In 1998 Nikki Beach opened in South Beach and the world of beach bars was changed forever. Styling itself as the world’s first luxury beach bar, Nikki single-handedly introduced glamour and more to the game. The St. Barth location followed in 2002 (the third in the chain which currently stands at 11) and is perhaps the perfect setting for the Nikki Beach concept.
First of all, it’s on the Caribbean’s most glamorous island, on a decidedly glamorous beach, almost in the shadow of one of the world’s most glamorous resorts. It’s clientele over the years had included a steady stream of millionaires, A-listers and even royalty. But in spite of that it’s not really a pretentious place. The upbeat, friendly staff make it clear that all are welcome. Unfortunately, that lack of pretension doesn’t always extend to the guests.
Sure, it’s a totally different animal from the more traditional iconic places like the Soggy Dollar or the Sunshine Shack, but it’s still a great bar on a great beach – just one where champagne and sautéed crevettes are more de rigeur than Carib and barbecued ribs, and where many visitors dress up and not down to lounge with their toes in the sand.
But it’s more than just a place to see and be seen. It’s a lively, fun place where the music is jumping (no laid-back reggae here – think Ibiza style house) and the vibe celebratory.
Everything at Nikki is a dazzling white. There is a variety of comfortable seating options under an expansive awning or umbrellas on the sand. There are even day beds if you feel the need to doze – though can’t imagine that happening at Nikki.
It’s a busy place to be sure, but the young staff hustle in that uniquely St. Barth’s way and you are never waiting long.
When we first visited not too long after it opened, we’d never seen anything like Nikki Beach in the islands before. But the islands have evolved, and the Nikki concept has given birth to a number of similarly styled establishments, not just around the Caribbean, but on St. Jean Beach itself, with GypSea and Nao being two relative newcomers with distinct appeal of their own.
But Nikki Beach more than holds its own, with revolving flashes of music, fashion and art adding to the chic vibe.
What will you have?
Beer: Nikki Beach is not exactly a beer-swilling place, but they do stock a decent line-up of cold brews. Corona, Carib, Presidente, Heineken and Heineken Light are all on hand, but the most popular beer seems to the trendy (and surprisingly flavourful) Bavaria Berlin by NOAM.
Rum/Cocktails: Nikki isn’t a rum place either. There is a list of tropical cocktails, including a creative line-up of margaritas and mojitos (the bartenders know their stuff). But the wine list is the star here, especially when it comes to Champagnes and other bubbles. Bottle service is popular.
Food: The menu is standout of small, pricey, well-prepared offerings that constantly changes. There is also a great sushi selection and a raw bar. Oh, and caviar, if you want to splash around a few extra Euros.
Let’s cut to the chase. This is not a cheap place. But keep in mind that you are on St. Barth, likely the most expensive island in the Caribbean. As such, prices are pretty much in line with similar establishments. And remember, prices are in Euros, something that still surprises more than a few visitors.
Nikki Beach is an icon in many ways. The St. Barth location is full of style and distinct French Riviera flair. Maybe it’s not the place to lime or linger but simply put, it’s a lot of fun, even if just for the people watching. If you are lucky enough to find yourself on St. Barth, you should at least check it out.