Barth ranks at the top of our list for a relaxing island getaway with all the comforts of home.

Overall Impression Visiting this tiny (eight square miles) French Caribbean island was like a ray of sunshine during a storm. We enjoyed some of the best of island life with few of the common inconveniences. Favorite characteristics that would draw us back in a heartbeat included stunning panoramic views, a polite sophisticated attitude, English is spoken by many of the locals and Anglophones are welcome, a laid back ambiance, almost no crime, fine French and international dining (there are 70 restaurants!), an outstanding infrastructure with cell phone and high speed Internet connectivity, wonderful options for accommodations, inviting spa facilities and beautiful white sand beaches.

Because the miniscule Gustave III airport is limited to planes of 20 passengers or less, it took us almost an entire day to reach St. Barth. In spite of St. Barth’s size, car rentals are mandatory to discover the island. At the same time, local drivers test the limits of their car’s speed endurance as if training for an automobile race. Since the island lacks any natural fresh water sources, water is precious and expensive. This intrudes in subtle ways on visitors’ stay and pervades the residents’ outlook regarding water. Jackhammers and banging noises of all sorts from neighboring construction projects peppered throughout the northeast of the island marred our peaceful solitude.

In spite of significant growth and the challenges it brings, St. Barth’s residents and those in the tourism industry we interacted with were polite, helpful, convivial and gracious hosts. Although St. Barth prices are not for the faint of heart, the value for money, considering everything including much of the labor has to be imported, is top notch. Budgetary issues aside, enchanting St. Barth ranks at the top of our list for a relaxing island getaway with all the comforts of home.

Cost Of Visiting High

Currency As part of France , the currency is the euro

Electrical Current 220 AC 60 cycles

How To Get There We, as is the case with many visitors to St. Barth, arrived by air after connecting in nearby St. Martaan . Most international flights connect to small commuter flights on the Dutch side of that neighboring island. After an all day trip (we departed our house at 7:30 a.m. and arrived at the hotel at 5 p.m. ), a change of planes, what seemed an interminable wait in the hot and muggy airport in St. Martin, we discovered to our dismay rainy weather in St. Barts .

There is boat service and ferries from nearby Anguilla and St. Martin to St. Barth. During the season, we were told; hundreds of yachts of all kinds can be found in Gustavia harbor.

Location St. Barth is in the northern Caribbean, 20 miles south of St. Martin

Measures The metric system

Money Issues Money exchange was readily available at tourist places and we found two automatic teller machines (ATMs) from which we were able to withdraw funds in euros. Credit cards were readily accepted almost everywhere we went.

Technology All modern conveniences were available including television, regular and cell phones, and high speed Internet connectivity.

Time Islanders keep time on a 24 hour cycle. They are one hour ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard time, except during daylight savings time when both areas keep identical time.

Transportation Taxis apparently exist though they seem to be rare. The best way we found to get around was to rent a small car. This was a practical approach to the narrow roads and crowded parking areas we observed on the island. Two gas stations served the island, one near the airport and the other in Lorient .

Facilities St. Barth had most everything we required during our stay. Although there was no movie theater, there were plenty of watering holes and restaurants to pass the time. There was a doctor on call and several specialists (dentist, ophthalmologist), several high end shopping arcades and boutiques, gourmet shops, grocery stores, a post office, and yacht supplies.

Shopping And Souvenirs Known for its tax free shopping, St. Barth boutiques sell many luxury goods. There were local arts and crafts, gourmet and wine shops, jewelers, souvenir shops, high fashion boutiques, perfumes, and cigars.

Tourism Highlights To get a feel for the island, a former Swedish territory, and its history Gustavia is a must . Beach lovers and the hip crowd spend time around St. Jean , the island’s most famous beach which is perpendicular to the airport and home to many tourist properties. Hiking enthusiasts, we were told though we never ventured, enjoy Colombier . Flamands on Anse de Flamands is a typical island village while Corossol is known as a fishing village and the last remnant of the old days of straw works. Cul de Sac and Marigot , were we spent time, are residential and subdued. Salines is reputedly the location for the best beach on the island.

Favorites For a memorable lobster meal (during lobster season) and tasty home made vanilla flavored rum we loved La Langouste (27.63.61) in Anse des Flamands . When we felt like having wine or champagne we went to a great wine little wine shop on Rue du Roi Oscar II in Gustavia, Le Gout du Vin (27.88.02). For shameless window shopping we loved Hermes. For an earthy lunch French Creole style with toes in the sand and the beach a step away, we liked Le Rivage (28.82.42).

Other In earlier times, due to St. Barth’s lack of water, it never housed any plantations or slaves. Even today rain water is collected in cisterns and supplied via a desalinization plant. This, we think, played a role in the gentle attitude of its current inhabitants and the high value placed on water by all who live there.

Newly established nature reserve areas in the northeast, northwest and the nearby islands of Frégate , Ile Toc Vers , Les Gros Ilets , Le Pain de Sucre, and Ile Fourchue protected the environment.

A word about weather: Although they say it is always sunny in the tropical maritime Caribbean , we discovered the hard way that this is not always so. It rained on and off for more than half of our week long stay . At times the rain was so persistent we chose to order room service.

A word about mosquitoes: They ate us a live. Although we heard from locals, the mosquito infestation was due to the heavy rains, it mattered not the least to us when they were zooming around, biting and tormenting us while we slept. In the end, we sprayed profusely, burned anti-mosquito coils and turned on the fans or escaped into the air conditioning whenever possible.

Date Of Latest Visit May 2005

Would You Visit This Destination Again? Yes