By Alexander Britell
St. Barth is the luxury capital of the Caribbean, from neverending lunches at the Eden Rock to lazy afternoons at Tom Beach. But to experience the real St. Barth, to understand what makes this place so overwhelmingly lovely, you have to go beyond the hotels.
You have to live it.
You have to get your strawberry tarts at Choisy and your groceries at Marche U or Oasis, take a rum and cheese picnic to Grand Saline, drive the curves of L’orient, stroll the upper streets of Gustavia.
It’s what makes St. Barth so unique in the Caribbean — not just the sheer natural beauty, but its Frenchness, its security, its livability, the fact that you can get just about everything you want on a tiny island, the sort of place where the supermarkets have their own wine caves.
That’s why it was such a pleasure to discover a tucked-away property on the sand in St. Jean that marries the amenities of a hotel with the authenticity and comfort of a villa: Les Ilets de la Plage.
This villa resort has a mix of 11 units, some beachfront villas and others secreted away in the tropical gardens or on the hillside, all charmingly furnished with modern kitchens and amenities, coming in either one, two or three-bedroom configurations.
This hidden gem hotel is set on a lovely stretch of coast on the far side of the airport, making it both private and intoxicatingly quiet – the only sounds the waving palm trees and the periodic hum of a St. Barth landing.
It’s a place where you might for a moment think you’re staying in a cottage on the French countryside.
The best part? Fresh French pastries and bread delivered to your room every morning.
This family-run, Creole-style resort has been in St. Barth for more than three decades, an island institution that’s long been a kind of well-kept secret, easily convincing travelers to come back again and again, year after year, thanks in part to very reasonable prices.
“We want to stay reasonable,” Melane Dullin tells me. “This is a completely different kind of product — it’s a family hotel.”
And it’s one that gives you a villa with the service and perks of a hotel — from the pool and beach chairs to concierge services that will arrange your spa treatments and dinners at L’Esprit.
That leads to an 80 percent repeat guest rate, Dullin says, something that doesn’t come as a surprise.
“It’s like you’re at home,” she says.
And that’s precisely the point. Because what’s better than living in St. Barth?
For more info, visit Les Ilets.