Our small charter jet, operated by Tradewind, makes a steep, slow glide into the Saint Barthélemy airport. The Caribbean island, cloaked in dense flora and surrounded by crystal clear waters, unfolds before me. After this thrilling decent, we disembark and meet our driver, who takes us along a winding cliff road toward the northeast side of St. Barth to Rosewood Le Guanahani (which means welcome in Arawak, the island’s indigenous language). In a sensual accent, he shares the history behind this French-speaking West Indies island, famous for its white sandy beaches, luxury yachts, couture designer boutiques, and high-profile vacationers, from Brigitte Bardot in the 1950s to Beyoncé and Jay Z today. This can be a place to see and be seen or to simply be. The latter is my goal.
We arrive at the boutique resort, located in a secluded enclave spread over an 18-acre peninsula surrounded by Marigot Bay and the Grand Cul-de-Sac. Sixty-six French Colonial guest cottages in Creole colors (many with plunge pools) are tucked into garden paths that wind through lush fuchsia bougainvillea, hibiscus, and palms and placed along sweeping beaches and a reef-protected lagoon—and 90 percent have ocean views. The intimate resort has recently undergone a stunning restoration and renovation by architecture firm David M. Schwarz Architects and interior design by Luis Pons Design Lab after devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and is set to open later this summer.
“We created new beach bungalows and have renovated the dining pavillions, spa, and wellness center, but the look and feel of Le Guanahani remains the same,” says architect Ted Houseknecht. He also notes that all systems have been upgraded using the most sustainable materials and technologies.
I’ve arrived for one of the resort’s curated wellness weekends—meditation, massages, and aromatherapy are all on offer and I am more than ready to start on my journey of wellness. After all, this is one of the tenets of the resort and something managing director Martein van Wagenberg strives for in his guests’ stays. Resort activities go well beyond the standard fitness classes and water sports; it offers customized weekend or week-long retreats to suit each individual’s needs—whether the intention is to relax, engage, or cultivate.
After checking in at the breezy hotel lobby inspired by the island’s architecture, I meet Nick James, owner of BODY BLISS, an aromatherapy company, down on the beach for aromatherapy-infused cocktails with essential oils that include ginger and rose. (This is already my kind of wellness retreat.) Following cocktails, we dine alfresco at Indigo. The open-air restaurant plays off of St. Barth’s exceptional culinary heritage. Mediterranean-inspired cuisine coupled with a refined wine list, impeccable service, and stunning bay views make my initial journey into wellness a breeze.
After dining under the stars, I head to my villa, a two-room suite awash in lavender and soft yellow hues. A large terrace overlooks the bay. I open the terrace door to hear the waves lapping at the shore and the tree frogs chirping. Far better than my iPhone Sleep Pillow app, I fall into the four-poster bed, dressed in Frette sheets, and drift into a blissful slumber.
The next morning at 7:00 a.m., I head to one of the two swimming pools where the hotel hosts morning meditation. I am a bit nervous, admittedly, about the idea of sitting still for one solid hour while focusing on my breathing, but the idea of clearing my mind and just “being” sounds too heavenly to resist. I meet Chaya Mueller Bronstien, a licensed massage therapist who leads an Osho meditation. The hour flies by and I am feeling remarkably calm for my type-A personality. I am ready for the day.
I join an aromatherapy session after a flaky, buttery croissant and French press coffee. Under Nick James’s tutelage, we concoct our own scents from his more than 100 organic essential oils, including lemon, jasmine, and orange blossom. The room becomes intoxicating in a good way. While others in the group chose aromas that promote energy or creativity, I choose rose oil, which promotes self love and healing. I carefully pour the custom blend into a small perfume bottle and add rose quartz to further enhance the blend’s properties.
Later that day, I head to the restorative Sense spa, where James is training the staff on how to incorporate BODY BLISS into its services. Nestled among the property’s gardens, the spa offers customized treatments and an array of amenities including an adults-only swimming pool, a steam room, private outdoor showers, relaxation areas, a spa boutique and a salon. Le Guanahani is the only hotel in the Caribbean to offer My Blend by Clarins, a skincare line to incorporate lifestyle factors such as climate, sleep, diet, and stress into its formulas. I meet my massage therapist and continue on my journey of rejuvenation and relaxation.
After lunch by the pool, I tour the island with a group and our first stop is Gustavia. The town’s 18th-century Scandinavian design represents a European sophistication not found elsewhere in the Caribbean. I’m told lunch on Nikki Beach is priceless for people-watching. I make a mental note to put that on my agenda for the next trip. There is no shortage of designer boutiques, and many hail from France: Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Cartier are just a few. We stop at various points along the way so we can experience the tremendous views of the surrounding islands and ocean. And we stop occasionally to assist a turtle crossing the road.
Back at the resort, I learn Le Guanahani is not only focused on its guests’ wellness and well-being but also on the environment and conservation of both land and sea. Its onsite nature preserve organizes guided tours and maintains self-guided nature trails that encourage guests to enjoy the beauty of sea turtles and native sea grasses in their natural habitats.
The hotel can also arrange tours of other nature preserves around the island. In 2012, Le Guanahani became the first hotel on the island to clearly define its sustainability intentions by associating with Green Globe and participating in its certification process, which covers areas relating to sustainable management, social economics, cultural heritage, and environment.
I decide to take a walk along a nature trail to take in this breathtaking experience. The gentle breeze stirs the salty ocean air with the fragrant scent of hibiscus, creating its own aromatherapy. I am well on my wellness journey and I could not have chosen a more perfect place to experience such a welcoming retreat.
For more information, visit leguanahani.com.