Travels, Hotels, Resorts - St Barths Trip Reports

St.Barthélemy (St. Barths) is the upscale little sister to St. Martin, in our opinion. More upscale, smaller and more cosmopolitan than most Caribbean islands. 

Resort Overview

St.Barths is more expensive, more upscale, smaller and more cosmopolitan than most Caribbean islands. St. Barths is short for St. Barthélemy and is a department of France. Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493 and named it after his brother, Bartolomeo.

Getting There

Only about 15 miles southeast of St. Martin, St. Barths is French in every way, but, surprisingly, nudity is less accepted than on St. Martin, in our opinion. St. Barths seems to attract a greater percentage of Europeans and world travelers than St. Martin, where more North Americans seem to frequent the island.

A big plus for St. Barths is the port is not large enough to handle large cruise ships, so the island isn't overrun with day-trippers from ships like St. Martin is. Temperatures vary between about 72-86 F with a dry climate but are in the hurricane belt for storms in late summer and early fall. We recommend travel insurance to protect your holiday investment.

U.S. Citizens: Passports are required for international air travel to all destinations outside the USA.

To reach St. Barths, fly into St. Martin and take a ferry or a short flight to St. Barths. St. Barths is only 10 minutes by air taxi from St. Martin but a world apart otherwise. Smaller ships, Windjammers, Star Clippers, Cunard, Seaborne and other upscale cruise lines do stop at the island. Ferry service is frequent from St. Martin and surrounding islands.

Services

All the modern conveniences are available on St. Barths, and a rental car or jeep, preferably, is advisable to get around the small island, only 8 square miles, whereas St. Martin is 53 square miles. Landing on the island's short airport runway will leave your heart in your mouth but flight service by air taxi is the most convenient way to get there.

Driving is on the right, and most tourist service people speak some English, but French is the official language. St. Barths is very hilly so a jeep comes in handy.

NOTE: Please take care of your valuables, cash, airline tickets and passports while on vacation. Some vacation destinations are considered "third world" countries and experience petty theft.

Recommendation: Do not take precious jewelry unless you wear it all times; keep your cash, valuables, watches, travel documentation and cameras with you and don't expect your in-room safe to be "safe." Just a word of caution to make sure you remember to practice common sense with your valuables while you're on vacation.

Ambiance

Cool, upscale and expensive.

For nude sunbathing, the two most popular beaches are Grand Saline (Anse de Grande Saline) and Governeur's Beach (Anse de Governeur), both on the south side of the island. You can drive there, but again we recommend you rent a jeep or mini to get around.

Once you rent a vehicle, the local maps can help you find your way. With the island so small, you can't really get lost.

See Bill and Cathy's detailed report for more on nude beaches and additional island details.  Or Scroll down to Bill & Kathy's extensive trip report.

TIPS

        • Rent a jeep.
        • Prepare your own meals if you can to save money.
        • Travel with another couple and rent a villa and car, split the cost and have fun.
        • Take lots of money.
        • If you rent a hotel room, you may want to confirm if there is a fridge and/or kitchenette available in the hotel units.
        • Brush up a little on your French and you'll find the people to be friendly in turn.

ACCOMMODATIONS
Small, quaint hotels dot the island so you'll not see the 200-400 room resorts there....just more civilized and built to scale for the island's size. The largest resort is arguably Le Guanahani, with only 76 rooms and suites, then St. Barts Beach hotel with 36 rooms.

Most other hotels are family-run or jointly owned, with 10-25 rooms the norm. Some of the better smaller hotels include  Christopher, Sea Horse Hotel, Filao Beach Hotel, La Residence, Hotel Le Toiny (very upscale, very expensive--bring lots of charge cards!), Hotel Manapany, Sereno Beach Hotel and the Carl Gustaf, overlooking the harbor at Gustavia, the capital.

Others include: Hotel Cheval Blanc, Christopher Hotel, Hotel Villa Marie St Barts and  Tropical Hotel St Barts

In summary, foure hotels that are at the top of the list and friendly to those with big budgets are Eden Rock, Guanahani, Le Sereno, Hotel Le Toiny and the charming, Isle de France, with its residence club. It is hidden away at one end of a long curve of white sand, Baie des Flamands.

Our personal favorite is Eden Rock Hotel & Restaurant in St. Jean, not fancy but charming with a great little beach bar, a bistro and bar at the entrance plus a terrific restaurant on the rock above the hotel rooms with a drop-dead view of the bay, the beach, St. Jean and the airport. Very romantic, take lots of cash, make reservations and impress your honey with a great meal and wine for dinner.

