“You’re going to drink a lot of rosé,” I was told as we approached St. Bart. That statement only heightened my excitement about visiting this small celebrity-favored Caribbean island for the first time. The prediction proved true, as my glass was rarely empty during my stay at Hotel Manapany St. Barts.
The delightfully refreshing wine accompanied our activities on and off the property, which included lounging by the pool, a cookout in the sand, a picnic on the beach and a glorious day spent on a chartered yacht. The eco-friendly, laid-back Hotel Manapany is the perfect place for a St. Bart’s getaway.
After taking a small plane with Tradewind Aviation and experiencing the exhilarating landing at Barthélemy Airport, a staff member picked us up and we’d barely settled into our seats when we arrived at Hotel Manapany. The resort is located on the beach on Anse des Cayes, a quiet residential area on the north coast of the 10-square-mile island and the only hotel in this area.
See related story: Have a Private Plane Experience with Tradewind Aviation
When I saw the sign at the entrance I knew I was going to love this small resort. Something about the sign’s whimsicality let me know I was in a place I’d feel at home – the phrase “approachable luxury” comes to mind.
I do love luxury accommodations and being pampered as much as the next girl, but I’m not into glitz and pretentious places. While I was certainly spoiled by the food, my comfortable guest room and the smiling and accommodating service here, there was nothing stuffy or pretentious about it.
I also love the property’s commitment to being sustainable. Only electric cars are allowed, electricity is partially supplied by solar panels, no chemicals are used for cleaning, plants are watered with recycled water and drinks are served with paper straws.
Shortly after check-in we were seated by the pool and enjoyed the first glass of rosé. After that I stopped counting. Like a set of scales in a hotel room, I just see no need for that.
Views from Every Angle: Accommodations at Hotel Manapany
While they range in size from 269 square feet to the Beach House at 1,293 square feet, every one of the 43 guest rooms has a sun deck, most with sea views. Set on 4.2 acres, the guest rooms are in beach huts that are built on the hillside partially hidden by the avocado and palm trees and gorgeous cascades of brightly colored flowers.
Some of the accommodations, like mine, require a bit of a steep hike up, but the magnificent sea views are worth it. A few units are located right on the beach, so the sand is just a step away.
All the rooms have minibars, free wifi and tea and coffee. Mine had a sweet little writing desk with postcards and something I haven’t seen in years – hotel stationery. I had a king size bed under a canopy draped with mosquito netting. Yes, there are mosquitos but the rooms come with bug spray and even a bug zapper.
The walls are white-washed while the ceilings have a bright pop of color – mine was yellow – and the white bed linens are accented with a colorful striped Mexican throw and cushion. In another nod to eco friendliness the towels are made of bamboo, which as an added plus, makes them incredibly soft.
I also had a seating area and spacious bathroom. One feature I loved were the heavy wood shutters that housekeeping closed at night, allowing me to sleep in past sunrise.
Spa, Sun, Shop, Stretch, Sip: Activities for Guests of Manapany St. Barts
Who needs spa music when you can have a massage with the sounds of the ocean as the background? Hotel Manapany has a small spa just steps from the water. On our first day I had a lovely massage with the soothing sounds of the waves practically lulling me to sleep.
The spa deck is also where I enjoyed a Pilates class one morning and where the second, adults-only pool is located. Hotel Manapany also has a small but well-equipped fitness center and a game room with video games and ping-pong.
The main pool is large with plenty of seating around it. The beach is literally a few steps down from the pool. It also has a few tables and chairs scattered about, a hammock and several lounge chairs set up under tiki umbrellas. One magical feature of the umbrella is a button you can push should you desire to order anything to eat or drink.
As I left the beach for the first time I saw something I’d never seen before. Usually there’s a hose or shower heads to wash your feet off. Then you turn off the water and step on the sand-coated concrete where more sand sticks to your wet feet.
But at Hotel Manapany there’s a sign that reads “For Sandy Toes” with paintbrushes hung up on hooks. Rather than washing it off, you just brush it off, a much better method for removing sand.
The open-air restaurant is located right by the pool. We enjoyed a large buffet breakfast, included with the room. There’s also a menu to order a few dishes a la carte. Guests can opt to dine inside or at a table by the pool if they prefer.
The restaurant is open for dinner and while we didn’t dine in the restaurant, we did have several appetizers from there while enjoying handcrafted cocktails from the bar.
One night a week guests can enjoy a cookout, where tables are situated in the sand outside the bar among the trees and guests dine on freshly grilled delights with their toes in the sand – if they take off their shoes like I did. Local musicians provided the soundtrack with a few guests jumping up to dance.
There’s a small gift shop. And if you have the desire to take home a one-of-a-kind outfit, you’ll love the on-site atelier, Cedric & Rodolphe, where you can get fitted for a custom couture outfit at the beginning of your trip. If you stay long enough you can take it home, or have it shipped to you. Cedric Fahey and Rodolphe Ayer specialize in evening gowns and cocktail dresses.
