Famous for its real estate, yachts, and the uber-privileged jet set that inhabits both, St. Barth immediately conjures up images of glitz and glamour. As a first time visitor, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, though I imagined something like a Caribbean island version of the VIP room of a New York City nightclub—filled with celebrities and beautiful people, free flowing champagne, and an uninhibited energy that pulsates through the night. Though I was eager to visit—my social media feeds of editors and tastemakers were always filling my stream with gorgeous photos of the island—I was also a bit apprehensive. After all, without a network of friends who regularly vacationed on the island, I wasn’t sure if I’d fit in at such an exclusive locale.
I needn’t have worried. Immediately after landing in Gustavia, my husband and I were already being charmed by the customs agent (now, how often do you hear that from weary travelers?) and with nary a line in sight, we were out of the airport in under five minutes and chowing down our first taste of the island at nearby Maya’s-to-Go. It didn’t take long to discover that actually it’s the secluded untouched natural beauty, easy quality of life, and welcoming spirit that makes St. Barth such a desirable and luxurious destination–in fact, exactly the opposite of the hoity attitude that I had feared. Our ultimate destination on the island was Hotel Le Toiny located on the South-Eastern coast. I didn’t know it yet, but the property would turn out to embody all the wonderful qualities of of St. Barth I was quickly falling in love with.
We arrived at the hotel the first weekend it opened for the season, but the operation was already up and running smoothly. Instead of the high energy buzz one tends to experience at many beach resorts, Le Toiny exudes a much more laid back feel. The check-in process is more about having a drink (Planteur’s Punch) and a welcome chat with the reservations manager than a hurried scrambling of exchanging documents. With only fifteen villas on property, Le Toiny is designed to give each guest the ultimate private experience. I first learned this while getting a quick property tour on the way to our room–as we walked past the gorgeous infinity pool at Restaurant Le Gaiac, I wondered out loud if this would be where breakfast would be served every morning. “If you wish,” smiled my guide. “But most guests prefer to take breakfast on their own private terrace. You’ll see.”
And see I did as soon as I pulled up to Villa 16–a glorious sight that I still dream about weeks later. Each of the villas at Le Toiny offer unobstructed views of the Caribbean Sea, with a large terrace and private infinity pool from which to enjoy the vista. The terraces are designed for lingering, with colorfully appointed beach chairs, chaise lounges, reading nooks, and a dining table–to enjoy breakfast, of course! Every morning guests wake up to a perfectly set breakfast poolside, complete with coffee, tea, juices, and an assortment of sweet pastries. Savory options such as eggs benedict (highly recommended) can be added on as well. Waking up to a hot breakfast–and that view–every morning is one of the most luxurious activities I’ve ever experienced on vacation–and the best way to get your day started right.
After a long dip in the pool (first order of business), I went to explore the rest of my accommodations. Rooms at Le Toiny range from 720 sq ft interior “junior suites” to a 1215 sq ft three bedroom bungalow for the ultimate villa experience. All rooms are tastefully appointed in French Colonial style with touches of Caribbean flair–the perfect combination of character and color. I was staying in a one bedroom villa suite, a 785 sq ft cottage featuring two rooms separated by a sliding partions, a spacious bathroom with open shower and soaking tub, dressing room, and kitchenette/bar with all the amenities. Three floor to ceiling glass sliding doors open to the terrace offering panoramic views of the Bay of Toiny and the lush vegetation that line it. Rooms are outfitted with all the technological capabilities one may need–an iPod station and iPod, plasma TV with satellite television, and free Wifi–but it was the outdoor amenities– hammock, endless replenishment of beach towels, pool, private shower, and scenery–that interested me the most during my stay. I gleefully wore my bikini around for all five days on property.
Evenings at Le Toiny are just as enchanting with dinner at Le Gaiac, the finest restaurant on St. Barth (an island filled with exceptional cuisine). A longstanding institution on the island, Le Gaiac is further elevating the gourmet dining experience with a newly renovated interior and updated concept for the 2013-14 season. The restaurant welcomed two new leaders this year, Chef Sylvain Revelant and Pastry Chef Marie Hue, both transplants from London’s Connaught Hotel. The new menu showcases a sophisticated blend of French and local influences with new offerings such as Olive Oil-Poached Mahi Mahi with caramelized onions and Grilled Suckling Pork Loin confit with a golden chickpea pancake, broad beans and a sundried tomato salad. Longtime fans of Le Gaiac should rest assured however, that classic dishes such as spaghetti with black truffles, prepared table-side in a wheel of parmesan cheese, are still found on the menu and as popular as ever. Cuisine is prepared and presented in the traditional French style and an onsite sommelier expertly pairs each course with a wine offering for a decadent evening out.
If you’re craving a more casual dining experience, be sure to swing by Le Gaiac for their “World Famous Sunday Brunch de Toiny” instead. Guests are treated to bottomless spreads of colorful fishes, meats, fruits, vegetables, and sweets and invited to eat to their hearts’ content. The “world famous” isn’t just marketing jargon either–turns out every person I’ve talked to about Le Toiny in St Barth and otherwise, have brought up that Sunday Brunch.
And then there’s the spa featuring a menu of treatments crafted by Linge St. Barth, a natural treatment and product line created right at home on the island. One of the most unique offerings on the menu is the St. Barth Chill Out, a relaxing body massage that features self-heating round clams infused with skin nourishing sea minerals. Smooth, hand-polish clam shells heat up and cool down on the skin and are used in combination with the hands to massage intensive nourishing avocado oil into your back, legs, and shoulders. It’s a complete therapeutic and sensory experience that relaxes and melts tension in both muscles and mind. Guests can choose to take the treatment in the Serenity Spa Cottage or in their own guest room. This time, I recommend the former.
From the morning breakfast platter to an evening dip in your private pool, Le Toiny is the perfect stay. The hotel offers a type of luxury that spoils even the world’s most discerning travelers, but still feels easygoing, understated, and elegant. Much like St. Barth itself, it’s a hidden treasure–one that I can only hope to return to as soon as I can. For more information, check out LeToiny.com.