The past few years have been particularly challenging for the island of St. Barths—first with the devastation of hurricane Irma, and then with the massive tourism hit that came as a result of COVID.
So, suffice to say that the recent opening of Le Carl Gustaf—the island’s newest resort from France-based Barrière group—was a moment worthy of celebration.
As my readers and followers know, I’ve been a longtime St. Barths-goer. My first trip to the island was in 2014, and Matt and I have been back every year—sometimes twice a year—since.
We consider it our “special place.”
About a month ago I received an email from Le Carl Gustaf inviting us to be among their first guests, and, unsurprisingly, my response was “HOW SOON CAN WE COME?”
Of course, due to COVID, we wanted to make sure that we’d be able to travel safely and take all the necessary precautions, especially because this would be our first flight since March.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: As of 11/17, the island requires a PCR nasal COVID test taken 72 hours before your trip, as you’ll be asked to show your negative results at their airport. We took our test as close to our departure date as possible and then ended up taking a second test on the island after we’d been there for a week (which is an additional requirement per government mandate.)
Hotel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf Review
Le Carl Gustaf has an incredibly unique location on a hillside in Gustavia, the island’s capital. (For the uninitiated, Gustavia is sort of like “Main Street” in St. Barths—it’s where you’ll find all the big designer shops, restaurants, bars, and yachts.)
The guest rooms and common areas have sweeping views of both the water and the city below—a vantage point that is truly unlike anything else on the island.
Matt & I were literally speechless when we checked in (and we’ve stayed in a LOT of St. Barths hotels!)
Because of the hotel’s positioning up on a hill, it is not located directly on the beach, so that’s worth noting. However, Shellona beach (one of our favorites on the island) is easily accessible with just a 5 minute walk.
They also have beach chairs and umbrellas as well as beach staff for hotel guests.
The property gave significant real estate to each individual guest room, which is to say… they are very spacious. There are 21 rooms total and a number of different room categories—each has its own unique selling point.
We stayed in a Luxury Bungalow Suite, which had a massive outdoor deck (with a pool and sunbed), a living room with a seating area, and then a large bedroom with an ensuite bathroom.
The room felt very much like our own private villa—and we were able to be at a safe distance from other guests.
Everything about the design of the suite has been thoughtfully considered—from the iPad in each room that controls the temperature, TV, lighting, and even the blinds—to the cashmere blankets, Officine Buly Paris toiletries, and impeccably curated mini bar.
The Food & Cocktails
St. Barths is known for having incredible food, and everything we ate during our stay at Le Carl Gustaf lived up to our (admittedly high) expectations and then some.
The on-property restaurant, Fouquet’s, serves breakfast (either at the restaurant itself or via room service), as well as lunch, and dinner. During the day, the vibe is a bit more casual, while at night, you’ll see guests more dressed up.
It’s almost impossible for me to choose one standout dish, because everything we ate was delicious. For breakfast, the French toast and fresh crepes (with salted caramel) were spectacular; and I’m still dreaming about the truffle pasta (we ordered it twice), as well as the grilled octopus and ceviche we had during lunch/dinner.
Fouquet’s bar is a great place to grab a pre-dinner drink even if you’re not staying at the hotel—it has a very cool, very sexy energy about it. We loved the cocktails and (of course) all of the wine.
The mixologists are fantastic, and if you tell them what type of spirit or flavor profile you typically like, they’ll make you a custom cocktail.
All around, the service was A+. Every single person we interacted with—from the valet to the concierge and the wait staff—was warm, friendly, and attentive. I kept saying that I was shocked the hotel had only been open for 3 weeks, because they operated so seamlessly, you’d never know it was new.
The Amenities and Spa
Aside from the bar/restaurant and gym, there aren’t any “common areas” on the property, so during the day, most people either head to Shellona, explore other areas of the island, or hang out at their suites (since each has its own outdoor terrace).
If you’re staying at the property, make a point to spend at least a day or two at Shellona—and make sure you have lunch at the Shellona restaurant. The food and atmosphere is perfect for a leisurely afternoon.
I would also highly recommend booking a spa appointment, particularly if you like fancy facials. The spa, Spa Diane Barrière, uses Biologique Recherche products in all of their facial treatments.
The custom facial comes with a personalized skin assessment followed by a 60-minute facial.
My skin looked so glowy when I left, that I ended up going makeup-free for 2 days (which I haven’t done in a looong time.)
I think it goes without saying that this level of luxury comes at a price (as is the case with all luxury hotels in St. Barths.) Rooms start at 900EU during low season (and rates are much more expensive during “festive” high season.)
The food is also pricey, but that’s to be expected on the island.
It’s an absolutely stunning property with amazing food, gorgeous rooms, and five-star service. For people who like the privacy of a villa but the vibe of a hotel, it’s a great option that promises a truly memorable, wildly luxurious vacation.