A diminutive, volcanic island of just 25 square kilometres, Saint Barthélemy, or St. Barts as it’s often abbreviated, is completely surrounded by shallow reefs, with over 20 beaches featuring crescent shaped spits of white sand and clear blue waters. While the isle is better known as a holiday destination for the wealthy, its appeal is well suited to those beyond the stereotypical visitor, with a simple and rustic lifestyle that’s both inviting and charming.
St. Barts, the only Caribbean island that was a Swedish colony for a considerable period of time, was also a French commune for many years, forming part of Guadeloupe. In 2003, the island voted in favour of secession from Guadeloupe to establish a separate overseas collectivity of France. This chain of history has led to a tropical setting that is reminiscent of the South of France, with freshly baked croissants readily available beachside.
The locals take great pride in their island, reflected in their strict building laws, where the colour of the roofs must be kept to a discerning palette of just red, white, green and grey. Beautifully maintained and culturally interesting, St. Barts is amongst the most alluring of the Caribbean islands.
Below is our list of “favorites” for eating, drinking, and doing…
CLOSE TO THE VILLA:
- Our favorite boulangerie, perfect for grabbing warm croissants and baguettes for breakfast, is La Petit Colombe which is located just a minute drive up the road from the villa. To get there, go back to the main road from the villa and take a right (direction Flamands, Columbier), drive up the hill about a minute or so, and as you start to go down the hill, on your left you will see La Petit Colombe. It’s across from the small school and just before the turn off to Flamands.
- Grocery Store – The Super U, located across from the airport (behind the airport pharmacy and WIMCO villas office) is the best & biggest grocery store on the island. It’s a two minute drive from the villa. The selection of cheeses, fruits and vegetables, wine, and really anything else you could need is excellent.
- Beaches – The villa is very well located for access to a number of the islands best beaches. The local beach, Anse Des Cayes, is just a five minute walk down the hill from the villa. Flamands is a few minute drive and a wonderful place for a morning beach walk. Columbier is just a short drive past Flamands if you feel like hiking to a beach and St Jean is a short three minute drive from the villa.
- Hiking around Toiny Point: Valet at the Hotel Toiny (not a bad place to grab breakfast too) and take their complementary LandRover down to the beach. From there, you’ll find a path to your left, to where the beach ends. You have to look a bit closely, but there is a trail that starts at that end of the beach. It goes along the coast, out to the point, then up over the top of the small mountain. You can make a loop by coming back down the road at the end to the beach where you started. This hike is particularly beautiful at the end of the day.
- Surfing with Nathan: Nathan is a great instructor who always brings boards and a big smile to teach you how to surf. Reach out to him direct and he’ll tell you which beach to be at and when! firstname.lastname@example.org
- Grand Fond Hike: walk to the far end of the beach (away from the road) to find the trail which continues along the rugged coast. The trail eventually ends at some beautiful natural pools.
- Hike to Columbier: Drive towards Flamands, but keep going until the road ends in a parking area to begin the hike to Columbier. The trail traverses the coast and takes about 20-30 minutes to reach Columbier beach. Bring a picnic and plan to spend the day. The beach is so beautiful, you’ll never want to leave. Sunsets are spectacular here.
- Surfing: The best surf spots on the island depend on the swell. Toiny, Anse de Cayes, and Lorient are the three main spots to check. Go to Hookipa Surf Shop in St. Jean to rent boards and get more info.
- Spa: We love the spa at Hotel Christopher for its ocean front treatment rooms. You can get a massage or any spa treatment with open doors to the sea where the sounds of the waves crashing will relax you more than you could ever imagine!
- Facial: Spa Excellence des Sens in Gustavia is tucked away in a corner of the high end shopping area in Gustavia. Here, Sophie Arnaud gives the best facials on the planet. It’s wonderful to book one towards the end of your stay to return home with glowing skin!
- Shopping: Both in Gustavia and St Jean there is fantastic shopping. Just walk around those two areas and you’re certain to stumble into some fabulous boutiques. We love home stores, and if you do too, don’t miss Yume in St Jean and French Indies Design in Gustavia. For clothing and other small goods, we love Cliq, Baya, Linde Gallery.
- Exploring by car: Driving around the island is a great way to really get a feel for St Barts. You can circumnavigate in about 25 minutes, but if you choose to do this, take your time, detour to all the beaches, stop for lunch at Café Santa Fe in Lurin, and enjoy the hilly, winding roads of St Barts!
- Stand Up Paddle: Marigot Bay, Grand Cul du Sac, Loreint, St Jean – these are all excellent spots for stand up paddle boarding. Board rentals available at Hookipa Surf Shop in St Jean or through www.saintbarthkite.com.
- Kite Surf: The majority of the kite surfing takes place in Grand Cul du Sac. There is a small school here right next to Le Barthelemy hotel if you’re interested in lessons: www.saintbarthkite.com
- We love practicing yoga in the mornings on the villa deck. For a private instructor that will come right to the house, contact Amanita St Barth Wellness
- Thai massage at the villa with Nanda, it’s pure heaven!
- There is nothing better than dinners in with friends at the villa. You can get fresh fish in the morning from the fish market at the entrance to Gustavia. Get there before 8am or all the fish will be gone!
