Located over 5,000 miles from Paris and over 1,500 miles from New York, a little island that seems to float on the water at 17°55 North and 62°50 West. The island of Saint Barthélemy, casually known as St. Barths, is quite small at just 24 km2 (eight square miles). The last census in 2007 revealed that there are 8,398 inhabitants, or a density of 335 inhabitants per km2. One of the things that makes the island seem more mysterious is its rugged shoreline encircled by sparkling white sand.
Considered one of the oldest volcanic islands in the Lesser Antilles, its dry, rocky soil is not suited for agriculture. Its fauna, while seemingly rare, has an unusual diversity: iguanas, land and sea turtles, and marine birds, from the pelican—mascot of the island—to the charming little hummingbird found in gardens. The flora grows as best it can, depending on the weather, as there is not always enough rain. Yet this does not inhibit the proliferation of multicolored flowers in the gardens of island homes.
The island has a tropical maritime climate. The air temperature varies from 80°F in the winter to 86°F in the summer, with highs of 90°F in July and August. The ocean temperature can reach as high as 84°F during the summer. St Barth does not have four distinct seasons like more temperate climes, but two different periods known as “Carême” and “Hivernage.”
The official language of St. Barths is French. English is also widely spoken to facilitate communication with tourists. However, certain traditional languages are still popular among the Saint Barth natives, with a French Patois spoken on the leeward side of the island, and Creole spoken on the windward side. Each varies, like a local accent, from neighborhood to neighborhood. In spite of the 100 years under the rule of Sweden, the local population never spoke Swedish.
For many, many years, the French Franc was the official money of the island of Saint Barthélemy, as well as the American Dollar, which was essential for doing business with Saint Thomas, for example, where many locals had family. In 2001, Saint Barth, like the rest of France and Europe, changed to the euro. The US dollar remains the second currency of the island.