Monday, January 12, 2009

How to spend 24-hours in St. Barths without a hotel room

Gustavia and St. Barths from the air.
Getting to St Barths is not for the faint of heart. Departing from the island of St. Maarten, travelers must choose between two different fates – journey by sea or by air. Our group of Jason Hirsch, Nadav Besner, and Arik Roshanzamir decided to try both, with one of us choosing to fly, while the others decided to take the ferry.

The infamous ferry ride to St. Barths lived up to its reputation. Despite taking enough Dramamine to tranquilize an elephant, we still found ourselves reeling as the 80-foot boat was battered by 20-foot swells. Although electing to take a mere 10-minute flight from St. Maarten seems like a no-brainer, one has to consider the fact that St. Barths’ tiny airstrip forces pilots to essentially cut off their engines and thread between two jagged peaks before gliding onto the abridged tarmac.
Arik Roshanzamir, Jason Hirsch, and Nadav Besner dressed down for the beach and dressed up for their night out in St. Barths.
The six-mile long French Caribbean island of Saint Barthelemy has long been considered a playground of the rich and famous known for its pristine beaches, gourmet dining in chic bistros and high-end designer shopping. Unlike most Caribbean vacation destinations, more than half of the beds available to St Barths' visitors are in privately owned villas, cottages and apartments.

There are a handful of full service hotels, with all the usual amenities, but even among these, the largest has only around 70 rooms. Most others have half that. The writers, three well travelled New Yorkers, decided to conquer this magnificent island in 24 hours!
Yachts in Gustavia Harbor.
Walkway to the beach.
Walking down to beach in St. Barths. View from private home in St. Barths.
Upon leaving the port of Gustavia in a French taxi (20 euros please, part of the charm), our first destination was Nikki Beach. Located on St. Jean Beach and known for its soft white sand beaches and calm waters, Nikki Beach was the perfect place to set up camp for the day.

Upon our arrival, we quickly befriended the Manager, Mimi, who graciously offered us the only cabana bed in the entire restaurant – overlooking the light blue water, but still in the middle of Nikki’s infamous lunch scene.
Lounging in the cabana at Nikki Beach with a view of Eden Rock Hotel in the background.
St Jeans Beach, Eden Rock in background.
After a few hours in the sun and a European-style late lunch, we ventured back to Gustavia, walking along its narrow streets and soaking up some of the local culture.

Known for its high-end boutiques, we took the time to shop in Capri, an Italian boutique specializing in fine linen clothes.
Lunch at Nikki Beach.
Shopping at Capri in Gustavia.
Gustavia Harbor with Fort Gustave atop the hill.
Boats in Gustavia Harbor.
An afternoon of shopping required nestling down with a cold beverage to ease into the night, and what better place to do so than at Le Square in Gustavia, a quaint open air bar in an alley beside the Hermes boutique. We relaxed at an outdoor table for some cocktails & caviar and listened to the latest in Euro-house music. We also had the pleasure of meeting up with Andrew Saffir and Daniel Benedict, virtually experts on the Island and extremely well known to the NYSD readership.

As the sun set and glimmered over the yachts in the harbor, we left Gustavia and set off to prepare for the evening’s festivities. Earlier that day, some friends from Hong Kong and Moscow had checked in to the Hotel Manapany, in nearby Anse des Cayes. We met at the hotel for a few hours of rest and prepared for an evening of debauchery.
Beach party at St Barths.
Despite only arriving earlier that day, our well-connected friends were able to get us a 15-person table at Le Ti St Barth, a savory, chichi restaurant coupled with a relatively trendy embedded ‘fashion show’ – that seemed to borrow from Victoria's Secret, though this one was far more French-inspired.

The venue was dotted with noted celebrities such as Donny Deutsch and Russell Simmons along with illustrious members of New York’s real estate community, some of which were mentioned here.
Nadav making new friends with the owner's wife at the Yacht Club. Arik and Manoj Jain.
Around 1:00am we got up from dinner and headed to our table reservation at St. Barth’s hottest nightclub, the Yacht Club.

Set on a pier in the middle of Gustavia’s port, surrounded by yachts and filled with celebrities from around the world, the Yacht Club was really the main attraction for those who want to enjoy the island’s nightlife. Drinking Grey Goose w/ Red Bulls, we made many new friends and partied until the early morning hours.
Running into Laetitia Lesser and Alona Shelemy at the Yacht Club.
At 4:30am we returned to the Hotel Manapany where we enjoyed a two-hour nap on the cushioned pool chairs as we listened to the sounds of the Caribbean waves crashing on the beach just 20 feet below. We were awakened by the warmth emanating from the early morning sunrise, and the intoxicating aroma of French omelettes and croissants whipped up by the Hotel’s gracious staff and our generous host.

We soon ventured back to Gustavia, and caught the 7:30am boat back to St. Maarten, where the rest of the day was spent sleeping, relaxing, and telling all of our friends about our amazing 24-hour adventure in St Barths.

— Jason Hirsch, Nadav Besner, and Arik Roshanzamir
Sunset in Gustavia.