When the subject of our annual vacation arose, my husband and I did exactly what we always do: he begged for action and adventure; I opted for sun and pampering. After much deliberation, we agreed on St. Barths, our favorite isle in the French West Indies and among the tiniest islands in the Caribbean. This upscale outpost draws countless A-listers, who adore its dazzling beaches, exclusive yachting and social scene, world-class shopping, and superb cuisine. In this ever changing world, St Barths could guarantee a mix of stunning natural beauty with plenty of pampering, all amid a stylish, laid back atmosphere.
The Carl Gustaf Hotel had just re-opened following a major refurbishment, so we decided to return. We already adored the setting and the staff, as we had celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary there a few years earlier. Located atop Gustavia with its quaint mix of red-roofed buildings, high-end boutiques, and a yacht-filled harbor, the resort is prized for its location, privacy and striking vistas. It bears the name of His Majesty, the current King of Sweden, who graciously gave his personal permission in recognition of the Swedish presence on the island.
We were thrilled with our choice! Hotel Carl Gustaf is more opulent than ever. The brainchild of Jacques Laurent, a successful French businessman and competitive yachtsman, the newly refit Carl Gustaf features a selection of 14 one-, two- and four-bedroom suites, each located in an enchanting cottage, with views of the harbor and distant islands. A short stroll from Shell Beach, the resort offers an interesting range of amenities and services, including a new spa, fabulously re-designed dining outlets, the new “over the top” Royale Suite (which we just had to try) and more!
Overlooking resort grounds and the azure Caribbean, the Royale Suite is resplendent with its private entrance, over-sized living-room; four bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms (each with showers and bathtubs), a large fully-equipped kitchen, separate lounge/office area, several terraces, and stellar views. A loft-like master bedroom offers supreme comfort, outfitted with mini-bar, LCD flat screen TVs/satellite channels, CD/DVD players, IPod systems, Wi-Fi access, and more. In addition to its own infinity pool and Jacuzzi, the Suite is surrounded by a walled garden terrace. Hands down, this is the finest new accommodation in the region, and we urge all to consider the Royale Suite for friends and family escapes, honeymoons and romantic retreats.
There are also six one- and two-bedroom ocean view air-conditioned suites, each with large living rooms, kitchenettes, separate master bedrooms, sitting areas, double closets, master baths, modern in-room technology, and more.
A new Spa Suite was unveiled in the project as well. Located adjacent to the resort’s new duplex spa, it features a private plunge pool, wonderful views, a living-room, separate bedroom and luxe ensuite bath. Spa Suite amenities are plentiful, including a large terrace with deck chairs.
For many, the Gustaf’s secluded private villa may be best. Villa Golden Reef, located next door, offers access to all resort services and amenities. A deluxe residence, the Villa offers seven bedrooms, a gourmet kitchen, opulent bathrooms, exquisite interiors, and a pool and Jacuzzi. The Villa’s views are striking. Guests can keep watch over their own vessel or The Carl Gustaf III, the resort’s 52’ fully-crewed exclusive yacht, available for full or half-day excursions.
The new Boutique Carita Spa is the hallmark of the Gustaf’s refit. Designed to revitalize and rejuvenate, it is gorgeously styled, offering treatments enriched with the signature approach of the legendary Carita sisters of Paris, who’ve treated notables such as Catherine Deneuve and Paloma Picasso. Perched above the Harbor, a first level “Hydro Zone” allows guests to benefit from water’s natural soothing and healing properties, featuring a double Hammam, an Essential Oils Shower, a foot Pebble Bath and an Ice Fountain.The Hydro Zone leads to an outdoor pool with Jacuzzi, and a resistance-current jet for strength-building swims. Flooded with natural light, the Spa’s Fitness Center offers cardio and resistance training, one-on-one sessions, and a brilliant spot to view the Gustaf’s new waterfall. Downstairs offers private treatment rooms for singles and couples, each with outdoor decks for indulgent al fresco massage. Manicures, pedicures, foot massage, body waxing and other treatments can also be enjoyed.
Laurent clearly spared no expense. A sparkling new Carl Gustaf Lounge – retaining its position as the island’s best spot for sundowners, has also been transformed. This fashionable setting offers a new and light fare for lunch and dinner, signature drinks and live music, making it the right choice to gather any time.
Victoria’s – the new gastronomic choice named in honor of Princess Victoria of Sweden, is remarkable for its ambiance and delectable cuisine. Here diners savor Executive Chef Emmanuel Mott’s dishes inspired by his French roots and extensive world travels. Victoria’s is quickly becoming the spot to gather for lunch and dinner.
There is as much or as little to do as one prefers. From SCUBA, ski diving, guided island tours, and fishing trips, to yacht and sail excursions aboard one of the resort’s fully crewed boats, active options are limitless and expertly arranged.
While the Hotel Carl Gustaf retains her glamour and allure, she is enjoying a new vitality and panache that today’s sophisticated travelers will surely adore.