The resort has rooms and suites with A/C and two beaches. Topless sunbathing is OK most places but you don't see nudity in the public areas or beaches like you would on St. Martin.

One of the best values with great flexibility is a rental villa. Plus, if you want to vacation on St. Barths on a budget, visit in the offseason of summertime or early fall for the best bargains and greatest selections. This list for St. Barts is not guaranteed, subject to change and will change as properties change ownership, close or re-open under new management.

ACTIVITIES
Most sports activities, equipment, and services are ala carte. Since most of the hotels are small, plan on using service vendors for such things as SCUBA diving, sailing, etc.

Shopping is expensive in Gustavia and world-class yachts anchor in the harbor, so you'll think you really are on the French Riviera after you take a look at the millions at anchor. Some hotels have equipment for water sports such as sunfish sailing, windsurfing, and snorkeling.

Restaurants: Le Gaiac, Le Tamarin, Au Port, L'Ananas, Do Brazil, Maya's.

Party spots/see and be seen: Le Ti St-Barth, Nikki Beach.

This list for St. Barts is not guaranteed and will change as properties change names, close or re-open under new management.

Group Trips

We do not have listed group trips to St Barth's, but that doesn't mean the island isn't a great place for two, three or even dozens of couples to get together for a group trip.  If you have other couples that might want to join you, please contact us and see what kind of group trip deals we might be able to package especially for you.

Sightseeing

Mostly, sightseeing is limited to exploring the island and spending time on the beach. Relaxing and enjoying wine, food, and the song is a good idea, too.

There is a small museum called the Musee Municipal de St. Barthelemy which showcases the island's history through photographs, documents, costumes, and antiques. Some of the most fun is simply to nose around Gustavia, stop at roadside bistros and have a wine and salad to get you through the day.

For chic nightlife and great food as well as ambiance, try Le Ti on St. Barts. (Ti is short for Petite in Creole) A stylish bistro...see and be seen and pay for the right to do so. Moderately priced drinks and food. After dark, boogie, and disco to all hours of the night. Dance on the tables.......??? It's OK here.

Pizza, burgers, French and Creole creations. Cassoulet, crayfish fricassee. Rib of Beef is a house specialty. Also, fish Tartare with Tropical fruit and smoked fish on blinis. A long list of French wines (what else) from moderate to "you'll need a bank loan" prices. Gruson (she) is the chef. Also, DaBadereau owns the Tom Beach Hotel and La Plage restaurant.

The best late-night crowd and great DJ Music. Eat & drink....but make reservations. Cameras not particularly welcome..... a mix of common folks and celebs. Open daily. Reservations a MUST. Try to visit when there are Theme Nights. Located at Pointe Milou, the island's north coast, not far from Guanahani and Hotel Toiny (very expensive there).

All entries, clubs, and restaurants listed above are subject to change without notice.

For a little underwater fun, try the Yellow Submarine, with space for 22 passengers with 24 below-deck portholes for spectacular sites below the surface with a snapper's-eye view of reefs and wrecks just offshore. Tours run an hour.

See Bill and Cathy's recent detailed report for more on Sightseeing.  Or scroll down to Trip Reports section.

 Pearl Beach, St Barth

The pristine beaches of St Jean in St Barth are the epitome of luxury. And this is the epicenter: Pearl Beach, St Jean’s famous beach bar and diner that offers up constantly inventive cocktails and some excellent seafood while evoking the island’s  traditional, carefree attitude.

Want to stay a night or two at the Pearl Beach Hotel? We’ll book you in on your island-hopping adventure so you can spend some time on one of the most pristine beaches in the Caribbean.

  Visit Pearl Beach on Facebook.

For premier windsurfing, try Grand Cul-de-Sac, voted one of the world's 10 most beautiful beaches by the Travel Channel. Nearby is the hotel Le Sereno, modernistic, typical French take on an island property with 37 rooms.

St. Barts most expensive getaway and chic restaurant, try Le Toiny, whose owners reportedly include Lance Armstrong. Le Tamarin is another upscale eatery directed by the former chef at Le Toiny. A dinner cruise can be had aboard the Chinese junk, Sao Mai for up to 10 guests.

In January, the St. Barts Music Festival is held and includes classical, ballet and jazz. The best beaches are Grand Cul-de-Sac, Flamands Beach, Colombier, Gouverneur Beach, and clothing-optional Grand Saline. St. Jean bay still hosts Eden Rock with one of the best views on the island from its restaurant.

