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St. Barth Cruise Port: Tips, Excursions, Weather

St. Barth harbor
Fort Gustav cannon overlooks Gustavia Harbour. Credit: Wikimedia public domain

The St. Barth cruise port is on a small eastern Caribbean island with a distinctive French flavor. It’s also known as a playground for the rich and famous.

With several spectacular beaches, gourmet dining choices, natural attractions and trendy outlets, the island is a paradise for cruise visitors.

But not any cruise visitors. This tiny island with a population of fewer than 8,000 people usually receives only smaller ships. It rarely receives the major cruise lines that visit the nearby St. Maarten. Cruise lines that do visit St. Barth include Silversea, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas.

Still, St. Maarten cruise visitors often take excursions over to St. Barth (also known as St. Barts and St. Barthélemy) for its beautiful beaches and occasional celebrity sightings.

St. Barth is 22 miles southeast of St. Maarten and easy to reach by boat or plane.

Ferries usually travel once or twice a day between the Philipsburg cruise port on St. Maarten and Gustavia. Travel time for the fastest hydrofoil ferries is 45 minutes.

Round trip tickets may cost anywhere from $50 to $100 or more depending on the company, ferry speed and age of the passengers.

St. Barth Attractions and Shore Excursions

Most cruise ships anchor outside sheltered Gustavia Harbour and tender passengers to Port de Plaisance in the heart of Gustavia, the island’s capital city.

Rather laid back and quaint, Gustavia is the typical tourist-friendly town. Standard amenities include restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and historical sites.

St. Barth doesn’t have any major natural attractions other than its beaches. Most paid shore excursions involve food and wine tours. A few snorkeling and scuba diving options are available, although they are more expensive than on other islands. Prices approach $200 and more per person.

One of St Barth’s most beautiful stretches of sand is Saline Beach. Here, visitors will find a protected cove, dunes and a beautiful aquatic scenery of turquoise and blue. It is three miles southeast of the cruise port.

Shell Beach
Shell Beach gets its name from the thousands of shells that wash up onto it. Credit: Pixabay license

Shell Beach
The popular Grand Galet –- or as locals call it Shell Beach –- is just south of Gustavia and within walking distance of the pier. Tourists can walk along the waterfront, admire the yachts and marine animals as well as enjoy the cool ocean breeze before heading to the each.

Shell Beach not surprisingly gets its name from the thousands of shells that show up on it. The beach is only a few hundred yards directly south of the Gustavia harbor.

Another popular beach is Saint-Jean Beach, which is less than two miles or 10 minutes from the harbor. It is right next to Saint-Jean, the second largest village on the island. It’s also right next to the airport, so visitors can lounge on the sand and watch small planes land and take off.

Fort Gustav, which also is within walking distance of the port, is the remains of an 18th century fort. The remains include the ruins of the stone ramparts, an old sentry box, a brick-floored bakery, several cannons and a powder house. It is a good vantage point for photos of Gustavia.

Lorient is a charming village on the north coast where tourists will find attractions such as the old French settlements, a 19th century Catholic church, shops, cemeteries and a great surf beach.

Restaurants

There are several trendy, gourmet style restaurants on St. Barth. As this may not appeal to everyone’s budget, there are also a number of reputable establishments serving popular menus.

The Sand Bar at Eden Rock serves mainly seafood including grilled fish, deep-fried codfish fritters, sautéed shrimp and Dover sole. Several celebrities frequent this spot.

Perched on a hill overlooking shell beach, Do Brazil is a popular lunch spot. The standard menu includes an assortment of ceviche, salads and fish.

How To Get Around

Gustavia is a small town with most of the attractions close to the pier. As such, tourists are often able to walk to most of the nearby places of interest.

Taxis are available at the pier and offer fixed prices to most places in and around the town. Failing that, rentals are also available from several dealers.

It’s important that visitors remain careful as St. Barth is unusual in several ways because of its small size.

First, apart from at the airport, taxis are few and far in-between.

Second, most taxis do not generally operate at night. As such, anyone expecting to travel after dark should be sure to make prior arrangements.

Finally, those who plan to obtain a rental car should keep in mind that apart from along the coast, the island is rather hilly with narrow roads and sharp turns. Traffic lights are not as common here as most places elsewhere, so take caution.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the America.
February 29, 2024