Saint-Barthélemy

Vivre à Saint-Barthélemy

Iyna Bort Caruso

If the principality of Monaco was magically transported from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean it might feel something like Saint Barthélemy.

St. Barth is the stomping ground of the glitterati, a miniature fashion and cultural capital with a big-time European feel. Just a ten-minute shuttle flight from St. Maarten’s Juliana Airport, this French West Indies island is renown for its exclusive villa and mega-yacht lifestyle, pristine beaches and lush tropical gardens.

Christopher Columbus is credited with being the first European to “discover” the island in 1493. He named it after his brother, Bartholomeo. Fast forward a few hundred years to the mid-20th century when the likes of the Rockefellers and Rothchilds bought up property, built luxury retreats and begot a jet-set transformation.

Still, it is not a destination of jumbo resorts--or jumbo jets for that matter. The hilly terrain of this volcanic island sees to that. A small airstrip is just big enough to accommodate puddle jumpers, which is why St. Barth is able to retain a tone of exclusivity.

There are 22 public beaches in St. Barth with conditions for every mood--quiet and crowd-free; child-friendly; surfer and snorkelers’ delight; gin-clear and calm.

Exceptional homes speckle this eight square-mile isle, from elegant apartments perched above the harbor in the capital of Gustavia to custom hideaways in the hills of Lurin and Gouverneur.

Properties include plantation-style residences with generous outdoor living spaces, colonial-style compounds, modern manses and homes that pay homage to West Indian architectural traditions.

Americans and Europeans dominate the vacation home market. The high end real estate market has been a stable one, owing to limited development and a scarcity of housing stock. Prices cover a wide margin, from around 1 million Euro and soar up to 50 million Euro.