Saint Barthélemy, officially the Territorial collectivity of Saint-Barthélemy called Ouanalao by the indigenous people, is an overseas collectivity of France in the West Indies. Often abbreviated to St-Barth in French, and St. Barths or St. Barts in English, the island lies about 35 kilometres (22 mi) southeast of St. Martin and north of St. Kitts. Puerto Rico is 240 kilometres (150 mi) to the west in the Greater Antilles.
Saint Barthélemy was for many years a French commune forming part of Guadeloupe, which is an overseas region and department of France. In 2003, the island voted in favour of secession from Guadeloupe in order to form a separate overseas collectivity (COM) of France. The collectivity is one of four territories among the Leeward Islands in the northeastern Caribbean that comprise the French West Indies, along with Saint Martin, Guadeloupe (200 kilometres (120 mi) southeast), and Martinique.
Saint Barthélemy, a volcanic island fully encircled by shallow reefs, has an area of 25 square kilometres (9.7 sq mi) and a population of 9,625 (January 2015 estimate). Its capital is Gustavia, which also contains the main harbour to the island. It is the only Caribbean island that was a Swedish colony for any significant length of time; Guadeloupe was under Swedish rule only briefly at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Symbolism from the Swedish national arms, the Three Crowns, still appears in the island’s coat of arms. The language, cuisine, and culture, however, are distinctly French. The island is a popular tourist destination during the winter holiday season, especially for the rich and famous during the Christmas and New Year period.
Things to Do
Gustavia – It’s easy to see why Gustavia is seen as the capital of St. Barth. Unique independent boutiques and the world’s most desirable fashion sit cosily next to each other on palm-shaded roads, all surrounded by a glittering, yacht-filled harbour. When it comes to getting a bite to eat, you’re spoiled for choice. Dining options range from laid-back cafes to haute cuisine. Italian, Japanese, American, Thai, Vietnamese and of course Creole are just some of the many cuisines served well by the Gustavia restaurant scene.
St. Jean – One of the most popular destinations on St. Barth, and for a good reason. Centred around one of the most famous beaches on the island, the long stretch of white sand is surrounded by a string of popular hotels, restaurants and shops which cater to visitors of all ages. Whether you’re an experienced water athlete or a first-timer, St. Jean is the place to go. We can arrange hired sports equipment (and lessons!) for you when you book your villa with us, or you can head to Carib Waterplay on the beach itself. The island’s sports complex is also nearby, should you wish to participate in a wide variety of sports, including tennis, football and archery.
Lorient – In the village of Lorient you’ll find Jojo Burger, two grocery shops and a bakery all within walking distance of the popular family-friendly beach. Visit the colourful surf hut on the beach itself to book lessons, hire boards and pick up some surfing tips from the experts. On the weekends, we recommend taking the time to visit the Fruit Market for a taste of the freshest fruit juice on the island.
Dining – Creole is possibly the most traditional cooking you can enjoy on St. Barth, but the French influence means the island has a long history of outstanding French cuisine. Despite being a small island, you can dine on cuisine from all over the world without even leaving Gustavia. Thai, Japanese, American, Italian and Vietnamese are just a few of the dining options available in the picturesque red-roofed town. Wander the cobbled streets and you’ll find an eclectic mix of eateries, with laid-back cafes nestling next to chic restaurants serving the finest haute cuisine.
Scuba Diving – St. Barth is an ideal place to scuba dive. Four shipwrecks and a protected marina ensure that there is plenty to explore for divers of all abilities. There’s a wide variety of underwater life to discover, including pretty little angelfish and parrotfish, stingrays, turtles, barracudas and even the occasional whale. Bertrand ‘Birdy’ Caizergues has run diving tours of the waters around St Barth’s with his company – St. Barth Plongée – for over twenty years. Over the course of 6,000 dives he’s become an expert on a part of St. Barth that few get to experience: the world that exists just below sea level.
Lorient Beach – A great place to visit with family. The waters inside the coral reef are calm so small swimmers can play safely, and there is plenty to do for people of all ages. It’s a great place to go snorkeling and discover sea turtles and fish, and the strong waves further away from the shore make Lorient something of a surfing hot spot. The beach is also the location of the island’s surf hut and it’s here that people of all abilities take lessons from retired professional surfer David Blanchard in order to join in on one of the island’s most popular pastimes.
Flamands Beach – A favourite with islanders due to its fine white sands and sporting pitches, Flamands is also the largest beach on the island. The length of Flamands makes it the perfect location for a long healthy walk. After working up an appetite, stopping off for lunch at The Cheval Blanc or Taiwana hotels is highly recommended. The waters off Flamands are a great place for body boarding or skim boarding. They are, however, not recommended for small children as the big waves can occasionally be dangerous.
Shell Beach – Studded with (surprise surprise) shells and large sea-smoothed stones, Shell Beach is within easy walking distance of Gustavia. We recommend working up an appetite with a swim or some snorkeling before eating lunch at the Do Brazil restaurant on the edge of the beach. Get the timing right and you’ll enjoy some of the most spectacular sunsets the island has to offer.
Colombier Beach – One of the hardest-to-reach beaches on the island, but one that is certainly worth the effort! The beautiful beach – only accessible by hike or by boat – is listed as a natural marine reserve. Wild and unspoiled, it’s the place to go to swim with fish in crystal clear turquoise waters, whether you’re snorkeling, learning how to scuba dive or just looking to escape the crowds for an afternoon.
Gouverneur Beach – Rumored location of buried pirate treasure, is a great place for families as the short distance between the beach and the sea means it is easy to keep an eye on little ones, both on the sand and in the water. Beautiful turquoise water and a pristine natural environment make Gouverneur feel like a charming secret getaway. There isn’t much shade however, so remember to pack the beach umbrella and sun hats.
St. Jean Beach – One of the most popular beaches on the island, with its long stretch of fine golden sand and a wide range of beach and water activities on offer. The area close to the airport runway is great for windsurfing and body boarding – not to mention dramatic scenes of planes taking off and landing! By night it’s the perfect spot for a romantic picnic. Gently lit and perfectly peaceful, if you’re lucky you’ll get to spot stingrays as they swim to the surface to feed.