It is futile to think of things to do in St Barts. This unique destination isn’t somewhere to ‘do’ anything. Really, it is all about ‘being’ and on a whole new level!
What I mean by this, of course, is that your vacation in this impossibly beautiful treasure in the Caribbean will find you ‘being charmed’, ‘being dazzled’, ‘being fun’, ‘being glamorous’ …. The list goes on. The panache and flair of this island coupled with its inhabitants and visitors create a synergy of style that will sweep you along on a playful wave of sophistication. It might be super chic with celebrities at every turn, and St Barts Villas, but at just over 9 square miles, is a democratic island that extends a natural and sincere welcome to all its guests.
Prepare to be mesmerized by the beauty of its 22 beaches and coves, the pretty trails through the hilly terrain, the perennial warm waters flourishing with marine life … and when you step away from the natural wonders of island life, you can enjoy world-class shopping, divine restaurants and a beach party atmosphere that never loses its poise.
‘Oh, this old thing? …. I bought it in St Barts ’
Shopping! A word to excite or chill your heart. The usual impediment to a joyful retail therapy experience is that one is either obliged to enter some very built-up urban area, teeming with traffic and noise. Other times, you are caged in some mall that is a windowless construct of chrome and glass. Neither of these experiences are ones to be endured for very long. In desperation, we often buy something we ‘sort of’ like just to solve our requirements.
Well, forget all of your previous shopping experiences as one of the top things to do in St Barths is to drift through the shopping areas of Gustavia or St Jean inspired and relaxed in equal measure.
Regardless of how many pretty and stylish pieces of clothing you’ve brought with you to this heavenly island, you will find some of the loveliest boutiques interspersed between the most glamourous international brands waiting for you.
The reason I rave about shopping on St Barts is that, first of all, it’s a Duty-Free island. Second, there is minimal walking required to get from one end of the shopping district to the other in either Gustavia or St Jean. Third, you get to do your shopping for some St Barts Fashion, as you wish.
In addition to all of these wonderful advantages, the weather is sublime. There are numerous lovely cafes at which to stop and enjoy a light lunch or refreshing cocktail. It’s the shopping experience we all long for really with, of course, some of the most beautiful pieces of clothing, footwear and jewellery you could imagine.
St Barts has a style that is all its own. It is casual-chic, glamorous, rebellious – there are any number of superlatives that might be used to try to capture the essence of the St Barts man or woman. Yet, it remains a bit elusive as your own style and flavour, when added to the mix, generates something refreshingly unique.
In my opinion, Quai de la Republique, is the chicest shopping street in the world. It is the Madison Avenue/Bond Street experience where Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Hermes and other prestigious brands have an individual presence. On the adjacent Rue du Roi Oscar II, there are even more delightful boutiques to be visited.
A personal favourite is Marina St Barth. This clever store has curated an eclectic mix of stylish brands from around the world, like Lotus London for interesting ponchos, high fashion T-shirts by Eleven Paris. It’s the official showroom for Havaianas too.
With a number of fabulous fashion shows each year, this is a fantastic shop to visit for both women and menswear pieces.
A shopping trip in St Barts would be incomplete without a visit to Vanita Rosa. This store, with its famous bohemian designs, has boutiques in the Hamptons, South Florida, St Tropez, New York, Paris. It is the go-to designer for beautiful pieces in silk, linen, cashmere that celebrities are invariably photographed in stepping off their yachts onto the marinas of some of the world’s chicest holiday destinations. If some VIP look impossibly cool and stylish, in a colourful pretty kaftan, you can be pretty sure it’s a Vanita Rosa creation.
Shoes! What’s not to love? Regardless of any fluctuations in our waist measurements, thankfully our shoe size remains unchanged. It must be why shoe shopping is such a pleasure for everyone. So, if you want an interesting recommendation for the best places in St Barts to visit for shoes, may I suggest Carla Saint Barth which is a gem-like emporium that dazzles with their own unique, handmade Italian shoes that sit alongside fabulous footwear and accessories from Versace, Aquazzurra, Gianvito Rossi and many more. Located in Les Hauts du Carre D’Or area of Gustavia, it is a must for both men and women. Personally, their own range of footwear is spectacular.