Its two villas are for rent; Villa Nina and Rockstar, complete with a recording and screening studio and 4 bedrooms.

Dining

Food, wine, entertainment, and diversions are world-class on St. Barths. The hotels have some of the best restaurants but great bistros and smaller places to eat are all over the island. Plan on world-class prices, too! French and Creole are the main bill of fare and you won't go wrong.

One of the best ways to avoid sticker shock every time you walk into a restaurant is to rent a small villa with a cook, gardener, and maid. Many villas have a private pool so you can feel free to skinny dip any time you wish.

See Bill and Cathy's detailed report for more on dining and entertainmentOr scroll down to Trip Reports section.

Here is a list of dining selections reported by Caribbean Travel & Life Magazine. Note: This list is subject to change and is not guaranteed as establishments change hands, close or change cuisine.

        • Bartolomeo-Hotel Guanahani
        • Cheeseburger in Paradise
        • Kiki-e Mo Pasta + Bakery
        • Carl Gustaf's- Sunset Restaurant
        • Le Cellier du Gouverneur
        • Eden Rock-St Jeans
        • Sand Bar-Eden Rock
        • On the Rock-Eden Rock
        • La Gaiac at Toiny Cove
        • Maya's-Public
        • La Route des Boucaniers-Gustavia
        • PaCri- Gustavia
        • Francois Plantation- Colombier
        • Restaurant des Pecheurs
        • La Case de L;Isle Baie de Flamands
        • K'Fe Massai Lorient
        • La Sapotillier- Gustavia
        • Wall House-Gustavia

Rates

Some hotel rates can start as low as $100-$125/room/night, but the norm is usually higher like $150-$400/room/night. Remember, no food, no taxes and no drinks are included so carry you credit card and plenty of money. Villas can start at about $2,000-$3,000 and more/week in the off season.

See Bill and Cathy's detailed report ... Money Matters section

Or scroll down to Trip Reports section.

Impressions

Uppers-Downers

▼ St. Barths is expensive

▲▼ Variety of activities is somewhat limited since the island is so small.

▲ Some interesting and cool people vacation on St. Barts. Yep... famous ones too!

▼ If you drive, be careful as the roads are narrow and the terrain hilly.

▲▼ Take credit cards and charge where you can since you usually get a better exchange rate.

Age Ranges

From babies to seniors on this island. However, you don't see many families on holiday on this upscale island.

Best Time To Go

Any time is great to go. The island is in the hurricane belt so the weather can be potentially unstable late summer or early fall. Prices for lodging, hotels or villas are lower during summer and fall but food and drink always seem expensive.

Wish List

● Sure wish that St Barts was a bit less expensive.

TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS

A valid passport is required to visit St Barths.  Passport must be valid for 6 months beyond your date of departure from the island.

See the St Martin entry requirements since more St Bart visitors arrive by plane in St Martin. See (French) St Martin site for details and (Dutch) St Martin Updates

Alerts subject to change without notice and are not guaranteed.

Photo Album

The photos were either shot by us, our clients or provided by various resorts. Many in our album were provided by Bill & Cathy. If you have recently visited St Barths, we invite you to send in your photos for us to display. To contribute your own photos (or trip reports), go to our Contribute Trip Report / Photographs page.

Trip Reports

If you have recently visited St Barths, we would appreciate you contributing a trip report. You can contribute to this section buy using our Contribute Trip Report / Photographs page.  Here's one we have from a recent visitor

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Bill & Cathy - Numerous visits...
Our first visit to St. Barth was 15 years ago. Albeit a short two day venture, we found the island charming and vowed we would return. Since that initial short visit, we've visited St. Barth January 2006 onward. And our total combined nights spent on the island total approximately 34.

While I don't consider myself an expert on French culture, I do consider myself an expert on the fun in the sun, and great places to run naked on the beach, and this is one of the best, albeit extremely pricey. Because this is not wild crazy like Hedonism II in Jamaica, those seeking adventure should try the nearby alternative, St. Martin.

St. Barth is a sleepy little island, and the attraction will surely be more the sound of the cackle of the local rooster, great restaurants, and unspoiled and generally uncrowded beaches more so than discos, loud music, and toga parties.

There are some water sport activities at Grand Cul-De-Sac, and St. Jean, but there are no water parks, and this is probably not the place that serious scuba divers would choose to visit...

This is a very detailed report you don't want to miss...

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