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  • Coastline French-Caribbean jewel
  • Coast Life A-list beach lounging

You could call it Paris-on-sea – with all the poise, style and Missoni bikinis that it implies. St Barths is one of the original jet-set destinations, where celebrity meets society in a cosmopolitan crowd.

It’s not just about ladies who lunch on flip-flop leave from their Louboutins; this safe, friendly island has plenty of appeal for the athletic beach bunny and the foodie, as well as party people and celeb-watchers. The French influence makes it a unique Caribbean experience, with brasseries instead of beach shacks, and chanson crooners more popular than soca singers on the radio; the locals are mainly of European descent. It’s OK, though – there’s that gorgeous turquoise ocean and uncrowded beaches to remind you where you are.

Do go/Don’t go

Try visiting at the tail end of high season (December–April), when room rates drop and the beaches really empty out.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Getting there is a slight mission – just part of the exclusive charm. The nearest international hub is Juliana Airport on St Maarten, 25km away, or you can fly via Antigua or Guadeloupe. Air Caraibes (www.aircaraibesexpress.com; +590 (0)590 87 14 80) and St Barth Commuter (www.stbarthcommuter.com; + 590 (0)590 27 54 54) offer scheduled and charter flights.
  • Boats For daily services between St Maarten and St Barths, contact Voyager (www.voyager-st-barths.com) or Rapid Explorer (www.rapidexplorer.com).
  • Automobiles If you hire a car to explore your 21-square-kilometre playground (and just the one road), something diminutive is best. There’s a branch of Avis at the airport, as well as local options.
  • Taxis Expensive and not usually worth the hassle. Hiring a car for a day or more is your best bet. Most hotels will arrange airport transfers.