(Travel)

This St. Barts Hotel Went From ‘90s Supermodel Hotspot To Wellness Oasis

It belongs on your bucket list.

St. Barts has long been a luxury playground populated by A-list celebrities (think Leonardo DiCaprio, P.Diddy, David Letterman, Usher, Jon Bon Jovi, to name a few) and supermodels from the ‘90s until today. Some of Cindy Crawford's iconic early images — jeans and T-shirt-optional looks — were shot by Marco Glaviano and Antoine Verglas on the island, often at the Rosewood Le Guanahani St. Barth resort and surrounding grounds. Verglas also famously captured Elle MacPherson, Claudia Schiffer, and Stephanie Seymour on the French territory, frequently using the tropical locale. Patrick Demarchelier cemented the exclusive resort's (then known as Hotel Guanahani) glamorous reputation when he named it a lunch spot to Vogue in the 1990s.

But in September 2017, the island experienced devastation due to Hurricane Irma, dubbed the most powerful storm to hit the Caribbean in 100 years. Thibaut Asso, director of sales and marketing for the resort, likes to reframe the natural disaster. “We don’t have hurricanes; we have challenging weather situations.” Reconstructing several landmarks such as Rosewood Le Guanahani — which was the first luxury resort on the island — post-storm allowed for locals and business owners to reimagine what the island and its properties could be.

In November 2021, a little over four years to the anniversary of the tempête, Rosewood Le Gaunahani St. Barth reopened after reconstruction and revamped this charming property. These days, though, the resort is packaged as a luxury wellness retreat focusing on spa treatments, sports activities on and off property, light fusion cuisine, and a tranquil vibe that allows total decompression.

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Courtesy of Rosewood Le Guanahani
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Courtesy of Rosewood Le Guanahani
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The island and its natural resources — soursop, aloe, for example — provided more reason for the brand to set out to create wellness experiences that fuse traditional approaches to health and healing with the latest technological advancements. The location of Rosewood’s Sense spa, led by spa manager Fanny Martin, is discreetly nestled in the beach and hillside and the perfect spot on the resort to offer a private and calm oasis. The facility features four treatment rooms, two couples’ suites, a hydrotherapy room, and an adults-only pool.

Unlike some of the island's other well-known hotels, such as Eden Rock or Cheval Blanc, the Rosewood Le Guanahani is located on 18 acres within a nature reserve. It also uniquely opens to two beaches; on the Marigot Bay and le Grand-Cul-de-Sac lagoon, a famous spot to enjoy watching sea turtles swim. The point where the two beaches meet lies La Morne, a massive rock that can be hiked in 15 minutes. The vista point offers an aerial view of the property and the sea beyond. “We have charming little paths on the property, easy but intentional to get lost in the gardens,” Asso suggests.

Courtesy of Rosewood Le Guanahani

Hiking to this spectacular view has been integrated into an immersive spa treatment called 'La Morne' Sense Spa Journey. It begins with a hike and then ends back at the spa for a body wrap ritual featuring aloe vera gel and essential oils, a toning leg massage to promote lightness and circulation, and a head and scalp massage to induce relaxation.

The spa’s other signature treatments also keep in line with the resort group's “A Sense of Place” philosophy that integrates local products and customs into the experience. For instance, a balancing body service employs hot and cold compresses, a refreshing salt foot soak infused with corossol or soursop leaves — native to the area — with Indian wood balm oil, each known for cooling properties. Another, The Ouanalao Ritual, achieves deep relaxation through a warm foot bath and exfoliation utilizing lemon verbena, tamarind pulp, and willow bark, which removes dead skin cells thanks to salicylic powder, followed by a facial cleanse and massage using coconut oil and soursop to relieve tension and congestion.

A new sleep and relaxation treatment is currently being unveiled at the spa. The service uses cannabis-derived CBD oils used in massage and elixirs made by Medicine Women Health, a pharmacy-grade medicinal product line founded by Stacy J. Shymansky, intended to ensure a deep and relaxing slumber. A massage with this oil makes it almost impossible to peel oneself off the table, but once you do, one is often greeted by Oscar, one of the resort's friendly iguanas. (He loves to perch in the private outdoor showers that adjoin each massage room.)

