While Beyoncé Knowles isn’t exactly Brigitte Bardot, her appearance on the dance floor at St.-Tropez’s Club Les Caves du Roy last August was a sure sign that the Riviera’s tides had shifted. In recent years, the glitterati would descend on Cannes for the film festival, then clear out for trendier places like Ibiza and Miami—leaving an older generation of repeat vacationers to take over the once-sexy beaches of Nice, Cannes, Monte Carlo, and St.-Tropez. But this year, the French seaside is poised to regain its status as the prime playground for the très chic. Indeed, everyone from P. Diddy and Alicia Keys to jet-setting socialites like Nadja Swarovski (who’s opening a Swarovski boutique in St.-Tropez) is expected on the shores of the Côte d’Azur this summer.
Smart new boutiques like Cynthia Desser (whose patchwork bracelets are this season’s must-haves) and Charlie Joe are re-infusing St.-Tropez with its former And God Created Woman sense of style. In Cannes, there’s a nod toward younger shoppers, with the openings of mod shops like Zara, Mango, and Diesel.
A new crop of hip, casual restaurants is slowly edging out the old-school houses of French haute cuisine, with trend-setter Alain Ducasse’s Spoon and Joël Robuchon’s eponymous eatery leading the pack. And, as always, the hotels are following suit: Reopening in July, Monte Carlo’s Hotel Metropole (377-93-15-15-15; from $682) has been redone by Jacques Garcia (of Spice Market and V Steakhouse), and Cannes’s famed Hotel Martinez (33-492-98-73-00; from $453) has just unveiled a Givenchy spa and a splashy private beach, Z Plage. A quiet yet stylish resort, Villa Marie (33-494-97-40-22; from $483), opened earlier this year on the outskirts of St.-Tropez, and last month saw the launch of Nice’s Palais de la Méditerranée (33-492-14-77-00; from $410), whose casino debuts at the end of June—bringing back the James Bond gambling glamour that made the Riviera so famous in the first place.
But no matter where you stay, the Riviera is really about two things: beaches and dancing. Spread your Pucci towel at Promenade des Anglais in Nice, on palm-lined La Croisette in Cannes, or at Club 55, the sexiest beach in St.-Tropez. Have a late lunch at Club 55, then either sleep off the Bandol on a quiet beach like Ocoa or hit the scene at La Voile Rouge’s afternoon beach disco. At night, take in cabaret at Stefano Forever, in St.-Tropez, then shake it like Beyoncé till dawn at Les Caves.
DEAL OF THE WEEK
In summer, when Hamptons beaches are stifling and crowded, the Caribbean boasts cool trade winds, empty stretches of sand, and slashed rates. At Antigua’s upscale Curtain Bluff, off-season deluxe-room rates are $495, down from $850, and New York readers get a free upgrade to a junior suite; through July 24 (888-289-9898).
IF YOU'RE GOING TO
Fresh from its Bliss-spa takeover, W hotels has announced plans to open its first full-service resort. W Maldives-Fesdhu is scheduled to open late next year, and will feature 80 modern villas scattered on the pristine beaches of a secluded Indian Ocean island.
The unspoiled Caribbean isle of Barbuda welcomes its first luxury resort: The just-opened Beach House will cater to upmarket travelers with “service ambassadors” (a.k.a. personal butlers), spacious beachfront rooms, and essential touches like cold towels and Evian sprays on the beach (888-776-0333; from $470).
Known for its wild party scene, the Canadian mountain resort will finally have a seriously nice place to stay. Four Seasons Resort Whistler opens later this month with access to world-class mountain-biking, fishing, rafting, riding, and golf—plus a pampering full-service spa (604-935-3400; from $252, with a third night free through September 30).
Jonathan Adler, whose quirky ceramics grace the coffee tables and shelves of more than a few style-conscious Manhattanites, is designing his first hotel. The Parker Palm Springs (formerly the Givenchy resort) is set to open this fall with 143 rooms, two restaurants, and a full array of resort amenities, from a golf course and clay tennis courts to a swank spa. And, of course, plenty of funky, geometric designs.