An insider's guide to shopping, dining and unwinding on St Barts

Martein van Wagenberg, the managing director of luxury hotel Le Guanahani, picks out the best of the picturesque Caribbean island


It starts with the landing at St Barts' airport, one of the shortest and most exhilarating airport strips in the world, but after the adrenaline rush of touchdown, it is all smooth sailing from there.

Having lived on the island for three years, I have found some wonderful spots that have become my go-to places for a number of reasons.

I love fresh, locally sourced food and there is no better place to go than Bonito for a great meal. A must have is the trio of ceviche or the Chilean seabass. The restaurant has beautiful views over the harbour and serves great cocktails.

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I am biased, of course, but Le Guanahani also serves wonderful fresh fish and seafood. We offer a Cook Your Catch programme where guests can enjoy the fresh fish they catch during the day at Indigo on the Beach, our main restaurant.

For a more low-key meal, try the recently opened Japanese restaurant, Orega in Gustavia – the restaurant is now known for its Orega rolls, which are world class.

One thing I always recommend guests do is to watch the sunset at the lighthouse on the island, which sits above the harbour. It is the perfect spot to take a picnic and view the sun going down over the glittering sea.

There are so many beautiful, white sandy beaches on the island; however, my absolute favourite has to be Saline Beach. It is wild, empty and unspoiled, with no buildings on the shoreline. It is a wide stretch of sloping sand that sits hidden behind a wall of dunes.

One of the best ways to reach the beach is by taking a boat trip around the island for the day. You can moor up and go snorkelling with turtles, as well as taking a short swim to this beach. An alternative is to hire a moped or a Mini Cooper, the go-to car for driving around St Barts as they are small and easy to navigate down the island's narrow, bumpy roads.

One thing that you cannot go without while on our French island is shopping. We have some of the most beautiful and renowned designer boutiques in Gustavia, including a number of well-known brands and some smaller, more bespoke designers.

St Barts is an island frequented by many celebrities. If you want rub shoulders with the glitterati or feel like you are one of them for the day, head to Nikki Beach or Le Ti where you can join them in dancing on tables and drinking rose champagne until the early hours of the morning.

Prior to Le Guanahani, Martein spent nine years at Rosewood Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda, BVI, and Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos, BCS Mexico. He was most recently nominated as a finalist for Virtuoso's 2015 Best of the Best Hotelier of the Year Award.

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