st. Barths, the Island Where the Rich Go to Flex, Has a Secret

I was starting to get used to the pandemic way of traveling. Minus the restrictions and rules, COVID-19 made traveling like the rich accessible to a lot more people. Well, at least the exclusivity part of it. Empty beaches, museums all to yourself, and the ability to go to seek-after restaurants without knowing somebody truly felt like belonging to the upper class of this world.

Now that the industry is picking back up and a lot of people are finally traveling again, finding refuge from the crowds feels impossible.

Pre-pandemic, if the eat-the-rich crowd ever wanted to strike at the heart of the 0.1 percent, the harbor of St. Barths on New Years was an effective starting place. All winter, this hilly French Caribbean island is the location of many a social media flex to demonstrate wealth (or access to it via a sugar daddy), but on New Years it reaches another level. The crowds aren’t of people, but mega yachts—docked or moored in and around every possible spot. This winter, after a COVID or social media shaming induced break, the island was back to being the playground for the rich.

But what happens here when the weather in the big cities warms up and the wealthy head to famous summertime enclaves? This May I visited the island twice–first at the invitation of one of the island’s more storied properties, Le Toiny, to experience the off season and again by boat. I’m far from the first to “discover” the wonders of visiting somewhere offseason. But, as we head back into an era of overtourism, any chance we get to find the luxury of seclusion is worth it. Plus, in visiting St. Barths now, you’ll get to vacation like the super rich at prices that, while still steep, are significantly lower.

The first question many of you who have seen TikTok horror videos of budget-conscious tourists being blown about while visiting Santorini in the late fall is whether there’s a good reason it’s the off-season, ie, is the weather miserable?

Quite surprisingly, the Caribbean was much cooler than I expected at this time of year. Throughout the two weeks I visited, temps ranged from mid 70s to mid 80s. Now, it’s late June and it’s still in the mid-80s. Still milder than much of the continental US and you’re just a stone’s throw from the water.

Next, you’ll wonder where to stay. Some of you will want to rest your head in and around Gustavia, the main town. At Le Toiny, I was able to fully embrace almost total privacy. Even during high season, that’s the appeal of this property for high rollers given its location on the other side of the island, a 20-minute drive from town.

While I love people watching and it’s virtually a blood sport in this French outpost, indulging in the luxury of seclusion still feels comfortable post-pandemic. I got used to beaches where the absence of people convinced me I’d stumbled across a hidden gem, and the lack of party drifting up to my room was noise almost palpable.

Le Toiny can be found on the hillside of Anse de Toiny Bay, which is carved out of the island’s southeast corner. While the town is very chi chi and manicured, the area around the property is rugged and wild. Tucked just above its own beach one finds the hotel’s 22 suites, all with views of the Caribbean.

All of the suites, whether two-bedroom villas or duplexes, come with their own heated pool and terrace. They also mostly have similar decor, with nautical-chic rooms wash in white–white linens, vaulted wood beam ceilings painted white, white curtains, and walls and bathrooms often painted white. For those looking for the newest options, the 13 Signature Suites were refreshed in 2021. The one I visited had only the island’s rugged nature and the sea in its vista, making you feel as if you’ve escaped to your own isolated house on St . Barths.

Beach restaurant at Le Toiny

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Just outside of the property boundaries, two new four bedroom villas can also be found, including the Nureyev Villa, which is named for its former owner, the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. It is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the water and comes with a pool, hot tub, and steam bathroom. It is almost made entirely of wood and looks rather like a Russia dacha turned Caribbean hideout. In room after room, one finds artwork, paintings, and books from the celebrated dancer’s fascinating life. The most magical part of this property is still the massive floating deck that Nureyev built in 1990 after purchasing the home. It was built to fulfill his biggest dream, to dance over the waves.

Once you take place in the seats of the small rounded stage on the edge of the deck and you imagine what it was like to see him perform over the water to his guests, you can truly grasp how special this place is.

If you want to just stick around Le Toiny, you can. It has its own full service beach club at its private beach and one of the best restaurants on the island, but you also might get antsy.

If it’s high season, one of the most difficult spots to get a reservation is Bonito. Overlooking Gustavia’s harbor, it serves French cuisine with influences from the Caribbean and South America and is very much one of the island’s see and be seen spots. But by May, not only was getting a reservation not an issue, but it was painless to secure one of the tables along the outer edge with an ocean view. While in St. Barths, one should also make sure not to miss Le Ti, the island’s restaurant with a cabaret-style performance.

And while Le Toiny and its secluded beach may have been home while I was on the island, my heart in St. Barths belongs to Colombier, a cove usually accessed by boat or a 20-minute hike, with a postcard-perfect sandy curve of beach carved out of the verdant hillside with sparkling clear blue water.

In the offseason, having it to yourself is a bit like being in on a secret.

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