St Barts - Should I stay in a Villa or Hotel?St Barts Villa vs. St Barts Hotel?
A popular question especially for first-time St Barts visitors, choosing a villa rental or hotel?
A recent SBHonline discussion provides some insight comparing St Barts hotels vs. St Barts villas
It only takes a few minutes to drive from one end of St. Barth to the other. As a result, your location on the island is not that important for access to shops, beaches, food, and all that the island offers. But the individual location of your chosen accommodations is, of course, important. For first time visitors, it is important to understand that you do not need to stay on a beach to have a great location in St. Barth. Many of the best hotels and villas are not on the beach, and several of the best beaches do not have any accommodations. There are no large resorts or high-rises on the island. What are called "hotels" are collections of small bungalows, grouped around a larger main building, which has the reception and restaurant. Because St. Barth is hilly, many villas are built into the hillside with breathtaking views of the ocean and island. The restaurants are also scattered around the island, many unconnected to a hotel. Unlike destination resorts on other islands, on St. Barth, you will miss most of what the island offers if you just go to one place (whether hotel or villa) and stay there for all your beaching, eating, and relaxing. A car is an absolute must on the island, and the best way to experience the island is to visit all its beaches, many of its diverse restaurants, and each of its unique "towns".
Like many, I chose a hotel for the first St. Barth trip. Like many first timers, I did not feel confident in picking a villa whose location I had not experienced first hand. I found that the security of the immediate and centralized resources of a hotel (concierge staff, restaurants close at hand, room service, etc.) was the major advantage of a hotel. Most days, I would stop by the front desk for recommendations on the day's activities. The staff was very helpful in giving guidance, recommending restaurants and making reservations, arranging a vehicle when I realized it was necessary, and helping me find my way around the island. Since that first visit, however, we have stayed in a villa -- and I doubt we'll ever go back to a hotel. We love a villa because it is your own house on the island. This means more space, more privacy, more amenities, more island views, and more freedom. Even as compared to the hotels that have a kitchenette, sitting area, or private pool, a villa will always have more space, a more complete kitchen, a living room and dining room, and (if you choose) a larger pool.
(I've tried to be objective in the comments that follow, but my preference for a villa will undoubtedly come through.)
A villa can give you much more privacy. There is nothing like looking out at the view from your villa and feeling like you have the whole island to yourself. The better hotels can give you privacy, but it is usually by walls or screens of plants on either side of your view. In a villa, the privacy usually comes from your seclusion on a hillside (there are, of course, exceptions). This privacy offers any number of advantages. I could tell you why we like it, but that is beside the point. The point is that you have the freedom to do anything your heart desires without worrying about bothering others or them bothering you. You can put up some music and splash in the pool, you can turn off all the lights and sip champagne under the stars, or you can rise at sunrise and sip coffee together in the quiet of the first morning light. It's all up to you.
Villas and hotels are about even on food. Wherever you stay, you will want to visit many restaurants spread across the island. If you stay in a hotel, you'll have at least one restaurant that is 'right there'. This is a slight advantage. The larger kitchen of a villa gives you more freedom, particularly if you choose to eat anything at home. We always get groceries for some breakfasts and light lunches. This is easier in a villa, but many hotels have some form of a kitchenette as well. Hotels have room service; you can also have a chef come and cook at your villa.
Both hotels and villas have staff to assist you. The hotel staff is right there; the villa staff is at the rental company's office. Both staffs can assist you in choosing restaurants, making reservations, obtaining services (e.g., massages), and providing all kinds of guidance for your stay. Both hotels and villas have daily maid service. Villas have a small advantage here -- because of the greater space, you don't need to leave. Just move off to the other end of the house.
Price and Value
Villas win here. Although it is possible to spend much more on a villa (how about $25k per week?), overall, villas are less expensive than hotels of comparable quality.
By necessity, hotel rooms are grouped closely together. The settings are usually excellent. You will not have a panoramic view, however, because of the other buildings. Villas, of course, vary greatly. But they typically have a view of at least 180 degrees from left to right. Villas are generally higher in the hills, offering you greater views down and across the island.
Both hotels and villas have a wide variety of interiors, from sparse to opulent. Villas generally have more room. Most (all?) villas have a television, stereo, living room with sofas, a dining area with a table and chairs, and more space to spread out.
Price and Value.
Hotels are generally priced in Euros, and villas are generally priced in US Dollars. Given the current exchange rate, that generally means that a villa will be more economical than most of the top tier hotels.
Thanks to Sbhonline Members Brian, and KevinS For This Comparison.
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