Rodolphe was kind enough to show us around the studio, where I was in awe of the gorgeous gowns and flowy fashions. He pointed out custom-made fabrics, included one covered with bottles of rosé. “For next season, we will make a dress. It was be called the rosé dress,” he said.
Boat, Buy, Bathe: Activities Off Property
Perfect Picnic on the Beach
I lost my taste for picnics on the beach when I was a child. It happened during a vacation with several other families when all the men drank beer, set the empty cans in a circle in a hole on the beach filled with charcoal, placed a grill on top and cooked burgers for everyone. While they smelled enticing while cooking, the meat had a generous dosing of sand, making for a terrible eating experience. That was one beer-fueled idea not worth repeating.
The day we spent at Gouverneur Beach renewed my love of a beach picnic. In this much improved version, arranged through Hotel Manapany, a staff member set up umbrellas a served us a delicious lunch on wooden trays. We enjoyed sand-free chicken wraps, salad and delicious rosé, followed by a leisurely swim in the clear turquoise waters.
It was the perfect day at the beach. I didn’t have to lift a finger other than to wrap it around my chilled glass of rosé.
Shop and Play: Live the Yacht Life for a Day
I felt like I was truly living the St. Bart life – shopping in Gustavia in the morning followed by a day on the water on a yacht.
We started the day checking out the shops in Gustavia, which primarily consisted of window shopping as we passed by Louis Vuitton, Prada, Cartier and Hermes. I had to step into a few shops where the windows looked like museum displays with gorgeous designer dresses.
I was in awe of some of the crisp white linen dresses I saw, which I have neither the lifestyle or budget for. I did find an affordable blue-and-white skirt at Madame Hortense, feeding my stripaholic addiction.
We wandered the streets and checked out the restaurant Le Select, where Jimmy Buffett and his family can eat and drink for free the rest of their lives. He first visited the island in 1978 and fell in love with it. He used to play at the bar at Le Select and the owner asked his permission to open a hamburger stand called Cheeseburger in Paradise. They shook on it and Jimmy gets free food for life.
He is one of the island’s biggest supporters – he sent planes with supplies after Hurricane Irma and played a benefit concert to support relief efforts.
Another beautiful shop for home goods and décor items is French Indies Design. I also spotted a blue-and-green caftan that would be perfect for my imaginary beach house.
Time to go – our yacht awaited us! And what a gorgeous yacht it was, an Opera 64 boat styled after a Porsche 917 LM Gulf. Fitting in with the sustainability focus of Hotel Manapany, the owner told us after he bought the boat he retrofitted it to be eco-friendly and work for charters. Usually this type of boat would use 400 liters of gas per hour, but he got it down to 80.
We set off from the scenic harbor in Gustavia, our shoes off, smiles on our faces and ready for a day of adventure. You always get a different perspective of an island from the water, and we could see several houses and buildings dotting the hillsides.
Someone pointed out a huge, modernist-looking home that used to belong to David Rockefeller. Some credit him with starting upscale tourism on the island. After he built his home, other rich folk followed, leading to the island’s reputation as a billionaire’s playground. He never built a driveway to the home. Who needs one when you always arrive by yacht?
After we cruised for a while it was time to jump in and play with the sea toys. I have plenty of fun just jumping in the water and enjoying the cool, refreshing feeling. But when offered the chance to zip through the water with a Seabob – oh yeah. These fun toys have you holding onto a wheel, cranking up the power and steering your way around the water. If you’re feeling adventurous you can take it below the water. One of the two Seabobs was equipped with a camera, should you want to capture any of your water adventure on film. And they are 100% green as they run on electricity.
We enjoyed lunch on board, served with chilled rosé of course and a dish like tuna niçoise salad but on small slider buns – so delicious. Then it was time for more cruising until time to return to the harbor.
Oh and did I mention the name of the yacht? It’s Yes, Darling. The two words I love to hear from my husband.
A Bit About the History, Ownership of Hotel Manapany
We were lucky enough to enjoy the company of Anne Jousse, CEO of B Signature Hotels & Resorts, which owns this property and six more in France.
A resident of Nantes, France, Anne is impossibly sophisticated, beautiful and also fun to be around. She was one of the first to jump in the water and take off on a Seabob.
Anne told me a little about the history of the property, including that Hotel Manapany was one of the first hotels on St. Barts. It opened in the 1970s with 20 two-bedroom cottages on the hillside.
B Signature bought the property in September 2016 and promptly closed it down to totally renovate it. While it was being renovated Hurricane Irma hit the island in September 2017 causing massive damage. There was no water, electricity or phone service for weeks and the tourism business shut down.
Despite the setback, Hotel Manapany was able to continue the renovation and opened in March 2018, one of the first to reopen after the storm. Many St. Barts hotels suffered such extensive damage they have not yet reopened.
If you’re into laid-back luxury with a location right on the beach, Hotel Manapany is the place for you.
Hotel Manapany, Anse des Cayes Saint Barthelemy, St. Barts; +590 590 27 66 55
Thank you to Manapany St. Barts for hosting me during my stay. My opinions, as always, are my own.
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– Jan Schroder, Editor-in-chief