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Whether you call it St. Barts, St. Barths, or St. Barthelemy, there is no disputing that this tiny island in the French Antilles is one of the ritziest and most luxurious cruise destinations in all the world. You will not find a land rich in architecture, bargain shopping, and enormous hotels and resorts. Instead, you will find an island that is tremendously popular with the world's rich and famous, due to the fact that you will enjoy beautiful, tranquil beaches, world-class dining, and unrivaled relaxation and comfort.
St. Barts was discovered in 1493 by the explorer Christopher Columbus. Its inhabitants are a mix of French and Swedish. The island hosts a very small local population; numbering just over three thousand, they inhabit a land that is merely eight square miles in area.
St. Barts gained its popularity as an elite tourist destination partly in response to the modern nobles of the 20th century who made this land their winter getaway. You can visit the home of David Rockefeller, who inhabited the northwest corner of the island. Edmond de Rothschild and other members of his famed family used to come here frequently as well. Today, stars such as Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and the late John F. Kennedy Jr. have come here to unwind from the "rigors" of their everyday lives.
St. Barts' only town is the tiny capital of Gustavia. Here, you will feel as if you are strolling through a miniature fantasyland, with tiny European homes and businesses dotting the capital's landscape. Here in Gustavia, you will find many fabulous restaurants serving a variety of world cuisines, as well as ritzy shopping venues to satisfy your desire for exotic clothes, jewelry, and much more.
Yet above all, the main draw of St. Barts is still its glorious beaches. Enjoy your day on this island by relaxing on one of fourteen public beaches (all the beaches in St. Barts are public). Clothing is optional, and the scenery is spectacular.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships primarily dock at the island of St. Martin, located fifteen miles from St. Barts. From there, ferries will tender you to the island, and once there, finding your way around is simple and efficient. Some ships will anchor in the Bay and tender passengers to the island.
Taxis are located conveniently at the ferry dock when you arrive, and because the island is so small geographically, rates should not exceed $15. Private tours of the island can be arranged through your cab driver as well. Negotiate rates with him/her for a one-hour tour that will include many of the popular sites and vistas. If you would like to navigate the roads of St. Barts on your own, you can either rent a car in Gustavia, or opt to rent a motorbike or scooter. Contact Rent Some Fun (590/27-70-59) for rental information.
Things To See and Do
As previously noted, the main draw of St. Barts is its stunning beaches. The island's fourteen beaches are most crowded during the winter months, but you can always find a lovely spot to lay out and enjoy the sun's rays. If you are looking for a beach with some tourist facilities, head to the popular beaches of St. Jean and Grand Cul-de-Sac. At both of these spots, you will find restaurants, water-sports activities, and more.
If you are looking for a more pristine stretch of coastline, head to Gouverneur Beach on the southern coast of the island. Here you will find no shops, no sleeping quarters, and no restaurants, but plenty of beautiful scenery and sunshine. The most popular nude beach on the island of St. Barts is Grande Saline east of Governeur Beach.
Year-round, there is always plenty of fishing action surrounding the coastline of St. Barts, making the island a popular spot for anglers. Big game fisherman should contact Marine Service (590/27-70-34) to arrange for a full-day charter to catch the fish of your dreams, including bonita, dorado, and barracuda.
In addition, St. Barts is well known among scuba divers, snorkelers, and windsurfers. Once again, the folks at Marine Service can help you with your adventure. If you are an experienced deep-sea diver, they can arrange to take you on a diving tour of the shipwreck of Kayali. Otherwise, you can take an introductory diving course or embark on several different dive tours. If snorkeling is your forte, head to any of the local beaches with your gear and explore the beautiful coastline. Or, arrange for a guided seven-hour tour from Marine Services that includes lunch and equipment.
Saline Beach
Along the island's southern coast, secluded Saline Beach is one of St Bart's most beautiful stretches of sand and sea. From the parking area, visitors walk up and over a hill to reach this protected cove. Once through the sand dunes, the water beckons in shades of turquoise, teal, and cobalt blue. The sweep of blond sand is great for sunbathing, but bring an umbrella if you want shade.
When the wind is up, body surfers will enjoy the waves. Nudism, though officially forbidden in St Barts, is common here at the extreme ends of the beach. After a morning of beach basking, visitors can enjoy lunch at one of the two restaurants near the parking lot.

