A dependency of France, this neat, 8-square-mile island has a population of around 9,000, mostly of Breton descent. The terrain is hilly, but dazzling white beaches skirt the perimeter. The island’s capital, Gustavia, is generally considered to be the prettiest town in the entire Caribbean. Owing to the large number of American visitors, St. Barths has a more cosmopolitan atmosphere than other French islands such as Martinique and Guadeloupe. Thanks to the enduring French influence, however, its restaurants are excellent and the seafood invariably delicious.
On St. Barths, the “best beach” is invariably a topic of discussion. I agree that Grande Saline and Gouverneur are lovely, but Shell Beach, close to Gustavia, is often overlooked. A picturesque crescent of sand wedged between two promontories, it has gentle surf and, yes, lots of pretty shells.
While almost every international luxury brand has a boutique in Gustavia, I greatly prefer local shops. One of the best is Ligne St. Barth, a skin care and cosmetics company that was founded by Hervé Brin, descendant of one of the oldest families on the island.
Sometimes I need a break from the rich fare that fills the menus of resorts and top restaurants. On such occasions, I head for Le Select, right in the middle of Gustavia. A bit raffish, it is the kind of place where almost everyone turns up sooner or later, and it serves a very good burger. Indeed, Jimmy Buffett’s song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” is partly responsible for the place’s fame.
Spiny lobster is one of the delicacies of the Caribbean. I like to treat myself at La Langouste in the Baie des Anges hotel. The fish soup is also excellent.
Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France offers Le White Bar, which is a lovely setting for pre-dinner drinks. I especially recommend the cocktails made with rums from the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Many years ago, you could still see folks in the small town of Corossol wearing distinctive bonnets reminiscent of their Breton heritage. The bonnets have since disappeared, but you can still find traditional Breton baskets, woven by women of the town.
To phone hotels and restaurants in St. Barths, dial 011 (international access) + 590 (St. Barths code) + local numbers in listings.
Euro (€). Fluctuating rate valued at €1.00 = US$1.09 as of April 2020. U.S. currency and major credit cards readily accepted.
None. U.S. Embassy is located in Barbados, Tel. (246) 227-4399.