Sleek Parisian style is unexpected on a stretch of St. Barths sand, but Le Sereno hotel shows what a lovely complement to Caribbean calm it can be. In this sunshine-splashed cove – where turtles and tropical fish populate the reef – a refined restaurant and city-smart decor enhance the breezy beach atmosphere.
Get this when you book through us:
Custom his and hers Havaianas, and a bottle of champagne on arrival
Thirty-nine, including 36 suites and three villas.
Noon but flexible, subject to availability and a small charge. Check in, from 2pm.
Double rooms from $838.11 (€760), excluding tax at 5 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast and airport transfers.
Spoil yourself with an in-room spa treatment: choose a massage, manicure, pedicure or facial.
End of August through the end of October.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, gardens, a stash of DVDs and CDs, and free WiFi throughout. In-rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, DVD/CD player and minibar.
Our favourite rooms
To really push the (beach) ball out, opt for a Grand Suite Plage for its ocean views and privacy (we heart number 26’s location: right next to the restaurant, with the beach just around the corner); some have lovely little garden areas too.
The hotel is rightly proud of its freshwater outdoor pool, which is just a belly-flop from the ocean. Soaring palm-trees in the background add to the totally tropical feel.
Tropical birdsong and the susurrus of ocean waves complete the serene soundtrack in Spa Le Sereno, where treatments take place in ocean-facing pavilions with one wall open to nature. A couples suite has his and hers outdoor showers shaded by bougainvillea blossoms, and the menu offers massages, body scrubs, facials, mani-pedis and hairdressing using Sothys Paris products.
Forgot your iPod and/or snorkel? Rooms are stocked with pre-loaded iPods, and the hotel has a supply of watersports equipment, available on request.
Stake out a table in the sand, and scrunch the grains between your toes.
Beachside billionaire: smooth linens, white shirts, gold accents.
Restaurant Le Sereno is styled with sandy simplicity: directors’ chairs in creamy white linen set around wooden tables, and seating split between an ‘inside’ area under the roof of the bar, and out on the sand. Chef Giuliano Lotto has composed a sophisticated Mediterranean menu with a Caribbean inflection: foie gras served with mango chutney, salt-crusted fish and lobster linguine. At night, candles glimmer, palm-trees sway against atmospheric uplighting, and the real world feels very, very far away.
Dangerously good-looking French barmen decorate the drinking area, set within the bounds of the restaurant/bar pavilion. Chocolate-coloured leather banquettes pop with saffron-yellow cushions; Liaigre barstools are carved from dark tropical wood. Low coffee tables, deep lounge chairs and industrial metal lamps are other triggers of design lust. Try a cocktail or two (there are daily specials), and ask the staff about the next rum-tasting session…
Drinks are served as long as guests are thirsty. When it comes to eating, this hotel is a flexible fellow: want dinner at breakfast, or breakfast at dinner? Easily arranged.
Items from the restaurant menu are available 24 hours a day.
Flights from the USA and Europe arrive at St Maarten Juliana airport (SXM). Try Air Caraibes (aircaraibesexpress.com) or St Barth Commuter (stbarthcommuter.com) to catch a 15-minute flight from St Maarten to Gustaf III Airport on St Barth. Roundtrip transfers from the airport to the hotel are included in the room rates.
A car is not necessary, but Gustavia III airport offers car rentals through major agencies. The airport is a 10-minute drive from the hotel, and there’s plenty of free parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
Have a Sothys Paris spa treatment in your room, and flirt with the bartenders over cocktails. Go for a dip in the freshwater swimming pool, or borrow snorkels, flippers and masks and head out to the coral reef to spy on ponderous turtles and fish as bright as gemstones. Learn to make bouillabaisse with a cookery class at Le Sereno (once a week, a shipment of Mediterranean seafood arrives from the South of France, so the hotel’s bouillabaisse really is the real McCoy). Head to St Jean beach at night, in the hope of catching some fire-eating locals.
Bonito (+590 (0)590 279696) at Rue Lubin Brin in Gustavia has a hilltop perch with dazzling views, wonderful tapas and an imaginative drinks menu. Service is relaxed, to the point of slowness, so don’t come here in a rush. The Wall House Restaurant (+590 (0)590 277183) in Gustavia's harbour serves fairly priced French and Creole dishes, but the jet set's top spot has to be Le Ti St Barth's (+590 (0)590 279771), a fun-loving island institution.
Mr Smith and I make no secret of the fact that we are font fanatics, and Le Sereno hotel had us at first font. Simple, understated elegant: an immediate index to the delectable experience that awaited us.
