A Caribbean gem. I went to St. Barth preceding Christmastime and loved its French influence, hidden beaches, and luxe lifestyle.
To get to St. Barth, you fly into Saint Martin / St. Maarten, and then take a little hopper flight over. Considered the 3rd most dangerous airport in the world (source: the History Channel) due to its petit runway, the flight is short with a steep descent. You fly into Gustavia, the capital.
About St. Barth, A Brief History
Short for Saint Barthélemy (Christopher Columbus named it after his brother in 1493), St Barth was recently a part of Guadeloupe and then voted to become an overseas collectivity of France in 2003. Thus, St Barth is one of four islands that comprise the French West Indies. Saint Martin, Martinique, and Guadeloupe are the other three.
This volcanic island is surrounded by reef and was once a Swedish colony, the only one in the Caribbean. That said, the accents, language, cuisine, and other cultural influences are distinctly French. I got a crash course in restaurant phrases from an adorable French waitress when we went out for Italian.
A hot spot for tourists, many of whom arrive by yacht, the island’s local population is less than 10,000 according to the last census. St. Barth has the languid ease of a beach town accompanied by the continually refreshing spunk of its maritime visitors. It emerged as a tourist destination in the 60’s, and its popularity took off in the 80’s.
St. Barth is a little island, 9.7 square miles, but don’t let that trick you. It’s still best to rent a car to navigate the narrow and often steep roads, especially to explore all the plages (beaches). Each beach has an artsy mosaic sign and its own unique charm. Shell beach was one of my favorites, where the entire beach is made of shells and the water is more aqua than a swimming pool.
Where To Stay
The island has approximately 25 hotels, most of which have fewer than 15 rooms. Private villas (AirBnB) are where most people stay, with over 400 options scattered around the island. Eden Rock and Cheval Blanc are famous options.
We stayed at Hotel Le Village, just up a small, steep hill from the beach. I highly recommend it with its airy, comfortable rooms and free breakfasts that included everything from homemade yogurt and fresh pastries to fresh squeezed juices.
The staff were very friendly and were happy to set up scuba outings and to recommend the best bakeries. The pool and breakfast terrace overlook the quintessential red rooftops, lush jungle palms, and sea.
At A Glance
- Location: Caribbean
- Capital: Gustavia
- Size: 9.7 square miles
- Population: Less than 10,000
- Nationality: Overseas territory of France
- Currency: Euro
- Official Language: French
- Climate: Temperate and windy (the leeward side is better for sunbathing, whereas the windward side is quite blustery on most days)
- Hottest time to visit: New Year’s Eve
- Shopping & dining: Stroll through Gustavia Harbor
- Favorite Shop: Imrie
- Best Beaches: Shell Beach, St. Jean, Anse de Colombier
- Activities: Beach, snorkel, hike, scuba, swim, sail, shop, dine, and check out the perma-yacht show.
- Flora: Cacti, succulents, palms, bougainvillea, golden trumpets, mangroves, flamboyant trees, and sea grapes, to name a few.
- Fauna: Turtles, eels, urchins, sea cucumbers, pelicans, hummingbirds, herons, egrets, kingfishers, and frigatebirds. During migration season (Dec-May) you might spot whales, porpoises, and dolphins.