Sure, you’ve heard of St. Barths, an island in the Caribbean, but how much do you really know about it?
For instance, did you know the island’s “full name” is St. Barthelemy? Or that it’s a foodie’s paradise?
Discover that and more with these 10 things you never knew about St. Barths:
1. The island was formed by a volcano and is only 8 square miles—just a little bigger than LAX!
Who knew so much beauty could be packed in such a small amount of space? At least that’s the case with St. Barths, one of the most breathtaking islands in the world. St. Barths isn’t very large, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in everything it offers.
Like most islands, St. Barths was formed from a volcanic eruption. While there are no active volcanoes on the island, there are still a few mountains, despite the small land area.
The earliest records of inhabitants on the island are from 1000 B.C. when the Ciboney people, originating from Cuba, attempted to settle.
St. Barths has an arid landscape, which kept it from being a part of the sugar economy, but it did become a large trading post.
2. You might make some reptilian friends on a nature walk.
No, that’s not a mini dinosaur roaming around the garden, it’s an iguana! These green reptiles are one of the few land animals on St. Barths. Don’t be surprised if you see them from time to time as you wander through the interior of the island and around your holiday resort.
Iguanas aren’t the only animal to find during your stay, although to find the others, you’ll need some gear.
There is an abundant amount of marine life found in the shallow waters off St. Barths’ coast. Just grab a mask and snorkel to see the array of colourful fish, sea turtles, and other sea life living below the ocean’s surface.
3. You can thank the French for your outstanding holiday.
Although St. Barths was discovered and named by Christopher Columbus in 1493, it wasn’t until 1651 that the first colony was formed by the French. Unfortunately, the settlers did not last, and a new colony wasn’t founded again until 1763, again by the French.
But the French lost the island again in 1784, this time to Sweden, and didn’t regain control until 1878. This time, they held on to their tropical paradise.
These days, St. Barths is like an extension of France, but with a laid-back island atmosphere. The food is incredible, the shopping is divine, and the scenery is stunning. What more could you ask for in your holiday destination?
4. Keep an eye out for A-listers—celebrities love St. Barths.
Chances are good that during your time in St. Barths, you’ll run into at least one famous person. And they don’t all hang out on yachts or only dine in the fanciest establishments—many love to hit the local burger joint, attempting to lay low.
The likes of Jay-Z and Beyonce, Gwen Stefani, and Derek Jeter have been spotted having some fun in the sun on St. Barths’ beaches. And many multi-millionaires own homes on the French island haven.
Even though St. Barths is painted as a glamorous beach getaway and many celebrities travel there, it’s completely accessible to all who visit. That’s part of what makes the island so incredible—everyone belongs.
5. Yes, the beaches really are breathtaking.
There’s a reason celebrities flock to the island, and it’s not because it’s exclusive. On the contrary, all of St. Barths’ beaches are open to the public—but it’s their beauty that makes them so attractive.
Crystal clear turquoise waters beckon beach lovers to jump in. Loungers lay out on the white, powdery sand for an afternoon of total relaxation. And those looking for a drink or a bite to eat every once in awhile have plenty of options only a few steps off the sand.
Bays and rocky islets shape the island’s coast and also provide seclusion. Saline Beach is so private that, even though nudism is illegal, you’ll see some rebels showing skin there. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying this wonderfully wild beach.
6. Many people go to St. Barths just for the food.
What’s the point of a holiday if you’re on a diet? Leave the calorie counting at home and live a little! St. Barths is known for its world-class dining and has Michelin-starred chefs on the island.
But even if you don’t want to dine at one of the “trendy” restaurants, you’ll love your food wherever you go. The mix of local flavours with gourmet ingredients from Paris creates delicious dishes singular to St. Barths.
Try Le Select, known as the inspiration behind Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” The prices are incredibly affordable, but you still might bump into a celebrity sitting out one of the plastic tables.
Tamarin is the choice for lunch on your way to or from Saline Beach. There aren’t any bars or restaurant right off the sand, so be sure to grab a bite on your way in if you’ll be sunbathing for hours.
7. By travelling to St. Barths, you are helping the island give back to the environment.
There is nothing more important for travellers than responsible tourism. It’s a win-win when you get to travel somewhere, but also give back to the community through your tourism.
St. Barths is dedicated in helping support coral reef restoration. By giving to the country’s economy, you are also giving to their natural resources.
Coral reefs provide homes for marine life—if the reefs go away, so do the fish that live there. Help prevent future loss through responsible tourism.
8. The tiny island has an equally tiny runway at its airport.
Have you ever watched those YouTube videos of crazy plane landings? It’s very likely you’ve seen the runway on St. Barths, one of the shortest in the world. The runway ends at the beach, meaning many a sunbather has an opportunity to watch newcomers land on the island.
Because of its small size, only small planes can land in St. Barths. There are no direct flights from any mainlands to the island. But it’s easy enough to catch a charter flight from nearby St. Maarten, Antigua or San Juan.
And if flying really isn’t your thing, there’s always the ferry!
9. The island is a shopper’s paradise.
Shopping has long been a part of St. Barths’ history. While pirates were the original consumers, these days, anyone can get in on the duty-free luxuries found on the island.
If you’re looking for designer clothes and accessories, St. Barths has them. And if you’re looking for locally made items, those boutiques exist, too. In fact, with over 200 shopping options, you’re certain to find the item you’re looking for.
Don’t forget to take advantage of the duty-free shopping—diamonds are a girl’s best friend, after all.
10. It’s not only for the rich and famous.
Just because celebrities have made St. Barths their playground doesn’t mean the island is inaccessible. In actuality, St. Barths has a “laissez faire” lifestyle. There are no dress codes, the beaches are public, and you can stay there for reasonable rates.
It’s very easy to cook your own meals, have picnics, and eat four star meals at two star prices. Lounging all day on your beach towel, by the pool, or in a hammock is recommended. Leave your heels at home.
Don’t worry about anything that makes you uncomfortable, because above all else, in St. Barths, you should be the most comfortable you’ve ever been.
11. St. Barths is back on its feet since hurricane Irma.
St. Barths has made a great recovery since being hit in September 2017 by hurricane Irma, which was named as the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade.
All the villas at the Les Ilets resort are up and running, the airport and port are both fully operating and all water and electricity made a speedy return to the island.
The solidarity on the island was remarkable, islanders came together as a community and supported one other. It was this unity that helped St. Barths get back on its feet so quickly.
There may be fewer hotels open for the moment and the beaches not so crowded, but the majority of the shops and restaurants are open and buzzing. The island never lost its spirit, and has a wonderful vibe.
St. Barths has stayed strong and is ready to welcome visitors. Oh, and it’s now easier to get a parking spot in Gustavia!
See stunning St. Barths…
Ready for your own Caribbean escape to St. Barths? Answer a few brief questions here to start planning your island getaway this year. Or if you’d simply like more information, sign up for our free email course today.