The French island of St Barth’s, a luxury vacation destination, or St Barthélemy to give it its proper name, has long held the reputation for being the Caribbean’s most expensive and elite island. If you want to bump into millionaires and celebrities, St Barth’s is the adult sandbox where they go to play. But what is the fuss about this island, and is it worth paying a visit to enjoy a luxury vacation?
In short: yes.
The capital city of Gustavia is picture perfect, with designer shops and elegant restaurants, all overlooking a yacht-crowded harbour. At the other end of the island is an exclusive strip of boutiques and beach bars which is often favourably compared to St Tropez.
All across the island, you’ll find welcoming, exclusive places to visit that are sure to earn a place in your heart.
Whether you’re looking for stunning white-sand beaches – of which there are over 15 to choose from – or to enjoy the French charm of the cities, it’s not hard to see why people fall in love with this stunning island.
In fact, there’s some disagreement from experts on how many beaches there technically are in St Barth’s. Thanks to the stunning and irregular coastline, there are scores of lagoons and calm little inlets, and many golden sand beaches. As you might expect, not all of the beaches are created equal – and many have limited public access as they are located behind private property. Yet by law in St Barth’s, all beaches are public.
Some of the beaches are trickier to access and will involve a ride down an unpaved road, taking a boat ride, or a short hike; all of the beaches you can get to are worth the trip for a genuine St Barth’s experience.
Saline Beach is one of the most beautiful, unspoiled natural beaches in the world. You won’t find tourist traps or cocktail bars here – no shops, no restaurants – just azure water and stretches of powdered sugar sands.
Similarly, Colombier Beach is an isolated haven that requires a little bit of a hike to get to it – or a boat journey. The trek is around 30 minutes and can be particularly challenging on the way back – so be mindful to avoid trying to do so in the afternoon heat. Here again, you’ll find startlingly clear waters and the purest of shores.
If you like to take your beaches with a slice of the good life, then you might want to consider St Jean beach. Here you’ll find St Barth’s hot spots like Nikki Beach and Eden Rock – and plenty of people for you to watch.
For surfers, check out the beaches at Toiny or Lorient, and for those who want to try a spot of snorkelling then consider going to Gouverneur or Petite Anse beach.
Shell Beach is the ultimate place to descend at sunset, where it is covered by millions of tiny, thumbnail size shells you can collect – as well as being home to the legendary Do Brazil.
St Barths By Day
While the reputation of St Barths is that it is ultra chic and overwhelmingly expensive, it is still a Caribbean island. This means that during the day, the atmosphere is one of relaxing and laid back activities.
Head to Do Brazil on Shell Beach, where you can pull up a table in the sand and take a swim while the bartender makes your Mojito or specialty cocktail. The environment is chilled, and typically you’ll find that people are shoeless and happily enjoying the sand between their toes.
In fact, during the day you’ll find this is true of almost everywhere on the island. Whether you want to grab a pizza slice at The Hideaway or grab a burger at the dive-bar-esque Le Select (which is alleged to have inspired Jimmy Buffett’s song “Cheeseburger in Paradise”.)
The only exception to the relaxed rule is Sundays at Nikki Beach. Famous for everyone from Billy Joel to Beyonce taking advantage of the madness, the beach club turns into a table-dancing day party with bottle service, stunning wait staff, and huge sushi boats.
St Barths At Night
As the sun sets, you’ll find that this pretty island starts to live up to its reputation for glamour. Of the unmissable places, the exclusive Bonita Saint Barth is a Latin-French restaurant which serves delicious food to stunning patrons. For a romantic trip, visit Jean-Georges’s On the Rocks at Eden Rock, which looks out over St Jean Bay.
As you might expect, seafood is the main food of choice, although the island also offers excellent Thai food at Black Ginger, as well as Southern Italian delights at L’Isola. Orega, a French-Japanese fusion bar in the Gustavia, is widely recognized to be one of the best new restaurants on the scene to dominate in the area—and rightfully so—you can also get incredible Thai food (Black Ginger) and Southern Italian fare (L’Isola). French-Japanese fusion eatery Orega, located in the heart of Gustavia, is unanimously considered one of the best new additions to the local dining scene.
St Barths After Dark
Finally, if you want to make the most of being in the lap of luxury, you need to spend at least one night at Le Ti St-Barth. Infamous for its kitsch and camp, waiters dress you up and send you onto a strobing dance floor dressed in neon mullets, capes, and feather boas as standard fare.
However, if you want to visit somewhere a little less ridiculous, an outpost of the famous New York Bagatelle has all of the rowdiness and dancing, but less of the costume. Another great place to celebrity spot is 1 Oak, another New York transplant, which has become a favorite of the local celebrity visitors.
Finally, if you want to see how late you can make it, then head to Modjo St Barts, where the party doesn’t typically start until at least 1 am. If you survive the night, the locals recommend heading to Saline beach for a swim – apparently, the salty seawater is the ultimate in hangover remedies!