What is St-Barts?
Ever dreamed of a picture-perfect vacation in the Caribbean with impeccable service, amazing weather, and all your plans exercised to perfection? Admittedly, it does sound too good to be true. However, this is exactly what you can get if you plan your next vacation on the Caribbean’s most luxurious and most elite island of St Barts.
An overseas collectivity of France, St Barts does what seems to be impossible: It seamlessly blends the French flair and attention to detail with the unmistakable Caribbean joy de vivre. Amazing beaches and picturesque sunsets are not that hard to find in the Caribbean, but the island of St. Barthélemy, all its 22 beautiful beaches, can offer you an experience like no other. A perfect combination of a tropical paradise, mouthwatering French cuisine, designer shopping, and a variety of water activities, St Barts has it all!
Where is St Barts?
Located in the eastern Caribbean Sea, 22 miles from St Martin, and 150 miles from Puerto Rico, the island of St Barts is part of the West Indies. This small Caribbean island has a population of about 9,000 residents and travelers can drive around it in less than 90 minutes.
History of St Barts
First discovered by Christopher Columbus in the 15th century, the island got its name after Christopher’s brother, Bartolomeo. Briefly settled by the French in the 18th century, the island was first sold to the Knights of Malta and then to the Swedes who used St Barts as a trading port. In the 19th century, it was repurchased by the French. Right after WW2, Saint-Barthélemy was given the equivalent of statehood from France.
So, when did St Barts became a popular tourist destination? It was 1957 when David Rockefeller purchased a property on the island and decided to invite his friends to discover this amazing tropical paradise. Nowadays, St Barts is officially an overseas collectivity of France and one of the most sought-after places in the Caribbean where the rich and famous spend their vacation days. It’s quite common to spot many celebrities, models, and film stars on the island. For instance, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jay-Z, Paul McCartney, and Sting have visited St Barts.
Best Places to Visit in St Barts
Kick-off your St Barts travel itinerary in Gustavia. The capital of the island, Gustavia used to be not much more than a sleepy fishing town. However, once the island became a top tourist destination, Gustavia transformed into a popular harbor town well-known for its yacht-filled bay, colorful streets dotted with red-roofed buildings, art galleries, and chic boutiques.
Whether you wish to soak in the ambiance at the capital’s picturesque cafes and restaurants, shop for luxury brands like Hermes, Cartier, and Bulgari, or learn more about the island’s history by visiting cultural attractions like Vieux Clocher (the oldest building in Gustavia) and the Wall House Museum, there is plenty to look forward to when exploring this scenic capital.
St Barts Beaches
Like we mentioned before, St Barts is home to 22 beaches and more than half of them are suitable for swimming. It is important to mention that all of these lovely beaches are free and open to the public!
The closest stretch of sand to the town of Gustavia is Shell Beach. Covered in shells, this amazing beach is a great place to spend the day. Not to be missed is the Shellona restaurant! Split in two by the Eden Hotel, St. Jean is one of the most popular beaches in St Barts, and for a reason. If you wish to see airplanes land at the nearby airport, go on the left side of the hotel. The famous Nikki Beach club is located on the right side and offers an outdoor restaurant, bar, boutique, kitchen, and rotisserie.
If you are an experienced surfer, pay a visit to Toiny beach which is well-known for its unpredictable rip currents. There is also Gouverneur Beach, a powdery white sand beach with crystalline water. The little tide pools here are ideal if you are visiting with children. The last on our list is Colombier beach which can be accessed via a 30-minute hike or by boat. It’s an ideal destination for activities like snorkeling and swimming.
Nestled on the island’s north coast and just a short drive from St-Jean, the charming village of Lorient is a great place to spend the day. Visit the 19th-century Catholic Church called Eglise de Lorient or check out the local shops for cool souvenirs to bring back home. Surfers will want to go to the far end of Lorient Beach, while the rest of the beach is suitable for swimmers.
The Best Ways to Arrive in St-Barts
How to come to St Bart's by Air
Although there are no direct commercial flights to St Barts, getting to the island is relatively easy with a connecting flight. The thing is Gustaf 111 Airport in St Barts has the second-shortest runway in the world and doesn’t handle commercial airliners.
This means that all international flights land at nearby airports such as Antigua (VC Bird International Airport (ANU), St Martin (Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), and San Juan in Puerto Rico (Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). Each of these hubs offers regular flights to the island of St Barts. There is also the option of chartering a private aircraft.
How to Arrive with a Boat
You will find 2 ferry companies that transfer passengers from the island of St. Martin to St Barts. Voyager runs three times a day from Marigot in St Martin to St Barts, while Green Bay Express offers boat rides twice a day from Philipsburg, St. Martin, to Gustavia, St. Barts. Due to the current pandemic, please check online for updates on ferry transfers to St Barts before your arrival.
Administrative Details you Should Know
- A valid passport is required for ALL VISITORS with a period of validity greater than 6 months at the time of entry into the territory.
- Depending on the country of origin, a French visa valid for France except for CTOM or DFA (French departments of America) is needed to enter St Barts.
- Countries not requiring a visa are: U.S., Canada, EU Nations, Australia, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, St. Lucia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
- All other nationalities MUST have visas to enter St Barts.
- In addition to a valid passport, American and Canadian citizens need to provide proof of a return or continuation of travel ticket.
What to do Once You are in St-Barts
Rent a Yacht and go Diving
Renting a yacht is without a doubt one of the best ways to experience the island of St Barts in all of its glory. The easiest way to do this is by having your hotel concierge or villa organize a yacht or private catamaran rental that usually includes opportunities for snorkeling, diving, fishing, and other water activities.
Discover the Island through Sport Activities
There is no shortage of sports activities on the lovely island of St Barts and each side of the island offers a wide range of different activities to enjoy on your St Barts holiday trip. For instance, Lorient is an ideal destination for beginner surfers, while St Jean is a great place to enjoy activities like paddle-boarding and kitesurfing.
If you are an experienced surfer, you’ll find your piece of surf heaven at Pointe Milou, Petite Anse, and Anse Toiny. Kitesurfing is also popular off Grand Cul-de-Sac beach.
Since most of the waters on the island are protected, expect to find very diverse marine life underwater while snorkeling and scuba diving.
To experience the coastline and the surrounding islands, make sure to go sailing with a private yacht rental in St Barts.
The good news is that you will find a few excellent water sports shops on the island that have all the necessary equipment needed for water activities. Some of these shops offer coaching from qualified instructors.
If you are not a fan of water activities, you’ll be pleased to hear that volleyball is a huge sport on the island of St Barts. The island even hosts several big volleyball events such as the Christmas tournament which takes place in December and The St Barthélemy Cup in July and August.
Visit a Gourmet Restaurant and Enjoy Other Unique Food Experiences
It’s no secret that some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean are located on the island of St Barts. Whether you wish to enjoy French cuisine, sample some local Caribbean dishes or enjoy international cuisine, the gourmet scene in St Barts offers something for everyone.
Have a memorable dining establishment at the elegant Bonito restaurant and try their food specialties like autéed mahi-mahi with salsa cruda and ceviches. Foodies craving some fine Italian cooking can pay a visit to L’Isola and enjoy their home-made pasta dishes and other fine Italian dishes prepared with the finest ingredients.
To sample a mix of French and Japanese cooking, make your way to Orega and sample dishes like duck confit with sautéed palm hearts and toto-tuna tartare. For a more casual vibe, go to Le Select that is one of the oldest bars in town and serves delicious burgers.