WHEN TO GO
High season runs from December through April; prices are highest between Christmas and New Year's. Low season (June to November) brings hurricanes and better deals. Off-season travelers, beware: Many hotels and restaurants close in the slower months, mostly during September and the beginning of October.
HOW TO GET THERE
Princess Juliana International Airport, on the neighboring island of Sint Maarten, is the main gateway for air travel to St. Barths (www.pjiae.com). From there, several scheduled carriers run air shuttles to St. Barths: WINAIR (590-590-27-61-01; www.fly-winair.com) and St. Barth Commuter (590-590-27-54-54; www.stbarthcommuter.com). However, reliability can be a serious issue, as is getting your luggage past the weight restrictions.
A new, better option is Tradewind Aviation's once-a-day flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico (800-376-7922; www.tradewindaviation.com). This will save you the trouble of going through Sint Maarten's crowded, occasionally anarchic airport. Tradewinds' flight usually leaves San Juan around 3 p.m., and the return flight from St. Barths takes off around noon.
Whatever the airline chosen, however, tentative fliers should be forewarned that St. Barths has the shortest landing strip in the Caribbean. Be prepared for small planes and a landing that will be either memorable or terrifying.
Jittery fliers should consider connecting from Sint Maarten via high-speed ferry instead. The M.V. Voyager (590-590-87-10-68; www.voyager-st-barths.com) and the Edge (599-544-2640; www.stmaarten-activities.com) take between 45 and 75 minutes each way, depending on the port location.
Wheels are a must on St. Barths. Rental options abound: Either a Smart car (tiny two-seaters made by DaimlerChrysler) or a small SUV is good for navigating the island's skinny mountain roads. Tropic'All Rent (Rue du Roi Oscar II, Gustavia; 590-590-27-64-76; www.saint-barths.com/tropicallrent) has one of the largest selections.
St. Barths's currency is the Euro, so bring your calculator and be prepared for fluctuating rates.
St. Barths Tourism Office
Tel: 590 590 27 87 27
Closed Sundays. Call ahead for hours during low season
Caribbean Tourism Organization
80 Broad Street
Tel: 212 635 9530
If you want to plan your trip with a fraction of the hassle, consider using the concierge service Premium IV, who can organize absolutely anything from speeding a VIP transit process through the airport at St. Maarten, to organizing plane and boat charters, weddings, and other event catering, to booking villa and hotel accommodation. They'll also handle the little things like restaurant reservations for no extra charge (Galeries du Commerce, St. Jean; 590-590-290-007; www.premiumiv.com).
NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Gustavia
Area: 8 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 590
Electricity: 220v, 60 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 Euro = $1.36 US Calculate Other Amounts
Entry Requirements: St. Barths, a territory of France, does not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a three-month stay.
January: 1, New Year's Day
May: 1, Labor Day; 8, Armistice Day
July: 14, Bastille Day; Aug 14-15, St. Barth's Pitea Day
August: 15, Assumption Day
Nov: 1, All Saints Day; 11, Armistice Day
Dec: 25, Christmas Day
Spring: Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday; sixth Thursday after Easter, Ascension; eighth Sunday after Easter, Pentecost