Relaxing after a treatment poolside can be done in your private pool — many of the 1,000-square-foot one-bedroom suites offer these — or the infinity pool overlooking the Grand Cul-de-Sac. “You pick and choose everything you want to do here,” Asso confirms. This much relaxation tends to bring on hunger. Thankfully, the property's restaurant and bar area surround the main pool.

Courtesy of Rosewood Le Guanahani

Food and beverage service is where Rosewood Le Guanahani St. Barth draws upon its “Frenchness” while retaining Caribbean flare. The culinary magic happens at Beach House St. Barth and Bar Mélangé, run by Executive Chef Riccardo Schievano and Beverage Manager Bob Louison. Schievano offers healthy dishes throughout the day, including gluten-free granolas, chia puddings, and green juices at breakfast; salads, vegan crudites, and ceviche at lunch; and at dinner, plenty of grilled fish and roasted vegetables, including a to-die-for whole roasted cauliflower that demonstrates simple cooking can often be the tastiest. Another highlight is the mezze and family-style options available to diners. Asso points out that shared dishes are “the French way.”

Louison is known for creating cocktails on the spot based on the guests' preferences list. Others are barrel-aged, such as a signature cocktail made from tequila, amaro, Sweet Vermouth, and Angostura bitters. The drink master also excels at mocktails in keeping with the wellness theme. Just recite flavor preferences, and voila! A refreshing non-alcoholic concoction awaits. The wine list is up to par for a luxury resort on a French island and, as Asso reminds, every experience offered “goes better with Champagne.”

Once relaxed and fed, an afternoon of outdoor activities awaits, ranging from non-motorized water sports — snorkeling, kayaking, and paddle-boarding — in the Grand Cul-de-Sac. Those wishing to have a more extensive adventure can utilize the skills of Stephane Carou, the property's concierge, who was St. Barth's first Clefs d'Or Concierge and has worked at the property for almost 26 years.

He can arrange private hikes to secluded swimming enclaves (a guide is highly recommended for navigating steep inclines and the possibility of sea urchins), boating, fishing, sailing, or scuba diving excursions, and of course, the island's numerous highly-rated restaurants and nightlife. Be sure to ask Carou about Tamarin, an alfresco restaurant with elevated food in an enchanting setting.

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Courtesy of Rosewood le Guanahani
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But many will choose not to decamp and stay put at this little oasis. If there is a chill at night, check out current samplings at the resort's retail outpost La Boutique, including a cozy selection of velours by PomPom Paris. The brand, founded by Lola Rykiel, Sonia Rykiel's granddaughter, is currently hosting a three-month pop-up at the resort. According to Asso, the pop-up and highly curated selection of goods at the shop harken back to its glitzy past. “We want to reconnect the Le Guanahani with fashion, as we have a long history with it. All the supermodels came here in the ‘80s and ‘90s for photo shoots,” he continues.

The 66 rooms and suites have been given a sustainability upgrade with many water- and energy-saving devices installed behind the scenes. “We did work the clients won’t see but will enjoy such as install LED lighting and new water pipeline that is more sustainable, which recycles bath water for watering pants,” said Asso.

The décor also got a tropical-chic upgrade by architects David M. Schwarz and Luis Pons Design Lab and include outdoor seating, with most rooms having a view of the ocean or bay.

Designer Peter Som concurs. He recently visited for dinner at Beach House St. Barth and noticed the contemporary re-do and chill vibe. “It used to be colorful and a bit more island rustic-y. They gave it a ‘glow up’ that is much more contemporary chic,” he observed to TZR, adding, “It’s super chic but it’s low-key and effortless, easy chic. Glamour of all stripes is allowed.”

The resort is basically in sleep mode after 11:30 p.m., thus conducive to a good night's rest. “We are a true resort feeling; the party people may come here but they go somewhere else to do that,” notes Asso. The frogs croaking are usually the only ones disturbing the peace. If it’s more nuisance than melodic, assuredly, the sleep gummies from Medicine Women will lull one into a night of restful sleep. Le Guanahani aims to leave their guests rested and feeling their best. Without a doubt, they succeed.