St. Barthelemy (or St. Bart’s for short), has become synonymous with the rich and famous and a jetset lifestyle that’s worth coveting. The pristine beaches and picturesque villages are lapped by turquoise waters and coral reefs. Blending the French influence of it’s colonial past with it’s very Caribbean roots, St. Bart’s is a holiday destination like no other. We’ve put together a list of everything you should do when you visit to make the most out of your stay. Whether you want to lie on the beach sipping cocktails, or explore the island via adventurous hikes, we’ve got everything you need to know.
Hit the beach
St. Barthelemy is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, perhaps even the world. Whether you want to lie on a sun lounger and have cocktails bought to you on the beach or discover secret wind-swept coves, there is a stretch of sand for you. Saline Beach is one of our favourites, backed by sand dunes and lapped by turquoise waters. Flamands Beach is the widest beach on the island, is great for swimming and is surrounded by a few luxury hotels where you can grab a drink when sunbathing becomes too much. Gouvernour Beach is the place where tourists in the know will head. This pristine stretch of sand is quieter than other beaches, as is the unspoiled Colombier Beach in the south.
Source: Le village St barts
Explore the capital
Gustavia isn’t your average capital. This pocket-sized ‘city’ is crammed full of stylish boutiques where the rich and famous can be spotted buying their beach gear and is also home to lots of ramshackle fishing huts on the shore. A real contrast. Explore the quiet back streets or sit and enjoy an alfresco refreshment while you watch the world go by. Lots of cruise ships stop here for the day so visiting in the evening, you might find a more relaxed vibe.
Take a hike
If relaxing on the beach isn’t your thing, St. Bart’s will provide you with plenty of active options. The island is criss-crossed with hiking trails of varying difficulty. They will take you from rocky beaches to dramatic cliff tops and then into more forested territory. Just be sure to pack plenty of water as they can get hot. If you plan it properly most hikes can end with a cooling swim in the crystal clear water.
Practice your water sports
Surfing, paddle boarding and kite surfing are all available around the coast with rental shops and lessons available. The best surfing spot is Lorient beach and one end sees some big waves while the other end is good for beginners with a smaller break. Cul de Sac is the perfect place to practice your kitesurfing and windsurfing because the shallow sheltered bay is safe but has enough wind to keep adrenaline junkies happy.
Wonder around the villages
Lots of the villages on St. Barthelemy are worth a visit. So it might be a good idea to hire a car for a day and explore some of the smaller settlements. The fishing village of Corossol on the island’s western shore is a charming excursion and you might even see some of the female residents there wearing traditional dress and sun bonnets and hear them speaking a Norman dialect. Lorient was the island’s first French settlement and is home to a 19th Century Catholic Church on the hilltop. St Jean is probably the island’s busiest area outside of the capital and is a lovely place to wonder around the shops. Expect glitzy boutiques and high-end restaurants.
Although not as renowned for snorkelling as some of it’s neighbouring islands, you can still see some exciting underwater life around St. Bart’s. Colombier Beach is one of the most popular spots but go on a calm day to make sure you have maximum visibility. There are places to buy and rent snorkels in the capital so go prepared and you might spot rays, reef sharks and other colourful species of fish.
Learn about the history
As part of the French West Indies, St. Barthelemy has an interesting and colourful history. Exploring the villages and speaking with locals will help give you a taste for it, but if you really want to look into the history of the island then we recommend a visit to Fort Gustave. The rains of the 18th Century fort can be found along with a striking lighthouse built here in 1961. It also provides sweeping views of the island.
Overindulge in delicious food
As a former French colony and with a high concentration of French visitors, it’s no surprise that you can find some of the best French cuisine here outside of France itself. Because of the Jetset clientele on the island though, you will also notice fine dining with cuisines from all over the world including Japanese, Italian and Chinese. Our favourite thing though is the locally caught seafood cooked on the beach. At Cul de Sac beach for example you’ll find a small nondescript hut serving all sorts of shellfish and seafood that is caught moments before you eat it. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.