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St. Barth Travel Tips: Hotels, Attractions, Weather

Fort Oscar St. Barth
Fort Oscar overlooks visiting yachts and Gustavia port. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Call it St. Barts, St. Barth or Saint Barthelemy. But there is no doubt that this island known by several names offers small, quiet and beautiful beach vacations.

St. Barth is only nine square miles and has about 8,000 residents. It is an overseas collectivity of France. It is less than one-eighth the size of Washington D.C.

The island is one of the Leeward Islands that also consists of the nearby St. Maarten, Guadeloupe and Martinique. St. Maarten is about 27 miles away and easily accessible by boat or plane for hotel and cruise visitors to that island. In fact, quite a few visitors to St. Maarten take a ferry to reach St. Barth on day trips.

Hotel and Resort Tips

St. Barth has a reputation for attracting celebrities and people with a taste for both privacy and high-end accommodations.

The island has about 450 villas that range from small to extravagant. The large number of villas is another unique aspect to the St. Barth experience compared to many Caribbean destinataions. It also has a small number of hotels ranging from bungalows to four- and five-star accommodations.

Prices are among the most expensive in the Caribbean. Villas often range from about $500 to well more than $1,000 a night.

Villa and hotel visitors have two common ways of getting to St. Barth.

Some take a major airline flight to Princess Juliana Airport on St. Maarten and then take a smaller plane from that airport to Gustav III Airport on St. Barths. The flight lasts only about 10 minutes.

It’s also possible to take a major airline to Juliana and then a water taxi to St. Barth. Anyone who flies into St. Maarten can spend time there before or after a St. Barth vacation.

Other visitors travel on small commuter planes that make direct flights from Anguilla, Guadeloupe, St. Thomas and San Juan. The largest plane that can land on Gustav III is 19 seats.

Tourist Attractions

St. Barth photo
Saline Beach; © Laurent Benoît

St. Barth is so small that it doesn’t have much in the way of natural and historical attractions like larger Caribbean islands.

The main attractions are the beaches and water-related recreation. Visitors also spend time boutique shopping in Gustavia, the largest town with a population of more than 2,000 people. Sites to see include Fort Gustaf, Fort Carl, the Catholic Church and a variety of historic buildings.

Hikers go to Fort Karl, which overlooks Shell Beach to the south, and Fort Gustav, at the base of the lighthouse to the north. Nearby Fort Oscar serves as a police station and is not accessible to tourists.

Other activities include hiking, pottery studios, snorkeling and diving. The island’s small size makes it easy to take a catamaran trip around the entire island.

The island’s small size also is ideal for touring it by bicycle. Bike riders can loop the island in only a few hours.

The island also has dozens of small restaurants with an emphasis on French, Creole and international cuisines.

Beaches

St. Barth has at least 16 named beaches. All are public and free, but they are rarely crowded.

Shell Beach is one of the best known in part because it is so close to Gustavia and in part because of the many shells that line it, hence the name.

Passports

All American and Canadian citizens visiting St. Barth must have a valid passport and a round-trip ticket. A visa is not needed if the stay is 30 days or less.

The passport must be valid and not expire for at least three months from the date of entry onto the island.

Vacation Weather

This island with a tropical maritime climate has air temperatures that average about 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to 86 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

Daytime temperatures will occasionally exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit while ocean temperatures can reach 84 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

The island has two distinct weather seasons called Carême and Hivernage rather than four seasons such as spring, summer, fall and winter.

Carême is the cooler season and takes place from Dec. 1 through May 30. Hivernage is hotter and runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

Months to avoid St. Barths because of the weather are September and October, which are the peak months of the Caribbean hurricane season.

St. Barths doesn’t have a weather service because of the island’s small size. The best way to track the weather is by using the forecast of the nearby St. Maarten island.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the America.
April 04, 2024