I am passionate about St Barts and get excited every time I visit to look at the newest homes, restaurants, hotels and shops on the island. When I am asked where I choose to go on vacation, my answer is always St Barts in the Winter and Italy in the Summer. My Ultimate Italy Travel Guide is coming soon but, for now, here is my ultimate St Barts Travel Guide.
St Barts is a Caribbean island like no other. Whenever I am asked to describe this beautiful island in one sentence, I would say that it has all the stunning beauty that comes with a tropical paradise island combined with all the chicness and glamour that comes with a visit to the south of France.
- Why go St Barts?
- What is the Geography of St Barts?
- When is the best time to travel to St Barts?
- How do I get to St Barts?
- How do I get around in St Barts?
- What is the history of St Barts?
- Which are the best beaches in St Barts?
- What is there to do in St Barts?
- Which are the best restaurants in St Barts?
- What is the shopping in St Barts like?
- Where are the best places to stay in St Barts?
St Barts is truly one of my all-time favourite islands in the Caribbean and in fact, I can honestly say it is one of my personal favourite destinations in the world. The island is home to some of the best villas in the world, and each year St Barts Villas get bigger and better and more beautiful.
1. Why Go To St Barts?
The official name of the island is Saint-Barthélemy, but it is often called St Barths, and in the United States it is more often referred to as St Barts. The locals all call it St Barth!
St Barts is also considered to be the safest island in the Caribbean. I have personally never heard of any crime on the island. Locals say you can leave your handbag in your open-top car when you go shopping, and it will be there when you return!!
St Barts is without a doubt the chicest of all the Caribbean islands. The island is full of French “Je ne sais quoi”. There are stylish and beautiful people everywhere. St Barts has more celebrities visiting per square mile than in any other place in the world. There are many famous people who own one of the luxury St Barts villas including the billionaire investor Roman Abramovich.
The legendary ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev was one of the first people to own a St Barts villa. Pippa Middleton’s in-laws own the famous Eden Rock Hotel where two of the island’s best villas are located; Villa Nina and Villa Rockstar, shown above at night. Johnny Hallyday owned one of my personal favourites St Barts Villas called Villa Jade.
Gustavia which is the capital is full of well-known designer brand names. It is also full of enormous mega yachts. Some of the yachts are so big, they must moor offshore. You also literally cannot get a bad meal in St Barts. From the most casual options to the fine dining gourmet restaurants, they all serve delicious fresh food.
Hamburgers are rare in St Barts except at Le Select Bar in the centre of Gustavia which does a famous designer one! Le Select is where Jimmy Buffet was reported to have written the famous song “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. He also has a house on the island.
Another reason to visit St Barts is that the island is just so natural and breathtakingly beautiful.
People talk about the colours of blue that you can find in St Barts, it is different from anywhere else in the world, and it is very true.
The views everywhere are breathtaking, and the beaches are amongst the best in the world.
2. What is the geography of St Barts?
St Barts is a tiny island with a total population of just 9,000 people. It is 24.6 square kilometres or 9.49 square miles in size. You can drive around the whole circumference of the island in around one hour. St Barts is located 35 kilometres (22 miles) south-east of St Martin and 240 kilometres (150 miles) east of Puerto Rico and 141 kilometres (87 miles) northeast of Antigua.
St Barts is a volcanic island which is encircled by shallow reefs. For such a small island, it is full of hills and valleys. The highest point is Morne du Vitet which is 286 meters or 938 feet in height. There are two other hills on the east side of St Barts that are almost as high. The benefit of all the hills is that just about all the St Barts Villas have incredible views of the island and beautiful coastline.
There are very few islands in the world that have views as beautiful and as interesting as the ones from St Barts. To the north and the northeast, there are views of St Martin and Anguilla. To the south-west, you will find views of Saba and to the South, you have stunning views of Eustatius and St Kitts.
The soil in St Barts is not really suited to agriculture, but it is suited to some rare and diverse wildlife such as iguanas, sea turtles, pelicans and hummingbirds. No matter where you are on the island, you will see a proliferation of beautiful tropical sweet-smelling flowers and shrubs.
