A guide to the beautiful island of St. Barth.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: SVADORE
Patrick and I took a well-deserved mid-winter vacation to one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands – St. Barth, located in the French West Indies. On this island you will not find big resorts, casinos, high-rise hotels, golf courses, mega-cruise ships, and loud partying, for that you can turn to St. Barth’s neighboring island St. Maarten. The island is an intimate and romantic escape with very little to do except experience the island’s natural wonders. Although the island can only be reached by commuter jet or ferry, I promise the extra effort spent in getting there is well worth it.
The only way to get to this exclusive paradise is through the island of St. Maarten. Once on St. Maarten, you can choose to either fly Winair on a terrifying and small commuter jet plane that just skims the road before hiding behind a mountain and flying deep into the island onto a tiny strip in front of the water or by the Great Bay Ferry. Patrick and I chose the latter. Do be aware, that on very windy days it is difficult to get to the island. Patrick and I managed to get on the last ferry to the island and almost got seasick from how rough the water was! However, that’s only if the weather conditions are bad, we had a delightful experience on the way back.
Upon arrival at the “airport” or small harbor, you will need to stop directly at a rental car agency at St. Barth to pickup your car. The airport is as quaint as the island, a small open aired building with one terminal, one waiting room, and about 6 small car rental booths. A car is a must for the tiny island which is very easy to navigate and the smaller the car, the better given the islands narrow and winding roads! The roads were a bit scary, but I managed to get a hang of them after a couple of drive throughs. If you use the airport roundabouts as your point of reference, take anyone of the exits and you’ll find yourself on any part of the island. Across from the miniature “airport” you will find a strip of tiny shops that will come in handy during your stay on St. Barth.
If you are planning on staying less than a week and can’t rent a villa or don’t have the money to stay in one of the few small upscale hotels that can cost you up to $1,000 p/night, I recommend checking into an AirBnB. Patrick and I stayed in a lovely family’s modern flat overlooking Gustavia and the harbor – Saint Eustache View. Waterfront views from the terrace, an outdoor pool overlooking the harbor and plane arrivals and a modern air-conditioned bedroom was all we needed for a delightful stay.
Before you even think of running off to the beach, stock up on these must-have items. The Caribbean sun is stronger than the typical summer sun you get in Europe or New York, so if you brought your SPF 30, go up a notch and stock up on SPF 50. I cannot tell you how many red lobsters Patrick and I saw walking around St. Barth, and I promise you it is painful to look at! The airport will be your home-base for these must-have items:
Food: Breakfast and Happy Hour
Whether you’re renting a villa or staying in an AirBnB, you will want to stop by Marché U for some vacation essentials. Although you will occasionally go out for breakfast to get those fresh baked goods from places like Maya’s-to-go, you will probably want to stay in your villa and admire the view from your terrace while sipping a cup of freshly morning brewed coffee alongside a glass of freshly squeezed juice and some toast, butter and jam. Marché U is located directly across from the airport. There I also suggest you stock up on cheeses, charcuterie meats, wine and beer to enjoy at your villa during your stay.
Sunscreen, Après Soleil and an Umbrella
Most of the beaches you will go to do not have umbrellas or any shade as a matter a fact. I highly recommend renting an umbrella or investing in one while there. Not only will this make your stay on the beaches more bearable, but it will allow you to relax on the beach for hours on end without turning into a crisp. And in case you do happen to get a bit of a sunburn because you forgot to reapply sunscreen after that last dip in the ocean, stock up on some après soleil to calm down the redness after a day at the beach. You can find all these amenities in the pharmacy across from the airport.
St. Barth’s might not have all of the luxuries of a resort island, but that’s exactly what makes it so special. It has all of the ingredients necessary for a perfect Caribbean vacation. From simple to world class service, food, people, and fabulous vistas, Caribbean waters and year round temperatures, it is the simple things in St. Barth’s that make for a perfect vacation.
Saline and Gouverneur are windy and unshaded rustic beaches with clear turquoise water and rigorous waves. The beaches are a perfect representation of the island’s untouched topography. Remember to bring an umbrella as there is no shade on these beaches. If it’s too windy, you might choose to go for a less open beach. If the wind is strong, you can end up going in the water or putting on sunscreen and finding yourself covered in sand within 5 minutes!
Colombier is by far my favorite beach on the island. The only way to the beach is by hiking down a mountain in the middle of all the vegetation alongside the occasional goat and iguana! Truly worth the hike. Remember to pack an umbrella, as shade on this beach is limited. It’s the perfect spot to people watch all the beautiful yachts anchored a couple of miles off the shore and admire the mountains surrounding the azure water. We suggest you pack yourselves a couple of beers and some snacks as well to lull over the hunger you might get during midday.
