribbean flavors with “the easygoing grace” of St. Bart’s. Your best move, though, is to have one of the majordomes fill a wicker basket with caviar, chicory salad, and a blacktruffle croque monsieur, and head down to Flamands Beach for a picnic.
Rooms from $812; chevalblanc.com.