Private Butlers, Infinity Pools and Relaxed Glamour: Inside the Elegant Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France

Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France is still the most enchanting hotel on the glamorous island.

Cheval Blanc just might be the most glamorous hotel in St. Barth.Morgan Halberg

From the moment you land in Saint Barthélemy, it’s obvious that the island is special. There are plenty of tropical destinations all over the world, and there’s no shortage of dreamy locales right there in the Caribbean, including many that don’t require boarding a tiny plane with a notoriously sharp descent onto the extremely short runway at St. Barth airport. But that famously nerve-wracking landing is well worth it, which you can tell from the second you get a glimpse of the turquoise water, lush green hilltops and picturesque beaches.

Jet-setters in the know have flocked to the isle since the 1960s, but it’s not just the Insta-worthy views that give St. Barth its particular brand of magic. St. Barth offers the best of the relaxed, laid-back nature of the Caribbean with the glamour and elegance of the south of France; it’s like a trip to the French Riviera, but without all the fuss.

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The island, located in the French West Indies, is filled with glitzy restaurants, opulent nightlife, lavish shops and, of course, quite a few luxurious hotels. I’ve been lucky enough to visit St. Barth a few times, and every single trip has been enchanting in its own way, so I had rather high expectations when I arrived on the island in early December 2021. That said, I was truly amazed by my most recent experience to St. Barth, and that’s largely due to my stay at Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France.

The hotel is one of the most iconic spots on the island.

The hotel initially opened as Isle de France in 1991, before LVMH’s Cheval Blanc hotel group purchased the property in 2013, which is where the rather wordy “Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France” moniker came from, and why we’re just going to stick with calling it Cheval Blanc. The hotel acquired the neighboring Taïwana Hotel in 2016, and subsequently completed an impressive renovation to seamlessly integrate the property, which also upped the room count from 42 to 61.

Among a sea of high-end, über-luxe St. Barth hotels, Cheval Blanc still stands out, thanks not only to the plush accommodations and idyllic beachfront setting, but also largely due to the exquisite service and attention to detail. It’s not hyperbole when I say that the hotel staff accepts nothing less than perfection for guests, and goes above and beyond to ensure that visitors have a flawless stay.

Now that I have your attention, here’s everything you need to know about the glamorous hotel.

It’s a dreamy location.

The hotel occupies one of the most desirable locations on the island.

Cheval Blanc sits on a large swath of direct beachfront on Anse des Flamands, one of the most appealing spots in St. Barth. Even in peak season, the sandy beach offers guests plenty of space to spread out on the lounge chairs (all of which are outfitted with Cheval Blanc’s famous pink towels), take walks and swim in the crystal clear water, all while maintaining a level of privacy. There are also two pools, a fitness center, spa, two restaurants, a cocktail bar and two resort shops elsewhere on the property.

While it’s easy to see why guests are happy to stay put at Cheval Blanc, a trip into town is highly recommended. The hotel is just a 10 or 15 minute drive from Gustavia, where you’ll find plenty of designer boutiques and local stores, as well as an array of chic restaurants, cocktails bars and many a superyacht docked in the marina.

The ocean suites are equipped with private infinity pools, personal butlers and direct beach access.

The rooms are all about relaxed luxury, like the elegant Beach Suites, which all have direct access to Anse des Flamands and come with private butler services and a personal infinity pool.

The rooms at Cheval Blanc complement, rather than complete with, the dreamy seaside vignette outside. While the main public spaces of the hotel are outfitted with Cheval Blanc’s signature pink accents, the light-filled accommodations feature sand-blasted walls, high ceilings, wicker and rattan furniture and soothing pops of color, like sky blue pillows. I was in one of the hotel’s coveted Jacques Granges-designed Beach Suites during my stay, and not only is there a separate living room, a dive-worthy tub, custom Leonor Greyl toiletries and an outdoor shower in the 1,300-square-foot space, but the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass door reveals the ocean mere steps away, just beyond the private sundeck and personal infinity pool.

There are soothing blue accents throughout.

Other accommodation options include rooms in the Garden category, which are nestled into the lush tropical greenery near the spa, or the Ocean Rooms, which are perched up a bit higher than Beach Rooms and have impressive views of the water. Those staying in any of the suites have the services of a private Majordome (also known as a butler), who is there to help with anything and everything, whether it’s making a special dinner reservation, organizing a sunset sailboat (complete with Cheval Blanc towels, treats and drinks) or arranging all the pesky details that are involved in travel in the COVID-19 era.

As you may have guessed, such luxury comes at a price; the lowest level (and still very lavish) Tropical Room starts at $835 a night (that’s in low season), while the Ocean Suites start at $2,675 per night. If you *really* want to splurge, there’s always the new five-bedroom Villa de France, which includes a private spa, infinity pool, fitness center and special services from the hotel—during my recent stay, the staff organized surprise birthday fireworks for the family staying in the Villa de France.

You’ll notice a subtle, inviting scent throughout the hotel.

The entire hotel is subtly scented with a custom Guerlain fragrance. 

Coco Chanel once said that perfume is the “ultimate accessory,” and Cheval Blanc evidently agrees. All the public rooms and private accommodations in the hotel are lightly scented with “Tropical Chic,” a custom fragrance created by Thierry Wasser, the master perfumer at Guerlain. You won’t spy any cumbersome diffusers or leaky perfume bottles, though; Cheval Blanc-St Barth general manager Christelle Hilpron disclosed to Observer that the delicate scent is released into the rooms and public spaces while housekeeping is cleaning up and vacuuming, and that whenever one of the hotel staff goes into the rooms, they’ll lightly spritz Tropical Chic before leaving.

