This singular island, tiny in size—just eight square miles—but formidable in reputation, boasts aquamarine waters, soft white-sand beaches, and a refined but relaxed way of life rooted in French culture. The island is home to actors, writers, artists, moguls, and others who want to get away from it all without leaving behind the comforts of fine linens, rejuvenating spas, five-star dining, and world-class shopping. Art galleries and a full slate of year-round festivals complete the St. Barths singular experience.
Discovered by Christopher Columbus and long-inhabited by pirates, St. Barths was briefly owned by Sweden—the capital city of Gustavia was in honor of the Swedish king. Today, the island is ecologically untamed and features green-zone designations and rugged volcanic hills and peaks that make for spectacular ocean views—and hair-raising driving. The island is almost free of crime.
For such a small island, there are 22 beaches, all of which are open to the public and provide exceptional surfing, windsurfing, snorkeling in the protected marine preserve, and unsurpassed relaxation.
St. Barths boasts more than 80 restaurants, from patisseries to white-table-cloth elegance. A fine selection of fashion boutiques, jewelry designers, art galleries, and perfume and cigar emporiums await—all tax free.
St. Barths throws an island-wide party to ring in the New Year, kicking off with a regatta around the island followed by music and dancing on the docks and fireworks at midnight. January is also reserved for the prestigious Festival de Musique de St. Barthélemy featuring jazz, chamber music, classical music, and modern and classical dance.
Few places celebrate Mardi Gras with more gusto than St. Barths. Floats and bands, followed by costumed dancers who blow whistles and thump drums, fill the streets. The reveling does not stop on Tuesday, however. Mercredi des Cendres is the final day of carnival celebrations, where people dressed in black and white carry a giant puppet of Vaval, the carnival spirit, to a seaside location for a burning to banish him until next year, hence the “Ash” in Ash Wednesday.
Later in March, super yachts of 100 feet and more compete for the St. Barths Bucket, three days of regattas around the island followed in April by the Caribbean Film Festival, an island tradition since 1996. A ball on July 14th is a fitting salute to France’s National Day.