A celebrity and jet-setter favourite, a yacht lovers’ dreamscape, this oh-so-chic volcanic isle lies in the far north-eastern Caribbean, surrounded by impossibly turquoise seas. Distinguished from the rest of the West Indies by its French heartbeat, St. Barths proves that art d’vivre can have tropical undertones too. Here, amid palm trees, the sounds of spoken French add an elegant twist to barefoot pursuits.
A French municipality today, verdant St. Barths has changed hands many times over the years. And, though both Sweden and the Order of Malta have lorded over it in centuries past, the dominance of France has left the deepest—and most delicious—mark. French culture abounds. You’ll find it in the fashion boutiques, jewellery stores and galleries. You’ll smell it from the boulangerie where perfect baguettes perfume the air as they bake. You’ll notice it in the rakish tilt of the kepi hat, worn by the handsome gendarme. You’ll hear it in the cries from fishermen advertising their catch, “vente de poisson.”
In the capital city, Gustavia, where storied flotilla of yachts hold nightly fetes and haute designer shopping brings posh Paris fashion to the islands, you’ll see some tourists dripping with diamonds and lunching on caviar. Chefs, with Michelin star pedigrees and training in Provence’s best eateries, lead restaurants, their kitchens creating a certain culinary fusion of classic French technique, spiced with West Indies flair.
Offering hundreds of swish villas to rent, some of the Caribbean’s most opulent hotels and European-style bed and breakfasts wedged in between, the island clearly caters to a tonier clientele. And yet, the priceless treasure of jaw-dropping nature defines St. Barths most of all.
Rent bikes at Barthloc in Gustavia to pedal from beach to beach. Or, lease one of the island’s diminutive cars, often brightly coloured convertibles, to explore the winding roads from bone-white arc to shell strewn sliver moons by the sea. Closest to the centre of Gustavia, Shell Beach inspires you to take a crunchy walk beside the waves. Here, myriad shells, some rare, others broken, compose this otherworldly beach, a treasure trove of colours, and a testimonial to the wonders of the ocean’s largesse.
Lunch at the beach restaurant, Shellona for a truely local experience. Gouverneur Beach, which sits off the beaten path exudes secretive vibes. The remote hideaway, ideal for picnics, purportedly holds a cache of long-buried pirate treasure. For snorkelling, choose Colombier; and to show off that new bikini, Flamands, a veritable social scene and the largest beach on the island, invites. And, water adventures, from top-notch diving options to sunset cruises make long-lasting memories.
Festivals bring many tourists to St. Barths, with themes from culinary to music to regatta; while New Year’s Eve on the island is legendary. Where to stay? Opt for Cheval Blanc on Flamands Beach, where you can walk from your room straight to the beach party. chevalblanc.com