St. Barts

St. Barts vacations used to be quiet getaways to a sun-kissed secret that was home to few but loved by all that visited. The idyllic silence has been broken, however. Now St. Barts is one of the most developed (some might say overdeveloped) islands in all of the Caribbean, the calm shores of the island now packed with tourists sporting the latest in trendy European fashion – and each of the many St Barts resorts have a fresh wave of travelers waiting patiently to replace them.

Don't try flying into St Barts. The closest you can get is St. Martin. From there, you can find a number of flights and ferries ready to make the final leg of the journey. Many St Barts vacations center around the capital city of Gustavia or the plentiful beaches just to the north. Style is appreciated above all else – nowhere will you find the simple task of relaxing to be such a exercise in modern fashion. Even the towns conform to these rules. For such a tourist mecca, where the young and beautiful flock from all over the world (especially popular with the French), the architecture and accommodations are surprisingly low key. In fact, St Barts villas (the most popular way to stay on the island) are relatively small and the hotels have strict, government-regulated size restrictions that make the island seem larger than the mere 8 square miles it really is.

Though, to be fair, there's a wide range of what passes for St Barts resorts and villas. Even the tiniest bungalow will be advertised as a “resort,” so make sure you do more than a cursory check when booking a room. And many of the St Barts villas are spread into the island"s hills – which might be a selling point to certain people, but the lack of transportation options here is always a consideration. Taxi cabs are sparse, even during the daylight, so much exploration of the island is on foot. Thus, if you want to make it down to one of the many fine St Barts beaches, the uphill climb back home might not be to your liking. But, no matter which one of the St Barts villas or resorts you choose to stay in, know this – it won"t be cheap. The exclusivity of the island is more than reflected in the prices.

This exclusivity is also on display at any of the St Barts beaches. Unlike Jamaica or Antigua, there's hardly a crowded spot on the island. Thus, the high price can sometimes pay off. Despite the large number of visitors to the island per year, the sheer number of beaches available to the public makes it seem as though you have the island to yourself. The same cannot be said for many of the beaches attached to St Barts resorts, but that should come as no surprise to experienced travelers.

Other than the usual beach activities – though windsurfing is especially popular here – the staple of many St Barts vacation is the extensive shopping available to visitors. Hundreds of boutiques can be found here, primarily in the capital city. The always fine French wines and cuisine are on display too, as are a few Scandinavian delights left over from when Sweden ruled St. Barts.

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