- If you’re a coffee lover, we love morning walks/swim on Flamands beach followed by a delicious cappuccino at Ile De France
- Petit St Jean is one of our favorite swimming beaches. Head here any time of day for a relaxing swim or float in the most perfect turquoise sea. On Sundays you can float in the water while the party at Nikki Beach goes off.
- Just to the left of Shell beach are some cliffs to jump off of should you need an adrenalin boost. You have to swim to get there, though not far. Jumping into warm turquoise water from a few meters up is pretty fun!
- One of the best snorkeling spots on the island is the right side (as you’re looking out to sea) of Corossol Beach. Hop in the water and follow along the rocks. There are incredible fish and coral as far as you want to swim! There are two snorkoling setups int he villa or you can bring your own or rent from Hokipa surf shop.
- If you have a sailor in your group, you can rent a hobbie cat from St Jean beach and enjoy a day sail out to the marine park where you can snorkel, picnic, or simply enjoy being out at sea.
- Sunset spots: There is a small path to hike up above Shell Beach to Fort Karl. It’s a beautiful view of the island and perfect for taking in sunset. We also love watching the sunset from the Gustavia Light house. Bring a bottle of champagne and enjoy the incredible view. If you want to be on the water, try a sunset Stand Up Paddle at Public beach or Corossol!
- Piscines Naturelles (natural pools) – These are a little tricky to find, and require local guidance or a detailed map, but they are truly magical once you find them…Generally speaking, you park at Petit Cul de Sac, walk the beach to the end (right side as you’re looking out to sea), and then follow the signs along the coast. When the signs run out, you go up to the top of the steep hill and then down the other side and to the left.
- Bonito: incredible view of Gustavia Harbor, ask for a table on the terrace. Expensive but incredible food. Great for a special night.
- Tamarind: located near Saline, this is a gorgeous and delicious retaurant in an exotic garden setting. Good for drinks and or dinner.
- Shellona: Go for long (likely boozy) lunches. The fish and rosé are wonderful. Your feet will be in the sand and you’ll likely be in a swim suit as it’s located on Shell Beach.
- Maya’s To Go: The one stop shop for a gourmet picnic or delicious food on the run. Located in St Jean.
- Choisy Boulangerie, Lorient: A classic French boulangerie with a great seating area (most boulangeries have little in the way of seating) and if you’re lucky, the croissants will have just come out of the oven!
- L’Isola: You’ll feel as though you took a quick flight and landed in Italy the moment you are welcomed into the restaurant. They speak to you in Italian, everyone who works there is Italian, the food is all from Italy, and it’s absolutely fabulous. Beautiful minimalist interior all lit by candles. Very romantic.
- L’Isoletta: the “little sister” to L’Isola, the island’s best Italian restaurant, L’Isoletta is a more casual, more affordable version. Pizza is their specialty – you can eat there or take it out, either way it’s some of the best pizza we’ve ever had!
- Hideaway: Speaking of pizza…. Hideaway in St Jean is also wonderful for pizza lovers. Our favorite thing to do it take it to go and walk across the street for a little pizza picnic on Petit St Jean beach
- Eddy’s: Located in the heart of Gustavia, with a classic Caribbean vibe and incredible food, Eddy’s is a long time local favorite.
- Ile de France: For a fancy lunch in a spectacular setting, La Case de l’isle is hard to beat.
- O’Corail: On the beach at Grand Cul de Sac, just down from Le Sereno Hotel, this is a tiny and adorable lunch spot where you’re feet hang into the water as you dine on fish caught that morning.
- Grain de Sel: Perfect for lunch after a swim and walk on Saline Beach.
- Le Sereno Restaurant: Wonderful for lunch with a setting right on the water at Grand Cul de Sac. From your table you’ll gaze out on the stunning turquoise water of the bay. Following lunch you can rent stand up paddle boards and go searching for sea turtles!
- Le Ti Marchè: Only open on select days (usually Fri, Sat, Sun), this is a small fruit and vegetable market located in Lorient where all the produce is local and seasonal (arriving by boat weekly from Guadeloupe).
*** The easiest and best way to make reservations for any of the Island’s restaurants is through the St Bart Smart Guide ***
- On the Rocks at Eden Rock: this is an incredible restaurant, but it’s also probably the most expensive on St Barts. To still enjoy the setting and great view with out spending too much, it can be a great spot for sunset cocktails.
- Tom Beach bar: Located on St Jean beach it’s a fun and casual spot to grab a drink and hang out on their lounge chairs or at their beach bar.
- Nikki Beach: World famous and always a party, Nikki beach is a great spot to go to be entertained, drink lots, and then float around in the waters of Petit St Jean.
- Le Ti: For a lively and exotic night, head to the bar at Le Ti after dinner (you can eat there, but we think it’s more fun to eat elsewhere and then just grab late night drinks at the bar). Best done on a Friday or Saturday night. You’re in for a show!
- Picnics: Our personal favorite – just grab a bottle of rose and head to your favorite beach. There’s no better spot for a drink than that!
The St Barts Smart Guide is a great resource for making reservations and bookings for both restaurants and variety of activities!
For additional information on St Barts, click HERE