Can’t decide between the sophistication of a beach resort in Europe and the laid-back (and in this hemisphere) ease of a Caribbean island? Consider St. Barths as your destination. The people, cuisine, shopping and nightlife on this tiny island in the French West Indies are every bit as chic as those of St. Tropez, but the aquamarine water and languorous lifestyle are pure Caribbean.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Entry requirements: Passport and return ticket
Language: French (English is widely spoken)
Flight time: 6 hours from New York City and 3 hours from Miami to the neighboring island of St. Maarten; from there it’s a 10-minute flight or 40-minute ferry ride
Getting around: Rental car, motorbike and taxi
When to Go: St. Barths at its best
Best weather: The weather is pretty reliably gorgeous from December to June (highs in the low 80s, lows in the low-70s).
Best prices: You’ll find some deals in May and June, when the high season has ended but the weather is still optimal (highs in the mid-80s, lows in the mid-70s). Rates are even cheaper from July to November, but that period is less desirable because of the hurricane risk.
What to Do
Sun, snorkel and people watch: St. Barths has 22 beaches, all open to the public and each offering a unique set of pleasures. For snorkeling and swimming, try St. Jean and Grand Cul-de-Sac (which is reef protected). For privacy, hit Anse de Grande Saline (just know it’s popular with nude sunbathers). For a mix of in-town shopping and laid-back beach, check out Shell Beach.
Shop for chic treats: St. Barths offers duty-free shopping, which might help you justify a little sightseeing of the retail variety (look hon, no tax!). You’ll find posh, big-name brands (Hermes, Chanel) as well as seaside essentials, like straw hats and locally made body lotions with mesmerizing tropical scents. If you’re not careful you’ll wind up buying more haute boho fashions than your suitcases can hold.
Shed your inhibitions: The relaxed vibe of the islands combines with the Continental emphasis on savoring the good life to create an atmosphere that condones indulgence. Drink wine at lunch and take an afternoon nap before having a long, late dinner of French- and Creole-influenced cuisine.