Just six miles south of Guadeloupe, these idyllic tropical jewels float like exotic dreams in the azure sea. Of the eight little islands, only two are inhabited, and picturesque Terre-de-Haut is the one travelers visit first. In addition to superb beaches, gorgeous bays, exceptional snorkeling and fascinating historical sites, this romantic island offers a charming village with excellent restaurants, interesting shops and unique art galleries. This relatively little-known French Caribbean hideaway that is invariably compared to St. Tropez before Brigitte Bardot or St. Barth before David Rockefeller. Les Saintes (also known as Iles des Saintes) are perfect for the kind of traveler who relishes unspoiled tropical beauty and the serenity that comes from doing next to nothing on a vacation, but doing it à la française. While Guadeloupe's bustling epicenter, Pointe-à-Pitre, is just a l5-minute plane hop away, it seems continents apart from the eight pristine volcanic dots that comprise Les Saintes. There are about 3,000 inhabitants in the islands. About half of them live on Terre-de-Haut where less than three dozen four-wheeled vehicles travel its roads. There is just one doctor, and his home, designed to resemble a ship's bow, is something of a local landmark. Terre-de-Haut is only three miles long and about two miles wide The five-minute walk from the airstrip to Bourg, the island's sole village, takes you down a bougainvillea-shaded lane lined with tiny brightly-painted houses and past a centuries-old cemetery. The names engraved upon the weathered headstones reflect the island's Breton and Norman ancestry; the conch shells decorating the graveyard honor its sailors lost at sea. The men of Les Saintes are fishermen, reputedly the best in the West Indies, and watching them haul in their filets bleus (blue nets dotted with burnt-orange buoys) can fill an entire morning. On Bourg's main street you still see some of the men in an odd kind of headgear, a flat straw or bamboo platter covered with cloth called a salako. It is patterned after one said to have been brought here ages and ages ago by a seafarer from China or Indonesia. Whatever its origin, the salako is unique to the Iles des Saintes.