St. Barth's Site Visits: Le Sereno & Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf
If you aren’t familiar with the island of St. Barthlemy, it’s a small French island in the Caribbean that’s only accessible via commuter plane from St. Martin or Puerto Rico. There’s also a ferry from St. Martin, but I hear it can be rough. The island is known for incredible French fusion food, boutique hotels and beach clubs. The main town of Gustavia is adorable (and very safe) and you definitely want an afternoon to walk around as well as a big budget for the high-end shopping.) The island is very popular for the festive period and generally pretty busy from November-February and then calms down a bit March-July. Like most Caribbean islands, many places shut down for hurricane season August-October.
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Where to stay
Hôtel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf Saint-Barth
Chic property with stylish rooms and bungalows offering views of the Caribbean Sea.
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Le Sereno is a quiet beachfront property in Grand cul de Sac which is about 15-20 minutes from the main town and 10 minutes from the airport. The beach here is a marine sanctuary (and very shallow) so you can walk out and see tons of sea turtles. The sandy beach is not huge but the views are gorgeous, especially from the hotel’s iconic beachfront pool. There is a small bar by the pool as well as kayaks, stand up paddle boards and snorkeling gear. Directly on the water and beside the pool is an open air Italian restaurant with a great wine list and seafood and pasta dishes. We enjoyed live music on one of the nights we were there. There is also a small boutique with a men’s line from Milan and a few (very tiny) bikinis for sale. The hotel has a small fitness room as well as three massage cabins: two air conditioned and one oceanfront. The vibe of the whole hotel is very intimate and serene, and unlike some of the other hotels on St. Barths, there is no "beach club" inviting outside guests during the day. Although kids are welcome (and they have great room set ups for families), I’d say it’s the kind of place you’d want to celebrate a honeymoon or anniversary trip. Also, the mini bar includes complimentary beer and gummy bears. Breakfast is made to order and served overlooking the ocean.
Rooms: The hotel has 39 rooms and three, 3-bedroom villas (which are actually more like 4-bedrooms). The rooms are minimalist in decor with real hardwood floors (which showed a decent amount of scratches), white woodwork and white and grey furniture. The bathrooms also have hardwoods and slate showers which were a bit slippery. I found the bathrooms to be a bit dark too.
The Hillside Bungalow is the entry level room which is small but nice and private - there are only two of these.
The Bungalow Piscine rooms are situated around the pool area and have a fenced patio that is not very private, but some have views out to the ocean and these are super convenient to the pool, beach and restaurant. The rooms are small with a king bed and a bench and small sitting area. Two of these can connect together via the fenced patio.
We stayed in a Grand Suite Place which is MUCH larger than the pool rooms and is set up like a junior suite with an open concept living area and nice deck perched on a little hill overlooking the beautiful cove.
There is also a Grand Suite Plage Sud which is a bit smaller and has views out to the beach with a lovely outdoor soaking tub.
There is a one bedroom suite with private pool (Suite Piscine). It’s up on a hill overlooking the ocean, but because of the vegetation, it doesn’t have a full view. This suite can connect via the deck to a hillside bungalow creating a large 2-bedroom suite with private pool in the middle.
On the other side of the resort is Villa Du Pecheur, which is also a one bedroom suite with private pool. This one is right on the beach with gorgeous views. The villa can be connected via the deck to one or two adjacent Grand Suite Plage rooms to create a 2 or 3 bedroom waterfront compound called “Le Village du Pêcheur."
Lastly, they have 3 spacious villas each with 3 bedrooms with en suite bathrooms plus a library with bathroom that can be set up with two twins (perfect for children.) Each villa has a full kitchen, living room, outdoor living space with bbq and private heated pool and they are perched on a hill behind the resort with views over the roof to the ocean. Each villa comes with a private butler and two rental cars.
This is a boutique property perched on a hill in the heart of the port town, Gustavia. It just opened in 2020 and the vibe of the hotel is casual luxury with lots of rattan and wood and pops of color from tropical wallpaper and beachy stripes. The hotel is small with only 21 rooms/bungalows and one main open air lobby/restaurant/cocktail bar with spectacular views over the harbor and to the ocean beyond. There is also a small fitness room and a spa with Diane Barriere products. The rooms are situated off one large palmy staircase that leads up to the lobby and restaurant, so it wouldn’t be a great option for anyone with mobility issues.
What is also unique about this property "in the city," is the access to an in-town beach club, Shellona, just down the hill (5 minutes walk) from the hotel. There is a lovely restaurant there and hotel guests get free access to sun-beds that normally go for 75 euros each! Breakfast is a large buffet (with the option for made to order eggs). We didn’t have dinner at the restaurant, Fouquet’s, but the porch is incredible and is a great place for sunset cocktails. The service was excellent - everyone seemed to know our names the first day. The manager, William, even washed my dirty water bottle spout when I dropped it at breakfast.
Rooms: The rooms are stunning and many of them have private plunge pools (note: there is no main hotel pool here) and incredible views. We stayed in the luxury bungalow suite terrace, sea view and it was super spacious with a separate living room with with sectional, king bedroom, bathroom with walk in shower and an incredible terrance with sweeping views, private pool, padded sun loungers, and table for two. Our suite was on the lowest level, so close to the road, but it wasn’t a busy road at all. The double luxury bungalow suite is similar, but with a larger living room that can sleep two more and a larger terrace (with plunge pool).
I didn’t get to see the regular room called deluxe sea view with balcony or prestige sea view with terrace but they are higher up (so still great views) with no living area and smaller outdoor spaces (no pool), but still great rooms! The junior suite Carl has a living space and smaller terrace but has a tiny corner plunge pool. The Maria Suite with garden terrace overlooks the grounds but has a large, separate living space and is located at the very top level with dormers. The Lucien Suite is at the very top of the property as well and has the largest outdoor space - two terraces and a private jacuzzi (no pool.) Lastly, the prestige suite with seaview and terrace - Sugarloaf is a one bedroom suite at the top of the property with large terrace and bathroom and corner rooftop infinity pool!
We also visited beach clubs at the Rosewood, Le Toiny and Cheval Blanc if anyone needs help deciding on a property — the hotels on the island are all different and all spectacular so it’s really hard to decide (we agonized over where to stay and happy we did the split stay to see both properties!).
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