Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
High style reigns with dramatic vistas, first-class service, and more extras than most boutique hotels
More than a few people have called St. Barts the “French Riviera of the Caribbean,” perhaps due to its crystalline blue waters, dramatic verdant hills, and tony boutiques, cafes, and boulangeries speckled along Monte Carlo-style winding roads. Those who come for the hoity-toity scene will be happiest staying close to the flashy little seaport of Gustavia -- and nobody serves it up better than the ritzy Hotel Carl Gustaf.
Vertically stacked along a steep slope overlooking the harbor, this 14-room luxury hotel is impressive to say the least. Even before you get to the hotel, the pampering begins, with one of the hotel’s attractive young French staffers picking you up in a blingy SUV at the harbor or airport. After climbing the steep winding way, Carl Gustaf emerges, its brilliant red rooftops shimmering amid massive palm fronds.
In the lobby, floor-to-ceiling windows showcase views that are utterly jaw-dropping -- you’ll be hard pressed to find better in all of St. Barts. Furnishings are subdued, with a handful of modern white chairs and a sofa facing a small mahogany desk. Beyond the reception area, brightly colored pillows add a vibrancy that competes with the vistas in the Carl Gustaf Lounge; and in Victoria's Restaurant, simple table dressings are elegant. Again, the views throughout are impossible to ignore, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors everywhere.
Although the hotel welcomes kids (and pets!), such elegance and sophistication is really more suited for couples or families with mature children (say, 14 and above). The (small) private plunge pools, Italian marble floors, and a welcome bottle of champagne won’t do much to impress little ones. And since there's no main pool, there isn't really anywhere for kids to frolic. And you won't find many of them around trying to.
What you will find are many people in the lounge at night, which is a place to see and be seen on the island.
On a very steep hill (which allows amazing views), close to both the city center and the beach
Views like Carl Gustaf’s don’t come easy (or cheap). And to get such amazing views, you're going to have to work for them. The property encompasses lots of inclines that challenge even the most athletic. Just walking the vertical span of the hotel grounds is a workout, and if you try walking to Shell Beach, downtown Gustavia, or the harbor, you might plan to cab it back up the hill.
Inclines aside, the hotel’s location is ideal -- city life and a sandy beach are a mere five- to ten-minute walk away, which is something that very few hotels on the island can claim.
Those who wish to rent a car will also find free parking in the hotel’s lot across the street. Whether staying here or elsewhere, no one will spend much time in the car when visiting St. Barts as the entire island is a mere 13 square miles. Barring road construction or traffic, most trips take less than 15 minutes. But be advised: should you choose to rely on taxis, be ready with Euros. Though most people will tell you that American dollars are widely accepted, the occasional taxi driver will penalize you greatly with much higher rates for using foreign currency.
All spacious suites and villas with private terraces and plunge pools -- with spectacular views
The property includes 14 rooms total -- one- and two-bedroom suites, and villas. The rooms are vertically stacked along a steep and narrow staircase. Once inside though, you’ll probably have little desire to leave, save for a beach or downtown visit.
All units feature their own plunge pools with a pair of lounge chairs and spectacular views of the harbor. A separate living room, bedroom, and kitchenette leave ample room for wining, dining, and lazing about. Sexy marble bathrooms with shimmering tile floors feature rainfall showerheads, double sinks, plush robes, and furry flip-flops.
The rooms are not perfect though -- the property originally opened in 1991, and despite renovations in 2006, there are a number of telltale signs (small as they may be) of age. Italian marble floors have scuffs and stains here and there, and some of the furnishings are dated -- for instance, the dark wicker chairs and sofa topped with faded pink cushions in the living room. Additionally, though each unit has its own terrace and private pool, it’s not quite as private as, say, the villas at Hotel Le Toiny. Part of your view will showcase the top of the next unit’s roof, and you’ll hear your neighbors from time to time as well -- which means they probably hear you too.
A spa, a yacht, and a trendy lounge round out the classy roster of amenities here.
Of note are the number of impressive freebies the hotel offers: in the spa, a hammam, steam room, and Hydrozone therapy pool are available to guests gratis; in the rooms, champagne awaits upon arrival and little treats come with turndown service (one night, Jacky the bartender’s favorite Planteur’s Punch was on the nightstand; another, petit fours were stored in the refrigerator); and every morning, a French-style breakfast of baguettes, croissants, and cappuccino is served in-room or at the restaurant.
Upscale restaurant serves fine French cuisine in a dramtic setting
This luxury hotel embodies the tony French Riviera style of St. Barts with mind-blowing ocean views, first-class service, and a level of exclusivity that comes from having just 14 rooms in total. This place doesn't come cheap -- but each suite and villa comes with its own private pool or plunge pool and private terrace (many overlooking the ocean). A spectacular restaurant and an enchanting spa round out the luxury -- and it's all within walking distance of Gustavia’s best shops, restaurants and cafes. The one drawback to some may be that the hotel is not located on the beach (it's a five-minute walk away).