A mainstay on St. Barts for more than 35 years, Le Guanahani was beloved for its colorful French Caribbean-style cottages, beachfront activities, relaxed nature and tucked-away location. After being decimated by Hurricane Irma, however, the property closed in 2017 and has been undergoing renovations ever since. Now, under the new leadership of Rosewood and with new branding and a new name, the relaunched Rosewood Le Guanahani St. Barth is ushering in a refreshed era of luxury while returning a classic back to loyalists.
“The atmosphere and the spirit of the hotel remains the same,” Claudie Delaballe, group sales manager of Rosewood Le Guanahani tells Robb Report. “It’s a very special place.”
Part of that charm has to do with the overall vibe. Rosewood Le Guanahani is more laid-back than its competitors, in part thanks to its location on the northern side of the island, far from the crowds at beach bar-laden St. Jean or the main hub of Gustavia. It’s situated on 18 acres of lush land on a private peninsula with a lagoon and two beaches: Grand Cul de Sac, known for its kitesurfing, sea turtles and great snorkeling, and sandy Marechal Beach. Rocky promontories, a hikeable peak and the bluest waters of any beach on the island envelope the hotel.
The intimate spot is also just as perfect for a romantic honeymoon as it is for the whole family. For the latter, there are spacious suites (the largest has three rooms) and a Rosewood Explorers kids’ club for kids ages four to 11, while couples and friends will like the lively outdoor bar within a gazebo, the delicious cocktails and the adults-only pool in the spa.
“Over the years, Le Guanahani has mostly been a family resort, but we have many couples because we increased the number of private pools in our suites,” says Martein van Wagenberg, managing director of Rosewood Le Guanahani, who has been with the resort for eight years and has previously worked with Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the BVIs and Las Ventanas in Los Cabos. “We now have 20 suites with private pools, which works extremely well for couples.”
Loyal guests who have been coming to Le Guanahani for years will also appreciate the commitment to retaining as much of the original feel as possible. “We wanted to go for a more residential feel and keep our quirkiness,” says van Wagenberg. “We wanted to keep a sense of place.”
With input from the resort’s former owner David Bonderman, the transformation was led by Luis Pons Design Lab and David M. Schwarz Architects, who both have worked with Le Guanahani in the past. While the room’s interiors, Beach House, Bar Mélangé, Sense Spa and pool have been completely redone, the team retained the signature clapboard yellow, blue and lavender cottages that evoke the hotel’s original French Caribbean colonial-style design. Rosewood has a special way of creating a delicate yet luxurious experience, and in the redesign, this was accomplished with small details, like eschewing a singular front desk for multiple reception desks with plush chairs and an open-air design—so you feel the warm breeze as you sip on your welcome cocktail while checking in.
It’s hard to believe that this is now the largest hotel on the island, with 66 keys, as the property feels intimate and quiet. The resort is connected through weaving wooden pathways surrounded by lovely flora and shady palm trees, making you feel like you’re in your own private paradise. Each cottage has its own private entry and once inside, you’re greeted by lofty, white-washed ceilings, rattan accents, a light white-and-blue color palette and, of course, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that overlook the ocean or a garden.
One of the most exciting additions to Le Guanahani 2.0 is the Sense Spa. From the moment you walk into the Zen-inspired open-air sanctuary, calm ensues. There’s a reflection pool, adults-only swimming pool, seven treatment rooms and a relaxation gazebo to enjoy post-treatment. (Before your service, you’ll receive a scented towel and a kombucha drink.) Sense offers massages, facials, bodywork, nail and salon services and—a new addition—Alchemy of Sleep treatments designed to enhance your quality of slumber. The spa also offers morning yoga classes led by expert instructors, while more fitness-focused guests shouldn’t miss a hike along a cacti-lined trail to the morne, a rock formation at the edge of the peninsula.
The diverse beach experience at Le Guanahani also helps the place feel more like a full resort than most other hotels on the island. Along the shores you’ll find a family-friendly pool, the outdoor Bar Mélangé; an al fresco gym outfitted with Italian-made Panatta equipment; a boutique; and two long, sandy beaches dotted with sleek loungers covered with neutral-colored Kassatex slips and teak tables with picnic basket-like coolers and call buttons for service.
Nearby, the all-day Beach House restaurant serves Mediterranean-inspired cuisine in a chic, private home-like setting; standouts include small plates like the babaganoush, a lovely octopus dish and the island’s famous spiny lobster. Pair them with a cocktail—the spritzes are particularly fabulous and are crafted with house-distilled spirits—or head to Bar Mélangé for a post-dinner drink from the robust library of vintage spirits.
Fueling all the facilities is service that is warm, discreet and intuitive. The staff seems to anticipate your every need, from the Rosewood-branded cool, scented hand towels and chilled facial spray presented during the complimentary airport pickup and drop-off to the cold Evian water served after a hike. If you want to explore the island, the concierge can organize reservations or car service to take you anywhere. As St. Barts has so many places to explore, however, it’s always recommended you rent a car, and the staff can help with that, too: They can even have your rental car dropped off and picked up at the hotel, so you don’t need to leave the comfort of this cocoon until absolutely necessary. Rooms start at $1,130 per night, suites at $1,420.