Caribbean Dispatch, St. Barts: Pristine paradise By Johanna Jainchill / November 14, 2012 Share 1 -- Johanna Jainchill, Travel Weekly's destinations editor, is in St. Barts, exploring the island and staying in two hotels and one villa. Her second dispatch follows. Click to read Johanna’s first dispatch.The general manager at Hotel Christopher put it best: In St. Barts, the island is the resort. Short for Saint-Barthélemy, St. Barts is unique in the Caribbean. Strict development and zoning laws have kept the hotels and villas low-slung; informally, they are not allowed to be higher than a palm tree. And this small island — only eight square miles — somehow manages to have huge expanses of hills and beaches free of any development. The number of hotel rooms is restricted, and most hotels are independent and not part of international chains.In fact, lodging on St. Barts is still very much centered around home rentals; there are about 400 hotel rooms on the island, and 1,200 villas.The result is that tourists in St. Barts don’t come to hole up at all-inclusive properties (getting breakfast included is a rarity here). They come for the island, and consider its many pristine, white-sand beaches, gourmet restaurants and family-run boulangeries as part of their vacation playground. It is for this reason that such a small island can boast dozens of restaurants that would be at home in New York or Paris. It seems everyone here has an opinion about where to eat, which beach is most beautiful and where to catch the best view of the sunset. Repeat vacationers might be loyal to a favorite hotel or villa, but they also speak of the local businesses where they have been on a first-name basis for years. Even hotels that boast their own restaurants are quick to offer guests suggestions about where to eat out, and to make reservations. Having traveled in several Caribbean destinations where people are hesitant to leave their resorts — because of a lack of options, safety issues or other reasons — St. Barts offers a refreshing alternative, and an economic model that benefits the entire island. Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw.