What does St Barths looks like in early November, 2 months after hurricane Irma? This question is on the mind of many St Barths lovers. I have written my own account, adding my impressions, photos and videos in this other article below. If you are following my @saintbarthcom Instagram account, you may already have witnessed this amazing rebirth.
The first you get when approaching St Barths by plane is: « Wow, the island looks so green! ». Sand on the beaches is mostly back. Planes are landing, big boats offload stuff at the commercial port and a first big yacht has docked in Gustavia.
You can see and feel how active everyone is, rebuilding, renovating, improving.
Then, you can start driving around, you do see scars from Hurricane Irma: Torn trees under their green leaves, some cars with broken windows, a few rooftops with blue plastic covers on their roof. And a few destroyed houses, still inhabitable after 2 months.
And yet: You cannot believe it’s been just 2 months that the biggest hurricane in history hit the island: If you are lucky enough to live in a house or to stay at a villa that has been spared or been renovated, then things are almost normal: Going to supermarket U to go shopping (a bit busier than usual, but you can buy everything you need), grab lunch at Maya’s To Go, hiking to Colombier beach, have coffee at Bar de l’Oubli, even shop at Hermès 😉
The first sailing regatta of the season, the St Barth Catacup, took place this week. So, Les Voiles de Saint Barth 2018 and the St Barth Bucket 2018 should be fine too.
Incredibly, the firsts guests are arriving and the island is ready to welcome them. But this is not the usual St Barths. It is a more intimate one, with probably 50 to 70% fewer tourists this season. And yet again: The Gustavia harbour is pretty booked up for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, even more than usual: A lot of things are back online and will be even more so in December. And as the US and British Virgins, as well as Puerto Rico, have hit by hurricanes, St Barths will be one of the open ports in the Northern Caribbean.
My villas have suffered and I cannot thank enough Sandra my villa manager, my business partner Bruno and all the local workers for their efforts. In 10 days from now, we should be open to guets. Here’s a peaceful sunrise I filmed this week in Pointe Milou:
All hotels are closed for the moment, but some should already open by Thanksgiving.
– Opening by Thanksgiving 2017 : The Sunset, Ti Morne, Auberge de Terre Neuve, Le Village St Barth, Villa Lodge 4 Epices, Baie des Anges, Les Ondines, Saline Garden, Les Sucriers, Les Ilets de la Plage and Le Nid d’Aigle
– Opening by December 23: Tom Beach Hotel & La Plage restaurant
Only 25% of the rental villas will be open for winter.
All of the luxury beach hotels have badly hit, especially the brand new Barthélemy, as well as Cheval Blanc and Eden Rock. For instance, Eden Rock’s beach villas and some bedrooms at Cheval Blanc have had their furniture destroyed by both the wind and waves. They’ve been stripped bare of their contents, as if they were newly built buildings waiting for their decoration. Among the luxury hotels, Christopher should be the first to open in March 2018, followed closely by Villa Marie a few days later.
The thing with 5-star hotels is that they cannot half-open: For instance, they need kitchens and storage for restaurant service. So, they will take months to reopen. The island is then relying on tourists who stay in villas, sleep on their yachts, as well as stop by on cruises (the first cruise ships have already stopped by).
Here’s a short video I shot when going for a sunset swim at Saline this week. Amazing, even if the dunes have been eaten away by the waves. Visibility is good if you swim away from the shore.
St Barths beaches are quiet: There are not many tourists and locals are busy rebuilding. The usual beach entertainment places are closed for the moment (e.g. Nikki Beach, Tom Beach, Sand Bar). Nikki should reopen in Spring 2018.
Yet, I’ve heard that some minimal service will be provided on some beaches even if the hotels are closed (e.g. The Eden Rock hotel is closed, but the Eden Rock villa rental agency is working and should provide some beach service somewhere on the island.
Some beaches were not officially open for swimming this week, but they should be all clear by early December. The local authorities are taking no chance with the quality of the water and the health of the island’s guests, so they test sea water on all beaches on a very regular basis.
What’s the risk here: First, the sand has been combed from dangerous stuff, like metal sheets. This is done. Now, as all kind of things have been flushed into the sea during the hurricane (think oil, goats, roofs), there may be some bad bacteries in place like Marigot where there is not much current to renew the water (unlike Colombier, for instance).
Restaurants portside in Gustavia have been badly hit. Yet Bagatelle, for instance, should be ready for December 15. La Cantina is open, as well as Le Repaire, the restaurant at the entrance of the port.
Complete list of restaurants that are open, as of November 18:
- Black Ginger
- Esprit Saline de Jean Claude
- Le Ti St Barth
- Grain de Sel
- Bar de L’Oubli
- Maya’s to Go
- Le Select
- La Cantina
- La Langouste
- Le Bouchon
- Yo Sushi Mania
- 25 Quarter
- Galawa (ex Pipiri)
- Le Jardin
- Le Repaire
- Le Vietnam
- Island Flavors
- Le Piment
- Fresh West Indies
- Chez Joe
- Le Glacier
- Bistro Josephine
- Au Regal
- Burger Palace
- Papa’s Pizza
- La Creperie
- Les Bananiers
- Local bakeries: La Petite Colombe and Boulangerie Choisy
- Opening by Thanksgiving: Tamarin, L’Entracte
- Opening by December 23: La Plage, Bagatelle, Shellona, Bagatelle, La Guerite, Orega, and The Hideaway
Hermès and Vilbrequin have reopened their doors. Yet most of the other luxury boutiques right by the Gustavia port are still closed. Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana, for instance, should reopen by December 1: The waves did hit them, but they are ready to open. They are just missing air conditioning (There is a bottleneck in St Martin that prevents all kinds of machines to arrive in St Barths to finish up the renovation of home, villas and shops).
March U is open, as well as Jojo, Superette de Aéroport, Monoshop and the small shop in Anse des Cayes. Not everything is open, so it can feel a bit busy if you go there after 5PM when locals are done with work.
Renovation works to shut down from December 15 to January 5, to have a quiet high season
I’ve been asked whether the island was noisy? I cannot deny that all painters, carpenters, shop owners are extremely busy. Yes, they are rebuilding. Ask your villa owner or agency about possible disturbance. Most local businesses agree to play a realistic card, so that people who would happy here do know that they can come.
As usual, even if the island may need more renovation, all noisy work will stop for the high season (Christmas and New Year’s Eve). St Barths is a tight ship and locals know that they need to abide by rules to accommodate guests who pay a lot of money to spend great vacations in peace.
Should you come to St Barths for the 2017 / 2018 season?
If you like 5-star hotels, you will not find those in St Barths for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Wait for the next season. Yet, 25% of the rental villas are open for business and the smaller boutique hotels will reopen starting in March. Most restaurants and shops will be open, nature will be even better than today and the beaches will be quieter. Yes, you will be able to dance on tables at Le Ti and to buy luxury stuff in Gustavia. Rest assured that locals will be smiling to you even more than ever. The St Barths vibe lives on, so see you there soon 😉
For more photos of St Barth’s nature after Hurricane Irmw like the ones beloz, visit the website of the non-profit Make St Barths Green Again (St Barths nature recovery photo on GreenStBarths.com).