3. When is the best time to travel to St Barts
The high season in St Barts is between the months of November and April. The air temperature in St Barts does not differ much between the seasons. It is on average 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 86 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. The ocean temperature is only slightly less than this making swimming in the sea in St Barts an absolute luxury. The main difference is that it is more humid from June onwards. The months with the most rainfall is between July and November. Like many tropical paradises, when it rains, it falls very heavily, but the sun is almost always just around the corner.
One of my personal favourite times to visit the island in May as you get the best of all worlds. The late spring and early summer are great times to visit St Barts. This is the time when the island is quieter; it is far easier to move around; it is easier to get car parking and get good tables in the amazing restaurants compared to the high season months. You will also get better value for all the accommodation.
4. How do I get to St Barts?
The airport in St Barts is called the Gustaf 111 Airport. It is in St Jean in the middle of the island beside the beach. The runway is very short and can only take STOL aircraft (short take-off and landing) of up to 19 seater planes. The runway is just over 2000 feet long and in fact, is the second shortest in the world. This means that all international flights must land first in one of the three main gateways which are Antigua (VC Bird International Airport (ANU), St Martin (Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) or San Juan in Puerto Rico (Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). There are very regular flights from each of these hubs, and it is also very easy to charter a private aircraft.
Although getting to St Barts involves taking an extra plane, it is well worth it. The journey itself is stunningly beautiful, and it is also one of the reasons the island of St Barts is so unspoiled.
For those people who simply do not like flying on small aircraft, it is also possible to take a ferry from St Martin to St Barts.
There are three ports.
Two of the ports are on the French side of St Martin and leaves from Marigot Bay and Oyster Pond.
The third port is called Bobby’s Marina and is in the Dutch St Maarten side of the island. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes.
5. How do I get around St Barts?
There is no public transportation in St Barts so renting a car is an essential for visitors to the island staying in one of the St Barts Villas. The complimentary in-house concierge at Exceptional Villas will be delighted to organize cars for you at preferential rates. For night time, there are taxis on the island which will pick you up and bring you to your restaurant. Once you are on the island, you can get to most parts in less than 20 minutes.
6. What is the history of St Barts?
Like many of the Caribbean islands, the island of St Barts was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 who named the island after his brother Bartolomeo. St Barts was briefly settled by the French in 1648 but not for long as it was sold to the Knights of Malta in 1651. It was sold again in 1784 to the Swedish who used it as a trading port. It was repurchased by the French in 1878
Today, it is officially called the Territorial collectivity of Saint-Barthélemy and is an overseas collectivity of France. The local island government reports directly to the Ministry of Overseas in Paris. It was for many years a collectivity with the neighbouring island of Guadeloupe, but in 2003, the island voted to separate and stand by itself.
Tourism to St Bart’s only really started after 1957 when the American Billionaire David Rockefeller bought a house on the island. He subsequently invited many of his friends and family which began the transformation from a poor island to one of the most sought-after destinations on the planet for the rich and famous. Today, it is not unusual to see many celebrities, film stars, rock stars and supermodels walking up and down the beaches. Popular visitors to St Bart’s include Paul McCartney, Sting, Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Jon Bon Jovi.
Its history is very evident in the culture of the island. There is much evidence of a Swedish occupation in its architecture which is especially evident in the capital town of Gustavia. But there is no doubt that this is a French island from a cultural point of view. The first language is French, and of course, the island has all the best bits of France in evidence; it has incredible food, great glamour and chicness.
7. Which are the best beaches in St Barts?
With 22 coves and beaches in total, St Barts has some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet. All the beaches in St Barts are public beaches, and they all allow topless bathing. Because all the beaches are so different and so beautiful, I believe that one of the best parts of any trip to St Bart’s is trying a different beach each day.
