Discovering Saint Barth

Enjoying St. Barth like a local

Sunset overlooking the harbour of Gustavia. Image credit: M. Pronk.

Disclaimer: There was no sponsoring involved in the crafting of this article.

It’s only been a short while of living in St. Barth (short for Saint Barthélemy), about 7 months, but I’ve started to feel like a local. Embracing the way of life that is a beautiful mix of both hard work and relaxing.

While spending my Sunday morning at one of my favourite café’s Le Bar d’Oubli, I met a well-travelled newcomer to St. Barth, who claimed, after just three weeks, that the Island is boring. That there is not much to do besides go to the beach. And while that is not factually incorrect, that most of what there is to do here is go to the beach, St. Barth does not have to be boring.

With any place, it’s what you make of it yourself that decides how great or not-so-great it is.

There many active and relaxing things to do in St. Barth:

  • Beaches
  • Cafés & Food
  • Entertainment

Besides all these great things you’re about to read about, St. Barth is also an incredibly safe island. You can easily walk around alone and leave your things unattended while you take a swim. It’s a people and animal friendly island (cars stop for both people and turtles to cross the road).

Beaches

St. Barth is home to about 13 different beaches, each has its individual vibe and is very unique. Some have beach-tents, others are solely nature. Whatever type of beach you’re looking for, you’ll most definitely find it here.

Some of my personal favourites are Shell beach in Gustavia, St. Jean (the Nikki Beach side), Gouveneur, and Saline.

View from the Shell Beach shore. Image credit: L. Caanen.

Shell beach gets its name from its shore, which is covered by shells. But the shells are small enough that lying on your beach-towel is plenty comfortable. Many of the yachts also choose this beach as their day-location, where they enjoy the view of the beach from the water.

St. Jean is one of those picturesque beaches; white sand, clear blue water, some small boats, and an occasional plane overhead. There is always some background music from Nikki Beach; on some days even a free concert from the saxophonist. The sand is incredibly soft, just like the water.

Standing halfway on Saline beach, in front and behind stretches the large and wide beach. Image credit. R. Caanen.

Saline is one of the widest and longest beaches on the island. It overlooks the Atlantic Ocean but has incredibly clear water on a calm day. The beach is further away from the local touristy spots and therefore has a nice local vibe to it. Because the beach is so large and the number of tourists so small, you have plenty of space and privacy!

Gouverneur might not be as wide as Saline, but it’s almost the same length. This beach is great for taking a nice stroll while being secluded from the rest of the world. Barely any yachts come to this beach, as well as that the waves and stronger current don’t attract too many swimmers. My favourite time to go here is early in the morning when the beach is empty and the sun isn’t too hot.

Cafés & Food

While there are numerous places spread over the Island where you can have a coffee or grab a drink, my two favourites are both located in Gustavia, the capital of the island. One is called Cafe de l’Oubli, and is a fantastic place to sit for a drink or some food. Some days I spend my mornings here just working on my laptop as the people around me come and go. The red colour-scheme and island-like aesthetic, together with the lovely personnel, make it easily one of my favourite places on the island.

Another fun café to hang out at or to have a noisette is Victoria. This one is located in the corner of the harbour of which you can enjoy the view while relaxing on one of the couches outside. Both Oubli and Victoria have meals alongside their café status; Victoria is considered a restaurant during lunch and dinner hours.

Speaking of restaurants, there are many, many places to go eat, and not just the restaurants in the hotels. One of the most beautiful restaurants on the Island is Tamarin. It is located in the vicinity of Saline and it is quite hard to find. The restaurant is located in a garden with numerous small ponds and secluded seating areas. The food is incredibly tasty and the personnel is incredibly polite. This is a highly recommended place for a beautiful dining experience.

For the best pizza on the Island, I 100% recommend Isoletta. Located in Gustavia, it is easy to get to for either lunch or dinner. The place has only Italian’s working there, both in waiter/waitressing staff as well as the pizzaioli.

If you’re not so much in the mood for pizza for lunch, then The Fish Corner, situated right next to Oubli, is a good place. Here you have some amazingly tasty fish-dishes, most made with the locally caught fish. If you’d rather enjoy a tasty burger, then you’re better off heading to Select or to JoJo’s Burger. The former is located across the street from Oubli and often has a mix of locals and tourists eating there. JoJo’s Burger is situated in Lorient and is more locals than tourists.

If you’re the type of person that loves sweets or juices, then don’t fret, there are options for you too. All located in Gustavia, Natural Delight, the Creperie, or Shankar Juice, can be the place for you. The Creperie speaks for itself, it has the typical French crêpes. Natural Delight has natural ice cream, as well as crêpes, and is a great way for a cool-down snack. Shankar Juice is a juice place, which, alongside natural and healthy juices has all-natural based snacks.

Entertainment

Besides being able to go swimming at any one of the many beautiful beaches of St. Barth, one can also enjoy other water-based, environmentally friendly activities like snorkelling and paddle-boarding.

The best place to go paddle-boarding is Grand Cul-de-Sac. The bay allows for a large area of shallow water, without too much wind or current challenging you. Additionally, alongside the many fish, both turtles and rays come to this area and are quite the sight.

For snorkelling, there are numerous good beaches. St. Jean, the Nikki Beach side, is a good place to spot some turtles. Otherwise, after hiking down to Colombier, on the right side of the bay there are many fish, sea urchins, and plants. A third great place to spot colourful fish is on the far left side of Shell Beach where the water super clear.

Piscine Naturel by Petit Cul-de-Sac. Image credit: L. Caanen.

Besides the numerous beaches and their activities, there are also two piscine naturel on the island, or “natural pools”. One is located by Grand Fond. While walking alongside the cliff-like path you’ll be greeted by many goats who roam the mountainside.
The second piscine naturel has less goats on the way there but is, in my personal opinion, much more spectacular. This one is located by Petit Cul-de-sac and, via a very windy area overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, leads to a climb down the the natural pool, which you can easily and safely jump in to.
Just remember that it is both safest and most fun to go when there is little-to-no wind. Also keep an eye on the eb and flood, especially for the piscine naturel at Petit cul-de-sac, as on any hike, bring enough water.

A good way to see all the beautiful spots above water and not necessarily on the beach, is by doing an Island tour. On St. Barths this is super easy to do, as there is one main road which leads directly into itself again. There are numerous spots to get a rental car or scooter. While driving around you’ll start to feel the Island vibe.

View from the roundabout of the runway of the St. Barth airport. Image credit: L. Caanen.

You can drive from sea level to the beautiful view from one of the many mountain tops. St. Barth roads have it all. A good point to visit is the top of Colombier. This is also where you can park to make the hike down to the beautiful beach. Another fun road-experience, for which you will need some good (lucky) timing, is driving on the round-about (by the airport) right as a plane flies over you to land on the third-most dangerous landing strip in the world.

Depending on your budget and the amount of time you have, there are many things to do on St. Barth alongside that which I’ve mentioned. There are little catalogues on the island that have the basic places to go and things to see. Additionally, it’s worth asking a local what they suggest, as every different person can come with a new suggestion.

But whether you spend all your time relaxing at the beach or whether you are actively discovering the island, St. Barth is a beautiful and great place to visit.

Overlooking the harbour of Gustavia, with in the distance Saint Maarten.

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