Gustavia, St Barts' red-roofed capital, is a small harbor town lined with chic boutiques, duty free shops, gourmet restaurants, and galleries. In the harbor, rustic fishing boats bob beside mega yachts. Restaurants and luxury duty-free shops greet travelers disembarking from the many cruise-ships that call here. For beautiful sightseeing views, visit Fort Gustav (the most important fort during the Swedish period), or head to the top of the 29 m hill for vistas of Shell Beach amid the few remaining stonewalls of Fort Karl.
History buffs can learn about the island's past at Musée Territorial and the Wall House Museum, or by visiting the oldest building in Gustavia, the Vieux Clocher. Opposite St Bartholomew's Anglican Episcopal Church, built in 1855, is an English anchor identified as the type used by British warships from 1700 to 1825. This 10-ton anchor was unwittingly hauled into Gustavia's waters by a tugboat towing a barge. Shoppers will love the open-air market, Le Ti-Marché, where brightly dressed women sell arts, crafts, and fresh produce, plus locally made cosmetics.
Fort Gustav
The remains of 18th century Fort Gustav include the ruins of the stone ramparts, a sentry box, part of the old brick-floored bakery, cannons and a powder house. Recognizable by the red and white lighthouse that was built on the site in 1961, the fort is one of the best vantage points for viewing the harbor. Also on the grounds, a panoramic table identifies Gustavia's highlights as well as the neighboring islands.
Governor Beach
On the island's south shore, gorgeous Governor's Beach (Gouverneur Beach) is a secluded curve of soft white sand backed by green hills. This pretty beach is an island favorite but still seems pristine and private. Unlike some of the other beaches, the parking lot lies close to the sand. Those who prefer shade should bring a beach umbrella. Official site: http://www.saintbarth-tourisme.com/page_articles_us.php/gouverneur-beach.html

On the north coast, not far from St Jean, the charming village of Lorient is the site of the island's first French settlement. Today tourists will find attractions such as a 19th century Catholic church, a few shops, two flower-strewn cemeteries, and a fantastic surf beach. Built of local stone cut to size by women, the Lorient Church (Eglise de Lorient) uses conch shells as holy water basins. The far end of Lorient Beach has pounding waves that are prime surfing waters. The rest of this long beach is usually calm, quiet, and ideal for swimming.  Official site: http://www.saintbarth-tourisme.com/page_articles_us.php/lorient_beach_st_barth.html

Colombier Beach
The unspoiled Colombier Beach (Anse de Colombier), at the tip of the island, is accessible by boat or a half-hour hike down a goat path. Still called "Rockefeller's Beach" because for many years, David Rockefeller owned the surrounding property, it's a popular picnic spot with locals.

St Jean
In the heart of the island, the tiny village of St Jean is the most popular tourist area outside of Gustavia with fabulous restaurants, shopping plazas, and boutiques. Luxury villas peak out from tropical foliage on the hillsides and the island's only airport lies nearby. Only small aircraft are accommodated here, and only during daylight hours. Most flights servicing the island come from St Martin/St Maarten.
St Jean's Bay Beach, a delicious crescent of white sand, boasts great swimming and a natural coral reef. Shared by locals and day-trippers from nearby St Maarten, it's an ideal location for parents with children. Visitors will find several water sports centers renting snorkel gear, surfboards, windsurfers, and other beach toys. The beach is split in two by the luxury Eden Rock Hotel. Official site: http://www.saintbarth-tourisme.com/page_articles_us.php/st_jean_beach.html

Along the island's western shores, the two-street fishing village of Corossol is sometimes called the "straw village," due to the women from established island families who create straw hats and crafts from palm fronds. The older women speak an old Norman dialect and wear a traditional style of dress featuring starched white sunbonnets called quichenottes (kiss me nots). One of the main attractions here is the InterOceans Museum with a collection of more than 9,000 shells. The calm waters of Corossol Beach are a port of call for local fisherman.

Grand Cul de Sac Beach
The shallow bay and clear waters of Grand Cul de Sac are ideal for water sports. Kite surfers congregate here, and the nearby kitesurfing school offers lessons for those in need of a few tips. Windsurfing and kayaking are also popular in the lagoon. After skimming the water, visitors can relax at one of the restaurants fringing the narrow beach.

Flamands Beach
Flamands Beach is the island's widest beach and also one of its prettiest. Fishermen often cast their nets here and it's a great beach for swimming and surfing. Flamands is also one of the few beaches on St Barts with shade. Official site: http://www.saintbarth-tourisme.com/page_articles_us.php/flamands-beach.html

Nature Reserve of Saint-Barthélemy
Nature Reserve of Saint-Barthélemy is a marine reserve divided into five separate zones around the island in an effort to preserve the fragile marine ecosystems. Many of the island's best dive sites lie within the reserve's boundaries marked by white buoys. Divers may see turtles, spotted eagle rays, and reef sharks, as well as many colorful varieties of coral. Kayali is a superb 30 m wreck dive where lobster, conch, and vast schools of tropical fish can be spotted. In the reserve's high protection areas, diving and all forms of fishing are prohibited.

