Time difference: GMT -4 hours
Flight time: 14 hours indirect
Aside from its private islands, St Barths is probably the most exclusive of all the Caribbean islands: an oasis of luxury and designer labels, surrounded by creamy beaches and gently lapping turquoise waves. As a French colony, the main language spoken is French and the currency is the Euro – the only way you’ll be able to discern the island from the French Riviera on arrival is the Caribbean Sea and the longer flight time – there’s even a special Caribbean opening of Le Guerite to compare it with. St Barths is so exclusive visitors need to fly indirect to St Maartin, a Dutch colony, and take a short connecting flight to the island. Some say it is one of the most breathtaking landings in the world, on a miniscule landing strip as you swoop down towards Maho Beach in a little twin-propeller plane.
If the getting there seems fun you’re in for a treat – St Barths is a good time island with a zest for life that trickles out of the pretty capital of Gustavia and into the many beach enclaves that surround it. Most of the hotels are located on the island’s famously beautiful beaches – Mother Nature has been given free-rein and very little development encroaches on to the sands – and you’ll have fabulous fun embarking on boat trips out to secluded coves that can only be reached by water (or on foot). With beaches this private, like Anse a Colombier, it’s no wonder the island is a magnet for millionaires and the jet set. They come for the isolation (no jumbo jets here), fabulous accommodation, delicious food and of course, the designer labels help too. In the heart of Gustavia you’ll find not only the independent boutiques that offer stylish resortwear, but also Hermes, Chopard and Bulgari.
So it’s swish, but not in the way that other Caribbean islands are. The hotels are wonderful but even better, they are family owned, aside from the recent Cheval Blanc, which seeks to replicate its luxurious properties in Courchevel and the Maldives in the Caribbean. The Eden Rock was the first hotel to open on the island and to this day remains a stylish outpost for couples, families and groups of friends who come for the beaches but return for the atmosphere. You might find yourself joining them.