St. Barts

Just taking up about eight square miles of real estate, the French island of St. Barts is one of the smallest in the Caribbean. Upon his 1493 discovery, Christopher Columbus named St. Barts (or St. Barthelemy) after his brother, Bartholomew.

Today, luxury accommodations, high-end shopping, and immaculate beaches are all hallmarks of this celebrity favorite. If budget constraints dictate your vacation choices, mark this one off your list. However, it’s so worth the splurge. If you go, try to hit the island in May or June. Those more affordable months are nicely wedged between an expensive winter and the storm-prone fall.

Though small, St. Barts packs a lot in. You can even keep those vacation pounds at bay by walking between much of the island’s attractions.

St. Barts’ eco-conscious outlook is evident. In fact, it was the first island in the Caribbean to institute a recycling program for household trash. Commitment to conservation and preservation is reflected in the cleanliness of the 22 immaculate beaches here. They are seriously some of the best and cleanest beaches in the Caribbean.

Secluded Grand Saline is one of the largest beaches on the island. Adequate waves provide great body surfing opportunities. Don’t worry if you lose your suit in a swell, as suits are optional here. There’s a bit of a hike to get here, but the white, powder soft sand and gloriously absent crowds make it worthwhile. A healthy number of marine life makes for prime snorkeling at Colombier Beach. It’s also clothing optional and void of restaurants. Lorient Beach provides ample time for people watching and sailboat coveting. This picturesque stretch of sand is dotted with luxury villas and small hotels. Restaurants and shopping are also conveniently close.

Charming gingerbread buildings in the capital city Gustavia yield boundless duty-free shopping. Chic boutiques hold the latest in French fashion and accessories from names like Cartier, Hermes, and Chanel.

Nightlife on St. Barts is limited to after dinner drinks in a local restaurant bar or hanging out at Le Select, a favorite of sailors and locals.

The quality and variety of cuisine is quite remarkable for such a small plot of land. Foodies won’t want to leave. Inspired French cuisine and superlative cocktails await diners at Le Gaiac. The casual environs, killer pizza, and impressive wine list at Isolette draw locals and visitors. Also, Le Carre boasts a fresh and eclectic atmosphere with a menu to match.

The privacy and comfort of luxury villa rentals appeal to independent travelers; and five-star resorts and hotels provide enough pampering and amenities to satisfy your inner A-lister.

If you’re looking for a romantic retreat that exudes barefoot luxury and a “live and let live” attitude, St. Barts is your place. We also recommend this island for its boating, dining, and upscale shopping venues.