The most famous of all the beaches is St Jean beach. This is where the airport is and where the famous Eden Rock Hotel is located. You might be forgiven for thinking that a beach beside an airport would not be relaxing. But the tiny planes coming and going just add to the aspect. The famous Nikki Beach Restaurant also has its location on St Jean Beach.
My personal favourite beach is Colombier Beach. It is located on the northeast point of the island. The appeal of the beach for me is that the only way to get to it is via a hike which takes about 45 minutes or by boat. As a result, it is always quiet. The waters are always calm and crystal clear, and the walk along the coastline is stunning.
The walk to Colombier Beach starts at Flamand’s beach which is also a stunning spot. This is where the beautiful Cheval Blanc Hotel is located. The beach can sometimes be quite wild which just adds to its spectacular beauty.
Another favourite spot of mine is Gouverneur Beach which is located in the south of the island. It is where Roman Abramovich’s St Barths Villa is located. The beach at Gouverneur is a picture post perfect crescent-shaped stretch of white sands. On a clear day, the views to St Kitts and Saba from Gouverneur Beach are spectacular.
Shell Beach is worth a mention as it has such a great location right in the centre of the Capital of the island; Gustavia. The waters are calm. The sands are made from Shells so not as smooth as some other points on the island, but Shell Beach is one of the best places in St Barts to watch a sunset.
If you like surfing or sailing, then Grand Cul De Sac is a great beach to visit. It is also the location of the lovely Guanahani Hotel. The restaurant on the beach is lovely and laid back, and the food is excellent.
Last but most definitely not least is Saline Beach.
Saline Beach is located beside Gouverneur Beach on the south coast of the island. There are rarely more than 20 people on the beach, and it is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever come across.
There are no sunbeds or umbrellas on the beach which adds to its beauty. There is plenty of parking, but the pathway to the beach is quite rough so you will need comfortable shoes.
8. What is there to do in St Barts?
If you can drag yourself away from relaxing on one of the beautiful beaches on the island, there is much to do and explore!
There is a very extensive range of watersports available on St Barts. Most of the waters around St Barts are protected, and consequently, there is a very diverse marine life making it a great spot for both snorkelling and scuba diving. One of the most notable results of the protection of the coastline is that there is a distinct increase in turtles around the island.
St Barts is also excellent for windsurfing, sailing and Hobie Cat. There are many spots on the island suitable for wind sports, but the most popular are at Toiny, Lorient, Anse des Cayes and St Jean Beach. Paddle Boarding is popular on St Jean Beach.
Kitesurfing is popular off Grand Cul-de-Sac beach, and it is rare that you won’t see skilled kite surfers speeding up and down the bay. There are several excellent water sports shops on the island that will assist with renting the relevant equipment and provide coaching from qualified instructors.
Sailing is a very popular sport around the beautiful waters of St Barts. One of the best ways to see the coastline and surrounding islands is to hire a catamaran or luxury yacht.
Both Colombier and Fourchue are perfect spots to drop anchor, have a swim and enjoy lunch off the St Barts coastline.
If you fancy venturing further afield, then a trip to Dog Island, Anguilla and St Martin are all within easy reach. The harbour at Gustavia is very popular for mega yachts, and the islands very exclusive yacht club is located here.
Each year the world-famous St Barts Bucket Regatta takes place in March. This is closely followed by the Les Voiles de Saint-Barth which takes place each April. The two events attract some of the worlds most well know yacht owners and plenty of well-known names. Even if sailing is not your main sport, the two events create a great atmosphere and spectacle on the island.
One of my personal favourite things to do in St Barts is to go hiking. There are some stunningly beautiful spots to explore. There are lots of routes of varying lengths, difficulty and variation to choose from. If you are looking for an energetic hike, then the climb up to the top of Mount Vitet is the best option. From the top, you will get incredible 360-degree views.
Many of the hotels in St Barts have tennis courts, but if you are staying in one of the luxury St Barts Villas, then it is still possible to play at the St Barts Tennis Club which is located in St Jean. It provides excellent facilities in a lovely atmosphere. In addition, several of the St Barts Villa Rentals have their own private tennis courts such as Villa Ella and the villas at the Domain Du Levant in Petit Cul de Sac
Volleyball is a huge sport on the island of St Barts.
