Saint Barthelemy On a BudgetSaint-Barthelemy, also known as St Barts or St Barths, is located in the northwestern Caribbean Sea. Together with the French West Indies, Guadeloupe, and Martinique, it makes up the Leeward Islands. St Barts is a small, volcanic island and is often touted as one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. It has a population of just over 8,000 and an economy that is driven by tourism. It's a French speaking country and is strongly influenced by the French culture. It is also a sophisticated place to visit, and the capital city of Gustavia offers visitors everything from boutique shopping to high end restaurants.
The official currency of St Barts is the Euro, but most places also accept the US Dollar. It's an expensive island to visit, even by Caribbean standards, and there are rarely deals available. You likely won't find any "package tours" that offer a significant discount. The peak season for tourism on the island is between Christmas and New Years and the high season is from the middle of December to the middle of April. During the peak times you'll likely see Mega Yachts and extravagant spenders on the island, and deals are virtually impossible to find. Low Season does offer some discount opportunities for budget conscious travelers, particular with hotels and car rental prices.
Because the island does specialize in high end tourism, you likely won't be disappointed in the quality of your hotel. You may be able to find budget hotel accommodation in the form of villas or apartments, but luxury is the norm on the island.
At A Glance
- Part of the appeal of St Barts is that is remains refreshingly undeveloped. There is a law in place that prohibits any buildings from being taller than a palm tree. Because of this law, there are no high rise hotels or large scale resorts found on the island. Accommodation is predominantly in the form of private villas instead of hotels.
- If you're looking for the best shopping opportunities on the island, head to either Gustavia or St. Jean. You'll find tax free ports that have beautiful displays that are reminiscent of those found in Paris. Shopping is a popular activity on the island and you should allow at least a few hours to wander through the boutique shops.
- St Barts is a great destination for sports enthusiasts. In particular, water sports are quite popular and you can enjoy everything from kayaking to kitesurfing. Land lovers won't be disappointed either as there are many places to hike, play tennis, or go horseback riding.
- The climate in St Barts is ideal. There are, on average, more than 300 sunny days per year so it is the perfect destination year around to enjoy the beaches and all they have to offer. This is a large part of the appeal of the island.
- In total, there are 14 beaches on St Barts. They are all white sand beaches and each is open to the public at no charge. They remain pleasantly calm with few crowds, even during peak season. These beaches are the perfect way to enjoy a Caribbean paradise.
- Evidence of the French culture is apparent throughout the island. This can be seen in the boutique shopping opportunities, the culinary experience, and the general atmosphere of the island.
Top Tourist AttractionsGrande Saline Beach: This is one of the most famous beaches in St Barts. Despite it's fame, it maintains an undeveloped and isolated atmosphere. The beach itself is perfect for swimming because there is a shallow ocean bottom. If you're looking for the perfect day at the beach, head to this beautiful area and you won't be disappointed.
Colombier Beach: This beach is popular because it is so isolated and secluded. With this peace and quiet comes a lack of services and amenities, but you won't notice as you enjoy this tiny peace of paradise. Bring your own food and water and be prepared for a thirty minute trail walk to reach the beach. Alternatively, you could arrive by boat. The calm waters make it the perfect place to snorkel.
Toiny Coast: Beautiful beaches, and stunning countryside make up this coast. It's popular because the conditions are perfect for surfing, but swimming can be rough do to strong currents.
Popular FoodsFood in St Barts is focused on fresh, local ingredients. Dishes are prepared daily and menus at many restaurants change on a daily basis. Prices can vary significantly between restaurants, but the quality of the food is almost always impressive. There is an obvious French influence to the cuisine at almost all levels of restaurant. At many restaurants there is a fixed price meal option which includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert.
Mi-cuit foie gras: This traditional French appetizer is made with foie gras that is served with a sweet and sour compote and toast. It's an elegant way to begin a fine dining experience in St Barts.
Beef Tartar: Found at many high end restaurants, beef tartar is a popular option for land lovers. It's often elegantly prepared and is yet another dish that highlights the French influence on the island's cuisine. It's often included as an option with the fixed price meals.
Creme Brulee: This French dessert is a favorite way to finish any meal. The sweet custard is a popular option at many restaurants and the style can vary, but the quality rarely wavers.