St Barths is the tropical paradise you’ve daydreamed about, a glitzy, glamorous island that proudly preserves its French culture. It’s a place where opulent resorts, exclusive boutiques and world-class restaurants reign supreme. It’s a place where you can pamper yourself with a spa treatment, get pampered with a bespoke suit or dress by a renowned couturier and be awed by a dinner show set against the night sky and the stars of the Caribbean.
The main town of Gustavia is a buzzing center of boutiques, restaurants and bars. The island’s only airport is located here, and its petite runway was formerly a goat pasture before it became St Barths’ air hub in 1984. The tiny airport is still one of the smallest in the world, but it serves as a gateway to luxury hotels and villas that operate at world-class five-star standards.
Luxury tourism remains a key driver of St Barths’ economy, and its residents are renowned for their discerning taste. In addition to the swank hotel suites and chic restaurants, the island has numerous galleries, art studios and designer boutiques that offer everything from fine jewelry and couture swimwear to modern art and designer clothing.
While some residents are drawn to the island’s pristine beaches, others prefer to linger at the island’s many restaurants and cafés and enjoy the sophisticated atmosphere. The cuisine is a blend of French and Caribbean flavors, with some dishes highlighting the local produce and fish. Guests at some of the most prestigious restaurants, such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s La Maison de l’Onion, can expect a multicourse meal with tasting menus and wine pairings.
There are also several casual cafes and bistros where the locals hang out. One is Papilles, in St Jean, which serves a wide range of French pastries and sandwiches. It is popular with families. Another is Le Café de la Plage in Colombier, which has outdoor seating overlooking Flamands Bay and the yachts and sailboats that moor on the beach.
Fashion is part of St Barths’ unique culture, and shopping in its duty-free boutiques is a pleasure. The island has over 200 boutiques, many of them selling top designers like Hermès, Gucci, Chanel, Dior, Hermès and Celine. The island also has its own label of locally made clothing and accessories, Poupette St Barth, which offers soft, sensual bohemian style for the beach, party and everyday wear.
For a more contemporary take on bohemian style, head to Lolita Jaca, in Saint Jean. The boutique carries elegant resort clothing, including caftans and dresses in hand-blocked cotton, silk and sophisticated tropical prints. Their Laura pants feature drawstring cuffs at the ankles for a haremish look, and their kimonos come in 32 colors.