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St. Barth Destination Backgrounder



The Caribbean island of St. Barth lies in the French West Indies near St. Maarten. This little outpost of France, colonized in the 17th century, possesses a gentle way of life and rich heritage. Known for its pure white-sand beaches, exceptional gastronomy and fashionable boutiques, the isle offers an unprecedented blend of relaxed glamour, social activity and privacy.

Situated towards the northern end of the chain of islands that make up the Lesser Antilles, St. Barth was named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 after his brother, Bartolomeo, and is considered by many to be the most beautiful island in the Caribbean. The go-to destination for luxury travel in the West Indies, this nine-square-mile island offers visitors 14 pristine white-sand beaches, a heavenly average temperature of 28°C (82°F) in winter and 30°C (86°F) in summer, and an environment as peaceful, welcoming and private as it is beautiful.


Connecting via St. Maarten
The main way to travel to St. Barth from the United States and Europe is by a connecting flight through nearby St. Maarten via Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). The 12-minute connecting flight arrives into St. Barth’s Gustave III Airport (SBH), which is located a short 10-minute drive away from the hotel.

United Airlines, Air France, KLM, Air Caraibes, Corsair and Copa Airlines have affiliations with Winair and St Barth Commuter (the local airlines offering the connection between St. Maarten and St. Barth), allowing baggage to be checked through to St. Barth. Upon arrival into St. Maarten, you can proceed directly to the Transfer Information Desk prior to Immigration where local airline representatives will advise you on how to proceed.

From St. Maarten, guests can choose to connect to St. Barth via plane or boat. Both Winair and St. Barth Commuter offer scheduled inter-island flights into St. Barth. The flight duration is approximately 15 minutes. To commute by boat, guests traveling to St. Barth can choose the Voyager Ferry for the Great Bay Express.

Private jets cannot land in St. Barth; the closest airport for jet landings is in St. Maarten.

Connecting via San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan International Airport (SJU) offers daily non-stop service to/from New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Houston, Dallas, Toronto, Baltimore, Hartford, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Washington DC (Reagan and Dulles), Caracas and Panama City. Carriers include Copa Airlines, Avianca and a number of U.S.-based airlines.

Tradewind Aviation offers scheduled service and private charters from San Juan into St. Barth in modern, turbo-powered Pilatus PC-12 and Cessna Grand Caravan aircrafts. The dual-piloted planes offer air-conditioning and complimentary snack and beverage service. This connection allows for seamless transfer without double processing through customs.


Christopher Columbus discovered the Lesser Antilles on his second voyage in 1493, including Ouanalao, a small island frequented by Carib Indians. He renamed the island for his brother, Bartoloméo, and upon finding nothing of interest, left to pursue other discoveries. It wasn’t until 1648 that the French nobleman Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy decided to colonize the island, establishing a settlement with 40 to 50 men. The colony grew with residents from St. Kitts, but after a bloody massacre by the Caribs in 1656, the island was abandoned. Peace was made in 1659 and Monsieur de Poincy sent another party of 30 men. By 1664, the colony had grown to 100.

St. Barth changed hands repeatedly thereafter. First it was made a possession of The Order of Malta by the West Indies Company. Then an Irish colony was established. The island fell under rule of the French Crown and was attached to the Colony of Guadeloupe. Corsairs, thieves and pirates moved in before a British invasion plundered the island in 1744. French settlers returned by 1764. Eventually, King Louis XVI of France traded St. Barth to King Gustav III of Sweden for a warehouse in Gothenburg.

The island became Swedish in 1784 and an era of prosperity began as the town of Gustavia rose with paved streets, forts, and buildings of wood and stone. By 1815, the population had grown to 6,000, but several years of war and natural disasters followed, as did the fire of 1852, which destroyed the southern section of Gustavia. King Oscar II of Sweden deduced that the island was costing more than it produced, and so he retroceded it to France in 1878.

It wasn’t until 1946 that Remy de Haenen opened St. Barth to the world by landing the first airplane on the savanna in St. Jean. The Port of Gustavia began to see more activity. By the 1980s, life on St. Barth evolved grandly as tourism became the main economic force, sports grew in popularity, an electrical plant was built to supply all corners of the island, and the airport was expanded.


St. Barth boasts 14 gorgeous white-sand beaches, all open to the public. Saline Beach, accessed by a short but tricky path, is well worth a visit, especially for those who enjoy nude sunbathing. Colombier Beach tends to be one of the island’s more deserted stretches of sand as it can only be reached by boat from Gustavia or via a hike from Flamands Beach. Also known as Rockefeller Beach, Colombier is worlds away from the island’s bustling capital, with calm waters, good snorkeling and privacy.


