In a world of over-exposure, St. Barthelemy retains its luxe mystique as one of the most exclusive, most chic islands in the Caribbean. Off the beaten track, and with French flair, this tiny island has an outsized reputation and appeal for those in the know.
Maybe it’s partly because of its (several) names. The French Caribbean island’s long and formal name is hardly ever used, in favor of its nickname, whispered among the high-end travelers and yachters who gather in this chic island destination.
So is it St. Barts? St. Barth? Or St. Barths? However you spell it, add it to your list of bucket list tropical islands.
But how to arrive – especially in style? With no direct flights from mainland North America, you have to really want to travel to St. Barths – and the very best way is by sea.
St. Barths is famously a yachting destination, with one of the most scenic sail-ins in the Caribbean.
So the top two ways to travel to St. Barths are by private yacht or luxury, small-ship cruise. You’ll want to spend every moment of your sail-in at the rail, taking in the lush green hills, sparkling azure waters – and the luxe flotilla of very sleek marine hardware and chic yachters sailing all around you.
Only yachts and smaller ships can dock in St. Barths, adding to its exclusive allure. That makes it a favorite port of call for the luxury, small-ship cruise lines on their ‘yachtsman’s’ itineraries of less-accessible, more exclusive cruise destinations. That’s why experienced cruise port collectors rejoice when they see ‘Gustavia’ on a Caribbean cruise itinerary.
Gustavia is the capital of St. Barths but you’re right, it is not a French name. It dates, like the town’s harbor fort, from the 17th century when the island was in Swedish hands.
Today, St. Barths has very French – and very exclusive character.
The island is less than 10 square miles and has only about 10,000 residents, so ‘intimate’ is baked in. With French street signs, luxury boutiques, seaside restaurants, and French spoken (or English with a charming French accent), plus picturesque beaches and island colonial architecture, St. Barths feels like a cross between St. Tropez and the tropics. You stroll off your small cruise ship and wind your way past luxury yachts, yachters and yacht crew, into a uniquely French Caribbean island experience you simply can’t experience anywhere else.
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Article and video by: Lynn Elmhirst, Cruise/ Travel journalist and expert.
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