As chic as it is charming, sleepy St Barths’ emerald bays and sparkling white-sand beaches offer plenty of room for relaxation. But the island is also known for its cosmopolitan, gourmet dining and shopping. Fashionistas flock here to snap up everything from colorful bikinis and dresses to handbags, shoes and jewelry.
In the past, the island’s economy depended on shipping and fishing. However, tourism became the dominant industry after the aviator Remy de Haenen landed his plane in Sainte-Barthelemy in 1948. This marked the beginning of the island’s tourist era, which continues to thrive today.
The island’s enchantment lies in its Creole culture, which is the result of a fusion of African, French, and Indian cultures. It’s reflected in the music, dance and traditions of the island. In addition, the cuisine is a melting pot of flavors with Caribbean, Carib, and European influences.
St Barths is a small island that can be explored easily on foot or by rental car. Whether you’re interested in exploring the capital of Gustavia or hiking one of the many beautiful hikes, you’ll find that the island has something for everyone. For those seeking a more active experience, there are also watersports available.
Discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, St Barths was once inhabited by indigenous Ciboney and Arawak Indian tribes. It was then colonized by a group of French sailors from Normandy and Brittany, and later by Spanish and French merchants. In 1784, the island was sold to Sweden in exchange for warehouse rights in the port of Gothenburg. During its Swedish period, St Barths was declared a free port and the capital city was named Gustavia in honor of the king. The island was repurchased by France in 1878. Remnants of the island’s fascinating history can still be seen in some Swedish-style buildings, street signs, and a cemetery.
During the 1700s, St Barths’ status as a free port allowed it to serve as an important trade center during the various colonial conflicts of that time. Vessels from all over the world would come to sell their treasures and replenish their cargoes. As a result, the island’s economy thrived. It was a busy little trading post until a hurricane struck in 1852. The island’s infrastructure was badly damaged and the economy suffered.
Despite limited rainfall, the island is home to lush vegetation. The west coast has shrubs and cacti, while the east is greener with tropical flower species that decorate the landscape. This beautiful island gets more than 300 sunny days a year on average.