St Barts offers a packed calendar of festivals and events. Since 1996 St Barts' Film Festival has put the island on the map as a meeting place for regional filmmakers to screen and discuss their work. The festival is held near the end of April. In January St Barts' Music Festival features top-level musicians from around the world. Each year the festival grows in stature and importance. Ballet was introduced in 1988 and jazz in 1989. Also in January, Carnival celebrations include parades along the streets of Gustavia. Other popular festivals celebrate sporting events such as sailing and windsurfing.
Anglers are fond of the waters around St. Barts. From March to July, they catch mahimahi; in September, wahoo. Atlantic bonito, barracuda, and marlin also turn up. Yannis Marine, Gustavia (tel. 590/29-89-12; www.yannismarine.com), charters a 50-foot Sunseeker Carmarque outfitted for deep-sea sport fishing. A half-day trip for nine guests costs 1,300€, which includes a captain, fuel, snacks, open bar, and fishing equipment. Yannis also offers boat rentals, snorkeling trips, and island excursions; sunset cruises (7-11 guests) cost 850€ to 900€.
Kitesurfing is fast becoming one of the most popular sports here. Former champion Enguerrand Espinassou gives expert lessons at 7e Ciel of St. Barth Kiteschool, at the Ouanalao Dive center on Grand Cul-de-Sac (tel. 690/69-26-90), open daily from 8am to 5pm. Kitesurfing costs 300€ for a 3-hour lesson, 450€ for a 5-hour lesson, and 800€ for 10 hours. Reservations are recommended, especially in high season.
Charter the beautiful Lone Fox, a wooden sailing yacht built in 1957, for a day of sailing, swimming, snorkeling, and exploring the St. Barts coastline. You'll have a captain and crew on board to do all the heavy lifting. The maximum number of guests is eight; a full-day charter is $2,000 (tel. 690/33-27-91; www.lonefoxcharters.com).
Scuba Diving
Marine Service, quai du Yacht-Club, in Gustavia (tel. 590/27-70-34; www.marine-service.fr), is the island's most complete watersports facility. It operates from a one-story building at the edge of a marina on the opposite, quieter side of Gustavia's harbor. Catering to both beginners and advanced divers, the outfit is familiar with at least 20 unusual sites scattered throughout the protected offshore Réserve Marine de St-Barth. The most interesting include Pain de Sucre off Gustavia harbor and the remote Grouper, west of St. Barts, close to the uninhabited cay known as Île Forchue. The only relatively safe wreck dive, the rusting hulk of Kayali, a trawler that sank in deep waters in 1994, is recommended for experienced divers. A resort course, including five open-water dives, costs 280€. A "scuba review," for certified divers who are out of practice, also goes for 75€, while a one-tank dive for certified divers begins at 60€. Multidive packages are available.
Hundreds of shallow areas right off beaches such as Anse des Cayes teem with colorful aquatic life. You can also test your luck at hundreds of points offshore. Marine Service, quai du Yacht-Club, Gustavia , runs daily snorkeling expeditions. Half- and full-day group excursions aboard a 13 or 14m (42- or 46-ft.) catamaran, including snacks, open bar, all equipment, and exploration of two separate snorkeling sites, costs from 72€ per person. They also rent snorkeling gear and can direct you to good snorkeling sites.
Beach clubs rent out equipment for surfing St. Barts' main surfing beaches, including Anse des Cayes, Toiny, Miliou, and Lorient. Contact the Reefer Surf Club (tel. 590/27-67-63).
Eating Out
La Terrazza (590/27-20-67) features fabulous pasta dishes as well as tempting beef, fish, chicken and pizza. The restaurant is a favorite of the rich and famous, but fear not, for you can eat here comfortably and affordably as well. L'Iguane (590/27-66-60) offers a myriad of choices to dine on. Featuring sushi, sandwiches, salads and more, the restaurant is closed September through October, but is a popular dining locale throughout the rest of the year.
There aren't many opportunities to party once the sun sets on this tiny island, but there are a couple bars to wet you whistle at if you so desire. La Cantina (590/27-55-66) on Rue du Bord-de-Mer features an attractive bar as well as affordable food. The Bar de l'Oubli (590/27-70-06) is located in what is referred to as the "Centreville" area and plays American rock music in a festive atmosphere.
If you are looking for bargains in St. Barts, you can find them on such items as liquor and perfume. Because there are no duty taxes on these goods on the island, they are rather affordable. If you are looking for that perfect gemstone for your significant other, head to Diamond Genesis (590/27-66-94), at 12 Rue du Général-de-Gaulle in Gustavia. Here you will find exotic jewelry and gemstones from all over the world. Bring a loaded wallet however, for many items are pricey indeed!
Gustavia, the capital of St. Barts, is crammed with stores selling couture and prêt-a-porter. Many of the luxury brands are here: Bulgari, Cartier, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, and Hermès. St-Jean, St. Barts, has several small shopping plazas along the main road leading toward Lorient: Les Galeries du Commerce, La Villa Creole, La Sodexa, and L'Espace Neptune, each filled with boutiques selling the stylishly casual St. Barts clothing we covet: flirty, sexy kurtas and dresses; slouchy jersey separates; gold and silver sandals or bejeweled flip-flops.
La Ligne St. Barth, Lorient, St. Barts (tel. 590/27-82-63), produces skincare, scents, and cosmetic products made with extracts from Caribbean flowers and seeds. The company laboratory/shop on Route de Salines in Lorient often offers slightly damaged products at deep discounts.
If you would like to shop for some clothing while in St. Barts, head to one of several lovely boutiques and shops. Laurent Eiffel (590/27-54-02) on Rue du Général-de-Gaulle, sells designer "knock-offs" of such popular brands as Prada, Gucci, and Chanel. Sud, Sud (590/27-98-75) on Galeria du Commerce, specializes in swimwear as well as elegant eveningwear.

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