Plan Your EscapePlan Your Escape

Should you choose not to simply lounge by the pool or ocean, you will find St. Barths has everything you'll need. A sophisticated but unstudied approach to relaxation and respite prevails: you can spend the day on the beach, try on the latest in French fashion, watch the sun set while nibbling tapas over Gustavia Harbor, then choose from nearly 100 excellent restaurants for an elegant evening meal. You can putter around the island, explore the shops, scuba dive, windsurf on a quiet cove, or just admire the lovely views. Whether you choose to browse the street-side fruit markets, captain a chartered vessel or dance the night away — there is something for everyone on this island.

DiningDining

St. Barths has restaurants to suit even the most discriminating taste. Local chefs, combining regional ingredients with French and Italian traditions, have given the island an impressive showcase of cuisine that is unique in the region. See the Insider's Guide for more about the island's restaurants.

ShoppingShopping

St. Barths is a duty free port, and shoppers are delighted with the range and number of opportunities from small merchant tables by the side of the road to elegant shops with marvelous displays and marble floors reminiscent of Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré in Paris. Locally produced items include delicate, handcrafted straw goods, natural skin and hair products made from herbs and flowers, mahogany reproductions of colonial furniture, original art, pottery and gold jewelry. Gustavia’s shops range from such famous names as Cartier, Hermes, Ralph Lauren and Versace to tiny boutiques with catchy names. Most are clustered around the Quai de la Republique, while a few are spread out along the other sides of the port on Rue du General De Gaulle and Rue Oscar II.

The NightlifeThe Nightlife

For those in search of an active night life, there are some unique choices. On most Saturday nights, locals assemble at the A.J.O.E. tennis court in Lorient to watch a recent movie (usually dubbed in French), projected on a huge painted concrete wall. You can serve yourself popcorn from the nearby stand. Sailors and locals gather most evenings for tall stories and beer at Le Select, a favored hangout in Gustavia. Often there is live music for dancing, and restaurants and cocktail bars.

Sports & RecreationSports & Recreation

The island of St. Barths offers many opportunities to work up an appetite: diving lessons and guided tours with both SCUBA and mask and snorkel; fishing, from big game charter boats in pursuit of marlin, sailfish and tuna, to dangling a string off the dock; several fitness centers with a wide range of equipment, aerobic and dance classes, massage, yoga, and team sports; there are numerous trails to and from out-of-the-way places for hiking and horseback riding; sailing, from crewed mega-yachts to small dinghies that you sail yourself; several bays, notably Lorient and Anse des Cayes, have big waves which are often dotted with surfers and windsurfers; tennis courts can be found accross the island; St. Barths’ most popular sport is volleyball, with frequent tournaments; and water skiing provided by fast towboats in flat waters.

TransportaionTransportaion

The principal gateway to St. Barths is Juliana Airport in nearby Dutch St. Maarten, where flights arrive daily from both the USA and Europe. If you're not comfortable with landing at St. Barths' airport, you can take the ferry or charter a boat to come and pick you up. For additional information, see the Insider's Guide, Getting to St. Barts. And once here, a great way to tour the island is by car. All you need is a valid drivers license.

The BeachesBeaches

The island has a mixture of European cultures. It was first overrun by the Spanish, but they found very little worth their time, as they were fanatically interested in gold and silver. The Swedes then took control, and finally the French took possession. This makes St. Barths the only island in the Caribbean that has a Swedish heritage. The majority of the people are of European descent, either from Sweden or the French provinces of Brittany and Normandy. French is the official language, although English is widely used. The culture is therefore very much like European Normandy with a little Afro-Caribbean influence. Many of St. Barths’ natives speak a form of patois — a French dialect which even French visitors have some difficulty understanding.