Combining the Caribbean with a taste of the cosmopolitan, St. Barts is calling for your winter getaway.
Saint-Barthélemy, Ouanalao, Saint Barth’s, St. Barts – however you refer to it, this far-flung island in the azure waters of the eastern Caribbean Sea promises luxury and hedonism in a blissful beachside setting.
No matter where you are on the island, drive for a maximum of 20 minutes and you will reach another coastline. At just 11 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, and with a local population recorded at just 10,000 people in the most recent census, St. Barts is synonymous with a degree of escapism and seclusion where world-class comforts are always just a stone’s throw away.
Unsurprisingly, this Caribbean outpost has long been popular with A-listers, honeymooners and jetsetters alike, with superyachts flocking here in their numbers for the prestigious Bucket Regatta. The luxe lifestyle that permeates the island’s tourism industry today is a far cry from when Christopher Columbus made landfall here in the 15th century and subsequently named the island after his younger brother, Batholomew.
As an official department of France, a European influence can be felt keenly throughout St. Barts, with many enjoying a taste of la via française in everything from the cuisine to the chic apparel found in a colourful array of designer shops that are renowned as some of the world’s finest.
While those looking for a more diverting stay with a wilder nightlife may typically look to St. Barts’ neighbour of St. Martin, the island boasts a sumptuous supply of world-leading restaurants, private villas, and endless beaches that are bound to keep you entertained, even without stepping foot outside of your resort.
Today, St. Barts continues its phoenix-like rise from the ashes in the aftermath of Category 5 Hurricane Irma in 2017, which caused over $1.4 billion worth of damage, but miraculously cost no lives on the island.
Join in the nation’s continued recovery and savour this slice of paradise.
TOURISM INSIGHTS, COMITÉ TERRITORIAL DE TOURISME DE SAINT BARTHÉLEMY (CTTSB)
As the official tourism committee of St. Barts, CTTSB is proud to welcome respectful, appreciative tourists to this special island. We speak with Director Sabine Masseglia, to find out more about what lies behind St. Barts’ undeniable appeal.
Q&A WITH SABINE MASSEGLIA, DIRECTOR, CTTSB
Tell us about CTTSB – when were you founded and what is your vision and mission?
Sabine Masseglia, Director (SM): CTTSB is the island’s tourism board and was founded in 2008. Its 24 members represent all the main contributors to the island’s tourism aspects (shops, sport activities, cultural sites, airlines and port activities, hotels and villa rental companies). Its main mission is to promote St. Barts and the island’s values.
What kind of traveller does St. Barts most cater to?
SM: St. Barts’ main clientele come from the US, in part because of its geographic proximity, but also because tourism on the island started some 50 years ago with American guests.
St. Barts attracts well-travelled tourists from around the world who have an appreciation for the island’s stunning scenery, renowned culinary scene and beautiful accommodations as well as the arts, culture, and local spirit the island offers.
How does the island incorporate sustainable travel experiences?
SM: St. Barts’ goal is to make sure that all travellers visiting the island receive the best service and hospitality available, combined with a deep respect of the island’s roots, culture and core values. It is a beautiful island, which is kept beautiful by the locals and tourists alike. The people of St. Barts have such an appreciation for the island’s natural scenery and ecosystems, and work to inspire and instil this same appreciation in all who visit, so the destination will sustain generations of visitors to come.
What are some of the other major tourism trends in St. Barts?
SM: The main trends in St. Barts are gastronomy, art, and culture, shopping and beachgoing. We’ve noticed more and more visitors seeking meaningful experiences and ways to connect with the island’s culture.
CTTSB works with the local government to offer a variety of experiences that travellers can engage with including things like the Gourmet Festival, the St. Barts Art Week, several sailing and sporting competitions, and much more. While visitors are sure to still enjoy relaxation, fun and top-notch service at the island’s hotels, resorts and villas, the destination offers many opportunities to venture into the island and experience St. Barts’ culture.
Can you tell us how COVID-19 has affected the organisation, and the associated hotels and restaurants?
SM: St. Barts was lucky to manage the COVID-19 crisis by welcoming long-term visitors. These long-term visitors enjoyed the fresh air and seclusion with minimal travel and contact with others.
The quiet, private lifestyle that is a signature experience in St. Barts naturally made the island a very safe place for visitors during that difficult time. We were very fortunate to see that by the end of the pandemic’s toughest months, travellers returned comfortably as the island hosted a population that was over 85 percent fully vaccinated.
How has this time changed tourism on the island?
SM: In the time since the pandemic, we have found that travellers are extremely keen to enjoy any opportunity to visit the island. People are very grateful to be able to travel again, and St. Barts is especially grateful to welcome them.
Looking ahead, what are the tourism board’s key priorities for the coming year?
SM: We want to maintain the special atmosphere of our island and continue welcoming those with a real appreciation for St. Barts. Although we may not welcome the largest number of visitors compared to our Caribbean neighbours, those we do see visit St. Barts are respectful, grateful, and care about our island. We want to continue prioritising these types of visitors rather than increasing the overall number. CTTSB has worked very hard to ensure that each visitor can enjoy our beautiful destination, feel a connection to our special culture and leave refreshed, with a newfound respect for the island and a longing to return to us again.