It is possible to play on the beach or at one of the hard courts on the island. Volleyball is a great way of keeping fit on holiday. The volleyball matches are often lively and fun. This together with the beautiful St Barts backdrop make it a great spectator sport. There are several big Volleyball events on the island during the year. The Christmas tournament takes place in December and The St Barthélemy Cup in July and August. The two tournaments are infamous on the island. This is where you will see all the locals coupled together with hundreds of visitors. It is fun and worth a visit if you are on the island!
9. Which are the best restaurants in St Barts?
The island of St Barts has some of the best restaurants and best gourmet food in the Caribbean. There is an incredible amount of high-quality foods available on the island due to the fact that Air France has a daily flight from Paris to the local island of St Martin bringing with it lots of wines and gourmet food not found on most of the other islands. This combined with some of the freshest seafood on the planet is a recipe for success.
Guests frequently ask for restaurant recommendations, or for our concierge to book meals out for them, so i’ve expanded on the topic of restaurants in my article about the best places to eat in St Barts.
Not only do the restaurants have wonderful food, but you will also find the food in many of the St Barts Villas and the local supermarkets to be totally outstanding. There are more than 80 restaurants on the island and too many great restaurants to mention but here are a few of my firm favourites:
La Plage is located on St Jean Beach between the Eden Rock Hotel and the Airport. The restaurant has a stunning location just feet from the sea. The cuisine is a unique blend of French culinary art and Japanese lightness and flavours. La Plage is not just about food, however. There are daily fashion shows on the beach and nighttime entertainment with bands, DJ’s, fire shows and artistic pole dancing.
Le Ti St Barth
Le Ti St Barth is the ultimate party experience. From the outside, it looks like a lovely restaurant with a great bar and good food. But Le Ti St Barth is so much more than that.
It has an extraordinary cabaret show, fashion show and music. Before the nights out you will be dancing on the tables; It’s guaranteed!!
Nikki Beach is where you come to see and be seen. It is located on a beautiful almost private cove on St Jean Beach to the side of the Eden Rock Hotel. We highly recommend coming for the day and taking one of the sunbeds. Nikki Beach in St Barth is party central.
The food at Nikki Beach is surprisingly good, and there is always a party. One of the loveliest times to visit Nikki Beach St Barts is on a Sunday. They have a fabulous cabaret show, a fashion show and a DJ.
Located in Gustavia, Bonito is another firm favourite restaurant. It’s in an elevated position and consequently has a stunning view of the harbour. The food is always amazing, and they also have an extensive menu. The restaurant is beautiful with a lovely lounge area, and there is live music on some evenings. Be sure to inquire if you are a music fan. Bonito also has a lovely boutique.
L’Isola is the best Italian restaurant on the island, and many people consider it to be the best restaurant in St Barts. The cuisine is authentically Italian and is expertly prepared by Italians who live on the island. The chefs and owner are passionate about both food and wines at L’Isola.
One of the newer restaurants on the island of St Barts is Black Ginger . It is in Gustavia, and the food is influenced by Thai and Asian cultures. We have been many times, and everything on the menu is delicious. It is more casual than some of the other restaurants on the island which is nice for a change.
Sante Fe Restaurant is another firm favourite of mine. It is located on one of the highest points of the island, and consequently, the views are incredible. It is possible to see St Kitts and Saba. I especially like visiting at lunchtime because of the views. The food is French in style and is delicious and beautifully cooked.
Another one of the newest restaurants on the island is Tamarin St Barth. Located on the road to Saline Beach and set amidst a beautiful tropical garden. There are little paths throughout the garden that leads to private dining areas as well as the main seating and bar area. At nighttime, the atmosphere is romantic with soft lighting and candlelight. The food is also delicious. Tamarin also do a wonderful Sunday brunch.