Evidence of the thoughtful down-to-the-last-detail treatment started on the outbound journey. To reach St Barths one has to fly into St Maarten and then connect via a 10-minute flight on a ‘puddle jumper’, a tiny plane poised to land on a small strip of runway located precariously betwixt two mountains. Upon arriving at St Maarten, a cheerful Le Sereno representative bounded forth and declared, ‘Let the relaxation begin’, before deftly navigating us through our final leg. Fantastique!
A drama-free puddle-jump later we arrived, and were promptly welcomed to this Caribbean isle by the charming manager. As we strolled through the beautifully designed pool and restaurant area en route to our lair, we realised that this is not so much a hotel but rather an intimate billionaires' club, staffed with aesthetically delightful French waiters, ready to indulge every whim.
Our enormous suite did not disappoint. Luxurious chocolate browns and Payne’s grey, with splashes of crimson, met with wonderful textures of matte dark wood, woven chairs, plush towels and linen-like mosquito nets romantically draped around the bed.
The minimalism was tastefully enhanced by the right amount of flourish and the proportions were perfect. High ceilings and a split-level separating a four-poster emperor-sized bed from the living room give the space great flow. The gorgeous patio doors spanning the full width of the room open onto an enclosed verandah overlooking a palm-lined azure blue sea.
Mr Smith and I freshened up in the ample bathroom – with a comfortable bath for two and walk-in power shower– before wafting down to dinner, smelling sweetly of the signature rosewood and gingko biloba potions. A mix of jungle greens, glittering golds, bright whites and caramel furniture – the hotel’s interiors are as elegant and restrained as a pearl-clad brunette. Clearly, Christian Liaigre’s aesthetic mores translate very well here.
Soft, ambient music lured us down to the ocean-front restaurant to join the rather fabulous crowd for Thursday cocktail and BBQ night. I opted for a caipirinha, while Mr Smith, never afraid to eschew his masculinity, ordered a Rose en Vie. Delicious on both fronts, but even this zing did little to mask the fact that the service was painfully slow. If I’m being brutally honest too, the robust salade du marche paired well with goat cheese and figs and the lobster was grilled to perfection, but the salted fish of the day (a speciality of the French chef Jean- Louis Brocardi) was rather limply substituted for a tuna steak. We were sweetened up back at the room though, where we found four delicious chocolates, along with plenty of hydrating water and juices from the mini bar, to cap the evening.
Chirping cicadas were the only interruption to the near silence that made for an unbroken night’s sleep, and we awoke to sunshine and a complimentary breakfast at a beach-front table. We sipped mellow coffee, freshly squeezed fruit juices and tucked into melt-in-your-mouth pastries, fruit, yoghurt and a fluffy ham omelette.
As for the remainder of the morning, basking in the sun with a leisurely check of my email (connection on the island is terrible), a read of the books from a well-stocked in-room library and watching fellow guests on surf boards and the hotel’s kayaks was it for the agenda. There’s even a ‘jet pack’ available for those in the mood to play Bond, but we instead absconded to our private terrace for a mid-day champagne-sipping session.
Ligne St. Barth – the resort's family-owned spa – meant that the afternoon passed in mani-pedi indulgence after which we jumped into a taxi to nearby St Jean. Although not the main drag for shopping (that would be Gustavia), I was after princess dresses for our daughters, and Papito Lindo boutique is the place in St Barths for infant and toddler chic.
Shopped out, we called Le Sereno’s taxi service and headed to La Gloriette restaurant adjacent to the hotel, which had been packed earlier in the day, but was nearly empty at dinner. Perhaps because only pizza and salad are available after sundown, and the red wine is served chilled…or, maybe it’s the cockroach Mr Smith winked at. But who cares? The pizza was great, and it’s a convenient place to rough it. Plus, it gave us an excuse to dial up room service for a lemongrass crème brûlée with coconut sorbet when we returned to our boudoir. Très bien.
Ramping things up for our final day, we booked jet-skis through our luxe lodgings, an expensive, but essential way to tour the island. Following such energetic thrills, Mr Smith and I returned to the ocean-front spa room for the hotel’s signature coco massage – an hour of blissful Caribbean caressing which rounded off a near perfect stay.
Impatient? Intent on instant gratification? Well, then possibly Le Sereno, and perhaps even the Caribbean, is not for you. Service may be ‘relaxed’ but what doesn’t happen in a New York minute always comes with a genuine soul-boosting smile. You’re operating on island time here. We were only too delighted that a couple of days in this chic Caribbean beach hotel helped us slow down to an eeeeeasy pace… And to think, it all started with a flirtatious little font.
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