Ever since banker David Rockefeller landed on Saint Barthelemy — also known as St. Barts — in the 1950s, the island developed a reputation as a tropical playground for the jet set.
The stylish Caribbean island still carries that glitzy rep, thanks to chic boutique hotels, mega yachts, luxury shopping and a French flair.
Here’s what you should know before visiting the European Union overseas territory:
Languages spoken in St. Barts
French flavor permeates most of this luxurious Caribbean island and that includes the language. Locals speak a unique Norman dialect, but most residents also know a fair amount of English. It’s unlikely that you’ll have a problem communicating, especially with staff at hotels, restaurants and local shops.
What to pack for a trip to St. Barts
In keeping with its Caribbean locale, St. Barts calls for a very informal dress code. That being said, the island is a popular vacation destination for the see-and-be-seen set, so you’ll want to strike a balance between style and comfort.
Jeans, tees, tanks and flip-flops are fine almost everywhere by day and you’ll certainly want to pack a few swimsuits, sunscreen and sunglasses. Bear in mind that though the island keeps it casual, you won’t want to wear your bathing attire in town.
At night, resort wear is fine for dinner. Ladies tend to don whatever is fashionable, but sundresses are almost always appropriate, and jackets and ties are never required for men.
The island also uses European-style outlets, so you’ll want to bring along a French converter for your electronic devices — though we suggest you take this opportunity to unplug and unwind.
Should visitors rent a car in St. Barts?
Though the Caribbean island is small, to explore all of its beautiful beaches and fantastic restaurants you’ll want to rent a car. Public transportation consists of taxis, which can get expensive, especially if you plan on hopping from one stunning stretch of sand to another.
If you end up getting a rental, keep in mind that you have to drive on the right side and that there are only a couple of gas stations on St. Barts and all of them are closed on Sunday.
Getting to St. Barts
Nervous fliers should think carefully about flying into the island. You will have to board a small commuter plane and dodge mountains and land on Gustaf III Airport’s 2,100-foot-long runway (one of the shortest in the world) that tapers off into the ocean.
Luckily there’s an alternative: land at St. Maarten and take a quick 45-minute ferry to the island.
When to visit St. Barts
Temperatures on the island typically oscillate among the low 70s and low 90s all year long, but some times are better than others to visit this tropical island.
Peak season runs from December to mid-April, when the idyllic 90-degree days make St. Barts’ beaches a tempting winter escape.
Be careful of planning a trip around hurricane season, which begins in June and ends in late November. Plus, many resorts close in the early fall for renovations and regular upkeep.