L’Esprit Restaurant also deserves a mention as one of the best places to eat on the island of St Barts. Once again it is on the road to Saline Beach and located on the left-hand side just before you reach the beach itself. It is family-owned and managed, and you always get a very warm welcome accompanied by delicious food and a well-curated wine list.
10. What is the shopping in St Barts like?
The island of St Barts brings shopping to a whole new level. Forbes has even named the island one of the world’s top 12 shopping destinations. If you like a little retail therapy on holidays, then St Barts is simply unbeatable.
There are three main shopping spots on the island.
The capital Gustavia is where you will find a mix of designer shops and unique boutiques. St-Jean is where you will find beautiful shops full of island chic. The La Savane commercial centre which is located directly opposite the airport terminal has some fabulous little shops to explore. In addition, many of the hotels and restaurants have boutiques full of treasures. St Barts takes fashion so seriously that many of the restaurants and hotels have daily and weekly fashion shows.
In Gustavia, there are three main shopping streets. Most of the designer boutiques are located on the harbour-side road called the Quai de la République. The road is often referred to as the rue du Couturier as most of the islands high-end designer brands including Louis Vuitton, Roberto Cavalli, Hermès, Cartier, Ralph Lauren, Dolce et Gabbana, Tod’s, Bulgari, Chopard and Calypso St Barth.
There are several little side roads and small shopping centres off the main Quai de la République, and these are full of treasures and worth wandering into. My personal favourite is Le Carré d’Or Shopping Center which is full of gorgeous individual boutiques such The Free in St Barts Shop. The next street to wander down in St Barts is the Rue du Roi Oscar II, Gustavia. One of my personal favourite boutiques on this street is called Appunto.
The other centre for fashion retail is in St Jean.
The shopping is in two sections. One is close to St Jean Beach beside the location for Nikki Beach, and the other is in the centre of St Jean within the St-Jean Commercial Centre. If you are looking for island-chic style, then St Jean is the best spot.
St Barts has many of the world’s well-known brands, but it also has more than 10 of its own original designer brands that were inspired and designed on the island. My personal favourite is Vanita Rosa. The artist behind this amazing fashion brand is designer Valérie Bourdin who has been living in St Barts since 2002. The designs are extremely feminine in bright colours created from the best silks and linens.
Other local shops include Calypso St Barth, Lolita Jaca, Donna Del Sol, Fabienne Miot, Bijoux De La Mer, Poupette St Barth, Sunbarth, Calypso St Barth and Ligne St Barth.
Ligne St Barth is worth a special mention as this is the gorgeous product you will have the pleasure of using when you book one of the VIP St Barts Rentals.
To find out more in-depth information, take a look at our blog on Fashion in St Barts.
11. Where is the best place to stay in St Barts?
One thing that is very different in St Barts is that most people visiting and renting a St Barts Villa choose to stay in one on the hillside rather than on the beach.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Almost all villas have spectacular views. This coupled with the fact that most visitors to the island wish to experience many of the beautiful beaches whilst they are there rather than just staying on one during their time on the island.
Of course, there are some spectacular beachside villas to choose from too. With so many incredible villas, how do you ensure you get the perfect one for you? That’s where Exceptional Villas come in. They have seen them all and are able to give clients unbiased advice on which is best for you. Their expertise lies in matching the perfect villa for each client.
The island of St Barts is not only hard to beat in terms of natural beauty, but it also has some of the world’s best beaches, shops and restaurants. To top it all St Barts Villas are among the most luxurious and beautiful in the world. There is literally no bad villa on the island. They are all different and all exceptional.
Ironically some of the best parts of St Barts is about the things it doesn’t have. There are no cruise ship ports; there are no casinos and no golf course. There is just natural beauty and the ultimate in chicness.
We would love to hear from you, so please do leave a comment or send us a message on your St Barts experience. If you would like to have more information on the villas, our St Barts specialist at Exceptional will provide you with an unbiased assessment of the villas for you and match the perfect one to your taste. We look forward to hearing from you.