The spa.

And there are exclusive Guerlain treatments in the lush spa. 

Cheval Blanc is the only hotel in the Caribbean with a dedicated Guerlain spa, where guests can treat themselves to exclusive rituals that have been designed specially for the hotel, as well as peruse the newly debuted Guerlain perfume collection. The peaceful spa, which is nestled amid the lush green flora of the gardens, is composed of four indoor treatment rooms, though guests can also opt to book a massage in the outdoor pavilion—just make sure to load up on bug spray beforehand. If you want a more active yet equally tranquil day, book a yoga or Pilates session in the adjacent outdoor garden pavilion.

Peruse exclusive pieces at the Dior pop-up. Courtesy Francis Dzikowski

Stop by the Dior pop-up while you can. 

The hotel is hosting an exclusive Dior pop-up in one of its two-bedroom suites; the room has been entirely outfitted in Dior-approved furnishings and decor, all the way down to the Dior print at the bottom of the private pool and the oversized lion statues. You’ll find all the usual luxe offerings from the French design house, as well as exclusive items like a striped “J’adior St. Barth” shirt and a special white toile version of the fashionista-adored Book Tote.

That Book Tote is hard to resist. Courtesy Morgan Halberg

The pop-up, which opened on November 19, won’t close until March 1, after which the space will return back to its prior use as a two-bedroom suite. It’s not the first time the hotel has hosted a chic pop-up in one of these rooms, though, as last year there was a temporary Louis Vuitton shop—it’s just one of the perks of being part of the LVMH umbrella, which allows the hotel to seamlessly partner with top fashion brands.

The restaurant views are hard to beat.

There are two beachfront restaurants with menus designed by chef Jean Imbert.

The restaurant scene in St. Barth is one of the destination’s many delightful attributes; there are countless culinary options all around the island. Cheval Blanc is, however, home to two superb eateries by acclaimed French chef Jean Imbert. There’s the more casual beachfront La Cabane, which is perfect for a relaxed lunch with Insta-worthy views and a requisite glass of rosé. For dinner, there’s the slightly more formal La Case, where guests can dine on Caribbean-influenced dishes like rum-infused pork belly, local branzino (which is expertly filleted by the table) and lobster ravioli, all while looking out at the water vista below.

The service is also next level; during my stay, I remarked to a friend that I wished I could try the aforementioned lobster ravioli dish, but alas had certain food allergies. It wasn’t like I was lacking in culinary choices; there were plenty of other perfectly delicious options on the menu. Still, on my final night, the waiter casually told me that she’d spoken to the chef, had figured out a way to prepare the pasta that took my allergies into account, and that they would be happy to whip it up, if I was so inclined. (Spoiler alert: Yes, I was very much inclined, and yes, it was phenomenal.)

You won’t ever want to leave.

The service is flawless, and the incredible staff goes above and beyond.

In a ritzy locale like St. Barth, there are plenty of acclaimed hotels. What sets an establishment apart is the service and attention to personal details, which is where Cheval Blanc shines. It wasn’t just the delicious final meal that convinced me of the wonders of Cheval Blanc, though, as from the moment I arrived, the staff was attentive and personable, but not overwhelming. I was impressed by every single employee I encountered at the hotel, all of whom knew the guests by name and went above and beyond for everyone staying there.

I was already convinced of the hotel’s unparalleled polish by my last day. While I understandably had to vacate the room around 12 pm so housekeeping could begin to prepare it for the next guests, I still had quite a while until my 4:20 pm flight out of St. Barth, so the staff kindly set me up in the Flamands Salon (a room with a living area, bathroom and shower) so I could enjoy my last few extra blissful hours on the beach, and still be able to freshen up before embarking on my travels.

The Majordome had very kindly printed out my airplane tickets, travelers’ forms, COVID-19 tests and all the other information required to travel at the moment, all in a Cheval Blanc-branded pink folder. I pride myself on my organizational skills while on-the-go, so I’m rather embarrassed to admit I misplaced that *extremely* important folder, and didn’t notice until approximately 25 minutes before I was scheduled to depart for the airport. I promptly began to panic and also wondered how Cheval Blanc would feel about me staying put at the hotel for the foreseeable future. It turns out I (rather sadly) didn’t need to send anyone a new forwarding address, as the Majordomes, also known as the superheroes of St. Barthélemy, managed to obtain every single paper I needed in the span of 20 minutes.

By the time I got into the car for the airport, I was still running short on time, and perhaps sensing my distress, the incredibly kind hotel driver assured me that I need not worry, as “Cheval Blanc guests never miss their departing flights,” at least not unless they want to. He was true to his word, and proceeded to not only safely zoom me to the airport, but also personally whisk me through check-in and security, ensuring I boarded the flight. As I settled into the airplane and peered out the window at the captivating view I was leaving behind, I thought I wouldn’t have minded if I was the first Cheval Blanc guest that had to miss their flight.


*The stay at this hotel was courtesy of Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France. The views and opinions expressed are the journalist’s own.* 
Private Butlers, Infinity Pools and Relaxed Glamour: Inside the Elegant Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France