The Seen Scene
Okay, if you are the retiring, shrinking-violet type of celebrity or a tycoon who revels in a discreet holiday idyll you might want to consider a private island vacation. Of course, what to do in St Barths to avoid too much exposure to prying camera lenses, is to choose a serene private villa for example – Villa Lina, sitting in its own secluded grounds.
From this haven of tranquillity you can dip in and out of the vibrant social scene on the island as easy as you slip in and out of your own beautiful pool.
Even if you are determined to stay in blissful solitude in one of our gorgeous villas, I expect you will be lured by one of the accepted St Barts things to do. Namely, visit some of the beautiful restaurants and bars that are dotted around the island.
With no cruise ships docking in the harbour, there isn’t a proliferation of day-trippers to navigate when you are hoping to enjoy a delightful lunch in a picturesque setting. Being ‘seen’ in St Barts is part of the experience of holiday life on the island.
Beauty, style, fame, glamour, eccentricity, panache all invite attention. Even the most jaded traveller finds something to capture her interest as she indulges in a bit of ‘people watching’ at some of the island’s best-loved spots.
One of the most attractive St Barts restaurants is Le Tamarin. With a menu that captures the glories of French cuisine with a splash of Caribbean and International flavours, there is a diverse menu to suit all ages and palates. A table in the pretty garden is divine.
Sitting by candlelight under a canopy of stars, there is nowhere quite so romantic or intimate. Delicious Mahi Mahi and Tuna dishes or aged steaks can be followed up by a dreamy chocolate soufflé or perhaps the rather playful Vanilla Sundae that is drizzled with a salted caramel sauce and Bailey’s fudge.
Ensure you have a villa with access to a gym to work off those naughty extra calories!
Lunch and Lounge
I am not always a fan of those ‘chain’ bar or restaurant concepts. They can be a bit homogenised for my liking. Nikki Beach, though not always what I would like in certain parts of the world, seems to get it spot on in St Barts.
It is what to do in St Barts if you want a long and leisurely lunch with some sunbathing or swimming.
Sitting right on the Plage de St Jean, you can lounge and lunch at ease. The service is smooth, it’s a buzzy place that pumps out some great music. A couple of cocktails, someone close by to ensure you rotate consistently to get that all over golden hue, delicious sushi …. What’s not to love!
Another magical offering is Shellona Restaurant and Bar on the famous Shell Beach. A wonderful Mediterranean inspired menu prepared by the fantastic Greek chef, Yiannis Kioroglou, delicious cocktails, loungers. This is the place to go for a fabulous post-beach drink as the sun slips beneath the blue horizon. Gorgeous!
Cinderella, the Party Starts at Midnight!
Casa Club in the heart of Gustavia is the newest and hippest late night party hub in St Barths. Top DJs take to the decks to spin out the latest dance tunes to get your Manolo’s tapping. Starting at Midnight and running until 5 am, this tiny venue draws an eclectic crowd of party people. St Barths isn’t Ibiza, it doesn’t want to be, but for those of you who crave a late night revel or two, this will undoubtedly be the spot for you. Rock-out your sexy best and have a blast!
I have given you the merest glimpse behind the veil into the magical world that is St Barts. For such a small island, it is a boundless treasure chest that has so much to offer. Perhaps it is the size of the island that initially proved its saviour as large planes were unable to decant thousands of visitors onto the island year on year.
Unlike other Caribbean destinations that seem easier to reach, its exclusivity and charm has been ensured by this perceived sense of remoteness. By the time, St Barts had become a tourist destination, the officials and residents of the island understood what decisions to take to promote their island in the very best of ways. The Duty-Free shopping, the absence of cruise ship day-trippers, the development laws that prevent ugly and over-reaching resorts to overwhelm the lovely beaches – Lots of good small decisions have come together to present a relaxing, democratic, stylish destination for everyone.
If you like beauty in everything you see, then you will simply love St Barts and its wide range of luxury Villa Rentals. Read about our top 9 St Barts rentals. It is the standard bearer of glossy-glamour, casual-chic and flirty-fun. St Barts is that magical place that imbues all of its visitors with a patina of sophistication and style. You will be forever changed by the experience and for the better!