Numerous spots of history and curiosity dot the island:

  • The capital city, Gustavia, is a port wrapped like a horseshoe around a small sheltered harbor that was previously protected by stone forts. Once known as Carénage, the town was renamed after the king of Sweden, Gustav III, in 1785. It is a lovely destination for shopping, dining, people watching, and taking in Swedish-style architecture, with many houses painted in Caribbean colors. Fort Gustave, built in 1787, lies at the end of a path on the outskirts of town.
  • Saint-Jean is the site of the island’s first hotel, the Eden Rock. The largest shopping area on the island is located in Saint-Jean, as is a pretty beach at the end of the runway of Gustav III Airport.
  • A footpath along the rough-hewn Toiny Coast reveals the wild essence of the island, with palm trees, tropical plants and stunning coastal views along the way.
  • The first town discovered by French settlers in the 19th century was Lorient. The Catholic church is a historical highlight of walking tours through town, as are the old post office, a pair of cemeteries, and shops and boutiques.
  • St. Barth has three appealing museums: Wall House Museum documents the period of Swedish occupation; St. Barth Municipal Museum is filled with historical artifacts, photographs and documents; and, the Inter Oceans Museum displays more than 8,500 seashells from around the world.
  • From sailboats to super-sized yachts, all types of watercraft are available for rent of charter on St. Barth. Snorkeling and diving spots are found around the island, with favorites at Colombier, Petit Anse and Lorient Fishing is a major tourist attraction as well, with guides available to pursue tuna, marlin, sailfish and much more beneath the waves.



There is much to enjoy throughout the year on St. Barth. The St. Barth Music Festival has run each January since 1985, with more than a dozen nights of music and dance featuring prominent classical, opera, ballet and jazz artists. In February/March, the French Carnival plays out across the island ending with a black-and-white parade on Shell Beach on Ash Wednesday. Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14, and August 24 is alive with ringing bells, boat blessings, a regatta, fireworks and a public ball for the annual Fete de Saint Barthélemy, marking the day of the adoption of the French Constitution. The Festival of Gustavia is also held in August, with dragnet fishing and parties. On November 1, the Feast of St. Louis is lit by thousands of candles. Each November, the annual St. Barth Gourmet Festival kicks off high season with three nights of dinners from celebrated guest chefs.


Much like in France, gastronomy is one of St. Barth’s greatest passions; the island’s restaurants are a draw for visitors and locals alike. Culinary and performing art festivals punctuate island life throughout each calendar year, as do sailing regattas and other sports tournaments. And, for those who like to hit the town, St. Barth provides nightlife like no other island with a variety of bars and clubs to choose from including favorites like Le Ti St Barth in Pointe Milou, Nikki Beach in St. Jean, and Bagatelle and the Saint Barth Yacht Club in Gustavia. Whether enjoying dinner, music or a party on the beach with friends, a night in St. Barth is always magical.

From casual to sophisticated, local to international, whatever you hunger for can be found on St. Barth. Renowned as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, the island dining scene serves up world-class menus ranging from the legendary Maya’s, an island favorite that has been serving fresh seafood and Creole signatures for over 25 years, to Côté Port, offering traditional French cuisine with a West Indian twist and incredible port views at sunset. Relaxed fare can be found at water’s-edge bistros and cafes such as Wall House and Le Bête à Z’Alles – a.k.a., BAZ Bar – in Gustavia, and your toes-in-the-sand fun at La Plage on Tom Beach and Do Brazil at Shell Beach. Don’t even think about departing without a taste of the inspiring innovations and perfectly cooked fish from Le Guanahani’s Chef Nicola Di Marchi at Bartolomeo and Indigo.


St. Barth is on the cutting edge, keeping up with the latest trends from Europe in fashion and art. The duty-free island overflows with 200+ boutiques spanning luxury fashion, jewelry, apothecary and home décor.

In Gustavia, the lineup includes luxury retailers such as Hermès, Cartier, Bulgari and Chopard; collectible odds, ends and treasures at Le P’tit Collectionneur; French (and other) wines at La Cave du Port Franc; infused rums (and more) at M’Bolo; vintage sunglasses and clothing at Linde Gallery; and funky fashion jewelry at local favorite Sinbad. In St. Jean, Yume mixes art and fashion into one-of-a-kind design objects and timeless ready-to-wear clothing; Mandarine Bijoux has unique, hand-made jewelry in gold and precious stones; and Pain de Sucre has double-take bikinis that are ahead of the trends. Not far from Le Guanahani in Grand Cul-de-Sac, La Cave de Saint-Barth has a great selection of French wines and small-run rums, plus decades of experience at keeping its stock well maintained.


A recent headline on ABCNews.go.com says it all: “Celebrities love St. Barth.” The many, many celebrities, tycoons and otherwise elite who have either visited or laid down roots on the island include: Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio; singer Gwen Stefani; Gavin Rossdale, lead singer of Bush; Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z; Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich; Microsoft founder Paul Allen; Usher; Miranda Kerr; Derek Jeter; actress Minka Kelly; Revlon chairman Ronald Perelman; Mariah Cary and Nick Cannon; Star Jones; Kimora Lee Simmons; Jessica Alba; Marc Jacobs; Ivana Trump; art dealer Larry Gagosian; Steve Martin; Sean Combs; Channing Tatum; Paul McCartney; Jon Bon Jovi; and David Letterman.


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