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.
Words: Cereal Magazine Images: Kate Holstein
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.
- Groceries/Markets – The Super U, located across from the airport and 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. There is also a lovely organic market just before the turn off to our house. You will see a sign for La Vie Claire and the store is just down that road on your right. Our favorite local market is Ti Marche located in Lorient. They are typically open Friday, Sat, and Sunday afternoons, though hours do vary based on the season. It is produce only and they have an excellent selection of local fruits and vegetables from the neighboring island of Guadaloupe.
- 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 however this is more of a surfing beach than swimming beach. Flamands is a few minute drive and a wonderful place for a morning beach walk as is St Jean Beach. Columbier, our favorite beach, is just a short drive past Flamands and is about a 25 min walk/hike to the beach. Gouvernor is another favorite beach not to be missed. You can easily spend the day there or split your time between Gouvernor in the morning and Saline in the afternoon.
- 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. Follow with a lunch or cocktail at the Toiny Beach Club.
- 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 / +590690291605
- 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!
- 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 Baya in Gustavia. For clothing and other small goods, we love Clic, Volver, Montagne Market, Mackeene, Lolita Jaca, and Carla.
- 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: Grand Cul du Sac, Loreint, St Jean, Shell Beach – 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 and she will come to the Villa!
- 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!
- Bar de L’oublie is great drink and people watching spot in the heart of Gustavia any time of day – morning coffee, afternoon or evening drinks.
- Petit St Jean is a lovely swimming beach, especially if you have little children. The water is usually very calm here as it’s in a protected bay. 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. For other boat rentals, or a lovely sunset cruise on a catamaran, contact Jicky Marine.
- 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. Park on the road leaving Gustavia as you get to the top of the hill, you’ll see some parking and stairs on your left. Walk up from there. 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.
- Gypsea Beach: Located on Petit St Jean beach, beautiful setting, hip bohemian vibe and great fresh food.
- Ti Corail: The ex chef of Ile de France who has opened the most incredible beach shack on Grand Cul de Sac. You must reserve in advance (easiest via Instagram or telephone)
- Lil Rock: Casual, feet in the sand, incredible view of St Jean bay, freshly caught fish and chilled rose… what more does one need?! Lunch only.
- 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!
- L’esprit – Located in Saline, this restaurant is a favorite of many long-time St Barthians who come for the elegant yet relaxed garden atmosphere and delicious food from chef Jean Claude Dufour.
- La Guérite – Located on the far side of the harbor in Gustavia, we love this restaurant for it’s lively, stylish atmosphere and wonderfully fresh food. Dinner only.
- Santa Fé – A great spot for lunch after a morning on Gouvernor Beach. Fabulous food, longtime local spot.
- 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!
- Kiki-é Mo: Located in St Jean, across from Petit St Jean beach. This is a great spot to take away breakfast or lunch (or dine in, in a small casual atmosphere). They have fresh juices, Acai bowls, and a good selection of salads/lunch food.
- Eddy’s: Located in the heart of Gustavia, with a classic Caribbean vibe and great food, Eddy’s is a long time local favorite.
- Pearl Beach: 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.
- Remy Bar, Eden Rock: Go for a sunset cocktail in a gorgeous beach chic setting
- 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!
For additional information on St Barts, click HERE