St. Barthelemy or St. Bart is probably my favorite island in the Caribbean because it is one of the few islands where there was never any slavery, very low crime, and a very high standard of living. Add beautiful beaches, French inspired food, and friendly natives, and you have a recipe for a pleasant vacation no matter how much time you spend cooking your skin on the beach.

I rented a one bedroom condo through St. Barth Properties, the Terrasses de St. Jean, close to the airport and across from the beach with a view of the bay for about $1500 a week off season (April-December). It was fully equipped with a TV, DVD player, CD player, all kitchen appliances, linens, towels, and spotlessly clean, and daily maid service is included except for Sundays (be sure to ask if the property you want has Wifi if you want to surf on the internet).

With a nice terrace (hence the name of the property), for the price of a room, this condo was bigger than most suites in a hotel, with the added benefits of a full kitchen and living room. If you need a larger villa, they have full houses for rent starting at about $4,000 for a three bedroom (which sleeps six) with a fantastic view, which works out to about $570 a night for a family that would normally rent several hotel rooms and have to pay for restaurants for every meal. There was a very nice grocery store across from the condo I rented which had all the supplies for breakfast, including great croissants, and perfect picnic food, like pates and roasted chicken, for beach lunches. We had dinner out every night of the week except for one (it was a vacation after all), but for the one night we cooked, everything we needed was at the store.

Renting a property with this company does not mean you must do without hotel amenities, a rental with St. Barth Properties can include all the concierge services at a hotel, from an airport meet and greet to arranging for scuba dives or golf tee times. They are only a phone call away if you need anything, but you have the option of going into seclusion or exploring the island solo if you prefer.

Living like a native is one of the best ways to travel, so why not go native on one of the best islands?