Saint Barthélemy, also known as St. Barth or St. Barts, is commonly regarded as the jewel of the Caribbean. This gorgeous island is renowned as a luxurious retreat and its pristine beaches and isolated coves live up to that standard. It’s one of the four Leeward Islands and neighbors Saint Martin to the southeast and Puerto Rico to the west.
The history of this island has largely benefitted the locals. In 1493, Christopher Columbus discovered Saint Barthélemy on his journey to the New World, but it wasn’t until 1763 that French Buccaneers settled here, bringing with them a relatively large amount of wealth. In 1784, the island was sold to the Swedish who established an important center of trade on St. Barts. In 1878, the island returned to the French and in 1946, St. Barths became equal to a territory of France with all citizens having French passports. The next seventy years brought a boom in tourism, beginning in 1957 when David Rockefeller bought land on the island.
Today, the population is rapidly growing owing to the snow birds that arrive to the island and never want to leave. However, the island is growing politically as well. In 2007, St. Barts elected its own council and thus became the new Overseas Collectivity of Saint Barthélemy. As one of their first acts, the council made the island tax free. Of course, today both visitors and locals enjoy the relaxed and luxurious life of Saint Barthélemy.
Saint Barthélemy has long been known as a luxury destination and it lives up to that reputation today. Built-up beaches such as St Jean, Flamands, Shell Beach and Grand Cul de Sac all feature gourmet restaurants and pristine resorts. However, wild beaches such as Columbier, Saline, and Gouvensor offer a different kind of relaxation, far away from the crowds. Lounging by the pool or having a head-to-toe massage in your villa are also great ways to capitalize on your beach holiday. Of course, there is the shopping too. French boutiques line the streets of the capital, Gustavia. For the more adventurous, there are plenty of watersports, including paddle boarding, kite surfing, jet skiing and wind surfing. If you get the timing right, don’t miss the several annual large boat races, including The Bucket Regatta and Les Voiles de St. Barth.
There is a small airport on the north coast of the island called Gustaf III Airport. This airport can only welcome small planes. Therefore, international visitors must first fly into St. Martin or Guadeloupe and then transfer by island-hopper flight or ferry to Saint Barthélemy.
Once on the island, scooters and cars can be rented. Taxis are also an option, as is walking. The island only measures 8.5 square miles (22 square kilometers).