If you are looking for water sports and cute beachside lunches the Grand-Cul-de-Sac is the beach for you. Spend the morning paddle boarding with sea turtles, canoeing in a transparent canoe, wind surfing or taking a jet ski tour of the island. Following the sports, satisfy your appetite by eating at one of the two small beachside cabanas or stop at one of the island’s most beautiful hotels “Le Sereno” for an exquisite lunch and a dip in their pool.
If you are looking for a party atmosphere with non-stop music, away from all the quiet beaches of St. Barth, Nikki Beach is the beach for you. On Sundays, Nikki Beach throws parties from 3PM-10PM were you will see families and children alike dancing and getting drunk to 15 Dom Perignon bottles brought to a table each with a sparkler. Children dance in the water as adults dance on the tables and couches of the Nikki Beach bar. If you are not interested in spending $20 a drink, bring your own beers and join the crowd out by the beach and water. You are sure to find the people watching to be quiet amusing…!
For the perfect sunset during aperitif, stop by Shell Beach by the harbor in Gustavia. This beach is the only place on the island where for some strange reason, shells accumulate on the shore. The suns reflection on both the shells and water make for a perfect sunset.
Promenade & Shopping
Spend an afternoon in Gustavia, walking down Cour de Vendome or perusing through the local shops on the Island. Grab an ice cream and indulge in the island’s beautiful harbor shop. Beware, most of the items stores are for the ultra-wealthy, but there are a few quaint stores that sell moderately priced goods.
Aside from the beaches, another main activity that people indulge in on the island of St. Barth’s is the cuisine. The food is all fresh and made by the world’s most renowned chefs. Here our some of the top restaurants we visited during our stay that are commonly frequented by both celebs and locals:
Let’s begin by saying that stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Jason Mraz where seen leaving this locale in the Port of Gustavia–so the food must be good. The restaurant’s success in the star struck city of Cannes, France, led the owners to make a second establishment on the island of St. Barth’s. The flavors and simplicity of this Greek inspired Mediterranean cuisine must be tried.
Recommendation: I suggest starting off with their delicious Greek salad made with fresh tomatoes and feta cheese. I am very selective when it comes to salad’s, but this had to be one of the best I had while on the island..!
Grain de Sel
After a morning on Saline beach, just a few steps away from the entrance lies a hidden cove and excellent lunch restaurant–Grain de Sel. The Guadaloupean cuisine is amazing..! At the end of every meal, it is tradition in St. Barth that the restaurant offer you their homemade or “house” rum. What makes Grain de Sel even more special than other locales is the fact that they sell their homemade Ginger and Vanilla Rum in small and large bottles for only 15 to 30 euros. They are definitely worth taking home as a souvenir.
Recommendation: I highly suggest the warm goat cheese salad with honey. Another one of my favorite salad’s while on the island.
Held in a large Creole cottage amid a miniature tropical forest, taste Pipiri Palace’s unique Creole cuisine and island renowned warm chocolate cake. You’ll find that almost every restaurant in St. Barth offers the local and infamous warm chocolate cake for dessert. Live music, a friendly atmosphere and quality food and service make for a unique island experience.
Recommendation: Patrick got the 700g lobster that was beautifully presented and opened for him to savor.
For a good meal at a reasonable price with a view facing the port and yachts on the dock, head to Le Repaire. A go to amongst locals and celebrity alikes, it is open for early morning breakfasts, lunches and dinners and offers everything from French cuisine to genuine American burgers and fries.
Recommendation: Grab the Pina Colada a sweet and beautifully presented beverage made with their homemade rum.
Hidden between L’Isola and Bagatelle, behind a small wooden door with a light up lizard at the entrance lies Eddy’s. A beautiful garden restaurant with Asian tones. The unique recipes and asian inspired meals are perfect for a reasonably priced and hardy meal.
Recommendation: Patrick had the juicy flank steak with potatoes. Delicious and hardy meal when you’re in need of some meat.
A Gem on the Grand-Cul-de-Sac, La Gloriette is an intimate restaurant on the beach that serves delicious fresh cuisine. Literally, just a few feet away from sea, it is the perfect lunch locale after a morning of paddle boarding on le Grand-Cul-de-Sac.
Recommendation: The crab fritte are a must-have appetizer.
When you’re in the mood for spicy Thai Cuisine head to Black Ginger in the center of Gustavia. The decor is unique with an interior courtyard opening to a starry sky surrounded by large red dome like lamps. A true blend of red and black colors, soft lighting and minimalistic furniture.
Recommendation: Chicken Pad thai with a side bowl of rice.
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