This ultra-chic volcanic island in the extreme northeastern Caribbean is a favorite of celebrities and jetsetters and a yacht lover’s paradise. St. Barths is a French-influenced island in the West Indies that demonstrates the French art de vivre can have a tropical flavor. Here, among the palm trees, going barefoot takes on a more refined air thanks to the sounds of French conversation.
St. Barths, a beautiful island that is now part of France, has changed hands several times throughout history. Historically, it has been ruled by Sweden and the Order of Malta, but French rule has left the most profound—and delicious—impression. Culture abounds in France. Boutique clothing stores, jewelry shops, and art galleries all carry it. Perfectly baked baguettes from the local boulangerie will fill the air with their fragrant aroma. The handsome gendarme wears his kepi hat cockeyedly, and you can see it in his demure demeanor. The fishermen will shout “vente de poisson” to sell their seafood.
Some visitors to the islands will be seen wearing diamonds and dining on caviar in the capital city of Gustavia, where a legendary fleet of yachts hosts nightly fetes and haute designer shopping brings Paris fashion to the islands. Restaurants are often run by chefs who have earned Michelin stars and who have received their culinary training in the finest kitchens of Provence.
The island clearly caters to a more affluent clientele, as evidenced by the abundance of luxurious villas available for rent, the presence of some of the Caribbean’s most extravagant hotels, and the smattering of European-style bed and breakfasts throughout. St. Barths is most characterized by its breathtaking natural beauty, a priceless treasure.
Explore the island’s many beaches by renting bikes from Barthloc in Gustavia. You could also rent one of the island’s tiny cars—typically convertibles in bright colors—and drive around the island’s winding roads, which range from a pristine white arc to a silver moon covered in shells. Shell Beach is the most centrally located beach in Gustavia and is perfect for a crunchy stroll along the shore. Here, a beach made up of countless shells, some rare and others broken, serves as a colorful testament to the ocean’s abundance.
Try the local fare at Shellona, a beachside restaurant. Gouverneur Beach, because of its remote location, has a mysterious air about it. The secluded spot is perfect for picnics, and legend has it that buried there is a hoard of pirate gold. Choose Colombier for snorkeling, and flaunt your new swimsuit on the island’s largest and liveliest beach, Flamands. The experiences you have while scuba diving or taking a sunset cruise will stay with you forever.
St. Barths is a popular vacation spot because of its many festivals, which attract people from all over the world. In what hotel should I spend the night? Choose the Cheval Blanc on Flamands Beach and stroll right out to the watering hole. chevalblanc.com