Finally, what is one activity that you recommend all people try when visiting St. Barts?
SM: Many people hear Caribbean island and only think of beaches, and while we do have many of the world’s most beautiful beaches, we also have many hiking trails and places for people to get outdoors, see some of St. Barts’ best views and wildlife, and experience the island in a new way.
IN FOCUS: GUSTAVIA
The capital, and only official town on St. Barts, the harbourside settlement of Gustavia takes its name from the Swedish King Gustav III after the island was ceded by France to Sweden in 1874. Postcard-perfect Gustavia is defined by its scenic clusters of red-roofed buildings gathered round a turquoise bay on the island’s west coast.
A day spent trekking around the town will reveal a host of historic sites, including a string of 17th century forts complete with a lighthouse and cannons at Fort Gustaf. Evidence of Sweden’s historic influence on St. Barts is still tangible at the Swedish bell tower and the monument of the Swedish Battery of Fort Gustav III. Nearby, the popular location of Shell Beach is a favourite for beachcombers in search of the island’s famously pristine shells.
In the town’s interior, cosmopolitan spoils await with a bustling selection of duty-free boutiques and trendy restaurants overlooking the harbour studded with some of the world’s most expensive superyachts. Here you will find a selection of the island’s top 5-star hotels and swathes of beaches perfect for catamaran sailing, surfing, diving, snorkelling, or just a refreshing dip. Gustavia combines upscale exclusivity with the easily accessible Caribbean charm that can be enjoyed simply by taking a wander along atmospheric cobblestone streets dotted with palm trees.
As night falls, following a predictably spectacular sunset, a selection of beach clubs provide the perfect location to party the night away, including the relative newbie on the scene Gyp Sea Beach Club, and the iconic favourite, Nikki Beach.
For a reliable scheduled or charter flight service…
For flights between San Juan and St. Barts…
For privacy and luxury…
Sibarth Bespoke Villa Rentals was the first villa rental company to be based in St. Barts, and has since developed an extensive range of properties designed for any discerning traveller seeking true luxury.
Boasting a variety of vacation and rental villas, Sibarth combines unparalleled local knowledge with a dedicated team of staff to give guests an unforgettable bespoke experience – whether it’s arranging island activities, or organising a personal butler for your convenience. With over 300 properties, Sibarth covers the breadth of St. Barts comprising everything from laid-back island cottages to vast villas with tasteful contemporary interiors.
For villas with a view…
Saint-Barth Paradise offers luxury villa rentals in some of the island’s most exclusive spots, promising privacy and unsurpassed ocean vistas. With six different villas and over 15 years’ experience to its name, with a Saint-Barth Paradise rental, you are guaranteed ultimate comfort and quality service.
For quality legal services…
Emmanuel Jacques Almosnino (EJA) Law Firm boasts a team of dedicated and experienced multi-lingual professionals. The EJA Law Firm is widely accepted as one of the top boutique law firms across the world in the field of international wealth management for high-net-worth international private clients, and the best in St. Barts.
Based in Gustavia, EJA comprises international attorneys involved with tax, financing, real property and wealth management. The firm prides itself on its one-of-a-kind service and skills, providing a rare legal concierge-oriented practice that caters to the unique needs of international private clients and their representatives.
BEACHES: THREE OF THE BEST
St. Jean Beach – The bath-like waters and white sands of St. Jean make this one of the most popular spots on the island, second only to Gustavia. The beach is split in two by the luxurious Eden Rock Hotel and is well-known as a hub for all manner of water sports. Be warned – the other side of the beach is home to the island’s only airport runway!
Colombier Beach – A far quieter, secluded alternative to St. Jean, these pristine shores are accessible only via a catamaran ride or a 25-minute hike along a scenic goat path from either Colombier or Petite Anse. After a hike, cool off in crystal clear waters perfect for snorkelling. A popular spot for marriage proposals and picnics, the sunsets from Colombier are renowned.
Saline Beach – This hidden treasure, found on the southeast of St. Barts, has been ranked by CNN as one of the world’s 15 most beautiful beaches. Saline looks like an unexplored paradise, fringed with lush vegetation – expect rolling sand dunes behind you, and dramatic mountain scenery on either side. Facilities on Saline are non-existent, so be sure to come prepared with refreshments and parasols.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Landing on St.Barts is likely to be a memorable moment in anyone’s vacation. Gustaf III Airport (SBH) in the village of St. Jean is known for having one of the shortest runways in the world, and is reached by small charter planes or scheduled flights. With no direct flights to St. Barts from the US, you can transfer with a 15-minute flight from St. Martin’s Princess Juliana International Airport, or take a 45-minute ferry transfer if you’d prefer to arrive by sea. Other air connections are available from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Once on the island, it is worth noting that there is no public transportation or bus system, so car rental is the most popular option if you are keen on exploring all that St. Barts has to offer. Most rental agencies can be found at the airport, where bright yellow beach buggies known as ‘Moke’, or convertible Minis are the options of choice. This is by far the most cost-effective way to cover St. Barts, since taxis can be hard to come by and are notoriously expensive. St. Barts’ volcanic and mountainous terrain means that roads can be narrow and steep in places. Motorbike, scooter, and bike hires are also readily available.