Escape

Fabulous Island Life: St. Barts

If you’re looking for relaxation, rejuvenation, rich culinary experience, stunning nature, adventures on open waters and the ultimate vacation spent in the very lap of luxury, look no further than St. Barts! This gorgeous island in the heart of the Caribbean is a favorite destination of world-class stars and celebrities, sailing and scuba diving buffs, and even those interested in a bit of history and culture or looking for a laid back island life.
Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493, and bestowed the name St. Barts on it for his brother Bartholomew. Saint Barthélemy (in French; often abbreviated to St. Barts in English) is home to an eclectic mix of flora and fauna that include iguanas, night-blooming cactus, and beautiful stretches of beaches, and has become a magnet for those seeking the luxury of lounging on their yachts and shopping at prestigious designer boutiques, and of course, rubbing elbows with famous celebrities. St. Barts is also home to descendants of the original French settlers and transplanted Europeans; it is a duty-free port and has earned itself the reputation and status of being one of the most extraordinary of the French West Indies islands.

 

The Essential Basics

The official language of St. Barts is French, while English is also widely spoken. However, certain traditional languages are still popular among the St. Barts natives, with a French Patois spoken on the leeward side of the island, and Creole spoken on the windward side. Each varies, like a local accent, from neighborhood to neighborhood. Currencies used on the island are the Euro and the US Dollar, and accommodations range from a number of luxurious hotels to villas, cottages and guesthouses.

 

Life is a Beach

One of the main attractions of the scenic island of St. Barts is its beautiful beaches where you can walk, play, swim, surf, sunbathe, snorkel, have a picnic, and enjoy beautiful sunsets in pure tranquility. The beach at Anse des Cayes, as its name indicates, is partially covered by ‘cayes,’ or coral rocks. It is also one of the surfers' favorite spot, as it is often a great place to catch the waves. Colombier, another beautiful beach that’s considered one of best on the island, is popular for its turquoise water and its calm atmosphere.

The beach in Flamands is the largest on the island with fine white sand and rolling waves. It gets busier in the summer when students home from school get together to play soccer or volleyball in the sand.  Another beautiful stop is the Beach in Gouverneur, which is as pretty as a postcard, with its white sand and turquoise waters. The landscape is exquisite, and legend has it that Monbars the pirate hid his treasure here. 

If you’re looking for a shallow lagoon with clear azure water and schools of small fishes, the beach in Grand Cul de Sac is, without doubt, the best! It’s also the ideal beach for practicing water sports. Grand Fond, by contrast, is the most mysterious beach of the island. It's not recommended for swimming due to many rocks and reefs in the water. Nevertheless, a walk along the shore could be the best way to reinvigorate yourself while enjoying the marvelous sound of the waves and the wind coming from the Atlantic.

Marigot is another favorite beach where time seems to have stopped, and in spite of the hurricanes there is still a healthy coconut grove near the beach. Marigot is a nice place to snorkel. It's a part of the Marine Reserve and offers a unique biodiversity. And then, of course, there’s the famous Saline beach! It's one of the largest beaches on the island after Flamands and its remoteness ensures perfect tranquility, far from daily stress.

Interested in a unique collection of shells? At Shell Beach the shells may all look alike, but you will occasionally be surprised to find a perfect specimen for your collection. So it's fun to start a giant treasure hunt to see who can bring back the most beautiful shells! You’ll love this unusual beach, far from the cliché of a "white sand beach,” especially if you are on the island only for the day or a few hours, as it is located just five minutes from the center of town. You can also enjoy lunch with your feet in the sand! Finally, there’s the Saint-Jean, just minutes away from Gustavia, the most active area on the island. Its beach is split into two by the Eden Rock Hotel; one part is near the airport where you can watch small planes take off and land while the other is a quiet area, better suited for swimming or snorkeling.

 

Eat, See, Dance and Do

While the primary activities at St. Barts might be all about the sun and surf, there’s no shortage of fine restaurants where you can sample some of the island’s finest delicacies, as well as bars, nightclubs, live music events, cultural happenings and sporting events going on year round to keep you busy.

The Music Festival of Saint Barthélemy features Jazz concerts and chamber music in the churches of Gustavia and Lorient with artists of international renown, while the island’s Theatre Festival features performances by the local companies as well as artists from neighboring islands and France.

The St. Barts Film Festival, launched in 1996, has created a showcase for the creativity of cinema and the richness of Caribbean culture through an annual festival promoting "Cinéma Caraïbe". Each year this event provides the opportunity to see a variety of thought-provoking films, as well as meet the filmmakers to discuss their work and cinema in general.

One of the island’s popular sports events is the Transat AG2R. Crossing the ocean in three weeks with the wind as your only means of locomotion is quite an adventure as well as an athletic challenge! Over the past 20 years, the Transat AG2R (the only two-hand transatlantic event on identical boats) evokes the tradition of great ocean racing. Aboard their 10-meter Figaro boats, the sailors head toward St. Barts, where their arrival is always greatly anticipated. And as is local tradition, the boats are met with the sound of foghorns and blowing of conch shells. 

Another exciting event is the West Indies Regatta — a three-day event held annually over the Mayday weekend in St. Barts celebrating traditional West Indian sails. More of a wooden boat festival than a competitive regatta, the purpose of the event is to promote and encourage traditional boatbuilding in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, Les Voiles de St. Barth Regatta — unique in its festive tropical charm and its wide international appeal — is a top-notch sporting event popular among the island’s locals and visitors alike.

St. Barts has become an attractive vacation destination during the winter season, particularly at Christmastime. The island is usually bursting with life at this time of year as yachts at the dock as well as the island's capital glimmer with holiday lights. It's also the busiest time of the year for visitors who are attracted by the warm temperatures and turquoise waters of this tropical paradise. The holiday season makes the perfect occasion for a shopping expedition to Gustavia's many elegant boutiques and a visit to the charming Christmas Village while strolling along the docks. Many local designers and artisans show their wares at the stalls in this holiday market, where you'll find a selection of wonderful items made in St. Barts to take home as gifts or souvenirs of your trip.

While escaping to the warmth of St. Barts seems like an ideal break from harsh winter weather, the island provides an ideal break at any time of the year. Steeped in history, culturally rich, relaxing and a beautiful spot to immerse yourself in, it won’t be long until St. Barts could very well become your second home!

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