Saint Barthelemy Travel Guide
A luxury playground of the rich and famous that offers a slice of French cuisine and culture in the Caribbean, St Barthelemy is usually known as St Barts or in French, as Saint Barth. It is one of the islands that make up the French West Indies and a legendary holiday resort that has been featured in numerous fashion shoots, television shows and works of fiction.
There are several dozen five-star hotels in St Barthelemy and really very little to offer the budget traveler. Dining options are seriously deluxe and the chefs here have been imported from some of the world’s finest restaurants and serve up French cuisine and seafood nightly.
Private villas are popular and many are owned by routine visitors who only occupy their rooms for a month or two each year. Beaches are exquisite and quiet, and numerous European and Asian high-end fashion boutiques make up the shopping experience in St Barthelemy.
St Barthelemy is home to around 10,000 people but this number can swell by half during the busiest time. These numbers don’t include the large numbers of tourists moored offshore in luxury yachts and cruise ships, however. No visitor to St Barthelemy should arrive in search of a bargain, but money is well spent at this most indulgent of Caribbean resort towns.
St. Barthelemy doesn’t receive any direct flights, but there are connecting flights from Pointe à Pitre in Guadeloupe and St. Maarten.
The main pier at St Barthelemy is known as ‘Bobby’s Marina’ and it connects via taxi and shuttle bus to Pelican Marina, another nearby dock. Both are close to the town center but taxis make the trip in the most comfort.
By taxi: no public bus service exists but the proliferation of taxis as well as the compact lay out of town means that getting around is quick, comfortable and easy.
On foot: the town of St Barthelemy is quite small and so getting around on foot is the first choice of many visitors. Cars aren’t really necessary for any journeys around the town, but trips to nearby beaches require a vehicle.
By hire car: all the major international car hire chains operate outlets near the marina. Also, all the five-star hotels have hire car desks near check-in.
St Barthelemy is a duty-free port and shopping here offers something for everyone, and all for a bargain price. Fashion boutiques like Terra offer a good range of smart clothes for day or night, and the town’s jewelry and perfume stores are deservedly famous.
Cigar smokers will be in heaven here with numerous outdoor restaurants and a very fine selection of tobacco products.
Le Select is the venerable St Barthelemy nightlife institution and live music acts play here from time to time. Outdoor cinemas are popular and the screen at Gustavia Harbour is usually packed to the rafters on warm dry nights.
By far, though, the most popular night-time activity here remains long nights in any of the town’s fine restaurants.
Grand Cul de Sac: violet-hued waters backdrop the many great bars and restaurants on this beach, which is popular with windsurfers and snorkeling fans.
St Jean: in one of the more built-up parts of town, St Jean Beach is split down the center by Eden Rock, which means you can break your beach stroll up with a beer at any of the Eden Rock bars.
Marigot: superb snorkeling can be had in the diamond like waters of this beach, which is accessed via a nature walk.
Gouverneur: though a rental car or hired driver will be required to get to this beautiful beach, the rewards of tranquil white sands and turquoise water make the trip worthwhile.
Where to eat
The best restaurants in town all offer sea views and the food at places like Carl Gustaf, Le Sapotillier and La Plage offer excellent French cuisine and the freshest seafood. Fast food chains are yet to arrive in town and apart from self catering, dining out here is expensive, but of the very highest quality. Anywhere along the water is recommended.
Star-spotting: a well-established holiday spot for the rich and famous, St Barthelemy is the favorite place for many well-known faces.
Municipal Museum: explore the history of the island via documents, etchings and artworks.
Main harbor: the bobbing yachts and twinkling French restaurants that line the water soothe any visitor’s mood.
St Barths’ Marine Reserve: entire sections of the island are now part of one of France’s largest nature parks, and any kind of fishing or motor use is forbidden. Eco-tourism has blossomed and fine opportunities for snorkeling can be found here.
Gallery hopping: the Galerie Asie, the House and the Inter-Oceans museums showcase arts, crafts and paintings from around the world.
Waterskiing: operators will take you to the flattest waters and drag you behind power boats, any time you like.
Nature trailing: on foot or by mountain bike or horseback, the nature trails of St Barthelemy are tranquil and rewarding.
Diving: you can acquire your SCUBA and PADI license here with expert guides and new equipment.
Weather & Climate
The climate is generally sunny with temperatures around 27°C to 30°C with even rainfall distribution throughout the year.
What’s cool: visiting a slice of France in the Caribbean
What’s not: warm-water sharks – avoid swimming at dusk.
Language: French (some English).
Essential information: the weather here is very warm most of the year, with some cool nights in the winter months, but rarely below 60 (˚F) even at the coldest. Trivia: St Barthelemy was discovered by Columbus in 1493.