By Gary Walther

Take the layout of a Provençal hill town—a playful maze spilling down a hillside—and give it Caribbean lollipop colors: Prozac blues, mellow yellows, and declamatory reds. Voilà, that’s the essence of Le Guanahani—the largest (67 rooms and suites) and only full-service resort on St. Barth, featuring an 87-foot-long pool, freestanding gym, two tennis courts, three restaurants, a complimentary children’s program, and the island’s largest spa (with a Frédéric Fekkai hair salon).

Le Guanahani doesn’t show all its cards at check-in. Instead, it’s one of the few Caribbean resorts that invites you to take a walk and discover it for yourself. Go across the property and down to the Marigot Bay-side dock or head to the tip of the resort’s arrowhead peninsula to savor the pastel-box sunset colors. It’s one of the little luxuries an 18-acre enclave flanked by bays—Grand Cul-de-Sac (ripples) and Marigot (real waves)—can provide gratis.

The layout you see today came about much like a coral reef: the result of organic growth. Rooms and suites were added over the years—the resort opened in 1986—which has resulted in both consistency and pleasant eccentricity. The master plan was to improvise well.

Le Guanahani Serenity Suite

Thus, in room tier 24-35, the higher the room number, the better the ocean view, while right below (room tier 36-44), the lower the room number, the better the ocean view. Guests who find their dream room here are notably loyal. One of them has taken Suite 22, an Ocean-View Pool Suite, every year since 1991.

Le Guanahani actually has two distinct personalities: the Grand Cul-de-Sac side (rooms 1-50, where most of the pool suites are), and the Marigot side (rooms 51-69). You’ve met this couple: one outgoing, the other one quiet. The Grand Cul-de-Sac side, the original property, is the former because it is right above the beach, pool, fitness center, beach bar, and restaurant. The Marigot side, added later, is the latter. But there is no difference in room décor, which is a light-fingered take on Caribbean contemporary classic.

Le Guanahani’s coral-reef-like growth has resulted in 18 room and suite categories, which represent choice, not confusion. Let’s highlight a few, starting at the top with the Signature Suites.

Le Guanahani Admiral Suite

Over the past decade the resort has combined rooms to create ten full-service suites, each larger than 800 square feet (most of them on the Grand Cul-de-Sac side). They all have one-off décor, wrap-around views, and fathoms of seclusion. Waves lap below the two-bedroom Admiral Suite, which has a 90-degree wrap-around view of Grand Cul-de-Sac; the two-bedroom Marigot Suite, which offers a 180-degree ocean view, has a huge terrace and plunge pool; and Serenity, at the top of the resort, makes the overused “breathtaking” a mot juste, given the view of Grand Cul-de-Sac from its 538-square-foot deck.

Now let’s go from baronial to boîte: the Marigot and Cove rooms, each 430 square feet. The latter have an ocean view, but if you’re the guest who uses the room as a pit stop, Marigot might be your best bet.

Finally, if you play tennis, here’s your advantage: Book a Pool Suite behind the tennis court. The net-net, besides court access, is privacy, pool, and ocean views.

Your serve.

About the Contributor

Gary Walther has been a travel journalist for 40 years. He has been editor-in-chief of Departures, Expedia Travels, Luxury SpaFinder, and Forbes Life magazines, and for the past five years a freelancer with a column on called The Hotel Detective. He has passport stamps from 61 countries and is a million-miler on American Airlines. He writes for the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and Departures Europe among other publications.