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St Barths hosts the rich, famous and hikers
" says ABCNews. TheStreet calls St Barts "a glitterati playground of billionaires and pop culture icons who descend between Christmas and New Years for an annual Caribbean migration of debauchery and excess." Indeed, during our December visit, the port of Gustavia was packed with $multi-million yachts that had made their annual trek to St Barths for the holidays.
We toured the entire 8 square mile volcanic rock island by car in less than two hours. Driving up steep well-kept streets, through some heavy traffic in downtown Gustavia, we passed those yachts in port for the holidays and sidewalks packed with seasonal visitors.
On foot, walking the bustling French city, we saw a who's who of designer label clothing and jewelry shops, sidewalk cafe's and bakeries.
But traveling out of town, sparsely populated countryside boasted sweeping vistas with breathtaking, panoramic views. Cyclists stopped for photos and hikers paused to drink in the sweeping vistas only offered here.
A walk around around Pointe Milou is mostly flat, taking a path from the main road to Colombier Beach and back adds more difficulty and a hike from Grand Fond over Morne Rouge to Saline Beach involves a lot of rock climbing. English-speaking guides are readily available since the island's main industry is tourism. Reminiscent of Martinique visually, St Barths is very much a French island today even though it took a while for that to happen.
Gallery: St Barths
French colonists from nearby St Kitts first settled it in 1648. The island changed hands several times but was finally given legal status as a Department of France in 1946, much like Americans made Hawaii a state.
Today, St Barths enjoys year-round travelers coming for a luxurious experience not found elsewhere in the Caribbean. But there are also regular, normal people visiting too. (See St Barths on shoe leather and a thumb) We're not billionaires, celebrities or famous in any way but felt safe and comfortable on this beautiful island by car and on foot.
Still, it's hard not to stop for photos of Rudolph Nureyev's house overlooking the ocean by day or a $50 million yacht lit up at night.
This is one of those "I could live here" places.
Photos: Whitney Owen