Shortly after checking into Hotel Barriere Le Carl Gustaf Saint-Barth, I opened Instagram to upload a room tour of my two-bedroom suite, which featured a private plunge pool on a terrace with sweeping views of the Caribbean Sea.
Within minutes, my phone buzzed. Kim-Marie Galloway (aka @luxurytravelmom on the ‘gram) had messaged me: “My favorite place on Earth,” she wrote.
That’s high praise coming from Galloway, a fellow travel writer and also a luxury travel advisor for Embark Beyond, serving only a select group of high-net-worth clients.
It wasn’t long before I saw why she raved about Le Carl Gustaf, which reopened in late 2020 after a full renovation. What elevates the property apart from the myriad five-star resorts on the island, according to Galloway, is its prime location. The 21-key resort — comprising suites, the three-suite Royal Loft and the five-bedroom Villa Diane — is perched on a bluff overlooking Gustavia, St. Bart’s capital.
But its premier spot on the map is just the tip of the iceberg: True customization and high-touch service is the name of the game here. No guest request is too extreme, but the true magic comes when staff anticipate what guests need before it even crosses their minds. Case in point: When Ruchi Harnal, owner of Harnal Travel, visited with her 6-year-old son, her room was outfitted with his correct slipper size; at dinner, the waiter knew of his allergy to fresh tomatoes, and alerted the family to allergy-friendly menu items without being asked.
My fiance and I received true VIP service, as well. We were congratulated on our recent engagement with a Champagne toast upon arrival, and returned from dinner to a trail of beautiful pink rose petals leading into our suite. When we inquired about a day off property, our concierge wasted no time reserving a Mini Cooper convertible and snorkel gear, which were waiting for us outside the hotel the following morning.
Guests staying on property can reserve spa treatments at Spa Diane (I opted for a hydrating facial that was customized to my skin type) and have 24/7 access to a well-equipped, indoor-outdoor fitness center.
But the rooms are the true showstoppers: The resort’s residential layout — with bungalow-style suites branching out from a tree-canopied outdoor staircase — allows for plenty of privacy. We wound down each night in our suite’s plunge pool; although too small for laps, it can be configured with an in-pool Aqua Bike. Our terrace, at 590 square feet, came with an outdoor shower, two sun beds with an umbrella and a dining set perfect for room-service breakfast.
Luxurious touches abound within the 750-square-foot suite, as well; ours had a king-size bed in the primary bedroom and two twin-size beds in the other bedroom, located on either side of a common living room with seating, terrace access and a customizable minibar. The two bathrooms featured marble-wrapped showers and heated Toto toilets with bidets.
Beach aficionados will be pleased to know that the hotel will reserve sunbeds at the nearby Shellona beach club at Shell Beach, a five-minute walk away. In addition to an impressive cocktail list, the club’s Greek restaurant was always buzzing and delicious (try the fish carpaccio with passionfruit green chilli dressing, or the feta cheese-filled pastry drizzled with honey).
Dining on-site was equally special. Each night — and every morning — we were led to “our table” overlooking the city at the alfresco Fouquet’s restaurant (yes, the same legendary Fouquet’s located on Paris’ Champs-Elysees). The menu, from three-star Michelin chef Pierre Gagnaire, features French items with a Caribbean twist. I loved the prawn linguine and the Crepes Suzette (which were made tableside), and always ordered a cocktail infused with edible perfume, part of a new program created by Emanuele Balestra, bar manager at Hotel Barriere Le Majestic, Cannes, in France.
By the time we said goodbye to St. Barts, I felt surprisingly emotional to leave Le Carl Gustaf. I posted one final photo of me ascending to the top of its beautiful, grand staircase. I might be convinced — Le Carl Gustaf may very well be my favorite place on Earth.