Dream Town: St. Barts
This French island has morphed into the chicest shore in the Caribbean, but still maintains its European flair and unique small-town roots.
A crescent of bright white sand on the island's south shore, Anse du Gouverneur (left) is hands-down St. Barts' most beautiful beach. Rocky headlands at either end make the bay swimmer-friendly, yet there's still enough wave for bodysurfing.
Quaint, red-roofed Gustavia (left), the island capital, flaunts its Scandinavian heritage proudly with harborfront street signs in both Swedish and French. Luxury shops such as Cartier and Louis Vuitton dominate the waterfront. Apartments and a few houses crawl up hillsides behind old churches. (Crooner Jimmy Buffett and actor Steve Martin both own villas overlooking Gustavia.)
St. Jean beach is best for people-watching; a blend of active beachgoers and young beauties lounge around Nikki Beach club (left).
Your View: From the lighthouse-topped hill between the airport and Gustavia, you have a panoramic view of the yacht-filled harbor, with the Caribbean islands of Statia, Saba, and St. Martin in the hazy distance.
Your Weather: St. Barts is hot and tropical year-round. Daytime temperatures are in the 80s, and overnight lows rarely dip below 70.
Your Main Street: Along the eastern edge of the harbor, Rue de la République is the capital's main drag, lined with luxury boutiques that make this one of the Caribbean's poshest retail districts. Tucked in among the global icons are quirky shops like LouLou's Marine (for beach and boat wear, and yacht supplies), Clic bookstore and art gallery, and Le Cellier du Gouverneur (wine, rum, and more unusual spirits, such as absinthe). The waterfront shops of Gustavia (left) provides ample opportunity to stroll and shop as well.
Maya's—on the water's edge in Anse de Public—includes fresh grilled mahi-mahi and a creamy Creole pumpkin soup; mayas-stbarth.com.
Wall House, on the other side of the harbor, blends classic French cuisine with American, Asian, and Caribbean accents in a romantic setting right on the water; wallhouserestaurant.com.
Le Ti St. Barth is a fun-loving spot that offers seafood and caviar potatoes in the restaurant, in addition to nightly entertainment that might include fashion shows and cabaret performances; letistbarth.com.
Aubèrge de la Petite Anse is a friendly, 16-room bed-and-breakfast overlooking the bay. Rates start at $99; 011/590/590/276-489 or auberge-petite-anse.com.